BY HERESIES DISTRESSED – snippet 27:
“What do you mean?” Clyntahn demanded after a moment, and Trynair smiled sardonically.
Fool yourself if you want to, Zhaspahr, he thought, but don’t expect me to do the same thing. You know exactly what I mean.
Of course, he couldn’t actually say that out loud.
“What I mean,” he said instead, “is that we’ve already seen Nahrmahn turn his coat and Sharleyan actually marry Cayleb. From all the reports I’ve seen, it seems likely Duke Zebediah is going to do exactly the same thing Nahrmahn did — and that even Hektor would, if he thought for a moment Cayleb would settle for anything short of his head. Now every other prince and king on the face of the world is going to look at what happened in Ferayd and realize that in Cayleb’s place, they would have done exactly the same thing.”
“The hell they would have!”
“I said they would realize that in Cayleb’s place they would have done the same thing,” Trynair said. “Although, to be fair, perhaps I should have said that they would have done exactly the same thing if they’d had the courage to. But the main point is this. Given the way Charis is going to present what happened, we don’t have a leg to stand on. No,” he raised his voice and jabbed the air with an index finger when Clyntahn tried to interrupt, “we don’t. Especially not after we’ve already been telling the entire world what you told the rest of us — that the Charisians started it. Well, they have the proof before them now that the Charisians didn’t start it, Zhaspahr. They’re going to be thinking about that if the Church suddenly declares Holy War and summons them to battle. You saw what happened when Chisholm was forced to fight a war it didn’t believe in. Do you want to see the same thing happen with say the Desnarian Empire? Do you want to hand Stohnar the pretext he can use, stand upon as ‘a matter of principle,’ to refuse to answer that summons? And before you tell me you don’t trust Stohnar not to do that anyway, let me point out to you that whatever the rest of the world may think, our resources aren’t actually unlimited. There’s a limit to the number of fronts we can afford to fight on simultaneously, Zhaspahr.”
“But it’s going to come to Holy War inevitably in the end, whatever we do,” Clyntahn pointed out. “It has to. Unless you actually believe there’s some way Cayleb might think he could patch things up with Mother Church after murdering her own priests?”
“‘In the end’ is not the same thing as right this minute,” Trynair replied, his voice as frosty as the winter snows outside the Temple. “Of course it’s going to come to Holy War sooner or later. The only one of us who doesn’t already understand that is Rhobair, and even he has to suspect that no other outcome is possible. And I agree with you that what Rock Point’s done only makes it more inevitable, ultimately. But we not only have to be aware of what other secular rulers may be thinking, Zhaspahr. We have to be aware of what other members of the vicarate are thinking.”
Clyntahn started to fire something back, then paused, his eyes narrowing in thought as he recognized what Trynair had actually said. What the Church could survive, and what the Group of Four could survive, wasn’t necessarily the same thing, after all.
“There might be fewer of those other vicars to worry about than you know, Zahmsyn,” he said after several moments, his eyes flickering with a slyness Trynair found more than a little disturbing. “Trust me. The number of our . . . critics could find itself rather drastically reduced.”
It was Trynair’s turn to look thoughtful, eyebrows furrowed. It was obvious he was running through a mental checklist of the Group of Four’s present and potential opponents, but then he shook his head.
“We can’t afford to get too far ahead of ourselves, Zhaspahr,” he said much more calmly. “This . . . situation in Ferayd is going to cause enough problems as it is. If we simultaneously convince the other vicars that we’re planning on purging our opponents, then those opponents are far more likely to be able to whip up some sort of opposition block on the Council. In fact, they’d probably use what happened in Ferayd as the public basis for their opposition to us.”
“We can’t afford to be too hesitant, either,” Clyntahn countered. “If those opponents you’re talking about decide we’re weak, or that we’re vacillating, it’s only going to embolden them.”
“Perhaps so.” Trynair’s nod acknowledged Clyntahn’s warning, but his expression never wavered. “The problem is that we can’t uncouple Ferayd from someone like the Wylsynns — not now that Charis is planning on exploding it all in our faces. We may be able to weather Ferayd, and we may be able to weather the Wylsynns, but the odds of our weathering both of them at once are far worse.”
“So what would you do?” Clyntahn challenged.
“You won’t like it.” There was a warning note in Trynair’s voice, and Clyntahn snorted.
“And you think I’ve liked anything else you’ve had to say this afternoon?”
“Probably not,” Trynair replied. “But, as I see it, we have no choice but to take the Charisians’ charges against Graivyr and the others seriously.”
“What?!” Clyntahn’s jowls darkened furiously.
“Zhaspahr, whether we want to admit it or not, the truth is that what happened in Ferayd is exactly what the Charisians say happened. How we got there, whether or not Graivyr and the others were justified, is really beside the point in most ways. It certainly doesn’t alter the physical facts of who attacked whom and who was at the head of the Delferahkan troops when it happened. The Charisians are going to say their subjects were set upon by what amounted to lynch mobs led by priests of the Office of Inquisition. They’re going to point out that many of the dead were women, and that many more were children, and that children that young can scarcely have chosen to be heretics. For that matter, Zhaspahr, you know as well as I do that at least some of those Charisians probably were no more heretics than you or I are! There are devout Charisians who are horrified by this entire schism, you know. It’s entirely likely that some of those killed in Ferayd would fall into that category, and don’t think for a minute people like Wylsynn aren’t going to point that out if we don’t.”
“If we don’t?” Clyntahn’s eyes glittered with sudden suspicion.
“I know you won’t like it — I told you wouldn’t — but it’s the only answer I see,” Trynair said stubbornly. “And it’s the only answer Rhobair is going to settle for, which isn’t a minor consideration in its own right. Unless, of course, you’d like to contemplate what would happen if Rhobair decided to join hands with the Wylsynns?”