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By Heresies Distressed: Chapter Ten

       Last updated: Wednesday, May 20, 2009 19:22 EDT



Vicar Zhaspahr Clyntahn’s Office,
The Temple,
City of Zion

    Vicar Zhaspahr Clyntahn, Grand Inquisitor of the Church of God Awaiting and Father General of the Order of Schueler, looked up from the paperwork on his desk, eyebrows knitting in anger, as the door to his sumptuous office in the Temple was opened abruptly. The upper-priest who had opened it so unceremoniously bobbed in a rushed bow, and Clyntahn’s eyes flashed dangerously. Father Dahnyld Fahrmyr had been one of his confidential secretaries for almost eight years. He knew better than to burst in upon his patron without so much as knocking first.

    “What –?!” Clyntahn began thunderously, but the upper-priest actually had the temerity (or desperation) to interrupt him.

    “I most humbly beg your pardon for intruding so abruptly, Your Grace,” Fahrmyr said, speaking so rapidly the words came out almost in a babble. “I would never have done so if it hadn’t been — that is — I mean . . . ”

    “Oh, spit it out, Dahnyld!” Clyntahn snapped, and the upper-priest swallowed hard.

    “Your Grace, Vicar Zahmsyn is here!”

    Clyntahn’s corrugated eyebrows flew up in surprise.

    “Here?” he repeated, his tone as close to incredulous as it ever came. “In the office?”

    “Yes, Your Grace!” Father Dahnyld nodded almost spastically, but there was relief in his voice, as well. As if he were astounded he’d gotten his message out without being incinerated on the spot by the thunderbolts of Clyntahn’s well-known temper.

    The Inquisitor General sat back in his chair, mastering his expression of astonishment while his brain raced.

    No wonder Fahrmyr seemed so stunned. The Chancellor of the Church of God Awaiting didn’t just casually “drop in” on the Grand Inquisitor without scheduling his appointment well in advance. In fact, no one “dropped in” on the Grand Inquisitor without an appointment.

    Clyntahn spent a handful of seconds trying to think of any reason for Zhamsyn Trynair to have just suddenly appeared in his office anteroom, but no explanation suggested itself to him. Not, at any rate, any suggestion that he cared to contemplate.

    “I assume, since you haven’t told me why he’s here, that he hasn’t told you, either,” he said in a tone which suggested that that had better be the reason Fahrmyr hadn’t already told him, and the upper-priest shook his head sharply.

    “No, Your Grace.” Fahrmyr’s own intense uneasiness at such a radical breach of procedure showed in his eyes, but his voice was coming back under control. “He just . . . walked in the door and ‘requested a moment of your time.’”

    “He did, did he?” Clyntahn snorted like an irritated boar, then shrugged. “Well, in that case, I suppose you’d better show the Chancellor in, hadn’t you?”

    “Yes, Your Grace. At once!”

    Fahrmyr disappeared like a puff of smoke. He was back a moment later, followed by Zhamsyn Trynair. The Chancellor’s expression had been trained by decades of experience — first as a priest, then as a diplomat, and finally as the true ruler of the Council of Vicars — to say whatever he told it to say. This time, though, there was a glitter in his eyes, a tightness to his mouth. Those who didn’t know him well might have missed seeing that, but Clyntahn did know him, and he felt his own stomach muscles tightening.

    “Good morning, Zhamsyn,” he said.

    “Good morning.” Trynair’s response came out half-snapped, and Clyntahn looked over the Chancellor’s shoulder at Fahrmyr.

    “That will be all, Father,” he said, and Fahrmyr vanished with even more alacrity. Whatever curiosity he might feel — and Clyntahn suspected he felt quite a lot of it — the upper-priest didn’t want to be anywhere in the vicinity. Obviously, he, too, had read the storm flags flying in Trynair’s expression.

    Of course, only a blind man could have missed seeing them, the Grand Inquisitor thought dryly.

    “To what do I owe the pleasure?” he asked, since there seemed little point in indulging in polite nothings.

    “To this, Zhaspahr.” Trynair reached into the breast of his orange cassock and extracted a sheaf of paper.

    “And ‘this’ would be exactly what?” Clyntahn’s voice was more brusque as his hackles rose in response to the other man’s obvious anger. Anger which appeared to be directed at Clyntahn himself. The Grand Inquisitor wasn’t accustomed to confronting anyone with the courage — or the stupidity — to show open anger with him, and he found that he didn’t much care for the experience.

    “It’s a semaphore message, Zhaspahr. A message from King Zhames in Talkyra. Or, rather, from Bishop Executor Frayd for King Zhames. And himself, of course.”

