"All right," Cayleb said, after a moment. "I guess I can see what you're saying. Speaking purely as the King of Charis, I'm not especially enthusiastic about it, you understand, but I see what you're saying and why. On the other hand, if the 'inner circle' of the Brethren already know the truth about how we got here, and why, can't we at least begin spreading some of your additional knowledge around among them?"


            "For those who already know about Saint Zherneau's journal, yes." Merlin shrugged. "The fact that the Inquisition didn't burn Charis to the ground years ago is pretty convincing proof that they, at least, know how to keep a secret. In fact, I'm tempted to use them to set up some additional caches of books and documents, just in case the Church gets lucky. I'm not sure that's a good idea, mind you, but I think it at least bears thinking on.


            "The problem is that once we get beyond the group we already know has managed to maintain good security, every person we add to that 'inner circle' of yours constitutes a fresh risk. Whatever we may think, we can't know how someone is going to react to the truth, and it would take only one person who went running to the Inquisition to do enormous damage — quite possibly fatal damage — to everything we're all trying to accomplish."


            "All right, that's obviously a valid point." Cayleb cocked his head to one side, scratching the tip of his nose gently while he thought hard. "At the same time, eventually you're going to have to start making the truth known to a larger number of people. I can certainly recognize the reasons for being cautious about that, but there are some people here in Charis who I think could probably weather the shock better than you might expect. And some of them could be far more useful and productive if they had more of your knowledge to work from. I'm thinking about people like Seamount, and possibly Howsmyn. Or, for that matter, Dr. Mahklyn."


            Merlin nodded slowly, remembering his conversation with Cayleb the night the Royal College was burned.


            "You're right about that. And you are the King of Charis. It's your kingdom, they're your people, and you're the one responsible for their safety and survival. I have my mission, over and beyond the survival of Charis, but you have yours, as well."


            "I may be King, but I'm not arrogant enough to believe my judgment is infallible. If it were, I wouldn't have gotten quite as many beatings as a boy." Cayleb chuckled again, then sobered. "Fortunately, there are other people here in Charis who've already demonstrated good judgment — not just about how to keep secrets, but about when to reveal them, too."


            "You're thinking about the Brethren," Staynair said.


            "That's exactly who I'm thinking about, Maikel. I have a proposal for you and the Brethren — and Merlin. I believe it's time you set up a formal process designed to actively identify and vet possible candidates for admission into the 'inner circle.' Perhaps what we really need to do is to borrow from Saint Zherneau's model and set up both inner and outer circles. I don't know about that. But I do know some sort of process needs to be in place, one that lets me make use of the Brethren's collective judgment about this sort of decision the same way I make use of the Council's, and of Parliament's, for other decisions. Except that in this case, I'll pledge to be bound by the majority recommendation of whatever 'Council of Saint Zherneau' we set up."


            "There may be instances in which there's no time to ask anyone else," Merlin pointed out. "For example, I had no choice but to show you at least a part of the truth the night I took your message to your father."


            "No system is perfect, Merlin. All we can do is the best we can do. Beyond that, we'll simply have to trust God."


            Merlin gazed at the youthful king thoughtfully.


            "What?" Cayleb said after a moment.


            "I'm just . . . pleased," Merlin said.


            "Pleased about what?"


            "Well, one of the things I've wondered about — and worried about, to be honest — is how this planet is going to react when everyone finds out that the Church of God Awaiting has been a total fraud based on a stupendous lie."


            "You're concerned that having discovered the Church is a lie, they may decide God Himself is a lie," Staynair said softly.


            "Exactly, Your Eminence." Merlin turned his eyes to the archbishop. "While it may not seem likely to someone raised in a theology like the one Langhorne set up, there were plenty of people back on Old Earth — many of them good, moral, compassionate people — who rejected the existence of God for a whole range of reasons they found convincing. From the Church's perspective, that's the one downside of encouraging the sort of freedom of conscience and thought you've been proclaiming here in Charis. And in a lot of ways, rejecting God's very existence would be an intensely logical reaction once the truth finally comes out. After all, these people — your people — will have had the most convincing evidence anyone could possibly imagine that religion can be used as the most devastating tyranny in the universe."


