BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 62

 

BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER – snippet 62:

 

 

            The archbishop paused, and Merlin pursed his lips thoughtfully. What Staynair was describing was quite different from the vast majority of monastic communities Merlin had studied since awakening in Nimue's Cave. Most Safeholdian monasteries and convents were very definitely the property of one or another of the great orders, and those orders were zealous about defending their ownership.  Once one got beyond the borders of the Temple Lands, the competition between orders was seldom as fierce as it was inside the precincts of the Temple and the city of Zion. But it always existed, and their monasteries, convents, manors, and estates represented more than simple tokens in the competition. Those institutions were the sinews and wealth which made that competition possible.

 

            Of course, Saint Zherneau's didn't exactly strike Merlin as one of the great monastic communities. Despite its obvious age and lovingly landscaped grounds, it was, as Staynair had said, a relatively small monastery. It wasn't likely that it produced a great deal of wealth, which might well explain how it had avoided the great orders' attention, as well as the greater inclusiveness and diversity of its membership.

 

            Somehow, though, Merlin rather doubted the explanation was quite that simple.

 

            "I, myself, came here to Saint Zherneau's as a very young man," Staynair said. "At the time, I was unsure whether or not I truly had a vocation, and the Brethren helped me address my doubts. They were a great comfort to me when my spirit needed that comfort badly, and like many others, I became one of them. Indeed, although the population of the monastery itself at any moment is usually quite small, a great many of the Brethren, like myself, maintain our membership even after we've moved on formally to one or another of the great orders. We remain family, one might say, which means we have far more members than one might think from the size of the monastary itself, and most of us return at intervals to the monastery for spiritual retreats and to draw strength from the support of our fellow brothers.

 

            "Interestingly enough," the archbishop's eyes drilled into Merlin's once more, "the confessors of six of the last eight kings of Charis have all been Brothers of Saint Zherneau, as well."

 

            Had Merlin still been a creature of flesh and blood, he would have inhaled a deep breath of surprise and speculation. But he wasn't, of course, and so he simply tilted his head to one side.

 

            "That sounds like a remarkable . . . coincidence, Your Eminence," he observed.

 

            "Yes, it does, doesn't it?" Staynair smiled at him, then glanced at the abbot. "I told you he was quick, didn't I, Zhon?"

 

            "So you did," Byrkyt agreed, and smiled somewhat more broadly than his ecclesiastic superior. "As a matter of fact, he rather reminds me of another young man I once knew, although he seems rather less . . . rebellious."

 

            "Really? And who might that have been?"

 

            "Fishing for compliments is a most unbecoming trait in an archbishop," Byrkyt replied serenely, but his sharp brown eyes had never wavered from Merlin's face. Now he turned to face him fully.

 

            "What Maikel is getting at, in his somewhat indirect fashion, Seijin Merlin, is that the Brethren of Saint Zherneau haven't, as I'm sure you've already guessed, produced that many confessors for that many monarchs by accident."

 

            "I'm sure they haven't. The question in my mind, Father, is exactly why they've done it, and how, and why you and the Archbishop should choose to make me aware of it."

 

            "The question?" Byrkyt said. "By my count, that's at least three questions, Seijin." He chuckled. "Well, no matter. I'll answer the last one first, if you don't mind."

 

            "I don't mind at all," Merlin said, although, to be honest, he wasn't absolutely certain that was the truth.

 

            "The reason Maikel decided to bring you here to meet me today, seijin, has to do with a letter he received from King Haarahld. It was written shortly before the King's death, and it dealt primarily with his underlying strategy for keeping Duke Black Water's fleet in play until Cayleb — and you, of course — could return from Armageddon Reef to deal with it. In fact," if Staynair's eyes had bored into Merlin like drills, Byrkyt's were diamond-cutting lasers, "it had to do with how he knew how long he had to keep Black Water occupied."

