“Thank you for coming so promptly, Wyllym,” Clyntahn continued as he ushered the archbishop to one of the Temple’s incredibly comfortable chairs. He smiled as he settled Rayno and personally poured him a glass of wine. The Grand Inquisitor’s normal table manners generally took second place — or even third — to the gusto he brought to food and wine, yet he could be an incredibly gracious and charming host when he chose to be. Nor was that charm false. It simply never occurred to him to extend it to anyone outside the circle of intimates he relied upon and fully trusted. Or, at least, trusted as much as he ever trusted anyone else.

“I realize your message didn’t seem to indicate any immediate urgency, Your Grace. I had business in the Temple to attend to anyway, however, so it seemed best to respond to your summons promptly.”
“I only wish I had a dozen archbishops and bishops who were as reliable as you are,” Clyntahn told him. “Langhorne! I’d settle for six!”
Rayno smiled and inclined his head in a small bow, acknowledging the compliment. Then he sat back, nursing his wineglass in both hands while he gazed attentively at his superior.
Clyntahn was looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows at the swirling snow and wind. His expression was almost rapt as he contemplated the icy torrent of white for the better part of three minutes. Then, finally, he turned back to Rayno and leaned back in his own chair.
“Well!” he said, with the air of someone getting down to business at last. “I’m sure you’ve read all the reports about the seizures of Charisian merchant ships month before last.”
He arched one eyebrow slightly, and Rayno nodded.
“Good! I was certain you would have. And since you have, you’re undoubtedly aware that there were certain . . . difficulties.”
“Yes, Your Grace,” Rayno acknowledged as Clyntahn paused.
Of course the archbishop was aware that there’d been “difficulties.” Everyone in Zion was aware of that much! What had been supposed to be an orderly seizure of unarmed, or at least only lightly armed, merchant ships as the first step in closing all mainland ports against the all-pervasive Charisian merchant marine had turned into something else entirely. Not everywhere, perhaps, but what the Grand Inquisitor was pleased to call “difficulties” was something the Charisians were going to call a “massacre” when word of August’s events in the Kingdom of Delferahk’s port city of Ferayd reached them.
Actually, Rayno corrected himself, what they’re undoubtedly already calling it, given the fact that at least some of their ships got away and most certainly sailed straight to Tellesberg. The archbishop shuddered at the thought of what the schismatic Charisian propagandists were going to do with that many civilian casualties. One thing’s for sure, he thought grimly, they aren’t going to minimize what happened.
And that, Rayno realized, was what was truly on Clyntahn’s mind. The Grand Inquisitor was speaking less of the fatalities involved than he was of the need to put the proper context on the part the Inquisition had played in the seizures. Few of those seizures had gone as badly awry as the ones in Delferahk — or not, at least, in the same way. Personally, Rayno found the implications of what had happened at Siddar City even more disturbing, in many ways. According to the Inquisition’s agents there, everything had been proceeding far more smoothly than in Ferayd . . . right up to the moment, at least, when, for some unknown reason, every Charisian merchant ship had simultaneously decided to . . . expedite its departure. It was undoubtedly a mere coincidence that they’d decided to do that before Lord Protector Greyghor had gotten around to formally issuing the orders to implement the Church’s instructions to seize them.
Of course it was.
There was no proof of who’d warned the Charisians, yet whoever it was, it had to have been someone deep in the Lord Protector’s confidence. The only real question in Rayno’s mind was whether the informant had acted solely on his own, or if Lord Protector Greyghor himself had made the decision to betray the Church’s trust. Given the fact that his staff had somehow been unable to locate their inexplicably missing head of state and deliver Clyntahn’s instructions to him for at least twelve hours, Rayno rather suspected that he wouldn’t have cared for the answer to his own question if someone had provided it.
Whoever the traitor might have been, he hadn’t acted entirely alone, no matter whose idea it had been. Siddar City wasn’t the only Siddarmarkian port where every Charisian merchant ship had mysteriously departed mere hours before they were supposed to be sequestered by the Republic’s authorities. The possibilities that suggested were far more unpalatable than a few score of dead Charisian sailors in Ferayd.
