March, Year of God 893

Tellesberg Palace,
City of Tellesberg,
Kingdom of Charis

“I never imagined Admiral Rock Point was going to find this sort of evidence,” Sharleyan Ahrmahk said as she finished scanning the last page of the admiral’s report and laid it on the conference table in front of her.

“Neither did Clyntahn . . . or Graivyr, Your Majesty,” Baron Wave Thunder agreed. Cayleb’s old spymaster, who remained responsible for both espionage and security in the Kingdom of Charis — which was rapidly coming to be known as “Old Charis” in order to distinguish it from the new empire to which it had given its name — nodded at the sheet of paper the empress had just set aside. “Trust me, it never even occurred to them that this sort of documentary evidence might fall into anyone else’s hands, and especially not ours!”
There was considerably more satisfaction in Wave Thunder’s tone, and he smiled nastily.
“Not only that,” he continued, “but their reports about the Massacre are only the tip of the iceberg, Your Majesty. We got all of the Church’s files from Ferayd, and they were so confident that they didn’t take even the most rudimentary of precautions. We have complete copies of half a dozen of their most secure ciphers now. Obviously, they’re going to change them as quickly as they can, but it’s going to take time. And even after they change them, there’s no telling what older documents we might come into possession of. And that doesn’t even begin to consider all of the other documents and files the Admiral’s shipped home.”
He shook his head, his expression almost reverent.
“We’re going to need months just to sort through it all and catalogue it. I can already tell you, though, that there’s an incredible amount of . . . potentially embarrassing information in here.”
“I realize that, My Lord,” Sharleyan said. “At the moment, however, I’m afraid my own attention is rather more sharply focused on those reports about the Massacre. And on the consequences for the report writers.”
“Admiral Rock Point carried out his instructions from you and His Majesty to the letter, Your Majesty,” Rayjhis Yowance pointed out. The Earl of Gray Harbor was the first councilor of Old Charis, and was clearly on the way to becoming first councilor of the Empire of Charis, as well. Some people might have expected all of that to mean Cayleb had left him home in order to be certain Sharleyan didn’t get carried away by an overly inflated notion of just how much authority she truly possessed. No one seated in this council chamber was likely to make that mistake, however, and Gray Harbor’s voice was both respectful and perhaps just the tiniest bit apprehensive.
“Don’t worry, My Lord.” Sharleyan smiled at him, and that smile was cool. “I agree that the Admiral did precisely what he was instructed to do. And I approve his actions completely. I can see why Cayleb and the rest of Charis have so much faith in his judgment. I simply never anticipated that he would have such clear cut evidence upon which to proceed. Or, for that matter, that so many of Clyntahn’s inquisitors would stand self-convicted.”
“With all due respect, Your Majesty, I think that if anyone had anticipated that they would, those instructions might have been somewhat more limited,” another voice said, and she turned her head to look at the speaker.
Paityr Sellyrs, Baron White Church, sounded worried, almost querulous. In fact, Sharleyan thought sourly behind her calm expression, he sounded downright whiny. White Church was the Keeper of the Seal for Old Charis, and he had quite a few useful political allies here in Tellesberg, which she suspected helped to explain how he’d come to hold his present office. If she had anything to say about it, however (and she did), he would not be the Empire’s Keeper of the Seal.
“I disagree, My Lord,” she said now, calmly but with absolutely no hesitation. “If there had been a hundred guilty men — or a thousand — and not sixteen, the sentence would have been no less just, and its execution would have been no less appropriate. I’m surprised, My Lord. I am not dismayed.”
“Your Majesty,” White Church said, “I’m not suggesting you should be dismayed. Nor am I suggesting that these men, priests or not, didn’t amply merit the punishment visited upon them. I’m only saying that to effectively cast the heads of no less than sixteen consecrated priests at the Group of Four’s feet may not have been the most productive thing we could have done.”
Gray Harbor started to say something, then paused as the empress smiled affably at White Church. Given that smile, and what he’d seen so far of this young woman, he rather doubted that his intervention was either necessary or desirable.
Sharleyan considered White Church, her head cocked slightly to one side, for two or three heartbeats. It wasn’t so much what he’d said, as the way he’d said it. She’d heard that same patient tone of voice before, although not recently; the survivors among her councilors had learned better from the unfortunate fates of those who had adopted it. She watched him, recognizing the patronizing edge of his own smile, and wondered if he had the least idea she could see it. Probably not, she decided. He wasn’t actually stupid enough to deliberately provoke her, after all. That, unfortunately, wasn’t quite the same thing as saying he was smart, however.
He’s Cayleb’s Keeper of the Seal, Sharley, she reminded herself. You don’t know all the reasons Cayleb might have chosen him. And even if you did, you aren’t the one who appointed him to the Council. So do you really want to do this?
Yet even as she asked herself that question, she knew the answer. It was the same answer Mahrak Sahndyrs had taught a frightened girl-child so many years before. She could rule, or she could simply reign. She’d made that choice when she was barely twelve, and Cayleb Ahrmahk hadn’t married her because she was weak.
“Allow me to explain to you, My Lord,” she said, speaking coolly and precisely, “why your concern is groundless.”
White Church seemed to stiffen in his chair as her tone registered, but she continued as if she hadn’t noticed.
“As you may recall, we’ve already informed the Group of Four, and the Council of Vicars, for that matter, that we reject their authority. That we know them for who and what they are, and that we intend to hold them accountable for their crimes against not simply the people of Safehold, but against Mother Church, and even God himself. Are you suggesting that, having so informed them, the proper course of action when men of proven guilt — men whose written reports, whose own testimony, shows the pride and satisfaction they took in ordering the murder of children — fall into our hands, is that we shouldn’t execute justice upon them?”
“Your Majesty, I only –”
“Please answer my question, My Lord.” Sharleyan’s voice was noticeably frostier. “Is this a time to demonstrate weakness? To suggest not simply to the Group of Four, but to all of Safehold, that we do not truly have the strength of our own beliefs? The confidence of our own principles?”
White Church’s expression was acutely unhappy, and his eyes flitted around the council table, as if seeking someone to save him from the empress’ ire. What he saw were a great many eyes which obviously agreed with her, and his adams apple bobbed as he swallowed.
“No, Your Majesty. Of course not!” he said.
“I’m glad we find ourselves in agreement on such a fundamental principle, My Lord,” she told him, holding him impaled upon her hard, brown gaze. “I love the shedding of blood no more than the next man or woman,” she continued. “Moreover, the Emperor and I have made it as clear as humanly possible that the Empire of Charis will not simply murder people because they disagree with us, or because they are opposed to the Church of Charis and our conflict with the Group of Four. But the corollary of that must be equally clear.” She released him from her gaze at last in order to let her eyes sweep around the rest of the table. “We will punish the guilty when their guilt be proven, and the vestments they have perverted and betrayed will not protect them. Unlike them, we will not shed innocent blood, but we will hold them accountable for all of the blood they have shed. Is there some reason anyone seated around this table has failed to grasp that essential point of our policy?”

