How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 34



How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 34

          “God gave Man free will,” Cahnyr said. “That means some men will choose to do evil, and the innocent will suffer as a result. You can’t judge yourself guilty because you were unable to stop all the evil Clyntahn and others chose to do. You stopped all it was in your power to stop, and God can ask no more than that.”

          She stared out the window for several more moments, then drew a deep breath and gave herself a visible shake.

          “You’re probably right, Your Eminence, but I intend to do a great deal more to those bastards before I’m done.” She turned back from the window, and the steel behind her eyes was plain to see. “Not immediately, because it’s going to take time to put the pieces in place. But once they are, Zhaspahr Clyntahn may find wearing the Grand Inquisitor’s cap a lot less pleasant than he does today.”

          Cahnyr regarded her with a distinct sense of trepidation. He knew very few details of her current activities, and he knew she intended to keep it that way. Not because she distrusted him, but because she was one of the most accomplished mistresses of intrigue in the history of Zion. That placed her in some select company. Indeed, she’d matched wits with the full suppressive power of the Office of Inquisition, and she’d won. Not everything she’d wanted, perhaps, and whatever she might say — or he might say to her — she would never truly forgive herself for the victims she hadn’t managed to save. Yet none of that changed the fact that she’d outmaneuvered the Grand Inquisitor on ground of his own choosing, from the very heart of his power and authority, and done it so adroitly and smoothly he still didn’t know what had hit him.

          Or who.

          The woman who’d contrived all of that, kept that many plots in the air simultaneously without any of them slipping, plucked so many souls —  including Zhasyn Cahnyr’s — from the Inquisition’s clutches, wasn’t about to begin letting her right hand know what left hand was doing now unless she absolutely had to. He didn’t resent her reticence, or think it indicated any mistrust in his own discretion. But he did worry about what she might be up to.

          “Whatever your plans, my dear,” he said, “I’ll pray for their success.”

          “Careful, Your Eminence!” Her smile turned suddenly roguish. “Remember my past vocation! You might not want to go around writing blank bank drafts like that!”

          “Oh,” he reached out and touched her cheek lightly, “I think I’ll take my chances on that.”

* * * * * * * * * *

          “Madam Pahrsahn! How nice to see you again!”

          The young man with auburn hair and gray eyes walked around his outsized desk to take his visitor’s subtly perfumed hand in both of his. He bent over it, pressing a kiss on its back, then tucked it into his elbow and escorted her across the large office to the armchairs facing one another across a low table of beaten copper.

          “Thank you, Master Qwentyn,” she said as she seated herself.

A freshly fed fire crackled briskly in the grate to her right, noisily consuming gleaming coal which had probably come from Zhasyn Cahnyr’s archbishopric in Glacierheart, she thought. Owain Qwentyn sat in the chair facing hers and leaned forward to personally pour hot chocolate into a delicate cup and hand it to her. He poured more chocolate into a second cup, picked it up on its saucer, and leaned back in his chair, regarding her expectantly.

          “I must say, I wasn’t certain you’d be coming today after all,” he said, waving his free hand at the office window. The previous day’s gray skies had made good on their wintry promise, and sleety rain pounded and rattled against the glass, sliding down it to gather in crusty waves in the corners of the panes. “I really would have preferred to stay home myself, all things considered,” he added.

          “I’m afraid I didn’t have that option.” She smiled charmingly at him. “I’ve got quite a few things to do over the next few five-days. If I started letting my schedule slip, I’d never get them done.”

          “I can believe that,” he said, and he meant it.

The House of Qwentyn was by any measure the largest, wealthiest, and most powerful banking house in the Republic of Siddarmark and had been for generations. It hadn’t gotten that way by accident, and a man as young as Owain Qwentyn wouldn’t have held his present position, family connections or no, if he hadn’t demonstrated his fitness for it. He’d been trusted with some of the house’s most sensitive accounts for the last five years, which had exposed him to some fascinating financial strategists, yet Aivah Pahrsahn was probably the most intriguing puzzle yet to come his way.

