BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER – snippet 67:
"His Eminence will see you now, Captain Athrawes."
"Thank you, Father," Merlin said as the under-priest opened the door to Archbishop Maikel's office and bowed the visitor through it.
Sunlight poured through the window that looked out across Tellesberg to the broad, blue waters of the harbor. A dense forest of masts and yards grew out of the waterfront, birds and wyverns rode the updrafts, hovering gracefully as the thoughts of God, and weather-stained sails dotted the harbor beyond them. Staynair's office was located on the lofty (for Safehold) Archbishop's Palace's third floor, and Merlin could see down into the busy streets, where people, dragon-drawn freight wagons, and horse-drawn streetcars seethed and bustled.
"Seijin Merlin," Staynair greeted him, holding out his ring hand with a smile. "How nice to see you again."
"And so very unexpected, I'm sure, Your Eminence," Merlin murmured as he brushed his lips across the proffered ring.
"No, not unexpected," Staynair acknowledged. He sat back down behind his desk and a wave of his hand invited Merlin to sit in the comfortable chair on the far side of it. He continued to smile as his guest settled into the chair, but the smile had turned a bit more tense, Merlin observed.
"May I assume, Your Eminence, that any conversation you and I might have here today won't be overheard by other ears?"
"Of course you may." Staynair frowned slightly. "My staff understands that unless I specifically tell them otherwise, any conversation I have in this office is as privileged as any other confession."
"I was reasonably confident that was the case, Your Eminence. Under the circumstances, however, I felt I had no option but to be certain of it."
"I suppose that's understandable enough," Staynair conceded. "And I'm quite aware that Zhon and I handed you a rather . . . significant surprise, shall we say, yesterday."
"Oh, you could certainly describe it that way, Your Eminence." Merlin smiled dryly.
"And I'm sure you have questions," Staynair continued. "Under the circumstances, I think it might be simpler for you to just go ahead and ask them rather than having me attempt to explain everything."
"I imagine that explaining 'everything' is going to take considerably more than a single afternoon," Merlin said, and Staynair actually chuckled.
"Very well, then, Your Eminence," Merlin continued, "I suppose my first question has to be why 'Saint Zherneau's' journal and the other documents with it weren't simply destroyed, or handed over to the Inquisition, when they were finally rediscovered?"
"Partly because they weren't 'rediscovered' at all, Seijin Merlin." Staynair leaned back in his chair, crossing his legs. "The Brethren of Saint Zherneau always knew exactly where all of them were; we simply didn't know what they were. Saint Zherneau and Saint Evahlyn left them sealed, with solemn directions for the Brethren to leave them that way for three hundred and fifty years after their deaths. Their instructions were followed to the letter."
"And the reason they weren't simply destroyed or regarded as the most heinous possible heresy when they were unsealed?"
"There, I think, you see the planning — or the impact, at least — of Saint Zherneau," Staynair said seriously. "Most of the religious philosophy and thought of Saint Zherneau and Saint Evahlyn was as orthodox as Mother Church could possibly have asked. For reasons which make perfectly good sense, I'm sure, now that you've had an opportunity to read his journal. You did read it overnight, didn't you, Seijin?"
"Yes, I did." Merlin regarded the archbishop with a speculative gaze.
"I assumed that was why you examined each page individually at Saint Zherneau's," Staynair murmured. Merlin cocked an eyebrow, and the archbishop smiled slightly. "The ability of the seijin to memorize things at a glance is a part of their legendary prowess. In fact, I rather suspect that was one of the reasons you decided to become one."
"I see." Merlin leaned back in his own chair and rested his elbows on its upholstered arms, steepling his fingertips across his chest. "Please, Your Eminence. Continue with your explanation."
"Of course, Seijin," Staynair agreed with a slightly ironic nod. "Let me see, where was I? Ah, yes. The single aspect in which Saint Zherneau's teachings departed from the mainstream of Church thought was the fashion in which he and Saint Evahlyn both emphasized tolerance and toleration so strongly and made it so central to their thought. The responsibility of all godly people to see all other human beings as their true brothers and sisters in God. To reason and remonstrate with those who might be in error, rather than condemning without seeking to understand. And to be open to the possibility that those who disagree with them may, in fact, prove in the end to be correct — or, at least, closer to correct — than they themselves had been at the beginning of the disagreement."
The archbishop paused, shaking his head. Then he looked away, gazing out his office window at the roofs and spires of Tellesberg.
"There is a reason Charis has worried the Inquisition for so long," he said quietly, "and not all of it was simple paranoia on the part of Inquisitors like Clyntahn. Despite the small size of the Monastery of Saint Zherneau, the Brethren of Saint Zherneau have wielded a disproportionate influence here in Charis for generations.
"Many of our local clergy have passed through Saint Zherneau's at one time or another. Indeed, I've often wondered what would have happened had the Inquisition been able to cross-post our clergy the way it has the mainland clergy. One thing, I suspect, is that it might have learned of Saint Zherneau's . . . influence if more of our homegrown priests had been assigned to mainland parishes. Not to mention what might have happened had the Church's senior positions here in Charis been more completely filled by foreigners. Fortunately, the Inquisition's distrust of Charisian orthodoxy has left the Church disinclined to expose other congregations to our contaminating notions, so very few of our local clergy have been posted to churches outside Charis itself. And the difficulty in getting senior churchmen to agree to serve out here at the edge of the world has worked in our favor in many ways, as well. Not least is that none of the relatively small number of truly senior clergy sent into Charis have even begun to suspect what the Brethren of Saint Zherneau have truly become here in the Kingdom and the Archbishopric."
"And what have they become, Your Eminence?" Merlin asked quietly.
"Agents of subversion," Staynair said simply. "Only a very small handful of the most senior Brethren are aware of the existence of Saint Zherneau's journal or any of the other documents. Outside that handful, none of them have ever heard of a book called The History of the Terran Federation, or of a document called The Declaration of Independence. What every Brother of Saint Zherneau has been taught, however, is that every individual is responsible for his or her personal relationship with God. The Inquisition would most certainly find that teaching pernicious, even though it's precisely what the Holy Writ says. Because, Seijin Merlin," the archbishop looked back from the window, his eyes dark and intense, "a personal relationship implies both toleration and questions. It implies a personal search for God, a need to understand one's relationship with Him for oneself, not simply the regurgitation of official doctrine and catechisms."