Several hours later, Cayleb and Sharleyan stood on a balcony high on the side of King Maikel's Tower, looking out across the sparse lights of Tellesberg proper and the brighter smear of light which was the perpetually busy waterfront.


            "That poor woman," Sharleyan murmured.


            "Amen," Cayleb said softly, and  reached out and took her hand. She turned her head, glancing at him, as she realized the action had been completely unconscious on his part. His eyes were still on the dark sweep of his sleeping capital as he laid her hand on his forearm and covered it with his own.


            "I doubt I'll sleep very well tonight," he continued. "I've discovered that knowing what his sentence was and actually hearing how it was carried out — especially hearing it from his own wife — are two different things." He shook his head, his jaw tight. "The Inquisition has much to answer for. Indeed," he turned to look at her squarely, "if the truth be known, this goes beyond the Group of Four, whatever we may say."


            "I realized that even before Earl Gray Harbor brought me your messages," she said steadily, and squeezed his arm gently but firmly. "That pig Clyntahn is the one immediately responsible for all of this. I've never doubted that for a moment, and every word Madame Dynnys said only confirmed it. But if the entire Church hadn't become corrupt, a man like Clyntahn could never have gained the power he has. It's tempting to blame the man and not the institution, but that's the easy answer, the one that saves us from looking truth squarely in the eye. And," she met his gaze without flinching, "almost the very first lesson Mahrak — Baron Green Mountain — taught me after Hektor paid for my father's murder was that a monarch's first and overriding duty is to face the truth, however ugly it may be. However much she — or he — may long to avoid it."


            Cayleb gazed at her in silence for several seconds, then twitched his head in an odd little half-nod. She had the strange sensation that it was directed to someone else, someone not present, but he never looked away from her.


            "I proposed the union of Charis and Chisholm because it seemed a military necessity," he told her. "I had reports about you and your court, of course, much as I'm sure you had about Charis and about me. From those reports, I hoped I'd find not just an alliance with your Kingdom, but an ally in you." His nostrils flared. "I have to tell you, Sharleyan, that even on this brief an acquaintance, it's obvious to me that the reports of your wisdom and courage failed to do you justice."


            "Indeed?" She tried to keep her tone light as she studied his face as closely as she could in the available light. Then she laughed softly. "I was thinking much the same about you, as it happens. I do hope this isn't a case of two hesitant suitors deciding to make the best of their situation!"


            "If either of us should be in that position, My Lady," he said, bowing with a gallant flourish, "it must be you. Now that I've seen you and met you, I assure you that I've decided this was one of the best notions I've ever had. On a great many levels."


            He straightened, and Sharleyan felt a pleasant tingle inside at the frank desire he had allowed into his expression.


            She squeezed his arm again, then turned to look back out over Tellesberg while she sorted through her own feelings. As the daughter of a king, and then as a queen in her own right, Sharleyan Tayt had accepted long ago that her marriage would be one of state. She'd also realized that as a queen in a kingdom which had shown so little tolerance for a woman's rule in the past, marriage would pose particular dangers for her, and yet there'd been her clear responsibility to provide a legitimate, acknowledged heir to her throne in order to secure the succession. With so many needs, opportunities, and threats to balance, there'd been no room in her life to worry about whether or not she might love — or even like — the man to whom she eventually found herself wed.


            And then this. Barely five months ago, she'd been certain Charis — and Cayleb — were doomed, and that she would be forced to participate in their murder. She'd never imagined, in her wildest flight of fantasy, that she might actually find herself entertaining the possibility of marrying him. Of binding her own kingdom irrevocably to Charis and to Charis' rebellion against the oppressive authority of Mother Church. And to whatever fate that rebellion ultimately produced. Even now, there were moments when she wondered what insanity had possessed her to even contemplate such a union.


            But only moments, and they were becoming steadily fewer.


            It's Cayleb himself, she thought. I've seen so much cynicism, so much careful maneuvering for position, and spent so much of my life watching for the hidden dagger in the hands of supposed friends. But there's no cynicism in Cayleb. That's the most remarkable thing of all, I think. He believes in responsibilities and duties, in ideals, not just in pragmatism and expediency, and he's got all the empty-headed, invincibly optimistic enthusiasm of one of those incredibly stupid heroes out of a romantic ballad somewhere. How in God's name could he have grown up as a crown prince without discovering the truth?


            It was all madness, of course. In the darker moments of the night, when doubt came to call, she realized that with agonizing certainty. Despite Charis' present naval advantage, the kingdom was simply too small, even with Chisholm's support, to resist indefinitely the massive power the Church could bring to bear upon them. In those dark watches of the night, it was all dreadfully clear, inevitable.


