Operation Ark was humanity's last effort to hide from Gbaba. As alien slayers found human planets by "listening" to various technological radiation, the decision was made to send far, far away the group of eight million people who will populate planet behind Gbaba radar and stay on low technological level for the next three hundred years. To help this, they all agreed to have their memories of advanced technology deleted. However, megalomaniac administrators of Operation Ark delated all their memories instead and supplanted ones that convinced colonists that they were created of Safehold by God's "archangels" - that is, the administration.
Neural Implanting: Everybody has implants - so-called NEATs to communicate with machines without proxy.
Really 700 Years Old: Thanks to antigeriatic drugs, they can live for three centuries almost without aging.
The Singularity: Devices like NEATs and PICAs allow them to connect directly to the machines and download all information in matter of seconds. PICAs with uploaded human minds do all the hard and dangerous work. People can work and exist in virtual realities even after they die. Peoples' minds can be copied. Everybody has a brain port injected right after birth.
Lieutenant Commander Nimue Alban, TFN
The original Merlin Athrawes, Nimue Alban was an officer of the Terran Federation Navy. She was killed by the Gbaba after transferring away from one of Operation Ark's vessels in order to cover the "loss" of her PICA.
Heroic Sacrifice: She transfers off an Operation Ark ship, knowing that to do so will mean that she is killed, to help Pei and Shan-wei rebel against Langhorne and his megalomaniacal friends.
The Queen of Sin, the Mistress of Lies, the Dark Mother of Evil, Pei Shan-wei is the embodiment of Darkness and opposition to the will of God. Once an Archangel, Shan-wei betrayed the other Archangels in her overwhelming pride, setting her own will against the will of God, and she was struck down for it by the rakurai of God Himself.In fact, Doctor Pei Shan-wei was one of the original administrators of the Safehold Colony, who opposed Eric Langhorne's alterations of Operation Ark's orignal mission plan. Cast out of the Adminsitrative Council by Langhorne, Shan-wei set up the Alexandria Enclave, which Langhorne destroyed by orbital bombardment. She serves as the Devil in Mother Church's theology, and misleadingly-accurate accusations of "Shan-wei worship" are levelled at the protagonists by the Church throughout the series.
Crazy-Prepared: Apart from hiding Nimue, she also educated and send to other domains over two hundred people in order to preserve the knowledge of Earth. She seems to be right: as far as we know, only four of them managed to pass down the knowledge.
Husband of Pei Shan-wei, Commodore Kau-yung and his wife staged a public falling-out after the extent of Langhorne's megalomania were revealed. Following the destruction of the Alexandria Enclave, Kau-yung attended a meeting of the Administrative Council wearing a vest-pocket nuke. He managed to kill most of the Archangels, meaning that he is now known as Kau-yung, Father of Destruction and Lord of Treachery.
Defector from Decadence: seems to be one of the few members of Administrative Council who didn't want to take part in "we are archangels" plot.
Chief Administrator of the colony, Eric Langhorne was a megalomanical Luddite, convinced that only a complete rejection of technology would save humanity. To that end, he perverted the mission of Operation Ark, conspiring wiht Adorée Bédard to alter the colonists' neural programming: instead of just losing their knowledge of technology, the colonists would also be programmed to know that Langhorne and the other adminstrators were the Archangels of God.Langhorne clashed with Pei Shan-wei over his handling of the colonists and his anti-technology stance, which resulted in the orbital bombardment and utter destruction of Shan-wei's Alexandria Enclave. In response, Shan-wei's husband Kau-yung killed Langhorne, Bédard and most of the other "Archangels" with a vest-pocket nuke.In the theology of the Church of God Awaiting, "Holy Langhorne" is the highest of the Archangels, standing on the right hand of God Himself.
Screw the Rules, I Make Them!: Langhorne went behind Shan-wei's and others' backs to alter the colonists' neural programming. When those people then prevented him from getting the council majority he needed to make his actions legal, they were removed from the council altogether.
According to the Writ, Archangel Schueler was the creator of the office of Inquisition and of the Punishment of Schueler, their how-to on Cold-Blooded Torture. In reality, he belonged to Langhorne's clique and was one of two self-made "archangels" who survived Pei Kau-yung's attack. However, various clues in the series suggest that he might have been largely misinterpreted.
Alternate Character Interpretation: invokedIs he psychopathic maniac torturer with delusions of grandeur? Or did he understand his mistakes and try to fix what he broke? Is the Book Of Schueler the instruction manual or the warning against heresy? Are the author of the Vision and the Book even the same person? The jury is still out in that matter.