            "That's a point we've considered at Saint Zherneau's over the centuries." Staynair's slight shrug was eloquent. "Some of the Brethren have been deeply concerned over it, to be honest. But, for myself, I have no real fear on that head, Merlin."


            "In that case, I envy the depth of your faith, Your Eminence."


            "It isn't a matter of faith. It's a matter of logic." Merlin's eyebrows rose, and Staynair laughed softly. "Of course it is! Either God exists, or He doesn't, Merlin. Those are really the only two possibilities. If He does exist, as I believe all three of us believe He does, then, ultimately, anything which promotes truth will only tend to demonstrate His existence. And even if that weren't true, if He exists, then whatever happens will be what He chooses to allow to happen — even if, for some reason beyond my comprehension, what He chooses is to have mankind turn against Him, at least for a time."


            "And if He doesn't exist?" Merlin asked quietly.


            "If He doesn't, He doesn't. But if He doesn't, then none of it will matter, anyway, will it?"


            Merlin blinked, and Staynair laughed again.


            "I'm quite confident about which of those two possibilities apply, Merlin. But as I believe I've already told you, men must have the right to refuse to believe before they truly can believe. And if it turns out I've been wrong all my life, what have I really lost? I will have done my best to live as a good man, loving other men and women, serving them as I might, and if there is no God, then at the end of my life I'll simply close my eyes and sleep. Is there truly anything dreadful, anything to terrify any man, in that possibility? It isn't that I fear oblivion, Merlin — it's simply that I hope for and believe in so much more."


            "Your Eminence, I don't know about the rest of Safehold, but I'm coming to the conclusion that you are almost disturbingly sane. And you remind me of an old folk saying from Earth. I believe you have a variant of it here on Safehold, as well. 'In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man will be king.'"


            "We do, indeed, have that particular cliché," Staynair agreed. "And, of course, we have the corollary. 'The one-eyed man will be king . . . unless all of the blind men decide to kill him, instead.'" The archbishop smiled whimsically. "It puts rather an interesting perspective on things, doesn't it?"





About Eric Flint

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19 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 72

  1. Summercat says:

    Now, this appears to be a ‘better’ closing. But I doubt that it’ll end on this note, as well. Perhaps one more scene.

    Perhaps not.

  2. E says:

    Welcome to the Freemasons.
    Let me take that cape.
    Cookie? Something to drink? How about a Fez?

  3. RoadKillCAfe says:

    I hate I have to wait until July!

  4. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    okaaay reference I don’t get.

    Seamount huh? interesting. not suprised about the College guy. And I think this will be an end for this area for now.

  5. E says:

    The Freemasons are a secret society here on Earth. They demonstrate their power by single handedly keeping the Fez hat industry afloat.

    In the first book it is stated that the Ptolemaic view of the universe is part of church doctrine. I wonder how math guy will handle learning about elliptical orbits around the sun.
    Somewhere in this story I bet Merlin will end up transporting someone else in his recon skimmer.

    Since we’ve all read the agreement for the existence of God, and have witnessed Weber’s deft dispelling of the ghost in the machine notion, and Merlin seems to know who he is now, maybe we can get to a new set of rising actions culminating in the surrender of Emerald and the union of Charis-Chisholm (Let’s call it Charholm!) before another rousing display of swordsmanship and large explosions.

  6. Summercat says:

    E and I are in agreement. Heh. ^_^

  7. MarkR says:

    Perhaps at sometime some of the Inner Circle can be tasked to help Merlin monitor all that SNARC traffic, say whichever of the spy masters are allowed in.

  8. E says:

    Merlin would only create Drama with a capital D if he were to draw people out of the world as they know it to handle his data collection directly, and for that matter, Drunks.