 

            Merlin found himself sitting very, very still. He'd never explained to either Cayleb or Haarahld exactly how he'd physically traveled four thousand miles in less than two hours to carry the warning about Black Water's new strategy to Haarahld. He'd been astounded and immensely relieved, to say the very least, by how calmly Haarahld had taken his "miraculous" appearance on the stern gallery of the king's flagship in the middle of the night, but in all honesty, he'd been so focused on the immediate threat that he hadn't really tried to nail down why the king had reacted with so little outward consternation.

 

            And he'd never suspected for a moment that Haarahld might have told anyone else, even his confessor, about it.

 

            Silence lingered in the quiet office-library. In an odd sort of way, it was almost as if Staynair and Byrkyt were the PICAs, sitting silently, waiting with absolute patience while Merlin tried to absorb the implications of what Byrkyt had just said . . . and think of some way to respond.

 

            "Father," he said finally, "Your Eminence, I don't know exactly what King Haarahld may have written to you. I can only assume, however, that whatever it was, it was not to denounce me as some sort of demon."

 

            "Hardly that, Merlin." Staynair's voice was gentle, almost comforting, and as Merlin watched, he smiled as if in fond memory. "He was excited, actually. There was always that piece of a little boy down inside him, that sense of wonder. Oh," the archbishop waved one hand, "he wasn't totally immune to the possibility that he was making a mistake in trusting you. That you might actually turn out to be a 'demon.' After all, we're speaking here of matters of faith, where reason is but one support, and that sometimes a frail one. Still, Merlin, there comes a time when any child of God must gather up in his hands all that he is, all that he can ever hope to be, and commit it. After all the thought, all the prayer, all the meditation, that moment of decision comes to all of us. Some never find the courage to meet it. They look away, try to ignore it or simply pretend it never came to them. Others turn away, take refuge in what others have taught them, what others have commanded them to think and believe, rather than making the choice, accepting the test, for themselves.

 

            "But Haarahld was never a coward. When the moment came, he recognized it, and he met it, and he chose to place his trust in you. He wrote me about that decision, and he said –" Staynair's eyes went slightly out of focus as he recited from memory " –' He may be a demon, after all, Maikel. I don't think so, but as we all know, I've been wrong a few times in my life. Quite a few, actually. But either way, the time has finally come. I won't fail the trust God has placed in all of us by refusing the choice. And so, I've placed my own life, my son's life, the lives of my other children, my people, and yours — and all the souls that go with them — in his hands. If I'm wrong to do so, then surely I will pay a terrible price after this life. But I'm not. And if it should happen that God chooses for me never to return home, know this. I accept His decision, and I pass to you and to my son the completion of the task I agreed to undertake so long ago.'"

 

            The archbishop fell silent once more. Merlin felt the dead king's words echoing within him. It was as if he and Haarahld stood together on that sternwalk once again, and his PICA eyes burned as they faithfully mimicked the autonomous responses of their original human models.

 

            "What task, Your Eminence?" he asked softly.

 

            "The task of teaching his people, and all of Safehold, the truth," Staynair said. "The truth about God, about the Church, about our world and all the work of God's hands. The truth that the Church has spent so many centuries systematically suppressing and choking out of existence."

 

            "The truth?" Merlin stared at the archbishop. Even now, even after hearing Haarahld's words literally from beyond the grave, he had never expected to hear anything like that, and his thoughts spun like a man dancing on ice while he fought for balance. "What truth?"

 

            "This one," Byrkyt said quietly. "It begins, 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are . . . .'"

 

 

About Eric Flint

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28 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 62

  1. John says:

    Excellent, Nimue has gained or will gain allies. Or is it Merlin now…..

    And we have to wait 2 days for the next snippet? ARRRRGGGGGG!!!

  2. Maria says:

    Damn. I don’t know if I want kiss you or strangle you, Eric. You just =had= to cut it off right there, didn’t you. A brilliant way to build suspense but how am I suppose to turn off my brain and go to sleep =now=? ;-) Keep up the good work.

  3. Matt says:

    This is just cruel, please just give us one more, PLEASE!