            But not anymore. She shook her head, marveling at the simple awareness which flowed through her. Before she'd arrived in Charis, her belief that Charis — and Chisholm — might survive had been a thing of intellect, the triumph of analytical intelligence over the insistence of "common sense." And, she admitted to herself at last, a thing of desperation. Something she'd been forced to believe — to make herself believe — if there were to be any hope of her realm's survival in the face of the Church's obvious willingness to destroy anyone even suspected of disobedience to the Group of Four.


            That had changed now. Changed when she realized Cayleb in person, despite his youth, despite his undeniable charm, was even more impressive in fact than in rumor. There was something incredibly engaging about his flashes of boyish enthusiasm, but behind those flashes she saw the implacable warrior who had won the most smashing naval victories in the history of Safehold. Who was prepared to go on however long he must, to win as many more victories as his cause required, because he truly believed men and women were supposed to be more than the obedient slaves of corrupt men who claimed to speak with the authority of God Himself.


            And even more impressive, perhaps, was the fact that his kingdom and his people believed with him. Believed in him. They were prepared to go as far as he led them, to face any foe — even Mother Church herself — at his side. Not at his heels, but at his side.

About Eric Flint

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27 Responses to BY SCHISM RENT ASUNDER — snippet 97

  1. Gil says:

    Well, I believe that answers my question, once and for all…DW is having way too much fun, and so am I right along with him.

    Have a great day everybody :-)

  2. Alistair says:

    Have a good weekend everyone

  3. kari says:

    This is fun. From that description we may have not just King Arthur but Alexander the Great, with Queen Elizabeth at his side. And of course Merlin. This makes me look forward even more to her learning about the ace Caylib has up his sleeve.

  4. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    Or Merlin’s sleeve as the case may be.

    Doesn’t actually provide to much information. A possible propaganda against the inquisition. The fact that Cayleb’s allies are starting to think it might actually work. anything else that I’m missing?

  5. Robert says:

    If this follows the Arthur legend then there will be a Lancelot to complicate the love issue. Since Arthur was older then Guinevere and Sharleyan is older then Cayleb is there a female Lancelot plot twist in the future? Or a Morgan for Merlin (Princess Irys)to put him/her back to sleep until the starships are ready to be built? Or will Merlin keep changing his shape for the five hundred years it will take to bring this world up to space travel level?

  6. E says:

    I don’t think fidelity will be an issue. The scope seems entirely too political thus far.

    I’m wondering over Sharleyan’s truth at the moment. Is it a contemplation of knife-in-back politics or an indicator that she knows the true history? Find out more…


  7. karidrgn says:

    The only way that could come up is if Merlin is damaged somehow to such an extent that he has to return to the cave for repairs. Can’t come back as Merlin but as Nimue? Fits the legend of Nimue being the one who enchants Merlin, taking all his powers and locking him up in a cave.

  8. Paul Howard says:

    What happens when Merlin’s friends begin to die of old age and Merlin is still going strong? Sooner or later, Merlin has to officially die and comes back as a different person. Either Merlin suffers a wound that should have killed him (no real damage to him) or people will begin to wonder at somebody who has a greater than normal lifespan.

    By the way, I suspect that David Weber wanted his hero to be a woman who takes a Male form because his hero will become a woman as well. Merlin ‘dies’ and Morgana (just a guess) takes his place. It would be safer if Weber’s immortal hero switches between male and female appearance. If an old Merlin was replaced by a young man, somebody might suspect something. If an old Merlin is replaced by a woman, fewer would suspect anything.

  9. E says:

    David Weber is taking a reverse on the whole “strong (male-like) heroine” by making the heroine into a guy with effeminate points of view and knowledge. It’s the ultimate in cross-dressing.

    I believe Merlin will pull the “never really die” part and leave, with his “apprentice” showing up to replace him.

  10. E says:

    That “never really die” part was made as a tie in to Merlin’s policy of “never really lie.”

    About this point in Charis’ history, some die-hard Parliamentarians might arise to oppose the legislation that will inevitably come about from the union. Merlin dealt with the ones that wanted to oust Cayleb, but what happens when the reasonable debaters who aren’t technically doing anything wrong come out?

  11. Maxim says:

    Cayleb has personally to much power for the issue of opponents of legeslation to arise. (He has the most aristoctats, the people with the money, the church(well, most of it) and the common people behind him)

  12. Maxim says:

    First I wanted to write something cynical about this snippet(that it is way to much idealism and sentimentalism), but then I read the snippet second time and tried to think from the standpoind of Sharleyan(a yound woman who is very impressed with Cayleb). I can see it happen this way.
    I’m curios to see how Sharleyan will react as she lerns the whole truth.

  13. Marion says:

    This snippet is a little too formulaic. It needs to be leavened a bit by strife of some sort, whether about Sharleyan’s uncle, Merlin’s precise role or something else. I know it moves the political action right along but . . .

