How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 42

How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 42

          “I’m not going to tell you that’s what you’re doing. I could point out any number of factors in your life which could account for stress, for worry, for outrage, even for the need to punish yourself for surviving when your father and your uncle and so many people you’ve known all your life have been so cruelly butchered. I believe it would be completely valid to argue that all of those factors combined would be enough to push anyone into questioning his faith, and that’s the basis of any true vocation, my son. Faith . . . and love.

          “But I don’t believe your faith has wavered.” Staynair shook his head, tipping his chair further back. “I’ve seen no sign of it, and I know your love for your fellow children of God is as warm and vital today as it ever was. Still, even the most faithful and loving of hearts may not hold a true priest’s vocation. And despite what the Office of Inquisition may have taught, I must tell you I’ve known men who I believe had true and burning vocations who have lost them. It can happen, however much we may wish it couldn’t, and when it does those who have lost them are cruelest of all in punishing themselves for it. Deep inside, they believe not that they’ve lost their vocation, but that it was taken from them. That they proved somehow inadequate to the tasks God had appointed for them, and that because of that inadequacy and failure He stripped away that spark of Himself which had drawn them into this service in the joy of loving Him.

          “Only it doesn’t work that way, my son.”

          Staynair let his chair come forward, planting his elbows wide apart on his desk blotter and folding his hands while he leaned forward across them.

          “God does not strip Himself away from anyone. The only way we can lose God is to walk away from Him. That is the absolute, central, unwavering core of my own belief . . . and of yours.” He looked directly into Paityr’s gray eyes. “Sometimes we can stumble, lose our way. Children often do that. But as a loving parent always does, God is waiting when we do, calling to us so that we can hear His voice and follow it home once more. The fact that a priest has lost his vocation to serve as a priest doesn’t mean he’s lost his vocation to be one of God’s children. If you should decide that, in fact, you are no longer called to the priesthood, I will grant you a temporary easing of your vows while you meditate upon what it would then be best for you to do. I don’t think that’s what you need, but if you think so, you must be the best judge, and I’ll go that far towards abiding by your judgment. I implore you, however, not to take an irrevocable step before that judgment is certain. And whatever you finally decide, know this — you are a true child of God, and whether it be as a priest or as a member of the laity, He has many tasks yet for you to do . . . as do I.”

          Paityr sat very still, and deep inside he felt a flicker of resentment, and that resentment touched the anger which was so much a part of him these days. It was like the breath of a bellows, fanning the fire, and that shamed him . . . which only made the anger perversely stronger. It was irrational of him to feel that way, and he knew it. It was also small minded and childish, and he knew that, too. But he realized now that what he’d really wanted was for Staynair to reassure him that he couldn’t possibly have lost his vocation. That when the Writ said a priest was a priest forever it meant a true vocation was just as imperishable as the Inquisition had always insisted it was.

          And instead, the archbishop had given him this. Had given him, he realized, nothing but the truth and compassion and love . . . and a refusal to treat him as a child.

          The silence stretched out, and then Staynair sat back in his chair once more.

          “I don’t know if this will make any difference to what you’re thinking and feeling at this moment, my son, but you’re not the only priest in this room who ever questioned whether or not he had a true vocation.”

          Paityr’s eyes widened, and Staynair smiled crookedly.

          “Oh, yes, there was a time — before you were born; I’m not as young as I used to be, you know — but there was a time when a very young under-priest named Maikel Staynair wondered if he hadn’t made a horrible mistake in taking his vows. The things going on in his life were less cataclysmic than what you’ve experienced in the last few years, but they seemed quite cataclysmic enough for his purposes. And he was angry at God.” Their eyes met once more, and Paityr felt a jolt go through his soul. “Angry at God the same way the most loving of children can be angry at his father or his mother if that father or mother seems to have failed him. Seems to have let terrible things happen when he didn’t have to. That young under-priest didn’t even realize he was angry. He simply thought he was . . . confused. That the world had turned out to be bigger and more complex than he’d thought it was. And because he’d been taught it was unforgivable to be angry at God, he internalized all that anger and aimed it at himself in the form of doubts and self-condemnation.”

