“Which ones?” the man who’d questioned Dahryus asked, and the priest raised his hand, counting off points on his fingers as he made them.

“First, I don’t think he truly wants to admit she’s become an enemy of God. He desperately wants to believe she’s only temporarily mistaken. That, given time, she’ll return to her senses. And, second, he doesn’t want to admit how deeply and sincerely attached to her the majority of her subjects actually are. I think he underestimates the importance of her support among the common born folk on this issue, probably because he’s not one of them himself. That’s more than a little ironic, in light of past events, but I suppose it’s also possible that he’s fooling himself on this point because he doesn’t want to face the logical implications.

“But whatever he may be thinking, or why ever he may be thinking it, the truth is that she’s genuinely loved. In fact, his entire plan revolves around using that love for our own ends, and superficially, it’s a very attractive concept. When she not only held the throne after her father’s death but also proved to be one of the strongest rulers in Chisholm’s history, she won their hearts as well as their loyalty. Despite how deeply they respect her, the common folk also feel actively possessive about her, almost as if she were a favorite, beautiful sister or daughter, not just their monarch. Our friend is well aware of that, but what he’s persistently overlooking is that a huge percentage of Chisholmians will follow her straight into apostasy and heresy simply because of how much they love her. Every dispatch from Green Mountain and the Queen Mother only underscores that fact. He simply doesn’t want to admit it, just as he’s underestimating, in my opinion, the degree to which the Chisholmian commons are going to be automatically suspicious of anything which holds even the slightest possible taint of some sort of aristocratic cabal. Every other scheme he’s come up with for actually discrediting her has foundered on that same rock, but he honestly believes this one will work because its supposed to discredit the reasons for her decisions, rather than the decisions themselves, and do it in a way she can’t directly counter. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will have the effect he’s predicting . . . and without Green Mountain’s active support — which even he realizes would be impossible to secure — I’m even more doubtful about his ability to manage the commons well enough to keep the situation under control in the long run.”

“So am I,” Halcom said, nodding slowly and regretfully. “And if he’s wrong, if he can’t discredit her policies and deprive her of the power to counterattack his actions, then we have no choice but to consider more . . . direct action.”

“I understand,” the man who’d asked the initial question said. “I still wish there were some way to avoid it, though.”

“So do we all,” Halcom replied. “So do we all.”

He sat silent for several seconds, then returned his attention to the priest.

“I take it you have his answer to our latest counterproposal?”

“I do. He believes what you’ve suggested should be practical, given conditions in both Charis and Chisholm. He’s agreed to help push events in the necessary direction.”

“And is he making any plans of his own to consolidate things in the aftermath?” Halcom’s eyes sharpened as he asked the question, and the other man shrugged.

“He says there’s no point in trying to do so at this time. Or, rather, that it would be unduly risky to attempt to involve anyone else in his planning at this stage. As he says, his present base of support isn’t especially strong, and he’s not completely positive who among his apparent supporters might prove less than enthusiastic if they knew the full plan. So he intends to wait until the moment comes, then ‘play it by ear.’ I think he entertains at least some hope of recruiting additional supporters when the Chisholmian delegation to this new Imperial Parliament arrives in Tellesberg. Even if he fails in that, or decides it’s too risky to attempt after all, the fact that he’s the only one in the Palace who will know ahead of time that anything is coming should allow him to capitalize upon it. That’s what he says, at any rate, and I’m strongly inclined to agree he’s telling us the truth about his plans and intentions.”

“Which tends to lend additional credence to your own comment about his motivations, doesn’t it?” Halcom said a bit sadly.

“I suppose it does. On the other hand, don’t forget that his objections, his stipulations, are completely sincere. That’s my evaluation of them, at least. There are clear limits beyond which he’s not prepared to go.”

The note of warning in the priest’s voice was clear, and Halcom nodded.

“I realize that. And, if I believed his analysis of the consequences of his own proposal was accurate, I’d be fully prepared to respect those limits. Unfortunately, he’s wrong. What he wants to do is far too likely to come crashing down around his ears, and if it does, it will come crashing down on us and upon our task, as well. In fact, I believe that ultimately his idea is likely to make things worse by actually strengthening Sharleyan’s hand in the fullness of time. Never forget, my sons, that this new Empress of ours is a formidable, intelligent, and determined woman. One who not only has enormous popular support in Chisholm, but who’s been steadily winning the hearts and loyalty of all of Charis, as well. That’s what makes her such a dangerous weapon in Cayleb’s hand, and striking her from his hand is going to be far more difficult than our friend believes.”

“I . . . regret that,” the priest said softly. “As you said a moment ago, she isn’t and never has been an evil woman, despite the horrible sin she’s fallen into.”

“Evil seduces,” Halcom replied almost equally softly. “It cannot conquer by force of arms unless godly men allow it to do so, and if its mask were not so fair and so seductive, then Hell would be empty of all save Shan-wei herself. But Hell is not empty, my son, and however good Sharleyan’s intentions may originally have been, however good she may still sincerely believe they are, she is fully in the service of Shan-wei now. And so, however likable she may be, no matter how physically or even spiritually attractive she may be, she is the enemy of God. And there can be no quarter, no compromise, with His enemies.”

