BY HERESIES DISTRESSED – snippet 25:
Clyntahn’s facial muscles tightened ever so slightly, but he declined to rise to Trynair’s verbal bait — if that was what it was — and simply nodded.
“Well, Cayleb and Sharleyan appear to have decided how they intend to respond to such incidents in the future. They sent twenty or thirty of their galleons into Ferayd Sound, they pounded the defensive batteries into rubble — then blew them up, after they surrendered — and burned every structure within two miles of the Ferayd waterfront.”
Anger fumed up in Clyntahn’s own eyes as Trynair listed the catalog of Charisian reprisals. He started to open his mouth, but Trynair cut him off with a quick, sharp wave of his hand.
“I’m not quite done yet, Zhaspahr.” This time the Chancellor’s voice was icy, not fiery hot, and his eyes bored into Clyntahn’s. “Despite the fact that they burned down most of the city, the Charisians were extremely careful to inflict as few Delferahkan casualties as possible. They even allowed the civilian population of Ferayd to remove their portable valuables from homes inside the area they intended to burn. Not exactly the response one would have anticipated out of heretics and blasphemers after Delferahkan troops massacred their fellow heretics and blasphemers, wouldn’t you say?”
Clyntahn’s jaw muscles clenched, but he said nothing, and Trynair’s nostrils flared.
“I thought it showed remarkable restraint on their part, actually,” the Chancellor continued. “Of course, the reason for it was that they fully intended to punish those actually responsible for the deaths. Which is why, Zhaspahr, Admiral Rock Point of the Imperial Charisian Navy had sixteen — sixteen, Zhaspahr — consecrated priests of Mother Church hanged.”
Clyntahn’s eyes flew wide. Despite Trynair’s obvious anger, despite his realization that the contents of the semaphore message must be shocking, he’d never anticipated that! For several seconds, he could only sit, staring at Trynair. Then he he shook himself and started to shove up out of his chair, his jowly face going dark with fury.
“Those bastards! Those goddamned, murderous –!”
“I’m not finished yet, Zhaspahr!” Trynair’s voice cracked like a musket shot, and the white-hot fury in his eyes stunned Clyntahn. No one looked at the Grand Inquisitor that way — no one!
“What?” he made himself bite out the single word, and Trynair’s lips twisted.
“Every one of those priests,” he said, and his voice was deadly now, each word precisely uttered, cut off as if with a knife, “was a member of the Order of Schueler. In fact, by an odd turn of chance, they were all servants of the Office of Inquisition.” He watched Clyntahn’s expression turning even darker, and there was something almost like . . . satisfaction mixed with the anger in his eyes. “And the reason they were hanged, Zhaspahr — the reason that a Charisian admiral executed sixteen consecrated priests of Mother Church as if they were common felons — is that the massacre of Charisians in Ferayd may have been carried out by Delferahkan troops, but it wasn’t at Delferahkan orders. It was carried out, as I feel sure you knew very well, under the de facto command of Father Styvyn Graivyr, Bishop Ernyst’s intendant, and fifteen other members of the Order of Schueler.”
Clyntahn had opened his mouth once more. Now he paused, and Trynair glared at him.
“You lied to us, Zhaspahr. Lied to all of us.”
There was no question in Clyntahn’s mind who the “us” Trynair referred to might be. After all, all of the members of the Group of Four had . . . creatively reconstructed certain events for the rest of the vicarate.
“And what makes you immediately jump to that conclusion?” he demanded, instead of denying the charge outright. “Are you that prepared to to take the word of schismatic heretics? It never occurred to you that they might have every motive in the world to lie about what happened and blame it on Mother Church in order to justify their own murderous actions?”
“Of course the possibility occurred to me. Unfortunately, they sent King Zhames certain . . . documentary evidence. I’m sure there were already copies of most of it in your files, Zhaspahr.”
“What do you mean?” A thin note of caution had crept into Clyntahn’s voice, and Trynair’s lips tightened.
“You know perfectly well what I mean! They captured Graivyr’s files, Zhaspahr! The originals of the reports he and his fellow Inquisitors sent to you, detailing the role they played. In fact, I was quite astonished at how openly and honestly Graivyr admitted in his correspondence with you that the first shot was fired by one of the Delferahkans, not by the Charisians. Or the fact that as soon as the first shot was fired, his handpicked Schuelerites immediately took command of the detachments to which they were assigned and ordered — ordered, Zhaspahr — the massacre of Charisian women and children! My God, man! The idiot boasted about it, and you knew he had, and you never warned us!”
“He didn’t ‘boast’ about it!” Clyntahn snapped back.
“Oh, yes, he did!” Trynair retorted. “I’ve read the reports now, Zhaspahr. He was proud of what he did!”
“Of course he was!” Clyntahn’s eyes flared with contempt. “They were heretics, Zahmsyn. Heretics, you understand? They were God’s own enemies, and they deserved exactly what they got!”
“Some of them were only eight years old, Zhaspahr!” For the first time in Clyntahn’s memory, someone leaned across a desk and shouted at him. “How in Shan-wei’s name are you going to convince anyone with a working brain that an eight-year-old child was a heretic? Don’t be insane!”
“They were the children of heretics,” Clyntahn grated. “Their parents were responsible for putting them in that position, not me! If you want to blame someone for their blood, blame Cayleb and Staynair!”
“The Charisians are going to publish these reports, Zhaspahr. Do you understand what that means? They are going to publish the documents, the very words in which Graivyr and his . . . his accomplices wrote down, for the record, in their own words, exactly what the Charisians accused them of doing!” Trynair glared at his colleague. “I can’t think of a more effective piece of propaganda we could have handed them if we’ve tried!”
“And I say let them publish!” Clyntahn snapped back. “I’ve already got confessions out of those bastards, too, some of them!”
“Oh?” Trynair’s eyes were suddenly much colder. “Would those be the confessions Rayno tortured out of the Charisian prisoners you had secretly transferred to Zion without mentioning it to the rest of us?”
Clyntahn twitched, and the Chancellor shook his head, his expression disgusted.
“I know you’re the Grand Inquisitor, Zhaspahr. I know you have agents everywhere, more than I could possibly have. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m stupid, or that I don’t have agents of my own. Of course I knew about your orders to Rayno!”
“Then if you disagreed with what I was doing, you should have said so at the time!” Even Clyntahn seemed to realize his retort sounded remarkably lame, and Trynair snorted.
“I’m not the Grand Inquisitor,” he pointed out. “As far as I was concerned, if you could get confessions out of some of them, it might at least have ameliorated the disaster I was already afraid Ferayd could be turning into. Of course, not even I had any reason to suspect the full magnitude of the catastrophe you and Graivyr were busy cooking up for us, did I?”