          Paityr’s jaw tightened as he felt the echo of that young Maikel Staynair’s experience in himself. Until this moment, he wouldn’t have thought Staynair could ever have felt what the archbishop was describing to him now. Maikel Staynair’s faith and love burned with a bright, unwavering flame. That flame, that unshakable inner serenity, was the reason he could walk into a hostile cathedral in a place like Corisande and reach out even to people who’d been prepared to hate and revile him as a heretic. Not only reach out to them but inspire them to reach back to him in response. It was who and what he was. How could a man like that, a priest like that, ever have been touched with the darkness and corrosion Paityr felt gnawing at his own soul?

          “What . . . May I ask what that young under-priest did, Your Eminence?” he asked after a long, aching moment, and to his own surprise, he managed to smile. “I mean, it’s obvious he managed to cope with it somehow after all.”

          “Indeed he did.” Staynair nodded. “But he didn’t do it by himself. He reached out to others. He shared his doubts and his confusion and learned to recognize the anger for what it was and to realize it’s the people we love most — and who most love us — who can make us angriest of all. I wouldn’t want to say” — the archbishop’s smile became something suspiciously grin-like — “that he was a stubborn young man, but I suppose some people who knew him then might have leapt to that erroneous conclusion. For that matter, some people might actually think he’s still a bit stubborn. Foolish of them, of course, but people can be that way, can’t they?”

          “I, ah, suppose they can, Your Eminence. Some of them, I mean.”

          “Your natural and innate sense of tact is one of the things I’ve always most admired in you, Father Paityr,” Staynair replied. Then he squared his shoulders.

          “All jesting aside, I needed help, and I think you could use some of that same help. For that matter, I think you’re probably less pigheaded and stubborn about availing yourself of it than I was. As your Archbishop, I’m going to strongly suggest that before you do anything else, before you make any decisions, you retire for a retreat at the same monastery to which I retreated. Will you do that for me? Will you spend a few five-days thinking and contemplating and possibly seeing some truths you haven’t seen before, or haven’t seen as clearly as you’d thought you had?”

          “Of course, Your Eminence,” Paityr said simply.

          “Very well. In that case, I’ll send a message to Father Zhon at Saint Zherneau’s and tell him to expect you.”

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37 Responses to How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 42

  1. Peter says:

    And there it is.

  2. tootall says:

    Joan Crawford is said to have remarked at one point:

    “Love’s a fire, but whether it’s going to warm your heart or burn down your house, you never can tell.

    Paityr Wylynn to Saint Zherneau’s.

  3. Elim Garak says:

    … If that’s the same retreat where they store the testament of that one saint guy who was actually educated, then this is a very dickish move on the part of Staynair. Other than that, these seem to be the standard perfect DW characters that are honest with themselves and the world to a fault.

  4. Grant C says:

    I feel like that closing line needs one of those dramatic soundtracks… someone’s being groomed for inner circle membership.

    Dunn… Dunn… DUUUNNNNN!!!

  5. KenJ says:

    This can be very, very, good… or absolutely disastrous! One of the things that has allowed the Brotherhood to survive and keep its secret is that it was not known to the Continental Church leadership, except as a small, obscure monastery in Charis that was not noticeably profitable… or non-profitable. Now, we have a member of the Inquisition from a prominent family in the Church hierarchy going there. If Paytir was any less the honorable and godly man than he is, I shudder to think what the consequences would be.

  6. Mindsword says:

    Its the honorable ones you have to watch out for. if he found out about the journal and felt it was heretical and leading the entire world to doom he’d act. A dishonorable man could be bribed or might retreat from it.

    Sides, even assuming he accepted it, how likely would it be for him to keep it quiet. Isn’t it wrong to hide the truth from God’s children?

  7. Anthony says:

    I doubt every priest that ever visited Saint Zherneau’s has been told the truth. The probably have very good procedures for dealing with those staying at the monastery that aren’t ready to be told about the great lie.

  8. Nimitz13 says:

    YES YES YES!!!!!!! I was SURE the MWW was going to leave us hanging without knowing if Paityr would visit St. Zherneau’s. And now that he is – the plot just clarified itself.

    Paityr has both the physical and memorized parts of the key. He’s likely to tell Staynair about it, and let’s hope it’s not not under the seal of the confessional. He obviously wants to pass the information on to somebody since he’s worried that he’s the last guy on the planet who knows.