Although people on WMG and Weber Forums ask: ..or did he?
Shrouded in Myth: No character - at least no POV character - has ever met him. For some, he's terrifying, cold-hearted maniac. For others, he's more benign.
Token Evil Teammate: Appears to be this for "rightful archangels". While others are either heavenly guardians of various fields (health, animal husbandry, agriculture) or God's loyal servants (Chihiro, Jwo-Jeng), Schueler is author of the most nausea-inducing book in The Writ, as well as advocate of Knight Templar attitude and promotor of Cold-Blooded Torture.
Other Archangels include:
Chihiro - Wrote the Book of Chihiro after the deaths of Langhorne and the other Archangels, creating the current image of Shan-wei and Kau-yung as the Devil and her Consort.
Hastings - mapmaker-in-chief.
Jwo-jeng - creator of the Proscriptions of Jwo-Jeng, the source of the series' Medieval Stasis
Pasquale - patron of sanitation, hygiene, diet and healthcare.
Sondheim - patron of agriculture.
Truscott - patron of animal husbandry.
Safehold was planet terraformed for the purpose of settling with low-level technology after most of humanity was wiped out by Gbaba. However, due to colony's chief administrator's Knight Templar attitude, colonists memories were wiped out and faith in artificial "Church of The God Awaiting" was installed in them. Nine hunder years later, COGA is still the greatest political and moral power of Safehold.
Blue Blood: With no memory of Terran Federation, society reverted to nobles&peasants system.
Cargo Cult: Skimmers (recon machines used commonly in Terran Federation) were worshipped as angelic vessels after the Creation, and "relics" (that is, Federal equipment any sci-fi geek would recognize) such as lie detector or door pilots are treated as holy objects. And then there's Temple, with it's heating and air conditioning, electric lights and doors that open when someone approaches them, all of which are considered "divine miracles".
Also, the symbol of Church, Langhorne's Scepter, appears to be some kind of fancily shaped laser gun.
Crystal Dragon Jesus: Church of The God Awaiting. It has some elements of Islam and Cargo Cult, but it's mostly Christianity IN SPACE!, without Jesus figure, but with its own Satan and whole lot of Archangels.
Heir Club for Men: It's not official rule everywhere (it is in Corisande, but not in Charis), but there are very few ruling queens implied and fate of queen Ysbett of Chisholm shows that those who rule didn't always rule till the end of their reign.
Medieval Stasis: It's a bit more complicated than that, but basically, technology is almost unchanged since the "Creation"
My Nayme Is: Everybody. Weber wanted to show how language changed for nine hundred years between the prologue and "current time", so every name is written in Safeholdian way. For example, Kaleb John Harold Brian Sarmac turns into Cayleb Zhan Haarahld Bryahn Ahrmahk. Good luck figuring out how to read it.
The Empire of Charis
Charisians in general
Charis starts as an island kingdom, located on the Charis, Margaret and Silverlode islands. It's (in)famous for their merchants, innovation (as far as it's possible on pre-Merlin Safehold) and naval force. As the series continues, it merges with Kingdom of Chisholm, incorporates Princedom of Emerald and Tarot, as well as conquers Corisande.
The Personality-Integrated Cybernetic Avatar of Nimue Alban. Took up the male identity of Merlin Athrawes in order to integrate himself into the male-dominated Safehold society. Has also made use of the identity of Abrhaim Zhevons. Merlin has allied himself with Charis, feeling it holds the best chance for getting Safehold to throw off the chains of the Church of God Awaiting and get itself back into space. While initially viewing himself as Nimue using the identity of Merlin, Merlin eventually begins to carve his own identity out. The narration will thus refer to him as the man who once was Nimue Alban.
Beard of Evil: Averted. As described, Merlin has the traditional Evil goatee. Played with in that by the Church of God Awaitings standards, he IS a demon.
Becoming the Mask: Merlin hasn't thought of himself as Nimue in a long time. Most times narration may refer to him as the PICA who used to be Nimue Alban.
Bi the Way: While in the guise of Abraim Zhevons and partaking in the services of Madame Ahnzhelyk, Merlin idly wonders if it counts as Zhevons interested in the opposite sex or Nimue interested in other women. He certainly hasn't stopped assessing the very attractive men around him with an appreciative eye, even if the Raging Stiffie problem has been taken care of.