Not that we can expect everyone else on the Council — or even within the Order! — to see things that way, Rayno thought grumpily. The name of Samyl Wylsynn came forcefully to mind, and the Schuelerite Adjutant reminded himself barely in time not to grimace. Not that Clyntahn would have disagreed with his subordinate’s unloving thoughts where Vicar Samyl was concerned. If he decided Rayno’s expression indicated the archbishop’s disapproval of the decision to close the mainland ports to Charis, however, it could have unfortunate consequences.
“Well,” Clyntahn said again, grasping the thread of the conversation once more, “as you and I have already discussed, it’s essential that Mother Church put the true version of events into the hands of the faithful before any Charisian lies can take root there. I believe that in this instance, that may be especially important.”
“Of course, Your Grace. How may I be of assistance?”
“It’s taken longer than I could have wished,” the Grand Inquisitor told him frankly, “but Trynair and Duchairn have just about agreed upon the text of a proclamation setting forth what happened, especially in Ferayd, and granting martyr’s status to those murdered by the Charisians. It’s still weaker than I would prefer. It stops short of declaring Holy War, for example. I suppose it does set the groundwork for the eventual declaration, but certain parties are still waffling. I think Duchairn actually entertains the belief — or the hope, at least — that this can all be patched up somehow. Deep inside, though, even he has to know he’s wrong. It’s gone too far. The Inquisition and Mother Church simply cannot allow this sort of direct challenge of God’s will and His plan for the souls of men to pass unpunished. And the chastisement must be severe, Wyllym. Severe enough to prevent anyone else from even contemplating ever following in their footsteps.”
Rayno simply nodded. There was very little new in what Clyntahn had just said — aside from the confirmation that the proclamation the adjutant had expected for five-days was approaching readiness. On the other hand, as much as Clyntahn enjoyed explaining things, it was unlikely he’d recapped all that history without a specific purpose in mind.
“I have to confess that the thing which is preying most strongly upon my own mind just now, Wyllym, isn’t those damnable Charisians’ open defiance. Oh, obviously that’s going to have to be dealt with, but at least Cayleb and Staynair were rash enough to come out into the open. They’ve declared their allegiance to the pernicious doctrines Shan-wei is using to split Mother Church, marked themselves for the Church’s justice and God’s vengeance. In the fullness of time, they’ll receive that justice and vengeance in full measure, too.
“But what happened in Siddarmark . . . that’s another story entirely, Wyllym. Someone very highly placed in the Republic’s government must have alerted the Charisians. And while I’m fully aware of all the diplomatic niceties which prevent Zhamsyn from coming right out and taxing Greyghor with responsibility, there’s not much question in my mind as to who bears the responsibility. Even if he didn’t give the specific order himself — and I wouldn’t bet a mug of flat beer on that possibility! — it had to be someone very close to him, and there are no indications he’s even remotely close to identifying the culprit, much less punishing him. That sort of insidious rot, the kind that hides behind a façade of loyalty and reverence, is deadly dangerous. Left to itself, hiding in the shadows, the infection will only grow more and more corrupt until we find ourselves with a second, or a third, or even a fourth “Church of Charis” on our hands.”
“I understand, Your Grace,” Rayno murmured when the Grand Inquisitor paused once more. And the adjutant was beginning to understand, too. Had the “culprit” in question been found anywhere except in the inner circles of the Siddarmarkian government, Clyntahn wouldn’t simply have been concerned about any future “rot.” He would have been demanding the head of whoever had done it. Unfortunately, pressing Siddarmark too hard at this particular time was . . . contraindicated. The last thing the Church wanted was to engineer a marriage between Siddarmark’s pikemen and Cayleb of Charis’ navy.
“Unfortunately,” Clyntahn continued, as if he’d been reading Rayno’s mind (which wasn’t something the adjutant was completely prepared to rule out as a possibility), “if Greyghor can’t — or won’t — identify the responsible party, there’s very little we can do about it from the outside. For now, at least.”
“I take it from what you’ve just said that you’ve been working on a means to change that, Your Grace?”

