Staynair had begun chuckling himself as he realized what Merlin and Cayleb were talking about. Now he shook his head.


            "Merlin," he said, still smiling, "somehow I don't think a dead woman — or a ghost — would have a sense of humor."


            "I'm not so sure about that, Your Eminence."


            "Then let me pose it this way. What constitutes being 'alive' for a human being?"


            "I suspect most people would think breathing was a reasonably important criterion."


            "Perhaps 'most people' would, but I'm not asking them. I'm asking you."


            "I truly don't know," Merlin admitted. He looked back down into his wineglass. "Maybe it's because I've worried about it so much, chewed the problem up one side and down the other so often that I can't stand back and think about it with any sort of detachment. I've just decided that even if I'm not — alive, I mean — I might as well act as if I were. Too many people made too many sacrifices to put me here on this world, at this particular time, for me to do anything else."


            "And that's why I'm certain you are alive, Merlin. Nimue Alban," Staynair said softly. "You were one of the ones who made those sacrifices. And you haven't done what you've already done here on Safehold out of some lingering sense of responsibility to people who have been dead for almost a thousand years. Oh, those people are important to you, and I understand that for you it hasn't been a thousand years since they died, either. But as Haarahld once told you, a man must be judged by his actions. And for all the lies heaped together in the Writ, there are truths, as well. Including the truth that a man's innermost nature will inevitably be known and revealed by his deeds.


            "You've shouldered your burden out of personal outrage, Merlin Athrawes. I haven't watched you, talked to you, learned from you for two years now without taking the measure of the man — or the woman — you truly are. You feel the pain which is so much a part of life, just as you feel the joys. I've always thought you were a profoundly lonely man, and now I know why. But I have never, for one moment, doubted that you were a good man, and despite what those fools in Zion believe, God is a god of love, Merlin, not a god of savage discipline and mindless rejection. His way may be hard sometimes, and He may demand much from some of His servants, but whatever else He may be, He isn't stupid. He knows what He's asked of people like you, over the ages. And whether you realize it or not, God knows you as one of His own, as well. I have no doubt that when Nimue Alban's physical body died, God had another task, another duty, waiting for her. There are too few great souls for Him to waste one which burned that brightly. And so, He let that soul sleep until the day a machine, a . . . PICA awoke in a cave here on Safehold. You have Nimue Alban's soul, Merlin Athrawes. Never doubt it. Never question it . . . or yourself."


            Merlin looked at the archbishop for endless seconds. And then, finally, he nodded once. He didn't say a single word. He didn't have to.


            The others let his silence linger for a time. Then Cayleb cleared his throat.


            "For what it's worth, Merlin, I agree with Maikel. Maybe it's just as well — no, it is just as well — you didn't try to explain all of that to me aboard Dreadnought before Darcos Sound. But it's like I told you that day in King's Harbor, when you killed the krakens. You may be able to conceal what you are, but you can't hide who you are, what you feel. I'm sorry, but you're just not very good at it."


            "Gosh, thanks," Merlin said wryly.


            "Don't mention it." Cayleb grinned at him. "On the other hand, it's going to be quite some time, I imagine, before I really manage to come to grips with all of this. It's going to change a lot of my assumptions."


            "I'm sure it is," Merlin acknowledged. "Still, it's not really going to change most of the constraints we face. There's still that kinetic bombardment system, floating up there in orbit. And there are still those power sources under the Temple I haven't been able to identify. Between the two of them, I think they constitute a damned good argument in favor of maintaining the secret just the way the Brethren have been maintaining it for the last four centuries. I, for one, have absolutely no desire to turn Charis into a second Armageddon Reef."


            "Granted." Cayleb nodded. "But from what you've said, there's an enormous number of things you can teach us, show us."


            "Yes and no." Merlin took another sip of wine, then set his glass aside and leaned forward in his chair, resting his folded forearms on the table.