    Even under seal, Staynair can certainly confer with Owl and learn what the key actually does, although a physical examination of the verifier (which we all guess holds the physical part) might be helpful. With the contact lenses in Stainar’s eyes, Owl can see what Staynair sees and probably come up with a fair analysis, especially with a SNARC in the room – perhaps a specially modified one to scan the hardware.

    We’re very fortunate that the Wylsynn family aren’t fanatics, otherwise Paityr simply couldn’t have allowed himself to admit he’s having a trial of faith. He’d also be in Zion backing Clyntahn along with the rest of his family and Charis would have had a different intendant who ignored the actual proscriptions and invalidated new tech that didn’t violate them. Charis might have survived, but they’d have had to “break” the proscriptions to do it.

    Tum tee tum tee tum, this is gonna be fun!

  9. PeterZ says:

    Or, Nimitz13, knowledge of the truth could crush him. He would know with utter certainty that the brothers of St.Z, Staynair and the entire inner circle BELIEVED the journal. He would know that Merlin/Nimue BELIEVED the archangels he/she knew personally were flawed mortals at best.

    He would know in short that his great family mission was a lie as great as the church. How strong does a man have to be to survive the destruction of his core? The core that would in other circumstances aid him in that survival but can no longer? Does this foreshadow Paityr’s death as the truth crushes him or as he simply refuses to accept it? Perhaps.

  10. Almost no one who visits St. Zhernau’s is ever told about the journal.

  11. RandomThoughts says:

    If the Wylsynn’s are descendants from Schueler and Paityr is aware of it, then he must also know that the archangels weren’t quite as devine as the rest of Safehold believes. This and the current leadership of the church (Go4) may go a long way in explaining his doubts.

    The Brotherhood will probably not tell Paityr anything directly but, rather, simply allow him to “discover” a small piece of the truth in order to assess his reaction. This may have been their previous standard operating procedure with candidates for whom the full truth was being considered. A small revelation can be discounted if the candidate’s response isn’t positive.

  12. Drak Bibliophile says:

    RandomThoughts, you are confusing Safehold’s Angels/Archangels with Christian Angels/Archangels.

    In Safehold theology, the Angels/Archangels had “mortal bodies” that would age and die but the immortal part of the Angels/Archangels would exist in Heaven long after those bodies died.

    So the Wylsynns belief that they are descendants of Schueler may not involve a different view of the nature of Angels/Archangels than what’s held by the Safehold Church.

  13. justdave says:

    @11 I think you’ve got the short term plot but for long term methinks the MWW is setting us up for a twofer

    kill off a major good guy AND the first one introduced to the inner circle who fails to accept the truth

    at which point he’ll try(?) to activate the ‘key’??????

  14. 4th Dimension says:

    Yeah, but how likely is it, that he won’t be told, or won’t find out?

  15. RandomThoughts says:


    You are correct. Safehold’s theology was not only different from earth’s but it was designed to be so. Sometimes it is too easy to forget that. However, because of religious, societal and structural differences between the two worlds, it is also easy to start to believe that everything is different. Human nature will not have changed in a mere thousand years. We have a saying here on earth that I think has more than a little applicability to the situation: familiarity breeds contempt.

  16. Drak Bibliophile says:

    Random, “familiarity breeds contempt” isn’t likely concerning the Wylsynns and Schueler.

    It isn’t like Schueler shows up every tenth “God’s Day” to give the Wylsynn children gifts and plays with them. [Wink]

    If anything, the Wylsynns should be like the royal/noble families who believed that they were decended from Wodan, Zeus, etc. IE feeling superior to the average Safeholdean and superior to even other clerical families.

  17. RandomThoughts says:

    @13 justdave

    I share your belief that someone will not accept the truth. It is inevitable. I’ve had a nasty suspicion in that regard concerning another character. One that most here consider a shoo-in for inclusion in the inner circle. One who was the offspring of a high church official. One who has spent decades trying to fight the corruption in the church. How will that person react when she sees that her life’s work has been expended trying to clean up an institution whose very existence is based upon a huge lie? Just like Paityr, it could go either way – with a vengeance.