Katanas Are Just Better: Justified; Nimue's choice of the katana and wakizashi is based largely on the fact that she already knows kendo, and while Nimue/Merlin's blades are shown being able to cut through damn near anything, this because they are made of super-advanced composite materials and wielded with the superhuman strength of a cybernetic android chassis. The fact that there isn't a katana analogue on Safehold helps with his mystique.
Lies to Children: Merlin's comparison of his abilities to those attributed to seijin.
Not So Omniscient After All: Though he's the only one who blames himself on those occasions when his SNARC surveillance proves less than perfect. In particular, he can't safely penetrate the Temple, which is where Allayn Magwair does most of his planning.
One-Man Industrial Revolution: Merlin starts the ball rolling, but it's Baron Seamount who keeps it going. So much so that it's cited by one character as a reason not to induct him into the Inner Circle.
Ramscoop: He's powered by miniature fusion reactor.
Swashbuckler: From the waxed mustache and goatee down to the impossible swordsmanship and derring-do.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: Merlin is, for all intents and purposes, helping along war that will kill tens or hundreds of thousands in order to bring humanity back to its old technological level as quickly as possible to hopefully wipe out the Gbaba.
Although to be fair, if he hadn't done anything, the Church would have destroyed Charis.
What Measure Is a Non-Human?: He is torn by the idea that he might actually have a soul and is unique individual in his own right as Archbishop Maikel says or if he is just a Terminator Expy with the memories of a dead woman.
Will Not Tell a Lie: While not above half-truths or explaining his abilities in terms Safeholdians would understand, Merlin is very careful not to tell any outright lies because how honest (or not) he has been will be a vital factor when the time comes to tell Safehold about its true past.
Would you keep that in mind, when I uncover your mouth so that we could talk like civilized people? That is, that I can take your life before anybody blinks an eye.
Merlin's most often used alternative identity. Abraim Zhevons began his "life" as a merchant from Silkiah in order to enter the city of Zion without suspicion. He later morphs into a mysterious messenger from Charis and a ranger for armies operating in Siddarmark, bringing SNARC information to those who don't know about the Inner Circle.
Army Scout: Aids the Alliance's armies in Siddarmark like this. It helps that he simply downloads the data from Owl.
Chewing the Scenery: Just look at the scene where he wakes king Gorjah up in the middle of the night. Or when he does the same with Earl of Coris. This is a man who's having way too much fun.
Flawed Prototype: Being the first secret identity for Merlin, he inherits a lot of Merlin's tics and characteristics, which several characters notice. On the other hand, only Aivah/Ahnzhelyk has managed to connect the dots.
Herald: His visit to Ahnzhelyk turned her from High-Class Call Girl to The Chessmaster, basically giving a good kick into motion. His arrival in Talkyra was the beginning for Irys, Earl Coris, and Daivyn escape from Delferhak.
Merlin's most recent secret identity, created for operations that shouldn't be connected with Charis. He's also something of a safety valve for Merlin, enabling him to have his revenge without endangering his cause.
"The Reason You Suck" Speech: He writes a letter to "Zhaspahr Clyntahn, Grand Fornicator" and goes into exquisite detail about just how much of a sorry son of a bitch Clyntahn is. It actually gets delivered to Clyntahn who promptly blows a gasket.
Superpowered Evil Side: Dialydd is much more brutal than Merlin and has no qualms against using all of PICA's powers.
A Personality-Integrated Cybernetic Avatar created by Owl in Like A Mighty Army. She, like Merlin, has all of Nimue Alban's memories, though she does not have most of Merlin's. Since she was built with the 10-day limit removed from the start, she has a high-speed data port that can rapidly upload information from Owl, which Merlin cannot. She is presently assigned as bodyguard to Irys Daikyn and her husband, Hektor Aplyn-Ahrmahk.
The Sixth Ranger: A better fit than Ohlyvya once she's actively involved in events.
Suddenly Always Knew That: Since her high-speed data port works (Unlike Merlin's), she can download all the theoretical knowledge for a skillset and then go through virtual months worth of training to acquire the practical knowledge needed to apply it in a matter of seconds.
Cayleb Zhan Haarahld Bryahn Ahrmahk; Emperor Cayleb II
Here I stand. I can do no other.
Introduced as Crown Prince of Charis during Haarahld's reign as king, Cayleb ascended to the throne upon his father's death in Off Armageddon Reef. Equally adept at political maneuvers and military command, Cayleb is an effective ruler using all his resources, including Merlin's abilities, to the fullest advantage he can to preserve his growing Empire's safety against its enemies.
The Ace: Some of it is thanks to the advantages Merlin offers, but Cayleb's reputation among his men is well-earned nonetheless.