Her primary accounts with the House of Qwentyn had been established over two decades ago, although he wouldn’t have said she could possibly be a day past thirty-five, and her balance was enviable. In fact, it was a lot better than merely “enviable,” if he wanted to be accurate. Coupled with her long established holdings in real estate and farmland, her investments in half a dozen of the Republic’s biggest granaries and mining enterprises, and her stake in several of Siddar City’s most prosperous merchant houses, that balance made her quite possibly the wealthiest woman Owain had ever met. Yet those transactions and acquisitions had been executed so gradually and steadily over the years, and spread between so many apparently separate accounts, that no one had noticed just how wealthy she was becoming. And no member of the House of Qwentyn had ever met her, either; every one of her instructions had arrived by mail. By courier, in point of fact, and not even via the Church’s semaphore system or even wyvern post.

It had all been very mysterious when Owain finally looked at her accounts as a whole for the first time. He might not have noticed her even now if the somnolent, steady pace of her transactions hadn’t suddenly become so much more active. Indeed, they’d become almost hectic, including a series of heavy transfers of funds since the . . . difficulties with Charis had begun, yet despite the many years she’d been a customer of his house, no one seemed to know where she’d come from in the first place. Somewhere in the Temple Lands, that much was obvious, yet where and how remained unanswered questions, and the House of Qwentyn, for all its discretion, was accustomed to knowing everything there was to know about its clients.

          But not in this case. She’d presented all the necessary documentation to establish her identity on her arrival, and there was no question of her authority over those widespread accounts. Yet she’d simply appeared in Siddar a month or so ago, stepping into the capital city’s social and financial life as if she’d always been there. She was beautiful, poised, obviously well educated, and gracious, and a great many of the social elite knew her (or weren’t prepared to admit they didn’t know Polite Society’s latest adornment, at any rate), but Owain had been unable to nail down a single hard fact about her past life, and the air of mystery which clung to her only made her more fascinating.

          “I’ve brought the list of transactions with me,” she said now, reaching into her purse and extracting several sheets of paper. She extended them across the table to him, then sat back sipping her chocolate while he unfolded them and ran his eyes down the lines of clean, flowing script.

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61 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 34

  1. KenJ says:

    Not only that, but I suspect that Ninian is quite punctual with any tithes owed… Under what-ever name. Just enough hesitation to seem normal(Not sucking up to anyone/overly pious) and yet fully and on time so as not to raise red flags. At least as far as the public record is concerned. I don’t doubt that she also has a serious “black” budget as well, strictly off the books.

  2. Nimitz13 says:

    Let’s not confuse tithes with property taxes, which they aren’t. No increase, no tithe. So just owning real estate doesn’t incur a tithe, but the yearly income of that real estate would.

    As she did in Zion, it’s almost certain Ninian used shell companies, pseudonyms, etc. in buying and managing the properties and investments she owns. She’s never been to Siddarmark in person before that we know of, but any tithes generated by her lucrative investments have clearly been getting paid. Nothing has changed other than one bank employee who only has access to her accounts based on his complete discretion can now put a face and name to a large number of accounts/investments worth a huge sum. That and she’s about to buy/sell pages worth of properties to fund her nefarious purposes! [Evil Laugh}

    Since tithes haven’t been an issue so far, they won’t be in the future – those investments are MANAGED for her, by the people who work them in the case of farmland, and by the management of any warehouses, shipping companies, and all her other businesses. So no visits from the tithe police.

    I’m surprised she’s become a social butterfly in Siddar City, but she obviously has a REASON to do it. Same for visiting Bishop Cahnyr. She got him out and she’s being nice enough to solve the mystery of who did it for him. We’d all be happier to see both of them safe in Charis, and he probably soon will be (it’s still Spring and not a good time to sail based on the weather.) That’s probably why she visited him now. He’s leaving, she isn’t.

    She has reasons to stay on the mainland for now, but since she has funds in Tellesberg banks as well, I expect she’ll make her way to Charis eventually, where Merlin – I mean ‘Abraim’ will get her taken into the inner circle. Ah heck, Merlin might just say he’s a friend of Abraim’s and not bother adjusting his appearance. Easier all around.

  3. Nimitz13 says:

    Let’s not confuse tithes with property taxes, which they aren’t. No increase, no tithe. So just owning real estate doesn’t incur a tithe, but the yearly income of that real estate would.