About Eric Flint

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64 Responses to BY HERESIES DISTRESSED — snippet 32

  1. robert says:

    @49–But this is Science Fiction not Dostoyevsky (gee, all those y’s…do you think that there was a Russian influence?). And here we have titles, job titles and names. It is much harder to keep those straight than variations on a name.

    I do not remember that Merlin provided Sharly with the same protective clothing that Cayleb and the Archbishop have. Somebody please give me the reference.

  2. robert says:

    @45 Good points Karina. Many words in English have been invented–Shakespeare created a ton of new words. Also we’ve shamelessly absorbed words from other languages (it is legal in English) which has enriched our language enormously. We got a lot of French words as a result of the Norman Conquest (which have since disappeared from modern French and come back into French as English words (ha, ha). I remember reading a comment in an ancient computer operating system listing discussing the use of the words input and output as both nouns and verbs and that the then organization of computing professionals was not the French Academy “and so the language grows.”

    English is still basically a Germanic language because basic words are essentially the same in both languages (stone and stein, the “f” word, etc.). But as difficult as it is to learn, it seems that everybody in the world speaks it these days, well or poorly, it does not matter to us.

  3. Mike says:

    We’re just assuming that Merlin has provided her with bullet-resistant clothing, but it’s a reasonable assumption. However, it’s going to be a lot harder to do that for a woman than a man, just because it’s much more socially acceptible for a rich man to wear the same clothes most of the time (especially if he tends to wear a uniform for most occasions), but it’s likely that a rich woman will be expected to have a much larger (and constantly changing) wardrobe.

  4. robert says:

    @32: Underwear?

  5. robert says:

    @54 Sorry, I meant @53. Getting old and blind…

  6. E says:

    And God stretched forth his hand to the Loyal Queen of Charis, and did bid her petticoats part for no bullet or arrow or sword, and she did withstand all strikes from they that would do her harm. And there was much rejoicing.

  7. Peter Z says:

    @56 LOL. All she needs is the clapping of hollow coconuts and John Cleese’ voice echoing from the empty air to proclaim the Lord’s word on her petticoats.

  8. E says:

    It’s been what… 2 months since Cayleb left? (There’s no December or January on Safehold right?) Means if he’s succeeded at all when parting Sharleyan’s petticoats the results should start to become apparent in the next month or so. Wonder if Merlin’s SNARCs can detect hormone changes.

  9. E says:

    Ah wait, each month is 50 days, so that means it’s March and from November at the end of March it will have been over 3 Earth months. So she should be showing signs right about now if a baby is on the way. Sometimes these books seem very quick in pace if one forgets how long each month is.

  10. Karina says:

    “robert – Also we’ve shamelessly absorbed words from other languages… ”

    Ever heard the joke “English shamelessly knocks other languages down and rifles their pockets for loose grammer”

  11. Karina says:

    I’ve heard that some women take a while before they show, even up to 6 months. Also, not all women have morning sickness. The only symptom in that case would be her missing a period and for a busy woman who hasn’t been active until recently, it’s possible she’s not keeping track. Other factors can change the timing as well, stress, the presence of other women etc. There’s a possibility that being on different planet could change the standard length as well.

    I’ve read plenty of fiction books where it’s someone else like a maid or elderly woman who notices the symptoms before the woman does.

  12. E says:

    @61 All these things are true, except for the planet bit that hasn’t been verified for humans. Who knows, maybe birthing times were increased by genetic progress. I seem to recall something on the Discovery channel about child carrying lengthening across sapient evolution. Who knows, maybe a full year for humans when our brains start projecting out at the spinal chord or our skulls expand to the size of basketballs… (breaks off a bit to wonder about the future of evolutary man)

  13. Mike says:

    I knew a woman who actually lost weight when she was pregnant, until about the 7th month. The doctor was sure she was doing something crazy like dieting, but it happened on both her pregnancies and both she and her kids were just fine. She barely looked pregnant until about 8 months along.

  14. Alan says:

    @45 The problem with comparing various Englishes with Safeholdian is that Safeholdian is not in contact with any other language and until recently had no experience of social of technological change. That is absolutely unprecedented. The ate of language change is driven, among other things by contract with foreign languages. Safehold has no foreign languages and the Langhorne clique ensured that Safeholders would not even know of the existence of historical languages. For precedents you would need to look at language like very conservative languages like Icelandic or Rapa Nui which are in the middle of linguistic traffic jams compared with Safehold.

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