Katanas Are Just Better: He's the second person on Safehold to use a Katana and has been trained by Merlin. He takes his inability to penetrate Merlin's defence as a challenge to improve rather than proof of inferiority.
Refuge in Audacity: Cayleb loves to use this to maximum effect, to the occasional consternation of Merlin.
King Haarahld Ahrmahk VII
The King of Charis throughout Off Armageddon Reef, Haarahld Ahrmahk is a respected and righteous noble who encourages innovation and freedom of speech. His wife died some years before the story started. He has three children: Cayleb, Zhanet and Zhan.
We will not dictate anybody what is he supposed to believe in and what should he do. We will not torture and kill those who disagree with us. But we're not going to give way to them either.
Starting out as Bishop of Tellesberg, once Charis rebellion against the Church of God Awaiting is in full swing, he was elevated to the position of Archbishop of the Church of Charis. He bears the exalted position with the same humility he carried from his days as a simple priest, and his flock love him for it.
Beware the Nice Ones: While he doesn't really get to do much with his anger, the rare times he's shown genuinely angry are still rather intimidating.
At one point it's stated outright that "gentle" does not mean "weak" by a long shot.
The Chick: Has this role in both the Old Charis leadership and the Inner Circle.
Honor Before Reason: Refuses to have armed guards in his cathedral as a matter of principle. He sticks to this stance even after the Rakurai attacks, requiring Cayleb to lay down a What the Hell, Hero? on him to make him realize the lives other than his own that stance endangers.
Revenge Before Reason: Averts this by giving his congregation a speech on forgiveness moments after an assassination attempt on him failed.
Charisian Navy chief engineer and inventor. Theoretically he is an admiral, but practically he hasn't commanded any water unit for over two decades. Nobody, and definitely not him, is sad about it, as he feels best in his laboratory.
Absent-Minded Professor: Has some shades of it, as his clothes are always covered in chalk and he sometimes has to be reminded on the topic of discussion when he gets an idea.
Awesomeness by Analysis: He is able to follow Merlin's clues faster than anyone could have expected and works out complicated ideas by sheer power of his mind.
A mere midshipman during the initial battles with the Church, now a Lieutenant in the Imperial Charisian Navy. He served on the ship King Haarahld was on during the battle of Darcos Sound, and it was his life that was saved by the king's Heroic Sacrifice.In commemoration for this act, Hektor Aplyn was adopted into the House of Ahrmahk and elevated to the Duke of Darcos. He retains commission in the Imperial Charisian Navy and serves aboard the Destiny. He is later married to Princess Irys of Corisande as part of Corisande's formal integration into the Empire.
Child Soldiers: He's a naval officer and kills people at the age of eleven. On the other hand, it's not unusual at all on Safehold.
Deliberate Values Dissonance: He's probably the starkest example in the series. Safeholdians don't consider it strange for eleven-year-olds to be officers in the Navy and kill people. It's also not unusual to get married at the age of sixteen. Given the difference in Safeholdian years to Terran ones, Hektor's even younger than this by Earth terms (about fourteen).
Happily Adopted: Is formally adopted into the House of Ahrmahk as a stepson following Off Armageddon Reef. He's made the most of it by using his rank and privilege to provide for his biological parents and siblings.
Improbable Age: He appears to be really good fighter in Off Armageddon Reef... at the age of eleven. Which is about ten by Earth's calendar. He also commands twice and thrice as old people at the age of thirteen and gets married at the age of sixteen... which is about fourteen and a half by our counting.
Massive Numbered Siblings: He has seven or nine siblings. His mother wanted to have only four kids, but his father forgot to mention that twins run in the family.
Rescue Romance: With Irys. A fact that's played up in Corisande, much to his annoyance.
Taking the Bullet: Was prepared to do this for King Haarahld. Haarahld did it for him instead.
Does it again for Irys in Like a Mighty Army to protect her from a Rakurai bomber. Very nearly dies as a result.
The Church of God Awaiting's intendant in Charis. This essentially makes Father Paityr the representative of the Inquisition in Charis. Initially, his job as intendant had him making sure that Charis' sudden technological advancements did not violate the Proscriptions of Jwo-Jeng. Following the outbreak of the war and death of Archbishop Erayk Dynnys he agreed to head Charis' patent office, in which he performs a similar role. He was inducted into the Inner Circle in How Firm a Foundation and now uses his position to, rather than prevent violations of the Proscriptions, make sure advancements go through while utilizing whatever Loophole Abuse he needs to.