    Regardless of who it is, I’m sure it will be entertaining!

  18. Robert H. Woodman says:

    My own suspicion is that Father Paityr will learn the truth eventually. His reactions will be shock, disbelief and denial, anger and resentment, and finally acceptance. He may think of throwing away his vocation entirely, at which point a kindly monk or a wise bishop will step in and suggest that Paityr HAS a true vocation, that he HAS been called by God, and that the lie that is the CoGA doesn’t change any of that.

    Radical self-honesty such as we see in Father Paityr and Bishop Staynair is a rare trait, but the best pastors and priests I have known in my life have all had that characteristic, while, sadly, the worst pastors and priests I have known have lacked that characteristic.

  19. Maggie says:

    @4 May I suggest the Pilgrim’s Chorus from Tannhauser??

  20. robert says:

    @19 Maggie, I’m with Mark Twain on Wagner: his music is probably better than it sounds.

    But if we must have Wagnerian turgidity, I think Sigfied’s Idyll is appropriately turgid. And I like the comment by the guy who said he should have just bought her a hat or something.

    I predict that this will express how Petey will feel after he reads the secret text.

  21. evilauthor says:

    I’ve been half expecting for some time now that Paiter is going to use the Key to turn the last Rarukai shot on Zion. And then Merlin et al are going to have to break out the troop shuttles and energy rifles to invade Zion to save it… because the Key has to be used in the Temple to fire the Rarukai.

  22. Peter says:

    I note that Clyntahn’s purges are making sure that Zion will soon be populated only by the guilty, the venal, the cowardly, and the destitute, plus an ever-shrinking pool of those decent folks trapped there by circumstance. When the pool gets small enough, do the rocks fall?

  23. Peter says:

    And assuming the temble itself is armored to withstand a bombardment, how long will it take the men inside to starve when the city around them is reduced to molten pools of lava?

  24. Nimitz13 says:

    For those who think Paityr is going to be the one who can’t accept the inner circle and has to be eradicated, please remember that his mentor is STAYNAIR, who will guide him through the process every step of the way. If there’s anyone on Safehold who could do it successfully, it’s the beloved ArchBishop of the CoC.

    Staynair knows the whole truth, and he also believes that despite the Writ being a lie, many parts of it taken from the religions of the Terran Confederation aren’t. You can reject the CoGA as corrupt and a lie from the day of creation and STILL believe in a loving God. The command staff made themselves archangels, but God existed before those megalomaniacs warped Safehold into a static artificial society where technological progress is an anathema and can get innovators tortured and killed by the inquisition.

    Rest easy. It won’t be a simple or quick process for Paityr, but he’ll make it in the end. When he explains the key to Staynair, we’ll find out “just a bit” about what’s under the temple to quote MWW, and that’s probably all we’ll learn in this book.

    I expect the battles to be the extermination of the Desnarian fleet, raids to burn all the shipbuilding infrastructure in Desnar’s coastal cities, and Siddarmark modernizing its armies – and whatever results from doing that.

    Subplots include Irys & company making their escape from Clyntahn’s assassins, aided by Ninian or “Abraim.” Once Irys realizes the church not only murdered her father but also wants to murder her innocent little brother, a return to Corisande will seem the far lesser of two evils, especially since she’s realizing her dad wasn’t the paragon of virtue she thought he was.

    Ninian is clearly going to play a large part as well, since we haven’t seen exactly what she’s up to in the Temple Lands or Clyntahn’s reaction to her moves to modernize Siddarmark’s military. And what is she going to do with a Charisian shipping company?

    If there’s a serious land war, it could be in retaliation for Clyntahn seizing the thousand or so POWs from Thirsk and putting them to the question. A coordinated land attack across Silkiah to take out Gorath while a Charisian fleet firing shells destroys Thirsk’s fleet in a pincer move would make for a powerful conclusion. Probably too much material for this novel, but we may see it eventually.

    Of course there will be new subplots presented, and those breech loading rifles are likely to be used somewhere. Bleek!

  25. PeterZ says:

    I happen to agree with Maggie, Bobby-boy. The Idyl is simply too good to be true and in Ms. Russell’s quip “Gotterdammerung”!, things can’t simply finish so pleasantly. They, then, MUST get worse for L’il Abner. Although to be fair Paityr is more a moral and not physical L’il Abner. All in all a nice parody that is much more apt to this scene than first meets the eye, thanks robert.