            "I can teach you, but I can't just hand you the knowledge. For a lot of reasons, including concealment from the Church and whatever remote sensors might be reporting to those power sources under the Temple. But even if I wasn't worried about that particular aspect of it, I couldn't just replace the Church as the source of all authority. People all over Safehold have to learn to do what you already do here in Charis, Cayleb. They have to learn to think. To reject the automatic acceptance of dogma and restrictions simply because someone else — whether it's the Church of God Awaiting or some all-knowing oracle from the lost past — tells them they must accept them. We have to transform Safehold into a world of people who want to understand the physical universe around them. People who are comfortable innovating, thinking of new ways to do new things on their own. That's one reason — the main reason, in a lot of ways — I've made suggestions, pointed out possibilities, and then stood back and let people like Baron Seamount, Ehdwyrd Howsmyn, and Rhaiyan Mychail figure out how to apply them.


            "And –" he looked Cayleb straight in the eye "– it's equally important for everyone on Safehold, even Charis' enemies, to do the same thing."


            Cayleb frowned, and Merlin shook his head.


            "Think about it, Cayleb. Who's your real enemy? Hektor of Corisande? Or the Inquisition?"


            "At the moment," Cayleb said after a thoughtful pause, "I'm rather more focused on Hektor. I hope you won't find that too difficult to understand." He smiled thinly. "On the other hand, I understand the point you're making. If it weren't Hektor, Clyntahn and the Group of Four would have found someone else to use as their tool."


            "Exactly. And how will you defeat the Church? Can you do it with navies and armies?"


            "No," Cayleb said slowly.


            "Of course not," Merlin said simply. "Your true enemy is a belief system, a doctrine, a way of thinking. You can't kill ideas with a sword, and you can't sink belief structures with a broadside. You defeat them by making them change, and the Church has only two options for confronting the challenge you and Charis present. Either they refuse to change, in which case they can't possibly defeat you militarily. Or they decide they have no choice but to change, to adopt the new weapons, the new technologies. And once they do that, they'll discover they have to change their belief structure, as well. And when that happens, Cayleb, you'll have won, because your true enemy will have committed suicide."


            "You make it sound so easy," Cayleb observed with a twisted smile.


            "No," the archbishop said, and the king looked at him. "Not 'easy,' Cayleb. Only simple."


            "Exactly." Merlin nodded. "There was a military philosopher back on Old Earth before anyone had ever dreamed about spaceflight, or suspected that something like the Gbaba might be out there waiting for us. He said that in war, everything was very simple . . . but even the simplest things were hard to do."


            "Really?" Cayleb's smile eased a bit. "That's interesting. Father said almost exactly the same thing to me more than once. Did he get it from one of those books of Saint Zherneau's?"


            "I doubt it very much. Your father was one of the smartest men I ever met, Cayleb. I don't think he needed Clausewitz to explain that to him."


About Eric Flint

Author and Editor
This entry was posted in Snippets. Bookmark the permalink.
Skip to top


20 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 71

  1. Jon says:

    all I can ask is what’s next?

  2. E says:

    I bet a snippet from Emerald or that shaky financial guy working with the group of four.

  3. Mikael says:

    When does it come ARC Time spike is already up as a ARC

  4. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    I suspect a continuation of this thread for one more bit, maybe planning what steps they’re going to take. I doubt Emerald, but I think the first concellor will be visiting Cyleb soon. Also Chrisholm has been silently lately

  5. Summercat says:

    One more bit here, I think. This doesn’t sound like a ‘proper’ ending, per se.

  6. Rick Thomas says:

    Gee, and they have spoke about Clauswitz (sp) but not Sun Zen(sp). Interesting.

  7. Michael in TN says:

    I wonder if the Old/New Testament were included in the documents that were cached at St. Zherneau’s…

  8. Johnf says:

    That would be Sun Tzu, I believe.

  9. Alex says:

    @3: It won’t. This is a Tor book, not Baen.

  10. JNees says:

    The foreshadowing about Emerald is getting thick enough to slice. At some point, soon, there will have to be an emissary. The question is who and how?


  11. Summercat says:

    @10 – There is already. Emerald’s First Minister (I forget his name) is going to be sent. Unless, for some strange reason, Nahrman’s WIFE is sent.