The others nodded in solemn silence, and he redirected his attention to the priest once again.

“Very well. When you have the opportunity to speak to him once again, tell him it will take at least a short while to make the arrangements from our side. If he seems to be feeling impatient, point out to him that the difficulties involved in finding a secure and, if necessary, defensible location for our base after the actual strike are far from trivial. Tell him we’ll complete our preparations as quickly as possible and inform him when everything is in place. And it might be as well to suggest to him that he begin thinking of ways to bring Saint Agtha’s to the Empress’ attention.”

“With all due respect, do we want to have him do that before our preparations are complete?” the priest asked.

“I think it will be better to lay the groundwork as far in advance as possible,” Halcom replied. “Given how complicated and busy her life must be at the moment, however many of Cayleb’s advisers may still be available to assist her, it’s unlikely she’d be able to free the time in her schedule to visit the convent before we could be prepared. Even if our friend is clumsier than I would expect about mentioning Saint Agtha to her, she isn’t going to be able to go haring off on a moment’s notice.”

The priest nodded, and Halcom inhaled deeply, pushed back his chair, and stood.

“In that case, my sons,” he said, raising his hand and signing the scepter, “go now, with God’s blessing and in Langhorne’s keeping. Remember the devotion and love due to God and the Archangels, and let the strength that love brings you strengthen and guide your hands, hearts, and minds as we give ourselves to the service of God and Mother Church against all enemies of the Light.”

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21 Responses to BY HERESIES DISTRESSED — Snippet 46

  1. Bret Hooper says:

    And we are still left to wonder and speculate as to the exact nature of and participants of the plot (except Halcom).

  2. E says:

    Okay… sounds like a long-term kidnapping plot with attempting conversion… possibly torture involved.

  3. Karina says:

    Um, It does sound like the ‘friend in the palace’ is the Uncle. Reading the snippets like this it is a little difficult to tell if the person who came late has left or is this priest or if he’s the person who has the manor or if it’s someone else. Harder to flip back and forth to review things.

    From their description of the ‘friend’ it’s someone who’s conflicted cause he loves Sharly and that would be the uncle. How the uncles plots would be missed by Merlin could be a mixture of OWL’s dumbness and their use of code phrases and low priority compared to other stuff. How it could be missed by Wave Thunder would be due to them not wanting to be obvious in keeping track of the uncle cause of his relationship to the Queen.

  4. Karina says:

    One of the ways to descredit her reasons would be the same reasons that Cayleb was told he couldn’t reveal Merlin to her – love and lust clouding the decisions. Oh yeah mustn’t forget the old cabel that a pregnant woman loses her mind due to the hormones. We could have kidnap and force her to abdicate in favor Cayleb’s current heir which being a child can be controlled. It’s even better if they discover her pregnant cause the babe completely ousts the current heir and they can control her via threats to the child as babes are so vulnerable to illnesses.

    This could be where Merlin comes in (and the source of the book cover) to rescue her.

  5. Bret Hooper says:

    @3 Karina: Yes, indeed, it sounds like the ‘friend’ is the uncle, but this could easily turn out to be intentional misdirection by DW. After all, misdirection is an essential ingredient of plot twists.


  6. Bret Hooper says:

    @4 Karina: Isn’t the throne a jount tenancy with right of survivorship? If so, Sharleyan couldn’t abdicate in favor of Cayleb’s current heir unless Cayleb were dead, which these plotters no doubt greatly desire but have at the moment no power to bring about. Of course, if kidnapped and tortured, she might be forced to denounce Cayleb and sue for divorce, but who would believe she had done so voluntarily?


  7. Karina says:

    @5 You’re right that the uncle does seem to be too obvious, but who else would be as conflicted as this snippet makes him sound? And there’s a slight hint that he wasn’t at this meeting with the “when you have the chance to talk to him” statement. Could the priest here be the Uncles confessor?

    @6 I forgot about the joint thenancy heirship thing. But while Caylebs away…the cat can play. With Sharlyan isolated and under their thumb perhaps….”Due to the queens pregnancy, she’s indisposed and has turned over power to…her uncle? Mix hat with ‘while visiting the convent she suddently heard the call from God that she has been mistaken or desires for a spiritual retreat from the great responsibility and needs to pray for guidence” Or some other bs like that.

    Ohh, a nastier thought. Kidnap her but don’t SAY she’s kidnapped, just overcome with piety and on spritual retreat. If Greyhaven or others come asking for her, force her to order them to leave her alone there and what can they do? If they storm it to rescure her, wouldn’t that be a violation of the convent and allow the conspiritours to spin it as an attack on God?

  8. erispope says:

    Or, you know, sell the whole thing as a “we’ll make her see sense in the convent” while actually just planning on killing her in the convent, with a possible side-dish of telling everyone it was those evil Charisian heretics that did it, really.

    It is highly unlikely that it is someone other than the Uncle, as the person in question desired “recruiting additional supporters when the Chisholmian delegation.” Who else would be able to do so, with even a hint of a chance to succeed? Why would someone from Chisholm take a Charisians side over their own queen, and more important why trust them?