About Eric Flint

Author and Editor
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18 Responses to BY HERESIES DISTRESSED — snippet 2

  1. E says:

    Looks like the focus might be on Siddarmark for some of this book. Maybe Merlin being on the cover shown in the snows outside Zion is an indicator, but it could be that Siddarmark as a closer power on the fringe of “heresy” could be targeted by the church for the expediency of dealing with a foe if not the foe (I need italics).

    It would seem a very Clyntahn thing to do to place the Inquisition at the head of a provisional government after having the current leaders inhumed, in all likelyhood there would be plenty of faithful amongst whom to garner support in Siddarmark.

    My bet’s on Merlin to save the Charisian hostages taken during the Church’s seizures right out from under the Inquisition.

  2. Alistair says:

    I see that the possiblity that he will go for a more subtle approach any guesses to what it might be??

    supporting Greyghor’s opposition?

  3. jgnfld says:

    Assault rifles and several million rounds of ammo are available in the Merlin cave are they not?

  4. E says:

    Yes but that would be too easy.
    Look for the intent and then the minimal amount of technology Merlin needs to pull it off successfully.

    My bets: Recon Skimmer (transport only), Sword, faster reactions from PICA body, SNARCs.
    Wager: Some future dignity and “I told you so” rights.

    If ever there was to be an OAR series/movie, I pick Leam Niesen or Jeremy Irons to play Merlin.

  5. corp says:

    Liam Niesen and jeremy irons aren’t pretty enough. Except for the scar and beard Merlin is supposed to be a pretty man. Maybethat blond cat from Fast and the furious or Ryan Reynolds. Remember Merlin is an attractive woman who made some subtle changes to appear as a man.

  6. lockswriter says:

    Also Neeson is 6’4″. To morph into him, Nimue would have either had to add a lot of extra body mass, or else be a remarkably tall woman. (I always pictured him as a blue-eyed Johnny Depp, myself.)

    About the military hardware in the cave — I think Merlin will get that stuff out only when he decides the time has come for everybody to learn the truth. (Maybe the title means that the teachings of St. Zherneau, and possibly others, will start to spread beyond Charis’s inner circle.)

  7. E says:

    Ah yes, Depp might work, as long as he cuts out every iota of Jack Sparrow.

    Looking at the cover, there’s not much to go on other than at some point, Merlin will step out of the recon skimmer into the Zion winterscape with sword in hand. My hope is that the story does not follow something along the lines of “Clyntahn has summoned Rakurai and Merlin survived and is going in to attack the temple.” My thoughts on Zherneau is that society will have to be softened up quite a bit before they’ll accept alternative histories.

    Still Merlin has given Charis advancements but not (yet) a revolution in technology at the common level (except for the cotton gins) which shows that the Church went out of their way to declare the innovations as heretical. No, I think that the title deals more with things such as the execution of Church officials by law over Writ and the further dispelling of divine authority as secular powers realise that the Church’s mandate is faltering. Of course, the church could always institute emergency provisions for dictatorship by archbishops in times of holy war, but with them stuck at the “let’s all avoid an emergency” phase, I doubt they’ll catch up to what they could do to secure their base until after they start losing on their own soil.

  8. Bryan says:

    @7 I wouldn’t read to much into the title. It’s taken from a hymn, The Church’s One Foundation. The relevant portion is…

    Though with a scornful wonder
    Men see her sore oppressed,
    By schisms rent asunder,
    By heresies distressed:
    Yet saints their watch are keeping,
    Their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    Shall be the morn of song!

  9. RobertHuntingdon says:

    E I think you have a safe bet on your hope, unless of course Weber was throwing up a smoke screen at the conventions. But I rather doubt that he was. And if not, then Charis is going to survive at least long enough for Cayleb and Sharleyan’s kids to take up “round 2”, which will apparently involve a resurgence of war after a truce/peace of some sort. Which then means that whatever Merlin is using his skimmer for (if he even actually uses it at all), it won’t be a mission of revenge.


  10. E says:

    Interesting. If you happen to have Weber’s words from the convention I’d be happy to read them.

  11. Karina says:

    I agree that Merlin performing a rescue is a strong possiblity. Clyntahn already considers the prisoners heretics right? So, what better ‘example’ in his mind then to perform mass executions even of the kids? And even though it might expose him, I doubt he could stand by and let them occur. I’ve wondered at what point Merlin will be exposed as something extraordinary? After all, what about any surviving witnesses of his fight to get to King Harahlds side in the 1st book? I doubt that those on either side who saw could resist telling at least some of the tale while drinking in the local bar?

    Personally, I’ve always considered Clytahn equivalent of whoever was the head of the old Spanish Inquisition. As for comparision with a certain president, how about how he’s dropped inconvenient facts or even made some up as to manipulate others to agree to the war he wants? The way he appears to “work in the shadows if you will”? Not to mention the impression that he likes torture?

