"How much of this did Haarahld know?" Merlin asked quietly.


            "All of it," Staynair replied simply. "He read the entire journal, read the history of the Federation. As for all of us, there was much in that history which he didn't understand, for which he had no context. But, also as for all of us, he understood enough. When you asked him why his grandfather had abolished serfdom here in Charis, he answered you honestly, Merlin. But he could have added that one of the reasons his grandfather believed all men were created equal was that he, too, had read every magnificent word of the Declaration."


            "And Cayleb?"


            Merlin asked the question even more quietly, and Staynair frowned gravely.


            "Ever since the vault was unsealed, there have been strenuous rules governing when and how its contents were to be made known to others. One of those rules has been that before anyone could be admitted to the truth, he must have attained the age of wisdom. Which, simply because some firm definition of when that could be presumed to have occurred was necessary, was set at the age of thirty. Another rule is that all those already privy to the truth must agree before anyone else is admitted to it, and not everyone nominated for the truth is actually told in the end. Two of the last eight monarchs of Charis were never informed, for example, because the Brethren of their time believed telling them would have constituted too great a risk. And," Staynair's eyes turned even graver, "in both cases, their own fathers agreed with the majority of the Brethren."


            "But surely that's not the case with Cayleb," Merlin objected.


            "Of course not. We've always — Haarahld always — intended to inform him of the truth as soon as he reached the age of thirty. Unfortunately, the Group of Four refused to wait long enough for that. Now, we have a King whose determination, courage, and wit we all trust implicitly, but who's too young, under the Brethren's rules, to be informed. And, to be perfectly honest, there are some among us who fear his youth and . . . directness. His impetuosity, perhaps. One thing young Cayleb has never been is hesitant about speaking his mind or confronting an enemy. The fear isn't that he would reject the journal's contents, but rather that if he learns the full truth, if he's shown the proof that for almost a thousand years the Church has controlled all of Safehold through the greatest lie in human history, he'll be unable to resist throwing that charge against the Group of Four, as well. And that, Merlin, is something we cannot do. Not yet.


            "Schism within the Church we can contemplate, especially so long as that schism is couched in terms of reforming corruption, decadence, and abuses. But outright heresy — true heresy, easily provable by reference to the Holy Writ and The Testimonies — would put far too potent a weapon into Clyntahn's hands. The day is coming — will come — when that 'heresy' will be openly proclaimed. The Brethren of Saint Zherneau have labored to bring that day for four centuries. But for now, we must keep this a war over the Church's abuses. Over spiritual issues, yes, but spiritual issues secular rulers can grasp in secular terms, not over deeply divisive points of doctrine and theology."


            Merlin unsteepled his fingers and leaned forward in his chair, his expression intent.


            "Your Eminence, since you and Abbot Byrkyt have shown me these documents, informed me of their existence, I must assume the other Brethren who know the full truth approved your decision to do so."


            His tone and raised eyebrow made the statement at question, and Staynair nodded.


            "They have. In no small part, because we want your judgment as to whether or not Cayleb should be told. I believe he should, as do most, though not all, of the others, and all of us realize that at this moment, you're undoubtedly closer to him than any other living man. But I must confess that there's also another reason. Something which was contained in Saint Zherneau's letter, not his journal."




            "Yes." Staynair reached into an inner pocket of his cassock and removed a folded sheet of paper. "This is a copy of that section," he said softly, and handed it across the desk.


            Merlin took it just a bit gingerly, unfolded it, and found a passage copied in Staynair's own hand.


            "We, and the other Adams and Eves Dr. Pei reeducated to know the truth, were to be what she called her 'insurance policy,'" he read. "We were to be the seed, if you will, of a movement among the colonists and children of the colonists if, as she feared, Langhorne, Bédard, and Schueler moved openly against Alexandria. But she had less time than she had hoped, and there were not enough of us when they destroyed Alexandria and murdered her and all of our friends. Yet it is evident that Langhorne and most of his inner circle must also have been killed. Our best guess, especially given the changes in the Holy Writ, is that Commodore Pei must have managed to conceal a vest-pocket nuke and used it. I have often thought, over the years, that the confusion that must have engendered in the 'archangels'' leadership — and, quite possibly, the destruction of much of the colony administration's records — explains how we have been able to pass unnoticed out here in this distant corner of Safehold.