    As she did in Zion, it’s almost certain Ninian used shell companies, pseudonyms, etc. in buying and managing the properties and investments she owns. She’s never been to Siddarmark in person before that we know of, but any tithes generated by her lucrative investments have clearly been getting paid. Nothing has changed other than one bank employee who only has access to her accounts based on his complete discretion can now put a face and name to a large number of accounts/investments worth a huge sum. That and she’s about to buy/sell pages worth of properties to fund her nefarious purposes! [Evil Laugh}

    Since tithes haven’t been an issue so far, they won’t be in the future – those investments are MANAGED for her, by the people who work them in the case of farmland, and by the management of any warehouses, shipping companies, and all her other businesses. So no visits from the tithe police.

    I’m surprised she’s become a social butterfly in Siddar City, but she obviously has a REASON for doing it. Her reason for visiting Bishop Cahnyr is that she arranged his escape and she’s being nice by telling him she did it. He’s most likely waiting for the Spring weather to stabilize, then he’ll be on the first boat to Charis. So the risk in her letting him know who saved him is negligible. (Occam’s razor explanation, I reserve the right to be WAY wrong!)

    She has reasons to stay on the mainland for now, but since she has funds in Tellesberg banks as well, I expect she’ll make her way to Charis eventually, where Merlin – I mean ‘Abraim’ will get her taken into the inner circle. Ah heck, Merlin might just say he’s a friend of Abraim’s and not bother adjusting his appearance. Easier all around.

  4. tootall says:

    69 (roughly) lines of snip -at least 54 comments- I do love this site.

  5. Nimitz13 says:

    So do I. Just wish the davidweber.net site was set up to discuss each snippet instead of just by topic. Many of the the same crowd there. No Maggie though, although the personal posts from the MWW ALMOST make up for the lack of her skill with limericks!

    There’s a bunch of REALLY knowledgeable people HERE with firsthand experience on loads of technical subjects. (Or they just use Wikipedia a lot like I do.) Wish our posts here counted over there since I’d be First Space Lord by now! (Just joking runsforcelery!) Though it IS funny when people try to correct him…

    I believe Drak posts the snippets there first, although I may be wrong as I always look here first, then go to the Weber site only when this site refuses to load. I love its PREVIEW and EDIT comment abilities though. It would be great to have those here to clear up the inevitable typos that creep in, or the occasional double posts like I just inadvertently made. HINT, HINT… ;)

  6. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Minor comment.

    Nimitz13, on Eric’s site I can schedule the snippets to post automaticly so they’re posted very early.

    On the Bar and on David Weber’s site, they can’t post automaticly so I post them the evening before they’re due. People get “annoyed” when I over sleep. [Wink]

  7. jgarland says:

    A lot of the comments here are assuming paper trails that just would not exist in the Safehold world. When SCRIBES are the only xerox machines, paper trails are just not what they are today.

    Protective accounting–e.g., keeping track of the Pharoah’s/emperor’s/lord’s/etc. holdings and protecting them from fraud by underlings–is very old. Accountants were called in after the South Seas Bubble collapsed to identify accounting fraud, for example as well. Crumbley (2001) traces a number of cases through history (you’ll need access to a research lib) in a very interesting article.

    But forensic accounting as an investigative field tracing business relationships barely starts in the 19th century. Really, it is very much a 20th century phenomenon. Some put Capone as the first Phondha-type character hung out to dry by forensic accounting. The first textbook on “forensic accounting” wasn’t published until 1982. I don’t think Safehold is quite there yet.

  8. PeterZ says:

    jgarland, likely you are right. I will say that the CoGA has the depth of purse to afford legions of scribes and the incentive to do so. Scibes to maintain the double and tripple books necessary to keep track of the bribes. Each archbishop, bishop or monasitc head and department heads would all have an incentive to hire their own less capable version of Rohbair Ducharin.

  9. robert says:

    @56 Drak
    You are still in a class by yourself, snippet-wise. When I go to Buckley’s site and see that the snippets are sometimes a week overdue, I really appreciate the job you do.

  10. Shade says:

    I’m trying to imagine forensic accounting with the roman numeral system–which is all they had on Safehold–a mere 5 (ish) years prior to the present book. Guessing it would make it *a lot* more difficult, to say the least…

  11. dcchipper says:

    @41 Peter in OAR Ahnzhelyk is listed as being 42.

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