  4. George Phillies says:

    How does it start? Oh, that’s easy.

    Chapter XXX

    Prince Hector of Corisande…

    (8^))

  5. Jeff Smith says:

    Interesting. The last few snippets led me to suspect it might be either something like “we know more than you think we know” or another “are you a demon” test. Of course, when people hold the paper copies, these snippets will be rolled into a chapter, and there won’t be as much time for speculation as exists for those of us poor bastards being dripfed our drug of choice…

  6. Jason says:

    Awesome!

    Does anyone else wonder if the more dangerous document (At least on Safehold) is there too?

    The one that starts “We, the people…”

    I imagine that the First Ammendment would be pretty bad, from the church’s perspective.

  7. Jason says:

    We really are addicts, aren’t we?

  8. Michael says:

    A more damning and dangerous document that might be found there: “I am the resurrection and the life…”

  9. Tim says:

    Now there’s a plot twist I wasn’t expecting… way to keep the excitement up. But to make us wait 2 days from now to see the response… diabolical

  10. A. J. Nolte says:

    Yes! Yes! Secret societies within the church; love it. But…how did they find out, and go beyond the creation myths?
    You know, if I was a Safeholdian andI heard that my entire history was a pack of lies, that my faith was invented by megalomaniacs covering up our flight from an alien menace in the stars… I probably wouldn’t believe a word of it. How the heck are they ever going to be able to practically convince people of this?

  11. MarkR says:

    They found out because Shan-Wei left all that information behind. She probably disassociated herself as much as possible beyond having chosen its highly advantageous location, but she put key people there to keep as much of the truth safe and secret in paper form. Nimue wasn’t briefed on this when activated because Shan-wei hadn’t even told her husband, false as their estranged was.

    As for convincing other people, you don’t. You make it as easy as possible for those with any doubts to come towards the truth, but you can’t cram truth down people’s throats without it being resisted. That’s what’s so depressing about reality at the moment. So few people actually care what is or is not actually true.

  12. Ron says:

    I would have liked more personal anguish, after all Merlin is more or less responsible for the entire human race. That has got to be one hell of a burden.

    Now it looks like he is getting some help to hold up that Atlas.

  13. Jade says:

    I started cackling when I read this one….and then depression set in. Two days till the next one!?! Noooo!!!! I don’t think ‘addicts’ even begins to describe the lot of us.

  14. Ron says:

    Isn’t that the truth. The entire book could be posted tomorrow and I would STILL be impatiently waiting for the actual book to be published. There is nothing like feeling the pages turn that can never be replaced by computers.

  15. kar says:

    Amazing that a priest should repeat those words of the Declaration of Independence in that world and time without flinching. Seems like Merlin no longer has to carry the burden of humanity alone at least as long as he’s concerned. He no longer has to fight alone in the long night of mankind. I’m starting to really wonder how the last book will end…… Merlin standing on the bridge of the human flagship as humanity returns the favor of genocide to the enemy. Could be poetic…

  16. Lance says:

    Sick, sick, sick. To have to wait 2 days to see where this plot-line is going. I agree with post #2 – I don’t know whether to kiss ’em or strangle ’em. Probably both. It’s going to be darned curious to see just exactly how much “truth” is there – is it abstract concept only OR the history of Safehold and the fact that they come from Earth?

    Is there going to be an ARC available for this book? Or do we have to wait until mid-year to get it?

  17. John says:

    One more day…….

  18. Matt says:

    Lance, no there will not be an ARC (at least not one of the Baen e-ARCs) for this book, because Tor doesn’t like them.

  19. Jon says:

    and I thought this book was a little boring!!!
    “addiction” probably describes everyone who reads these snippets, simply because we were so entrapped by its concept

  20. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    Yes, I wonder if its going to be more than just the declaration of Independence as well. I doubt its going to be everything, mostly because theres to much data, and that much info would require computers or some other device which the others could have snooped out.

  21. James says:

    Now this is indeed and interesting twist.