            "But we do not know where else Dr. Pei may have placed others like us. We were never told, for obvious reasons. We do know she intended to place others here with us in Tellesberg, but there was never time, and now she never will.


            "Yet know this, whoever you may be who finally reads these words. We were but one string to Dr. Pei's bow of truth. There is another. I know but little about that second string, and even that I know mostly by accident. It was never Dr. Pei's intention for us to learn about it at all — again, for obvious reasons. But I know this much. She and Commodore Pei have made other preparations, other plans, as well as this one. I will not write even the small amount I do know, lest this letter fall into the Inquisition's hand. Yet you must always remember that second string. The day will come when it sends forth its arrow, and you must recognize it when it flies. Trust it. It springs from fidelity you cannot even imagine, from a sacrifice deeper than space itself. I believe you will know it when you see it, and this is the test: Nimue."


            A PICA had no circulatory system, but deep pain stabbed through Merlin's nonexistent heart as he read that final sentence. He looked down at it for endless seconds. It was almost as if he could hear Pei Shan-wei's voice one final time through the words written by a man seven hundred and fifty years  dust.


            Finally, he looked up again, and Staynair looked deep into his sapphire PICA's eyes.


            "Tell me, Merlin," he said, very, very softly, "are you Shan-wei's second arrow?"


* * * * * * * * * *


            "What's this all about?" King Cayleb asked, ignoring the throne on its raised dais as he stood with his back to the small presence chamber's window. He looked back and forth between Archbishop Maikel and Merlin, his eyebrows raised, and Merlin smiled crookedly.


            "You may recall, Your Majesty," he said, "that I once told you that when I could explain a certain subject more fully, I would."


            Cayleb's eyes widened suddenly. Then they darted to Staynair's face. He half-raised one hand, but Merlin shook his head.


            "It's all right, Cayleb," he said. "It turns out Archbishop Maikel — and, for that matter, your father — had a somewhat better idea of who I am than I'd realized."


            "They did?" Cayleb's expression was suddenly very intent, and the gaze he turned upon Staynair was intensely speculative.


            "Oh, I think you might say that." Merlin's smile turned more crooked than ever. "You see, Cayleb, it's like this . . . "





About Eric Flint

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16 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 69

  1. Tim says:

    Gawd, I can’t believe i guessed right, Merlin was mentioned :-) How this story is really getting interesting now.

  2. Maria says:

    :-) I knew it. I knew the chapter would end like that. “And now, for something completely different.”

  3. Alsadius says:

    I’ve been waiting for this one for quite a while now. This almost makes me glad Haarahld bit the dust, so we can get a good reveal in with someone who doesn’t already know it(though, to be fair, it does make me respect him a bit less – being unsurprised by Merlin’s oddities is a lot less impressive a feat in that context, and some of the soul-searching he goes through seems decidedly odd in retrospect).

    Now let’s just hope that this gets dealt with right – I don’t need it to be in this chapter, and given the sheer perversity of the snippet boundaries, I’d just about be amazed if it was – but I want it to be good.

  4. Jon says:

    UGH, another REALLY JUICY PART, which will be followed by a chapter break, ruining the greater of moments :(
    Jeez, how much longer unit the book is actually published? I CANNOT WAIT

  5. Geoff says:


    Just had to leave the snippet there…..right when the conversation I’ve been waiting for for a book and a half happens….

  6. I suspect there was a counterkey, in which Merlin answers

    “Yes, I am Nimue Alban.”

    since telling Merlin the name he is supposed to answer to is not obviously workable, though perhaps there is a trick I am missing.

  7. Lance says:

    Care to bet we don’t see the response to this bombshell…or vest-pocket nuke :) for at least a few weeks or more?


  8. Kar says:

    yeah… probably no continuation of this chapter… maybe something like. “After he was finished speaking, Cayleb stood frozen looking out the window….” You know… basically a skip of the entire explanation. Stupid really, considering how much weber likes to expound on things. I mean he spends 4 hours detailing how to cast some guns, but a minute explaining the complex history of the human race. Oh well… still ok.

  9. Gil says:


    I love DW, he is the man. I normally do not reread books. Not since my beloved Tarzan days when I was very young. I believe I have read all my Honor Harrington novels at least 10 Times, Dahak at least 5, and Mr DW is doing it again with this series. His stories are just so much fun and a joy to read. Can’t wait for more…..