Famous Ancestor: Family tradition holds that the Wylsynn family is descended from the Archangel Schueler. DNA testing done by Owl has confirmed this theory, though nobody has actually told Paityr this. It's also pointed out that after a thousand years, there's a good chance that roughly a third of Siddarmark is distantly related to the Wylsynns, and through them Schueler, by now.
Gray Eyes: These, along with his red hair, make him really stand out in Charis. He also fits into the "prophet" type of characters who usually have this eye color.
Heroic BSOD: The events of the war, and the deaths of his father and uncle, cause him to have a crisis of faith. This is only exacerbated once he's brought into the Inner Circle. He eventually comes out of it on the side of Charis.
Loophole Abuse: His job as intendant and, later, in the patent office, was to make sure these were avoided. Following his being inducted into the Inner Circle, he happily helps exploit it instead.
Obfuscating Stupidity: In Off Aramgeddon Reef his ecclesiastical superiors routinely note that he pays little attention to Temple politics, which makes him hard to manipulate or force into dishonesty. This is at least in part an act Paityr uses to avoid exactly that.
Secret Keeper: Of the Stone of Schueler. Later, of the Inner Circle.
The Kingdom of Chisholm
Sharleyan Alahnah Zhenyfyr Ahlyssa Tayt-Ahrmahk
Queen of the Kingdom of Chisholm, which she inherited at a young age following the assassination of her father. She kept the throne despite a resentful and treacherous nobility thanks to her mother and top advisers. Forced against her will to participate in the invasion of Charis in Off Armageddon Reef,By Schism Rent Asunder had Cayleb offer her not just alliance, but marriage. Upon accepting, she is now Empress and co-ruler of the Empire of Charis. She is also one of Cayleb's most trusted confidants and advisers herself.
Action Girl: Provides cover fire for her own armsmen during the defense of St. Agtha's, with the armsmen themselves noting she's a better shot than some of them.
The Gadfly: When she can get away with it, at least. Especially in book 5 when she times the announcement of the next Grand Duke Zebediah right when the man himself is opening the door to her carriage for her just so she can see his face when the news hits him.
Heir Club for Men: Took some cold blooded decisions on her part to get the nobility to take her seriously.
Shipper on Deck: Strongly supports the budding relationship between Princess Irys & Hektor Aplyn Ahrmahk and, using the above trope, makes their marriage a condition of Corisande's formal integration into the Empire. Neither of the two particularly minds, though.
Sharleyan's top military advisor and strong supporter since her ascension to the throne, Sandyrs was one of two pillars on which she based her reignnote The second was Byrtrym Waistyn, the Duke of Holbrook Hollow. He was her father's best friend.
Demoted to Extra: After Rakurai blows near him he must resign from his position. Even before, he was losing "screen time" with every book.
The Good Chancellor: Serves Sharleyan very well and is devoted to both her and Chisholm. She trusts him enough to make him a regent while she goes to Charis.
Locked Out of the Loop: Can't be told the truth for the same reason Grey Harbor can't. The strength of his faith means learning it was all a lie would potentially break him.
Well-Intentioned Extremist: He's horrified by Chisholm's and Charis's union, because he believes that schism will tear Safehold apart.
Ruhsyl Thairis, Duke of Eastshare
Commander of Chisholmian - and, after formation of the Empire, Imperial Charisian - Army, and a supporter of royal family of Chisholm. While being described as traditional smug aristocrat, he cares deeply for men under his command.
Good Is Old-Fashioned: Subverted; he actively embraces new technology and is willing to learn new tactics, even though at the beginning he doubted Charisian Marines could teach Chisholmian Army anything.
Informed Flaw: He's said to consider non-nobles inferior, and yet we actually never see him act like this. Probably justified, as when we see him, he interacts either with soldiers (whom he admires) or seijins Merlin/Abraim (who are not your ordinary peasants).
Locked Out of the Loop: He has no access to SNARCs, which his second-in-command (himself member of the Inner Circle) deeply regrets.
Ruler of the League of Corisande. He has long sought to expand his territory as much as he could, and has developed an antagonistic relationship with many of his neighbors, including Charis and especially Chisholm, in the pursuit of that goal.
Alas, Poor Villain: Assassinated along with his son just as he was planning to surrender to Cayleb.
Arch-Enemy: For Charis and Chisholm alike until By Heresies Distressed.
Hektor's middle child and only daughter. Princess Irys is quick to blame Cayleb and Sharleyan for anything that happens, including her father and elder brother's deaths, despite mounting evidence to the contrary.