  12. E says:

    Political juxtaposition of the previous vice-president aside, I’m thinking that if Merlin wanted to be as flashy as possible in rescuing the Charisian prisoners, he could put forth a challenge for single-combat with the Church’s champions; there does not however seem to be any precedent for such conduct on Safehold (yet). “If” Merlin wins then the Church loses face with the populous, if Merlin is denied and “captured” he gets a two-way ticket to the same prison, first one in chains and second ticket out with bare hands and company(if neccessary). I’m thinking that if Merlin wishes to avoid the flashy route, he might meet up with the Circle elements in Zion if he finds out about them in time or arrange some descrete placement of Charisian agents before hand.

    As to the Extraordinary Merlin tales, my belief is that by the time Merlin is done with being Merlin (probably around the time feminist progressivism becomes an issue) he’ll be said to have sunk ships with his bare hands and killed ten thousand men and a dog. Currently it would seem that nobody who doesn’t know him is looking at him for brains except maybe the Prince of Emerald (and he’s a good guy now), so as far as the known “mythical” side, he’s more like Heracles or Susanoo at this point.

    Would be nice to see something called Archimedes pop up, after all, it is an awesome name for an owl.

  13. Karina says:

    Another mythical juxtaposition…. Remember according to which version of the ‘death of Merlin’ you read, the name of the woman who bespelled Merlin in his crystal cave was either Vivian or…Nimue – the lady of the lake, who gave Arthur Excalibur. So, here in reverse, Nimue ‘released Merlin from the cave’. If Nimue ever is able to become a woman again, besides her own name, she could choose the name of Athena, goddes of wisdom who’s avatar is and owl.

  14. RobertHuntingdon says:

    E, sorry, but I didn’t hear any of that first-hand, and it was all verbal and then paraphrased on the Bar, nothing “hard” (unless somebody had a tape recorder on, but I doubt Weber would have allowed that).

    Still I figure that it’s not terribly likely that Merlin’s going to be executing any revenge strikes just yet. Supposedly from another conversation with Weber paraphrased on the Bar it was confirmed that Merlin will (eventually, at least) find a way to “deal with” the Rakurai. I’m not quite sure that this book would be the right place for it, however. And at this point using the Rakurai would completely cripple the Charisian Empire. Give them 10 years or so to get Chisholm developed and Corisande subdued, then maybe it could be used against Charis and the reported “delayed round 2” could still theoretically happen. Unless it was used against Chisholm instead, which I suppose is a theoretical possibility, but barring that I think it’s either never going to get used at all or won’t be used in this book.

    Hmm, well on second thought maybe the Republic would be an option if Clyntahn gets pissed off enough. I still doubt it… but in a few hours we’re about to hear what Clyntahn has planned for Siddarmark and I could be proven quite wrong… :)

    I just wish we could hurry up and find out what happens when Cayleb and friends invade Corisande.


  15. E says:

    The deal with the Rakurai is whether or not it is triggered by emissions detection or can be remotely controlled by the Church. Given the nature of Safehold’s anti-tech religious matrix, it is not likely that the original team under Langhorne would have left remote control in the hands of the Church, seeing as they triggered the system themselves to wipe out Alexandria, but it could be that some other method of calling it down was left in place in the form of some obscure document or ritual that someone in the Church authority would have to do to gain access to it. If anything, an “angelic messenger” in the form of a computer or somesuch device could have basic instructions on recognizing when Rakurai would be needed. If so, the parameters of this recognition would be an important factor in just how far Merlin can push Charis technologically before the lightning falls.

    To shorten the idea:

    Person X prays at Holy Location Y in the Temple at Zion,
    Computer requests input of data, similar or more intuitive than OWL
    Computer assesses risk to Church, anti-tech religious matrix
    Computer intiates Rakurai / Does not initiate Rakurai
    Church proceeds from there.

  16. ij70 says:

    At 9 o’clock on the cover, there is harbor. Either the cover is completely unrelated to the contents of the book or the city on the cover is not Zion.

  17. laclongquan says:

    Surprisingly, Johny Depp also fit my internal image of Merlin.

  18. Mike says:

    Of general interest might be:

    The Church’s one foundation

    Though with a scornful wonder
    Men see her sore oppressed,
    By schisms rent asunder,
    By heresies distressed:
    Yet saints their watch are keeping,
    Their cry goes up, “How long?”
    And soon the night of weeping
    Shall be the morn of song!

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