  12. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    highly unlikely. it was so heavily implied that the concellor would go that I highly doubt it would be anyone else. The how is probab;y going to be a ship that approaches the blockade and gets transport to Cayleb. I’m wondering what the terms will be. I’m actuallly hopeing Nahram (sp) will survive, since he is smart enough to help the cause and get Emerald working towards the whole cause faster

  13. Jon says:

    In a sense I have to agree with Aaron here, because the earlier snippets paints a picture of Emerald becoming a stanch ally (and later potential betrayer?) of Charis…

  14. Lance says:

    Well…we’ve got hanging…

    1. Hector hadn’t been visited in a while.

    2. There’s a wedding in the offing – I’d guess Green Mountain makes an appearance shortly.

    3. Emerald’s 1st Councilor is due for a visit – and I tend to think Nahrman is a more long-term ally than a short-term betrayer; as the books and snippet went on, he’s been more anti-church and vocally so. It almost makes you wonder if he has an adivsor that’s been through the hidden cache of documents.

    4. The group of 4 gotta be planning some mischief.

    5. I’m still waiting for the emissary to Siddimark. Charis needs ground forces and everything that’s been said so fair indicates they’re not exactly Temple partisans.

  15. E says:

    Siddarmark will be later on methinks; the Charis still has to build its infrastructure for the upcoming war AND handle Emerald, Corisande, and Tarot. Merlin might help in that regard, insofar as he might cause a few “accidents” amongst enemy fleets… highly inflammable, those old school sea vessels.
    If Emerald were to ally with Charis, then I don’t think that the entire country could betray Charis. Maybe a few individuals in Emerald’s upper echelons and their troops but not an entire nation.

    I wonder what Caleb will tell the queen of Chisholm after they wed… “Honey, there’s something I’ve got to tell you… the entire history of the human race that the church espouses is a lie and the Archangels were just a bunch of really evil bastards.” :)

    Maybe whatsisname will get that meeting over the fused explosive cannon shot that he wanted next.
    Maybe Merlin will make plans to get some of St. Zherneau’s into the church to investigate the basement.
    Maybe GLaDOS will come online and teach the world about cake (and deadly neurotoxin).
    It’s fun guessing.

  16. Cedarcreek Reader says:

    Hereby nominate Fr. Paiyter for next Abbot of St. Zherneau’s

  17. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    All good points. I doubt Siddmark will see anything for a while. Too far away. Why risk the journey for no end. I’m predicting in this order:

    1) A trip to Nimue’s Cave
    2) Emerald Diplomat
    3) Green Mountians return
    4) Marraige planning
    5) Hecktor’s head as the bride’s gift

  18. The Emerald Diplomat might end up being ushered into the private dining salon, with Cayleb opening the discussion by noting that: “Nahrman’s wife and children are totally safe, regardless, the diplomat’s head will sit on his shoulders until he meets a natural end, hopefully in the distant future, and ‘anyone who thinks the two choices are lose my head, with or without several thousand subjects dying first, and chooses to lose his own head to protect his subjects’ is in his heart a good person. Also, anyone who realizes that Hector would lose Charis, but Emerald might keep the northern segment is a very intelligent man. In consequence, Charis is open to reasonable terms.” The poor diplomat then gets to wonder how Charisian spies have so totally penetrated Emerald. If he is very fast on his feet he answers “As you know all our secrets, you perhaps know that we saw our options as ‘make war on Charis’ and ‘be smashed and plowed with salt by the Temple Knights’. What option did we miss?”

    I suspect the Bride only has naval security. She can’t readily present Cayleb with Hector’s head. She can, looking a a map, persuade Zebediah that it is an independent ally of Chisholm, with the dummy who has already been paraded through in charge, and use her fleet (now much stronger than Hector’s) to carry out this persuasion.

  19. Dylan Tullos says:

    Hektor(weird spelling for the name) is not going to be overthrown until a stronger army lands in his kingdom and defeats his army. That army is going to be mainly Charisian, thought it will have help from Chisholm and Emerald. Hektor is an absolute ruler who is genuinely beloved by his subjects, and I very much that the puppet he set up in Zebediah is going to be able to pull off a coup against a ruthless, brilliant monarch with the full support of the army.

  20. kari says:

    I would like to see Caylib ask Merlin where he got the name Excalibur from. Caylib’s reaction to reading ‘King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table’ would be interesting to see. Also, I’m thinking – where did the stories of siejin come from? It would make sense for Kau Pei or the seeded re-educated ones to have invented those stories to prep a place for when Merlin ‘woke up’. Based on the witch trials here on Earth, without those stories of extraodinary people working for God, people would have thought he was evil long before thinking he was good.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.