Broken Pedestal: Irys eventually has to come to terms with the fact that her father was a tyrant outside his own kingdom.
Heir Club for Men: Can not lawfully inherit the throne, despite Hektor's preferences, given Young Hektor's ineptitude and Daivyn's youth.
Locked Out of the Loop: Coris makes sure she continues to hate Cayleb & Sharleyan as a means of keeping her politically useful to the Group of Four and, thus, alive.
Subverted when an assassination attempt at her wedding forces her to be inducted into the Inner Circle far sooner than intended. We don't see it, but she apparently takes it the best out of perhaps anyone so far (it helps that Hektor's life was saved in the process).
Noble Fugitive: From the end of By Heresies Distressed until partway through Like a Might Army, when she, Daivyn, and Earl Coris return to Corisande.
At age nine, the youngest son of Hektor Daykyn, and following the deaths of his father and brother, Prince of Corisande. Smuggled out of Corisande during the course of By Heresies Distressed, the Church of God Awaiting keeps him alive in the hopes of using him as a diplomatic trump card against Charis.
Cheerful Child: Once out of captivity and given something to be cheerful about.
A Child Shall Lead Them: Barely ten Safehold years old when his father and brother are killed. Sharleyan is able to bond with him due to this.
Admiral Lywys Gardynyr, the Earl of Thirsk, Royal Dohlaran Navy
Commander of Dohlaran Navy and one of the few real sailors among their highest ranks. Blamed for the failure at Armageddon Reef, he is under Inquisition's constant suspicion, but prevails at his station because of his talent. He's one of the very few capable Temple commanders and probably the only one who encourages creativity in his officers.
Badass Grandpa: One of the best admirals in the series, at the same time has a few grandchildren to worry about.
Cassandra Truth: He kept on saying that galley fleet Church was building was outdated and redundant on against the galleons. Nobody listened to him.
The Scapegoat: Somebody had to be blamed for Armageddon Reef... at least he kept his life.
10-Minute Retirement: He's put on retirement after the Armageddon Reef failure, but called back two books later, when it turns out he was right.
To Be Lawful or Good: Torn between his duty to his kingdom and Mother Church in the wake of the Church's atrocities and the moral rightness of the Charisan cause.
Worthy Opponent: Frequently noted as the most dangerous commander Charis' enemies have.
General Raynos Alvahrez
Cousin of the infamous Duke of Malikai, he's one of Dohlar's highest ranking nobles. He blames Duke of Thirsk for Malikai's death. Upon Dohlars invasion of Siddarmark he becomes one of its armies chief military commanders and appears to be surprisingly good at his job.
Worthy Opponent: Much like Thirsk, the protagonists who know of him acknowledge that he is among the enemy's better commanders.
The Princedom of Emerald
Nahrmahn Hanbyl Graim Baytz; Prince Nahrmahn II
The Prince of Emerald. Nahrmahn was originally antagonistic towards Charis, but a combination of self-preservation and disillusionment with Mother Church leads him to join the Empire of Charis. He becomes the Empire's Minister of Imperial Intelligence. Eventually Cayleb, Merlin, and Sharleyan bring him into the Inner Circle. Has a great love for playing the Great Game of politics.
Brain Uploading: After his death, we learn Merlin used a device to record his brain in his final moments and upload his personality to the Cave computers.
Complexity Addiction: His love for "the Great Game." His posting as Imperial Spymaster was done largely to channel this addiction into something constructive.
Heroic Sacrifice: Was prepared to bargain with Cayleb and Sharleyan, knowing there was a very legitimate chance that they would demand his execution as part of the process. The only reason Ohlyvya survives the destruction of their coach in How Firm a Foundation is because Nahrmahn shielded her with his body.
Morality Chain: After his death and Brain Uploading, Nahrmahn plays this role for Merlin, offering reassurance when Merlin fears that what his power to kill with impunity may turn him into and making sure he doesn't shut himself out from his friends and loved ones.
The Smart Guy: For the Inner Circle. Merlin at one point admits that watching him work is a guilty pleasure.
The Spymaster: He has his own for Emerald, but after his Heel-Face Turn his Complexity Addiction is turned towards this by making him the spymaster for the whole of the Empire. He's regarded by all the inner circle as their best analyst.
The Strategist: Oh, he is quite the competent schemer and as noted above, Merlin deeply admires his ability to analyze, adapt and plan ahead when confronted with new situations and information.