    Just another 30 days to go…

  9. JN says:

    There is nothing wrong with using the obvious. What would be wrong is treating it like a major plot twist.


  10. Maggie says:

    Well, whichever way things play out at St. Ag’s, I’m sure Sharley will repel bullets/knives with her cast-iron undies, return fire with the pistols she pulls from her garters, and then hop over barefoot to strangle Halcom with her steel thistle silk socks!

  11. Jeff Ehlers says:

    These people have no idea what they’re getting themselves into.

    Of course, historically, it’s always been the fanatics who are willing to do almost anything (because it’s what God wants them to do, of course) who do the most damage to their own cause. Unless this group plays it really carefully and close to the chest, which isn’t likely, they’re going to be in serious trouble before long.

  12. Kim S says:

    The end of this snippet has another interesting twist. What if the Empress is told of St Agatha’s and decides to visit before the plotters are ready. Do they spring the attempt prematurely or forego their chance? If the Charisian people find out about the “abduction”, do they take action on their own to rescue their beloved Empress?

    It’s nice to rely on main characters but DW has brought the masses into play in other books.

    D-Day July 7th. (Delivery Day)

  13. robert says:

    @11 Jeff, it is not always the fanatics. Sometimes it is the power hungry who do not want their hold on power to be loosened or destroyed. I see the churchmen in this story as the latter, with a bit of false or self-delusional godliness thrown in to fool those willing to be fooled.
    @5 & @9 This is looking to be pretty straightforward except for the palace traitor–we still do not know for sure it is Uncle, but I must admit that anyone else would be illogical given what we know now. Also it seems that the evil plot is still coalescing with a number of factors to be dealt with.
    If the building on the book’s cover is the convent, then OWL has just delivered a rescue party of one. So I was wrong: Merlin will come crashing through the skylight. And then Sharley will have to know everything. And so, Molly, her impregnable (except by Cayleb) undergarments will not save her.

  14. Peter Z says:

    @13 Robert, if St. agatha’s is in Charis, why the snow? Charis is a tropical nation. Mountains are a possiblity, so this convent would be far to the south of Telesberg. Far enough I suspect to be quite out of the way. Sharley has no skimmer or any other modern vehicle so such a visit would require that she be incommunicado for a significant amount of time. An excuse can be constructed, especially if she is pregnant, however, any such excuse would not be one that she would voluntarily accept so long as Cayleb is out of the country during this time of war and the pending arrival of the Chisholmian delegation.

    So they must kidnap her first to bring her to St. Agatha’s. It may be that Uncle will stomach the kidnapping but will go no further. Perhaps that’s the plan. Make an obvious attempt to kill her and Uncle foils it but part of the solution is to get her far away. Pressed for time Sharley accepts, thinking that she can return rather quickly. When she discovers that she is a prisoner it is too late.

    The Bishop may want to add his own twist on things, which is why we have this meeting. The Bishop may well try to organize the attempt at Sharley’s to succeed. If she dies right away, things can go forth a bit earlier, if she survives Uncle’s plan is given some reigns for a bit.

    As I said this is getting real ugly. If Uncle’s role is exposed to Zhan Q. Chisholm, there may well be a powerful movement to abolish/erdaicate the nobility in that nation as well as a thorough repudiation of the CoGA hierarchy. Temple loyalists in Charis may well find their grass roots support has just vanished or even reversed to homicidal levels.


  15. robert says:

    @14 Maybe snow, maybe not, Peter. There is snow on the Pichincha volcano above Quito, Ecuador, which is just about smack on the equator–Andean and all that. And there is (lots before global warming) snow on Mt. Kilimanjaro, which is not that far from the equator. Depends on how high the mountain is. Plenty of precipitation in Charis–it is raining as we read. DW gives us no elevation data on the map at
    so we cannot tell. But they would have a tough time spiriting an Empress out of Charis in any case. Besides, that structure looks like a Balkan monastery. And this is a new one on me: since when are there convents in this religion?

  16. Bret Hooper says:

    @7 Karina: A well-thought-out response; I have to agree with everything in it. Good for you!


  17. robert says:

    @7 Karina, remember the SNARKs. Once the feathers start flying Merlin will know and that is not a ski pole in his hand on the book’s cover. I expect few of Sharly’s jailers (assuming that she is indeed kidnapped) to survive an attack by Merlin.

  18. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Robert, convents were mentioned in passing when Merlin visited the Monastery of Saint Zherneau.

  19. robert says:

    @18 Drak, I found it on the very bottom of p. 200. In passing is right! But it does say that most of them (monasteries & convents) are out in the boonies, so that is where St. Aggies is, I presume.

  20. Randall Rapp says:

    One thing to think about, a quote from another book (don’t remember name or author), is that religious fanatics believe that god is on their side, and so while they will plan for what they can, will usually ignore faults or possible weaknesses, on the basis that god will provide. Just look a John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry. He had no real plan for escaping or retreat, because he thought his cause of freeing the slaves was god’s plan, and he would insure their success.

  21. robert says:

    Ok. Gotta go read the Torch of Freedom snippet. I think a Weber – Flint collaboration is the best of the best.

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