  26. robert says:

    @26 You are Welcome.

  27. Nimitz13 says:

    @ 22-24

    Paityr recently acknowledged that the key has to be used in the temple during a recent snippet. So if it does control the Rakurai, he wouldn’t call it down on the temple (assuming he could get there in the first place which he notes isn’t likely anytime soon) unless he wanted to die along with the bad guys and the thousands of innocents in the city of Zion. Paityr is not Clyntahn. He’s not a mass murderer.

    The temple is built to withstand such a barrage, but I can’t imagine it would be a very comfortable experience. The dome would ring like a bell, everyone would be thrown to the floor and go deaf, stuff would be falling everywhere, and the city itself would be annihilated and the surface heated to hundreds of degrees, while rains of superheated rocks would spread fires in every direction.

    Depending on the depth of the crater, the question might not be whether the temple can withstand the barrage, but how long can it tread lava? (Thank you Bill Cosby!)


  28. Robert H. Woodman says:

    Regarding how Father Paityr will react when he finally learns the truth about the CoGA, I came across something in Pearls of Weber that I took to be Bishop Staynair talking to Father Paitry. The link is:


  29. Peter says:

    Well, that just answered everybody’s questions….not.
    Maybe that’s Staynair talking to Paityr – or to someone else.
    Maybe the stuff about the Writ is relevant to Paityr – or not.

    Hope my copy gets delivered soon!

  30. Matthew says:

    The reaction of commenters is illuminating.

    If your an atheist, religion is just window dressing. So for Safehold, once people find out that all of the window dressing is explicitly made up, there is nothing left when you take it away. God should get thrown out with the writ. One of the things about religion and faith in our world is that it can’t be proven or disproven conclusively. In Safehold, it can, and it’s a lie.

    For the believers, they see nothing strange in how the Safeholdians can reconcile a belief in God with all the explicit evidence that says, “WE MADE THE WHOLE THING UP! We wanted you to be idiots and it worked. God, the Archangels, the Writ, we hammered it out over two days of drinking using a western religions textbook. Everything in it is false. Including God.”

    Yet, Father Staynair can say “oh when they say they made up God, they didn’t actually make him up.” For atheists, the idea that he maintains his belief in God the face of incontrovertible evidence that everything he’s been told about God is BS, is mind boggling. For believers, it totally makes sense that he’d somehow find his to God on his own despite all the trash that Langhorne wrote.

  31. PeterZ says:

    This close to the release I would like to recap a bit.
    1) The character most likely to die is either Hektor, Paityr or Nynian. Each has some foreshadowing of doom floating about.
    2) Irys is reconciling he idylic view of her dad and reality. She could make the leap to the good guys in this book and it is likely that Hektor will contribute to her rescue. Perhaps contribute more to her participation in the story.
    3) The CoGA is quickly running out of funds and Rohbair is laying ut all the ways to raise funds AND destroy support for the Go4 within the Temple Lands.
    4) The Hausmyn industrial revolution is ramping up nicely. All the elements are inplace to transition to very large scale steel manufacturing. That means Charis can begin to actually make exponentially better tools.
    5) Merlin is beginning to stretch the envelope on technology. He is testing the sensitivity of the Orbital KEW system to advanced operating tech.
    6) Siddermark is shown to know they are in the Go4 cross hairs and are preparing to resist. Nynian appears to be helping they prepare.

    These are the threads I recall. They suggest an intriguing combination of possibilities for MWW plot twists, devices and even red herrings.

  32. Peter says:

    Nice summary, Peter Z., thank you.
    I find the last item the most intriguing. Siddarmark has been the quiet gorrilla in the room for while; if they start to stir, events could grow very interesting very quickly. Hoping for it!

  33. John Driver says:

    @32 PeterZ – Nice summation, but I would quibble about number one. I don’t see Hektor dying. I could see him being wounded. I also don’t see Paityr dying in this book. He might still die, just not yet. I could see Earl Coris being the one that got killed. I’m also thinking that Prince Daivyn stands a good chance of dying also. Of course, he’s not a major character, but that doesn’t mean he can’t die along with the major named character. It’s also possible that Captain Yairley could be the one who gets killed. Also, a couple of other points . . .

