"Your Majesty!"


            Mahklyn started to spring to his feet — or as close to it as someone his age, with his knees, could manage, at least — but King Cayleb waved him back into his chair.


            "Oh, stay put, Rahzhyr!" the youthful monarch scolded. "We've known each other for years, you're old enough to be my father, and this is your domain, not mine."


            It had, Mahklyn reflected, been tactful, if not precisely accurate, of the king to say "father," and not "grandfather."


            "Your Majesty is most kind," he said, settling back into the luxuriously padded chair Cayleb had provided for him.


            "My Majesty is nothing of the sort," Cayleb said tartly as Merlin Athrawes followed him through the door into Mahklyn's office carrying a leather, accordion-pleated document folder. "My Majesty is a calculating, cynically self-serving sort of Majesty. Seeing to it that you and your colleagues have everything you need to function smoothly and efficiently — and without worrying about smoke inhalation — is entirely in my own best interests."


            "Of course it is, Your Majesty."


            Mahklyn smiled, and the king smiled back. But then his expression turned rather more serious, and Mahklyn's eyebrows rose as Captain Athrawes closed the office door behind him.


            "As a matter of fact, there's quite a lot of truth in what I just said, Dr. Mahklyn," Cayleb said. "More, in fact, than I think you know."


            "I beg your pardon, Your Majesty?"


            "Let me begin this way," Cayleb said, settling into one of the other chairs in the large, sunny office. "I imagine it's safe for me to assume that you've observed a few. . . minor peculiarities about Seijin Merlin here?"


            He paused, head cocked, and Mahklyn's eyes narrowed.


            "As a matter of fact, Your Majesty," he said slowly, "I have."


            "Well, as it happens, that's because he's a rather peculiar sort of fellow," Cayleb said with a tight smile. "And the reason for my unannounced little visit this afternoon is to tell you about some of those peculiarities of his and why they — and you — are so important to what's happening not just here in Charis, but for all of Safehold.


            "I wasn't fully aware of the seijin's oddities myself until fairly recently," he continued. "Not until the day he and Archbishop Maikel walked in to tell me about a little history most people aren't aware of. You see, Doctor, it would appear that several centuries ago –"


* * * * * * * * * *


            Just over three hours later, Cayleb leaned back in his chair and raised both hands, palms uppermost.


            "So that's the truth, Doctor," he said quietly. "I know it's a lot to take in, and I know it flies in the face of everything the Church has ever taught us, but it's true. I've asked Archbishop Maikel, and he tells me he's more than willing to confirm everything I've told you. For that matter, the Brethren would be most happy to make the original documents available to you, for your own examination, at Saint Zherneau's."


            "That . . . won't be necessary, Your Majesty," Mahklyn said slowly. His eyes were huge, glowing with an intense, blazing curiosity as he gazed not at the king, but at Merlin. "Oh, I'll certainly take His Eminence up on that offer — what historian could possibly not take it?! But I don't need to see it to believe every word you've just told me, and not simply because I've never known you to tell a lie, either. I won't pretend that I ever even suspected what you've just told me, but it explains a great many other things I have wondered about, over the course of my life."


            "If you'll pardon my saying so, Dr. Mahklyn, you're the sort of person who always wonders about something," Merlin observed with a twinkle.


            "One tries, Seijin Merlin." Mahklyn shook his head. "On the other hand, looking at you and the knowledge and capabilities your very existence represents, it's obvious I'm not going to finish wondering about all the things I ought to be wondering about before I run out of time."


            "Are you going to be comfortable about this, now that you know, Doctor?" Cayleb asked quietly.


            "A scholar isn't supposed to be too comfortable, Your Majesty."


            "That wasn't precisely what I meant," Cayleb said dryly.