Nahrmahn's wife and Princess of Emerald. She is at least as intelligent as Nahrmahn himself, and serves largely as a confidante and mitigating influence for her husband. Is included in the Inner Circle alongside her husband in A Mighty Fortress.
Sixth Ranger: For the Inner Circle, initially. There was no special need to include her, and she doesn't often take an active role in the Empire's politics. Though it's noted her influence with Nahrmahn provided a good reason, nonetheless.
The Temple Lands
Vicar Zahmsyn Trynair
I do believe [Hauwerd and Samyl] conspired against Zhaspyr. That means they also conspired against me and you. Maybe your deep faith lets you take it easy. I can't.
Chancellor of the Church of God Awaiting's Council of Vicars. Member and primary leader of the Group of Four, he loses his importance (and presence in the books) as events progress and turn into all-out war.
Between a Rock and a Hard Place: He increasingly finds himself towed in Clyntahn's wake and unable to oppose him. However, he knows that if Duchairn ever gets eliminated, he's the next biggest target in Clyntahn's sights and has to try desperately to play peacekeeper between them.
The Man Behind the Man: De facto ruler of the church, as the Grand Vicar decrees whatever Trynair tells him to decree.
Out of Focus: At the start, Trynair and Clyntahn were the driving force behind the events within the church. As the books have progressed, with Clyntahn grabbing more and more power and Ducharin being the only one willing to stand up to him, Trynair's importance has dwindled significantly.
There ought to be a law that villains shouldn't be allowed to look like stereotypical villains.
—Earl Coris on Clyntahn
Grand Inquisitor of the Church of God Awaiting. Member of the Group of Four. Instigator of many of the Safehold series biggest events, using his position to attempt to crush all opposition to the Church and himself.
A Nazi by Any Other Name: Crosses into this in Midst Toil and Tribulation when he actually starts building concentration camps for the 'heretics' and Merlin compares the role of his Inquisition to the Army of God to the SS following the Whermacht into Russia.
Karma Houdini: Is convicted of being partially responsible for the Ferayd Massacre, and is sentenced to... one week's kitchen duty.
Knight Templar: And to make it worse, the scriptures clearly state that this sort of behavior is acceptable.
Nice Job Fixing It, Villain: Clyntahn does quite a bit of damage in the short term, but in the long term he tends to strengthen his enemies' resolve, turn the wavering against him, and make the weak seek refuge from him.
Obviously Evil: Earl Coris, upon meeting him, thinks to himself that there should be a rule forbidding villains from looking like stereotypical villains.
You know, in many ways Zhaspyr is his own worst enemy. That's because he forgot - and so did I for a moment, I must admit - that sometimes kindness and gentleness can be weapon as powerful as fear and terror.
Minister of the Treasury of the Church of God Awaiting's Council of Vicars. A position which grants him a place in the Group of Four. Events early in the series began to re-awaken his faith, which puts him in the position of opposing some of the Group of Four's policies but being in a position where he can't actually do anything about them.
Anti-Villain: Becomes this by the second book, the only reason he is still with the Group of Four is because he knows staying with them is the only way he can mitigate some of Clyntahn's bullshit.
Good Shepherd: Becomes one to counter-balance some of the evil he's been complicit in.
Heel Realization: it starts somewhere around book two and is sure as of book four. Seeing Clyntahn everyday helped.
Only Sane Man: A role he is starting to share Allayn Maigwair as he seems to be one of the few members of the upper Church hierarchy that has a level head on his shoulders.
Vicar Allayn Maigwair
Captain General of the Church of God Awaiting, making him leader of its military forces. A position which also grants him a place within the Group of Four. Not particularly renowned for his intellect and tends to just go along with Clyntahn. However, once the war heats up he shows that he isn't exactly the idiot every one thought him to be and becomes an ally of Duchairn.
Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The first few books had the Group of Four focus mainly on political scheming and letting proxies fight Charis in their stead. Maigwair is a career soldier, not a politician and has no talent for political maneuvering so he looks like a man who is a bit slow and more than a little out of his depth. Come A Mighty Fortress and Magwair starts taking a direct hand in planning the Church's military offensive; he comes up with a battle plan for the Navy of God that comes within a hair's breadth of crushing Charis. Midst Toil and Tribulation his armies inflict massive defeats on the Siddmarkian Army, widely regarded as one of the best, if not the best, on Safehold. Like a Mighty Army he turns the hopelessly out-dated and incompetent Harchong Army into a powerful, modern military force that is threatening to drive Charis off the mainland. Merlin, Nahrmahn and Cayleb have all admitted they seriously underestimated him.