  10. Alsadius says:

    Kar: To be fair to Weber, he generally does infodumps on things the (average) reader doesn’t know, and avoids them on things that they know. Speaking for myself, I don’t know how to cast a gun, and I certainly don’t know which aspects of gun-casting Merlin has decided to use for his own use and which aspects he’s ignoring, but I know about everything from Hammurabi to the Gbaba, and thus spending a chapter describing it to me would be pretty wasteful. It’s only something a sensible author does if he’s actually got something to add(i.e., interesting questions from Cayleb, most likely), or if it’s short enough that the repetition isn’t grating(i.e., he only describes the Gbaba and the founding of Safehold, and probably adds new information while doing so).

    What I want to see isn’t the description itself, unless it falls into a category like one of the two I just listed, it’s the character’s reactions to it. Skipping the repeat exposition is fine – I can mentally insert it if I care – I just want to see the surrounding bits dealt with well. I don’t expect that to be an issue with Weber writing, but I just figured it was worth saying.

  11. Rick Thomas says:

    Like another commenter mentioned I have read every Weber book numerous times, Weber is Weber. Great storyteller as is Eric Flint. Along with John Ringo, they are the crowning trio of Baen Books. Need we say more.

  12. MarkR says:

    Good thing you said they ARE the crowning trio of Baen books because they aren’t even up to Stirling’s standards much less Bujold. They do make a lot of money for Baen I grant you.

    As for Weber and infodumps, you have to be reading different books than me. I’ve seen repeat information he gave the reader earlier in the book. He’s never been as smooth as Bujold in presenting just the right amount information to reader at just the right place. Frankly, I don’t think he, Flint or Ringo would want to be since that sort of writing takes longer and would slow up the rate they can get books out.

  13. Summercat says:

    The day I can enjoy a John Ringo book that doesn’t make me feel like I’ve eaten far too much greasy food from the county fair, is the day that I’ll say he isn’t a terrible author.

    Until then, John Ringo is a hack who has a bad case of “I’M RIGHT AND EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG AND STUPID FOR NOT AGREEING WITH ME.”

    Meanwhile, back to this snippet:

    There is no reason for the four-hour infodump that Nimue is going to give Cayleb to be relayed to the reader. What we need is Cayleb’s reaction, and any information that’s shared that really struck Cayleb’s mind would be revealed.

    WE, the reader, already know the info that Merlin is going to share – and while a quick summery would be useful, the infodump is going to be anything but.

  14. MarkR says:

    I didn’t mean anybody to think I thought that Ringo was the equal of Flint or Weber.

    Yes, a at most two sentance summary is all that’s required. Just enough that we know what he covered, not any of the actual information that he covered since we already know it. Unless he’s using it to introduce stuff Merlin and Staynair talked about off page.

    At least Weber doesn’t repeat what Merlin sees, just the last few words so we know what he just saw.

  15. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    also a chance that the college guy will be brought into this, which could be one of the qurstions Cayleb is thinking

  16. JNees says:

    Well done, or poorly done, depending on your tastes, this is why this work is the best DW has achieved. Yes, it comes as no huge surprise, to the attentive reader at least, that there are threads already warped into the loom, for Nimue/Merlin to weave into fabric. As a writer, DW has done his forshadowing well enough that to some extent it spoils the surprise. Sufficient to say, it is necessary.

    One other thing has been done in these three snips, which has largely evaded comment. DW has given a systematic and thorough basis for the abrupt fissure in the Church. Taken without this groundwork, Maikal and Caleb’s sudden and complete servering of all relations with the greater church is rash, undiplomatic, and out of character. Such actions, almost invariably, are done by the grudging inch. More time and effort is spent on equivocation, than on the points of substance. Luther, for example, openly opposed starting a new Church long after his head was sought by Rome. The full fissure took his adult lifetime, and then some, to take effect. To toss it off with a single missive is, or would be, crass and thumb fingered.

    Here, though, it welds into a piece almost seamlessly. You have a dedicated, seasoned and well prepared cabal simply stating what was always understood among themselves. The agony, of breaking new ground, is safely centuries past, and the present conspiritors need only choose a course, with the destination already fixed. quite coinicidentally, it also develops justification for a really high level of expertise in spycraft.


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