            "I know that, Your Majesty." Mahklyn looked back at the king with a contrite expression. "At the same time, though, my answer wasn't completely flippant. Seijin Merlin and all the history you've just summarized for me is the sort of thing scholars live for. Or that we're supposed to live for, at any rate. I'm sure I'm going to discover aspects of that history which will be disturbing, and attempting to assimilate all of this in the face of what the Church has always taught is bound to cause the odd moment of anxiety. Compared to the fascination quotient, though –"


            He shrugged, and Cayleb's shoulders seemed to relax ever so slightly, as if some previously imperceptible tension had just flowed out of him.


            "I'm also beginning to understand just where Seijin Merlin's odd little caches of knowledge come from," Mahklyn continued.


            "I don't believe I've ever actually lied about that, Doctor."


            "No, I don't believe you have, either." Mahklyn chuckled. "As a matter of fact,I've just been running my memory back over your prefatory remarks each time you unveiled some new, useful technique or invention. You've always been very careful about the way you presented them, haven't you?"


            "I've certainly tried to be," Merlin said soberly, "and largely because I've always known moments like this one have to come. There may be things I've been unable to tell you, or others, but I decided at the very beginning that it was important that I not hold back that information in a way which would undercut my credibility when I finally was able to share it."


            "And if you think he's done some skillful dancing where you're concerned, Doctor, you should have seen him talking to Father Paityr," Cayleb put in feelingly.


            "I rather think I would have liked to have seen that." Mahklyn shook his head with another chuckle. "It must have been . . . diverting."


            "Oh, you have no idea, Doctor," Merlin assured him.


            "Probably not," Mahklyn agreed. Then he sat upright in his own chair, leaning forward and folding his hands on the desk in front of him. "On the other hand, Your Majesty, I'm beginning to understand what you said when you first walked in. Should I assume Seijin Merlin has some additional kernels of knowledge to share with — and through — the College?"


            "Actually, yes," Cayleb agreed. "And we'd also like you to consider additional nominees for the 'inner circle.' Obviously, you know your fellow members of the College better than either of us do. Which ones to you think would be . . . flexible enough to accept the truth?"


            "I'll have to give that some thought, Your Majesty," Mahklyn said cautiously, and Cayleb snorted.


            "If you didn't have to 'give it some thought,' I'd have you committed, Doctor! And remember, the final decision isn't solely up to you or to me. Nonetheless, it definitely would be extremely useful to have additional members of the College who could work with us on this."


            "I understand, Your Majesty," Mahklyn assured him.


            "Good. And now, Merlin, I believe you had something for the good doctor?"


            "I do indeed, Your Majesty," Merlin said with a half-bow. Then he reached into the folder he'd carried into the office and extracted a sheaf of paper. "I had this converted into manuscript form, Doctor," he said. "I thought it would probably raise fewer questions than a properly printed, hardbound copy with a publication fate from before the Day of Creation, should someone else happen to see it. Here."


            He handed it across, and Mahklyn accepted it just a bit gingerly. He opened it, then twitched in surprise.


            "This is my handwriting!" he blurted, looking back up at Merlin.


            "Actually, it's Owl's," Merlin said with a smile. "He's quite a capable forger, and I slipped him a sample of your handwriting before he produced this. I felt it would be best all around."


            "But what is it?" Mahklyn asked.


            "This, Dr. Mahklyn, is something that was written long ago, on Old Earth, by a man called Sir Isaac Newton. I've had it updated slightly — the original English was close to two thousand years old — but I think you'll find it interesting."




About Eric Flint

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27 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 76

  1. Adam says:

    I wonder if it’s Newton’s essay stating that the world will end in 2060 AD.

  2. Alsadius says:

    I’m not wholly familiar with Newton’s works, but it was my understanding that they were primarily in Latin – certainly Principia was. Is that just Merlin glossing over something they have no reference point for, is it a hole in my knowledge, or is it a mistake on Weber’s part?

  3. Jon says:

    I would have to assume, that since Latin as a language only really exists within the confines of OWL and Merlin, that it was converted to English to make sure that there was no confusion?

  4. Haerandir says:

    Why, precisely, would anyone expect the original Latin to be stored in a computer built in the future? More likely, the only version of it on hand was a 19th-century (or later) translation. I doubt Merlin (or Owl, for that matter) has ever SEEN a copy of the original Latin text.