    Charis has an abundance of riches in the warship department

    Seamount’s new technology (Ironclads!, Breechloaders!)

    Cayleb is on this way to Charis

    Sharleyan is on her way to Zebediah

    Tohmys Symmyns, Grand Duke of Zebediah is in for the long drop

    OK. I peeked at the snippets, but things seem to be off to a roaring start. I can’t wait until the book hits my local bookstore.

  34. PeterZ says:

    Perhaps, John. I included those characters because one never knows what twistyness lurks in the mind of the MWW…..buwhahahahahah!

  35. Nimitz13 says:

    Enjoyed your summaries PeterZ and John. If I could add a few more items:

    The Charisian navy will likely destroy the Desnarian fleet in the Gulf of Jahras, as well as the shipyards around the Gulf.

    Lather, rinse, repeat for Geyra and Desnar.

    Give Garath in Dohlar the Farayd treatment if the inquisition takes the POWs.

    Coris is the named character that “something nasty” happens to, although we’ve been set up to think it’s Sharlyen.

    Something very nasty IS going to happen to Paiytrik Hainree! Bleek!

  36. Nico de Lange says:

    RandomThought, you clearly do not have a good understanding of the theological intricacies of any religion on Earth. The Church of God Awaiting’s religion was constructed from bits & pieces of Earth’s major religions.

    For instance, the Abrahamic concept of God clearly has no problem with the Divine incarnating in a physical, human body. In fact, early Gnostic Christian traditions maintained that Jesus HAD to have had a practical understanding of all the physical, emotional & mental sensations & experiences that mortal human beings are subject to (including sexual relations), in order for his (God’s) death to truly result in our salvation. They reasoned that without that hands-on understanding, how could God as Jesus possibly have suffered so much that his death would achieve our salvation?

    Another example of physical incarnation by the Divine can be found in the Indic religious traditions, which understand the Divine as expressing ‘Himself’ in a multitude of different ways – the ‘gods’ & ‘goddesses’ we think of when we consider the Indic religions. And in those traditions, those forms of the Divine often incarnate as human beings & practice human behaviours.

    Most indigenous African religious traditions (sub-Saharan African) even believe that the lesser deities & demons have once been humans who have been exceptional in some way or another during their lifetimes, & were venerated as such after their deaths until that veneration led to their elevation to godhood – either because the Creator recognized their exceptional nature & chose to reward them by turning them into lesser deities (or demons, although most African traditions consider demons to be lesser deities themselves, only with a more destructive or malignant impact), or because physical sacrifice & ritual (both of which are very much central to most indigenous traditions in Africa, & ritual is regarded as a form of sacrifice itself) ‘transmits’ some form of life force or energy that is absorbed by the venerated person’s spirit, until that energy becomes so strong that his or her spirit transforms into godhood. Those are but two ways in which indigenous African traditions make provision for a concrete linkage between the Divine (or at least, deities) & human’s physical existence.

    And although Catholicism speaks of ‘saints’, it seems to me that there are clear parallels between the Archangels of Safeholdian religion & the saints of the Catholic tradition. In fact, how do you think the cult of sainthood originally began? It was the result of a syncretic development between the monotheistic beliefs of the new Jewish cult that was centred around Jesus of Nazareth & the polytheistic religious beliefs of European & Anatolian societies. What the early Christians did in order to convert their Pagan neighbours was to incorporate the Pagan deities into the Christian cosmology as saints – not quite human, but not the Divine either, yet each charged with patronage of a specific aspect of human daily life. The reason why it was such a successful tactic, was because that was very much similar to the way that the various Pagan traditions understood their deities. They all believed in a supreme Divinity, but that Divine was so distant from the mortal world that ‘He’ could not interact with humans, so instead ‘He’ created the gods & goddesses of the Pagans, who could & did interact with their followers (and vice versa, of course).

    As a matter of fact, when the Spaniards conquered Mesoamerica & South America, the Catholic Church followed much the same practice in order to convert the indigenous populations to Christianity.

    See the similarities with Safehold’s theology (or more properly, cosmology) now?

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