Dumbass Has a Point: The subterfuge regarding where the Navy of God was sent in A Mighty Fortress was his idea. It is perhaps the single most successful move the Group of Four has managed against Charis, catching the Charisian leadership completely flat-footed. The rest of the Group of Four were rather shocked when he came up with it.
The Load: Pretty much how the rest of the Group of Four views him, since he's not as bright as the other three. However, once the Church becomes directly involved in the military campaigns he stops being the Load.
Not-So-Harmless Villain: For most of the books, he's acted like an idiot who can't be trusted to tie his own shoes, and indeed, he's almost completely useless in politics. But when given a hand in the Church's military operations, he proves to be one of the greatest commanders in Safeholdian history.
In Like a Mighty Army he keeps getting more impressive. He ramrods a new breech-loading rifle design through the Inquisition's approval and acceptance process, is copying and supporting Thirsk in the research and development field and actually, with Duchairn's help, reforms the Harchong Army from a sorry joke into a very formidable fighting force, something Merlin didn't think was possible.
The Strategist: He might not be very good with political scheming but in military matters it turns out that he is one of the most capable generals in the world.
Took a Level in Badass: In Midst Toil and Tribulation, he proves frighteningly competent in creating the new Army of God and successfully leads one of the greatest military campaigns in Safehold's history. Not only that he actually delivers a Shut Up, Hannibal! speech to Clyntahn!
Madame Ahnzhelyk Phonda born Nynian Rychtair, aka Aivah Pahrsahn
A madame at one of the city of Zion's more renowned "houses of ill repute." Madame Ahnzhelyk's provides company for many, including members of the Council of Vicars. From this position Ahnzhelyk has created a truly awesome spy network through which to subvert the church's corruption.
Awesomeness by Analysis: Somehow managed to figure out not only that Merlin and Abrhaim Zhevons are the same person but that they have a means of travelling vast distances in extremely short periods of time.
Mata Hari: Older than most examples and doesn't "work" herself by the time of the books, but she charms everyone she meets.
Meaningful Name: Provides shelter for the poor in Zion and genuinely works to do good.
Refuge in Audacity: Has left Cayleb "almost reverent." Her solution to get potential Inquisition victims out of Zion before a vengeful Clyntahn can get his hands on them? Hide them in a boat shipping goods in Clyntahn's name.
Furthermore, her idea of going into "hiding" is to publicly enter high society in Siddarmark under an alias and become a fixture in the Reformist community. Gutsy!
The Spymaster: Easily the best in the series. Within her specific area of operation, she's even better than Owl, and has occasionally evaded the SNARCs' observations without even being aware of them.
Wham Line: Author of what's probably the most surprising cliffhanger in the entire series.
Owl - short for Ordoñes-Westinghouse-Lytton RAPIER-class tactical computer - is an AI that begun its existence as weapon assistant. It was then transferred by Pei Shan-Wei into Nimue's cave and became Merlin's assistant, weapon maker and data analyst. As a ex-weaponry program, it started as largely unintuitive and annoying creature, but gets better at its job following Nahrmahn's Brain Uploading.
A.I. Is a Crapshoot: Averted. All RAPIER-class computers were programmed so that idea of taking over the world would never occur to them.
Ambiguous Gender: Before MTaT nobody really wondered about it, but in Like A Mighty Army it's mentioned that Owl still has not decided on its gender.
Artificial Stupidity: As a weapon operator, Owl was not programmed to guess its creators intentions, understand rhetorical questions, or provide additional information without being specifically asked for it. Merlin, being used to AIs that are highly intuitive and actually helpful, finds it annoying.
Plug 'n' Play Technology: Owl can operate various tools it was definitely not created to be compatible with (clothing machines, medical equipment, production modules, library...) Justified, as Terran Federation spanned the entirety of humanity so everybody built machines according to the same standards.
Surveillance as the Plot Demands: Using SNARCs, Owl can observe virtually anything on Safehold apart from Temple, but its poor understanding of priorities and sheer amount of data to process turn it sometimes into this trope.
Elected ruler of the Republic of Siddarmark in the times of the series, Stohnar is strong supported of Reformist movement, but hides it, fearing Mother Church's reaction. After the Sword of Schueler he openly supports Charis and forges alliance with Cayleb.
The Clan: Stohnar clan is said to be very influential in Siddarmarkian politics.
A Father to His Men: He cares deeply about his subjects and tries to do as much as possible. The fact that he can't do enough hurts him visibly.