    Let’s see… If I had 1/3rd of a planet’s landmass, 1/10th the population, loads of resources, and the knowhow to use them… I would… encourage citizens to develop frontier lands and hope for the best as far as breeding. Charis’ biggest problem is population. They don’t have the citizenry or military philosophy (conscription) to get a large enough army to challenge the armies of church loyalists. Since seapower is paramount in Charis’ defense, then ironclads will be necessary once the church funded fleets set out in huge numbers; more than the building capacity of Charis can match. Demographically, naval technology has little influence on culture BUT trade has a lot. If Charis wants to get the status of the British Empire of old, then trade is how it can defeat its enemies. Once the other nations get the notion in their heads to not obey the church in terms of war, then it leaves the door open to a state of economic dependency that the leading trade empire, Charis, can pull to avoid conflict. Piracy will be the most likely course for anti-Charis factions but the ability to field technologically more advanced ships becomes limited when the only hands that could use them are privateers who act apart from government, and ineffective when in the wrong hands controlled by governments. Frankly, the countries of church loyalists have to rely on “self trained” privateers since they don’t have any effective naval doctrine to match Charis’. In this regard, I believe Merlin has opened up an age for piracy. The fact that Chisholm’s young queen’s father was killed by privateers could be an indicator for some strong resolutions as far as piracy is concerned.

    Some way, this stalemate will end. If loyalist factions in Charis can gather enough force, they could potentially open up a landing zone for invaders (barring Merlin’s interference of course). I do not feel inclined to believe that the same technologies endowed by Merlin for use by soldiers will not be used until By Heresies Distressed.
    The only thing the army of Charis needs to learn in regards to effective use of the firepower advantage they have is squad warfare, multi-specialized force engagement, and camouflage and concealment. American style.

    Maybe Merlin can take his time to introduce Charis to Billy Mitchell. I mean, with so many wyverns and other large flying creatures, gliders and hot air balloons won’t break proscription and will give Charis the best advantage any terrestrial war will see: Airpower.

    If Merlin wants to fund the Charis government… he could invent hamburgers… and the franchise concept… “MacMerlin’s” (It’s got 4 golden arches… MM)

  9. Aaron Van Dessel says:


    the air power idea is good, but if I remember correctly, at the start it was good for scouting purposes only. to get it to the level where having Merlin helping isn’t better than it, you need energy that will break the proscriptions. So maybe later. Age of piracy will not sit well with Chisholm, but then again no one will think that way.

    and remember, if they have Emerald + Corisande + Chisholm + Charis, you have a much bigger population to work with. and maybe some others too

  10. Summercat says:

    E, I love you, but I have to disagree with you on how much the Hamburger would impact Charisian culture. That and, dude – MacMerlins? It’s going to be Burger King. Or, perhaps, “Nimue’s”.

    That and AVD is correct about air power… to a degree. Hot air balloons are only really good for spotting, until you.. you… provide power for dirigibles.

    …bicycles, anyone? Bicycle-powered air-screws would still be MUSCLE powered. >.>

    Meanwhile, even without some sort of air-propulsion system, hot-air balloons would give either a good cover for Merlin’s ability, or even give a good replacement. He can’t be everywhere at once, you know – What he did in OAR to co-ordinate Darcos is going to be a one-time thing.

  11. E says:

    (Hoping sincerely that Summercat is a girl)

    As to the rest, I recall to you the means of Merlin’s endowments: He likes to give people what is just good enough to make them think.

    Hot air balloons were of course only useful for recon, but imagine if Charis used them for artillery spotting or some other non-historically tied purpose that would eventually inspire a more mobile air corps. Dirigibles requires that Merlin explain lighter-than-air elements (Safehold has yet to rediscover Helium) and that leads to explanations of other elements. Maybe a lead schooner could trail a hot air balloon so as to make the device useful at sea, weather permitting. I’m trying to think outside of history as to what advantages Merlin can find in technology that was obsolete before their full range of potential was realized.