  5. Alan says:

    I would’ve thought ‘had you committed’ is anachronistic, at least without some brief explanation of why Safehold law provides for the committal of those unable to manage their affairs. Maybe something less idiomatic to the twentieth century is needed?

  6. E says:

    It’s Newton’s essays on the laws of motion and gravity!
    The Church defined gravity as a gift of God under the “logic” that stuff would fall of the bottom of the earth.
    Merlin is starting off with an attack on the phenomenal explanations of the Writ.
    I wonder if he’ll also present Newton’s essay on the nature of light. If the Church made the Descartian mistake of assuming that white light is “pure” then that falsity is easy to prove with two prism’s, a sun, and a piece of paper.

  7. This qualifies as a serious oops.

    As one of the few participants here who (a) teaches physics and (b) has read part of the Principia (in translation, thank you) I would estimate that Merlin has set back physics on Charis by a half-century, and the development of calculus by more. The English did not recover from Newton until 1850 or so, and that only because undergrads at Cambridge in essence launched a French mathematics study club to study French mathematics. The Principia is a plane geometry text, so to speak, in which Newton resorts to fluxions only when he absolutely positively has no alternative. A copy of any modern calculus text, and a copy of e.g. Kleppner and Kalenkow, would have been far more effective. Of course, explaining a printed volume dated a millennium in the *future*, 1983 not having happened yet in Charisian eyes, would be much more to the point.

    D.Sc., Physics (MIT, 1973)

  8. Gil says:

    DW is having entirely too much fun……

  9. MarkR says:

    Weber’s name dropping not doing real non-military research, which continues to not bode well for the industrial part of the story. Besides, I was given to understand that Leibniz had the better initial implementation of calculus.

    There’s also a typo:

    publication *fate* from before the Day of Creation

  10. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    It might be nothing more than the basics of his laws. and then enough math from other people to make it work more effectively. Merlin would have the histories to see what problems came with Newton and have ways of countering them.

    I’m curious to see where this will go

  11. Brom O'Berin says:

    To Mark R #8, recall DW uses dictation software, and we are seeing an unedited draft …. so typo errors are not uncommon.


  12. Mike says:

    Yes, this is a cute but nonsensical moment. Why would they think it was a good idea to forge Mahklyn’s writing? If he’s intellectually honest wouldn’t he complain about that? And if he’s not, is he really the guy they are looking for?

  13. E says:

    Mahklyn should be mentally flexible enough to understand why the bald truth would be too much for the populace. If one believes absolutely in truth, one can be a greater villain the the worst liar. The point is not to make lying morally permissible, but to use lies as a tool to ease humanity into a state where the truth can be accepted as something other than heretical lies.

    If you were asked to lie as part of saving hundreds of millions of lives, what would you do?

  14. Extracting the laws of mechanics from Newton’s statements of them is highly challenging. Also, a modern physics text would mention energy and conservation laws. In addition, a modern calc text would actually be usable. Mind you, it is not clear to me that Charis has plane geometry or trigonometry.

  15. E says:

    In all likelihood, Safehold does have geometry and trigonometry if they use stellar navigation to determine location on maps (did you mean “plain” or plane as in planar?); I’m not sure if Weber ever mentioned how captains determined their location on maps in Safehold. The Greeks and Romans used geometry and trigonometry despite the lack of an efficient numerical system, so Safehold should have at least some rudimentary forms of advanced mathematics.

    Mayhaps Merlin can militarize the use of mathematics to a greater extent by teaching about trajectory analysis for artillery. Heck, Charis might be able to employ mortar ships to allow for artillery barrages from sea (only good for stationary targets like cities, but still effective to some degree…).

    If anything is true about war it’s that fair fights are bloodier. I’d very much enjoy more hard earned but decidedly one-sided victories in the near future. Or a plot twist.
    Explosions would be the icing on the cake.