  14. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    me too.

    As for Merlin’s future, you can have Merlin suffer wounds, and his “daughter” appears. It would help explain things like similar gestures, those eyes, and fighting style. He retires and Nimue comes back to take her old father’s place. it would look good and be kinda easy to pull off

  15. Maxim says:

    It would cause more than comment in this culture if a woman would be fight in a similar way to Merlin. This was the whole point for Nimue to become a man.

  16. Maxim says:

    But for the rest I think it is possible.

  17. Alan says:

    Is there any reason why Merlin II, of whatever sex, needs to look like Merlin I? If Nimue can change from female to male I’d guess she can alter her face at will.

  18. Paul Howard says:

    Well, I suspect some change to ‘his’ face is possible. However, in an earlier snippet it came out that ‘he’ could change not ‘his’ eye color without using ‘contact lens’. I suspect that the PICA designers didn’t plan on major changes (besides sex) being made to the appearance of the PICA.

    As for the problem of Merlin’s daughter not getting the respect that a Son would get, Nimue had to be Male to establish the Advisor Position. It might be easier for a “Daughter” or other Female “Heir” to step into the Advisor Role.

    Of course, the presence of Queen Sharleyan may also make it easier for a Female Advisor. Image of Nimue becoming a Lady-In-Waiting for Queen Sharleyan.

  19. Paul Howard says:

    Additional comment on Merlin’s Heir.

    Merlin had to be male and a powerful warrior to establish himself in Charis because he had no contacts in Charis. Merlin’s “Heir” would have contacts. If all else failed, he or *she* could visit the Monastery of Saint Zherneau to establish himself or herself as Merlin’s “Heir”.

  20. kari says:

    I was surprised in the previous book that eye color couldn’t be changed except via contacts. I would have thought that would be easy for a PICA to do. Hair color too. I seem to recall that she did make her face ‘more masculine’ as well as adding the mustache. So, I would assume that she could change enough that she could be a daughter, son etc.

    I don’t recall if there was any mention of how homosexuals are treated because in a sense for the moment, that’s what Merlin is.

    Here is something else that I don’t think Nimue has considered yet – no children. Having no family may become more painful as she sees Caylib and Sharleyan have kids, her/his memories of Earth grow more distant and she’s more assimilated into Safehold culture.

  21. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    In a sense he’ll/she’ll be raising them as well. Might help the pain a little bit.

    Remember from the first book that Merlin’s face actually had a feminity to it? Cayleb notices it when they first meet

  22. Brom says:

    Wasn’t there a passage about Nimue adding the scar to detract from the natural feminine appearance?

  23. Aaron Van Dessel says:

    Actually, I think the scar was added to make people believe that he actually had sword training, since one gets scars when training and Merlin should at least seem like he has training

  24. Nimue Alban is taller than most men of Safehold; that’s not alterable apparently. The usual hesitations about a woman with a sword might be less emphatic in that case. “Now that you mention it, my father did teach me how to use a sword” may be less critical an issue in a culture with 19th century weapons, which is where they might be in 70 years. And perhaps she will disguise herself with another job occupation.

  25. E says:

    A “Queen’s Guard” style formation of women trained in the sword would actually provide the advantage of underestimation as far as skill goes. The flashier a guard has a tendency to look, the less skill an enemy will attribute to the guard. Merlin could embolden the female population of the Empire by creating such a program and leave himself an opening for future returns as a skilled swordswoman.

  26. kari says:

    I know that OAR stated that Nimue wasn’t interested in hand to hand combat but don’t most militaries teach basic self defense to all? What do you think about a class started up for the queen and her ladies? If someone gets thru the body guards then having the target be able to fight back even a little could give time for a body guard to come to the rescue.

  27. Robert says:

    Since the question arose if Queen Sharleyan could use a sword or pistol for her self defense that would have to be a yes. In case of a sole female heir of the royal line they would have some training in defense. This could be an edict from the king or by the female heir’s obligation/wishing to be the son Dad never had/desire to prove that a female just as good. Queen Elziabeth the first and Mary Queen of Scots had to go on hunts with dear old Henry and could use a firearm. Human nature seems to have a desire at some time in their life to destroy/blast away at something more so for a person in power.

    Merlin will not set up a female military force. So far there has been no common ordinary female of any importance so far. I do not recall any females characters except royals, ladies of pleasure, or the wife of Dynnys. If Merlin was going to do any thing with women they would have started in the very begining since Charis has had a serious personnel shortage. No mention of who is working in the mines, factories, or mills to support the war effort and free up males for military service. Most charaters so far have royals, academics, military, or leaders of industry (chuckling about all the money they are making).

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