    The issue of funding is important from the aspect that Merlin could either inspire the large revolution of floating currency, like the United States, where the money is based on faith in the government and not hard items like gold, OR Merlin can promote many smaller revolutions like hamburgers and bicycles to have cashflow going back into the government from more avenues. The concept of the income tax usually requires a larger population and greater dynamic in the economy, something that Charis does not seem advanced or populated enough to achieve short of having everyone go pirate AND haul in lots of coin from targets.
    Economically, the Church could strangle Charis if their follower base is loyal enough and then Charis’ only choices would be to promote a largely internal economy between itself and its allies/conquests or to do the Hitler thing and use a largely internal industrial base to wage wars of acquisition (which they are going to do to Corisande anyways). I reference Hitler here because that kind of internal economic burst usually requires a great deal of nationalism to offset the whole “you have to work” mentality and not in the let’s kill people X sense. The trouble with nationalism is that it is a dangerous tool where it inspires corruption and harmful initiatives by the public. So far as I can tell, the Safehold culture largely resembles old Europe in terms of how wars are waged in that surrender is always an option and the majority of battles probably end after only 1/5th + losses by one side (until Merlin’s introduction to basic naval ass-kickery courses that is). The social dynamic of war makes it likely that the “rules” don’t extend into the general population that, as modern warfare teaches, is an important target on the strategic level. Having a population build up intense nationalistic energies has a tendencies to increase arson along with recruitment. There are going to be many incidents involving church loyalists and reformists soon methinks, because Charis’ victories have created nationalistic fervor in a large portion of the population and Weber has yet to reveal how Merlin/Caleb will direct that fervor.
    They could probably recruit plenty of soldiers and get enough workers and settlers to satisfy their industrial needs for a time, but let’s see how it plays out. Merlin seems to make many plays on historical reference so it’s just possible that some trends will be promoted “correctly.” He has what he desires out of Charis, and Charisian methods will spread to Chisholm and Emerald.
    Trying to guess what Weber will have Merlin do is like trying to guess what Santa is going to bring; you can think about what you want but at some point you just have to ambush the fat man…

    … I mean wait… I think…

  12. Summercat says:

    For the record, I’m male. ;)

    And with the current issues it’s having, I don’t think pointing to the example of the US Dollar is a good move.

    Besides, I’m mostly twitting you on the MM. Tasteless, like the food. =P

  13. E says:

    I point to the floating dollar system because of the fact that money is the greatest lubricant on the planet and without the ability to economically sustain itself, the current government of Charis would become secondary to the industries that control the resources. They could of course liquidate companies with too much profit or arrange some mode of tax but that would exacerbate distrust in the government.

    Interestingly enough, if one continues to eat MacDonald’s type food for a lifetime one will experience the contradiction of becoming very fat and dying of malnutrition.

  14. E says:

    The point is to grow the economy of Charis and fund the war at the same time and without a population boom there is going to be a large question of what to do when the government runs a deficit on cash and workers.
    Emerald will probably keep its treasury when Charis takes over and Chisholm has yet to enter into permanent alliance so the invasion of Corisande and piracy/seizure might be the biggest methods Charis will have available once the Church pulls strings on the faith of its followers and closes ports all over Safehold.

  15. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    Don’t forget Tarot and anyone else in that area (person thats under Hecktor’s thumb… can’t remember name)

  16. E says:

    Ah yes… I forsee bad fortune… for Tarot

  17. Dylan Tullos says:

    What’s going to happen to Charis’s government(and Corisande’s government, and Emerald’s) as things go on? Right now, Cayleb is effecively an absolute ruler, with the enthusiastic support of the aristocracy, clergy, and general population, but that might not last forever. Aristocrats make Bolsheviks look like humanitarians when it comes to their treatment of weak monarchs. It’s not going to be an immediate problem, but it will be an eventual one.

    Also, too much nationalistic fervor is not going to be a good thing. Remember, Merlin needs to UNITE all of Safehold to defeat the Gbada, not have Charis, Chishold, Emerald, and possibly a few other countries impose colonial-style rule on the rest of the planet. Look at Rob Pierre to see what happens when a leader drums up incredible hatred of the enemy for temporary convenience; turning that kind of distrust and loathing off isn’t like flicking a light switch.

  18. Thank Al Gore for the Internet!

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