  16. Shade says:

    I would suspect that at least one of the reasons Weber is introducing Newton’s work rather than Kleppner’s or some of the others that have been mentioned is plain old name recognition. Newton is a name that nearly everyone that doesn’t live under a rock will know. Where if Merlin produced a ‘manuscript’ of Kleppner’s work many to most of us would be left wondering what relevance that name has, and would be forced to look it up. In addition Weber made a point of saying earlier that the Church of god awaiting went back to the Ptolemic (sp?) view of the earth and universe. The laws of gravity cut right through the heart of that, and you can understand that with one line, rather than the long explaination using another’s work (one less know to the masses) would have caused.

  17. alibaba says:

    I wonder if the Archimedian Palimpsest is coming also, to introduce calculus (in its pre-Dark Age greek form) or will be be Newton or Leibniz?

    Perhaps Sun Tzu should be introduced as well… and Clausewitz.

    And for King Cayleb, “The Prince”, “The Wealth of Nations”, the Imperial Chinese civil service system…

  18. E says:

    I’m pretty sure that once the Church of God Awaiting is slain, more open access to old works from right(er) scientists will allow humanity to correct the mistakes of some of our other well-known scientists.

    If Merlin wanted to attack the authority of the Church more directly, he could have someone else introduce Descarte’s “Meditations” (in short-short explanation, dispelling the notion of authority as proper to the gaining of knowledge). Or De la Mattre’s “Man a Machine” (although I don’t think Charis is quite ready for Mattre, the inner circle might be if they are mentally flexible enough).

  19. Wyrm says:

    Possibly this is to provide the maths necessary to enable the efficient use of mortars. If stronghold defences aren’t designed for mortars, then Hektor’s defensive positions could be chewed up very efficiently with mortars and shrapnel.

  20. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    you don’t attack something like thsi head on, you cut it at its weak points. then as it tries to stumble back into position, you hit it again until its no stronger than you.

    And if you write the stuff up in his handwriting he knows that you have that power to do that. gives him a taste of whats possible, and it saves time

  21. E says:

    Weak points yes, but you can also attack head on at multiple angles.

    If anything, Newton’s work on gravity is a direct attack on Church dogma.
    I bring up Descartes’ Meditations because apart from attacking the phenomenal explanations provided by the Church, the noumenal methods by which the Church justifies its doctrines (more accurately, the ways they don’t, by using their authority) must also be dispelled in the minds of humanity so that people can accept facts that defy Church dogma.

    Within one generation, the power of the Church will not suddenly evaporate. Even if the work does not become popular, like when Descartes first published… and retracted… his Meditations, the works can stew in the minds of a few people until they can be drawn forth when the time is right.

    The problem of introducing a counter-dogmatic work like Newton’s introduces the second problem of the basis of justification by which the ignorant populace can be made to accept such knowledge. Although upon further consideration, the dangerous closeness that some people mistake for nihilism with which Descartes skirted the bounds of knowledge might be a bit much for more fragile-minded people used to the solidity of Church doctrine as unchallengeable law… It would be interesting to see how the radicals try to attack the new college after this kind of work gets out.

  22. E says:

    I’m guessing we’ve beaten this snippet’s horse to death and then-some.

  23. D says:

    It might be one of his religious texts.

  24. JNees says:

    It is certainly name dropping to introduce Newton. And certainly the point is that church dogma will be undercut in ways directly testable by the intelligencia of the era, since navigation mathematics are commonly known.

    Also, Newton is good cud to ruminate, even though the useful results can be found more easily elsewhere. This is, after all, a senior academic that is getting the work. And Merlin said he updated it, but he does not say how or what he updated. Simply updating the proofs to mathematics Newton knew, but rarely used, would make a huge difference.

    Wait til he drops Luther (Melanchthon) and Calvin into the discussion.


  25. kari says:

    He should avoid Calvin. That whole basis about God already choosing what role you play and you don’t even have the choice on whether you are going to heaven or hell – it’s pre-ordained theology that eliminates the concept of free will.

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