    Don’t forget that Nimue (and Merlin) may not be a child of that particular strain of Democracy. From her background, she (he) could easily been brought up with the British Parlimentary system (limited Monarchy)which could better fit the current situation. Both robust and “good” systems (nod to Churchills’ comment about Democracy), but both slightly different. It will be a pleasure to see how it turns out.

    James

  22. Robert says:

    This turn of events makes a lot of sense. The planners would need a back up or at least a group to assist the PICA. A lot of their efforts went into backing up their contingency plans. The PICA, database, hoarded supplies were to be used as a contingency if they could not control Safehold’s leaders at the very outset of planning humanity’s survival or is it technological jumpstart against the Gbaba. They would not leave all their trust in one plan or database. Backup systems of backup systems. The real problem is how they kept it all secret across the different sects and how accrurate their truth is after 980 years (second database or word of mouth?). This reminds me of series of books that had a galactic empire restart at the very outskirts of the last one while a group is engineering all the changes from the center of the old galactic empire.

  23. MarkR says:

    “Seems like Merlin no longer has to carry the burden of humanity alone at least as long as he’s concerned. He no longer has to fight alone in the long night of mankind.”

    He at least should get some help monitoring all that intelligence data coming in from the SNARCs.

    “I’m starting to really wonder how the last book will end…… Merlin standing on the bridge of the human flagship as humanity returns the favor of genocide to the enemy. Could be poetic…”

    Perhaps, just don’t expect it to be the third book or any single digit book given how slowly he’s dragged it out so far. Nor should we expect any real world building like how any of the non-military technology is bootstrapped up. Weber seems to find that boring for himself and those he perceives to be his audience.

    “980 years”
    890. What I can’t figure out how 500 years (time to wait for enemy scouts to pass) plus 50% safety margin ends up having her activated 890 years after ‘creation’.

    “This reminds me of series of books that had a galactic empire restart at the very outskirts of the last one while a group is engineering all the changes from the center of the old galactic empire.”

    Asimov’s Foundation stories.

  24. James says:

    Hmm My earlier post is gone… Ne’er the less it’ll be interesting to see how events unfold

    James

  25. kar says:

    “Perhaps, just don’t expect it to be the third book or any single digit book given how slowly he’s dragged it out so far. Nor should we expect any real world building like how any of the non-military technology is bootstrapped up. Weber seems to find that boring for himself and those he perceives to be his audience.

    Considering Merlin is now a cyborg/robot… its entirely possible in a epilogue format where maybe 1000 years later he is standing on the bridge of the flagship of the revived terran forces. It’s similar to Watch on the Rhine type ending.

  26. John says:

    “890. What I can’t figure out how 500 years (time to wait for enemy scouts to pass) plus 50% safety margin ends up having her activated 890 years after ‘creation’.”

    Perhaps a re-read of Off Armageddon Reef is in order……I don’t remember the reason given for this either….or if there was one.

  27. Matt says:

    “What I can’t figure out how 500 years (time to wait for enemy scouts to pass) plus 50% safety margin ends up having her activated 890 years after ‘creation’.”

    You forgot that the recording, when 750 year timer started, was actually quite a while after ‘creation’ the timer started when Langhorne was killed, and Safehold had already been going for a generation or two by then. Also, depending on how you ended up with that 890 year number(I’m doing this from memory, haven’t gone back to check the book) the voyage to get to Safehold and the initial teraforming, prior to waking all the colonists up, could be in there as well.

  28. Jeff Ehlers says:

    In retrospect, this actually makes a lot of sense. Shan-wei and Kau-yung were clearly planning for the long run, so it makes a tremendous amount of sense that they wouldn’t have placed all of Earth’s knowledge in one area – kind of like not putting all your eggs in one basket. Alexandria was intended to be the primary repository of such knowledge, but in a sense it was also intended to guard other such repositories. So if Alexandria was destroyed, the knowledge would still exist even though the actual technology wouldn’t.

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