    Clyntahn had never heard that particular note out of Zhamsyn Trynair. The Chancellor’s voice sounded like hammered metal, and the emotion in his eyes burned hotter than ever.

    “Obviously something about it has upset you,” Clyntahn said, trying to make his own voice come out more naturally. He wasn’t accustomed to trying to defuse someone else’s anger, but it looked as if Trynair was whipping himself into an even greater rage with every word he said. “And presumably, since you’ve come storming into my office without even warning anyone you were coming, whatever it is that’s upset you concerns me, or the Office of Inquisition.”

    “Oh, yes,” Trynair agreed. “Yes, indeed, Zhaspahr! I think that would be a very good way to put it.”

    “Then tell me what it is and let’s get on with it,” Clyntahn said flatly.

    “All right, Zhaspahr, I will tell you.” Trynair dropped the folded sheets of paper onto Clyntahn’s desk. “King Zhames and Bishop Executor Frayd have sent word that the Charisians have burned half or two-thirds of Ferayd to the ground. You remember Ferayd, don’t do, Zhaspahr? The place where all of those Charisians ‘foolishly resisted’ the Delferahkan troops who attempted to sequester their vessels on your orders?”



    Clyntahn’s facial muscles tightened ever so slightly, but he declined to rise to Trynair’s verbal bait — if that was what it was — and simply nodded.

    “Well, Cayleb and Sharleyan appear to have decided how they intend to respond to such incidents in the future. They sent twenty or thirty of their galleons into Ferayd Sound, they pounded the defensive batteries into rubble — then blew them up, after they surrendered — and burned every structure within two miles of the Ferayd waterfront.”

    Anger fumed up in Clyntahn’s own eyes as Trynair listed the catalog of Charisian reprisals. He started to open his mouth, but Trynair cut him off with a quick, sharp wave of his hand.

    “I’m not quite done yet, Zhaspahr.” This time the Chancellor’s voice was icy, not fiery hot, and his eyes bored into Clyntahn’s. “Despite the fact that they burned down most of the city, the Charisians were extremely careful to inflict as few Delferahkan casualties as possible. They even allowed the civilian population of Ferayd to remove their portable valuables from homes inside the area they intended to burn. Not exactly the response one would have anticipated out of heretics and blasphemers after Delferahkan troops massacred their fellow heretics and blasphemers, wouldn’t you say?”

    Clyntahn’s jaw muscles clenched, but he said nothing, and Trynair’s nostrils flared.

    “I thought it showed remarkable restraint on their part, actually,” the Chancellor continued. “Of course, the reason for it was that they fully intended to punish those actually responsible for the deaths. Which is why, Zhaspahr, Admiral Rock Point of the Imperial Charisian Navy had sixteen — sixteen, Zhaspahr — consecrated priests of Mother Church hanged.”

    Clyntahn’s eyes flew wide. Despite Trynair’s obvious anger, despite his realization that the contents of the semaphore message must be shocking, he’d never anticipated that! For several seconds, he could only sit, staring at Trynair. Then he he shook himself and started to shove up out of his chair, his jowly face going dark with fury.

    “Those bastards! Those goddamned, murderous –!”

    “I’m not finished yet, Zhaspahr!” Trynair’s voice cracked like a musket shot, and the white-hot fury in his eyes stunned Clyntahn. No one looked at the Grand Inquisitor that way — no one!

    “What?” he made himself bite out the single word, and Trynair’s lips twisted.

    “Every one of those priests,” he said, and his voice was deadly now, each word precisely uttered, cut off as if with a knife, “was a member of the Order of Schueler. In fact, by an odd turn of chance, they were all servants of the Office of Inquisition.” He watched Clyntahn’s expression turning even darker, and there was something almost like . . . satisfaction mixed with the anger in his eyes. “And the reason they were hanged, Zhaspahr — the reason that a Charisian admiral executed sixteen consecrated priests of Mother Church as if they were common felons — is that the massacre of Charisians in Ferayd may have been carried out by Delferahkan troops, but it wasn’t at Delferahkan orders. It was carried out, as I feel sure you knew very well, under the de facto command of Father Styvyn Graivyr, Bishop Ernyst’s intendant, and fifteen other members of the Order of Schueler.”

    Clyntahn had opened his mouth once more. Now he paused, and Trynair glared at him.

    “You lied to us, Zhaspahr. Lied to all of us.”

    There was no question in Clyntahn’s mind who the “us” Trynair referred to might be. After all, all of the members of the Group of Four had . . . creatively reconstructed certain events for the rest of the vicarate.

    “And what makes you immediately jump to that conclusion?” he demanded, instead of denying the charge outright. “Are you that prepared to to take the word of schismatic heretics? It never occurred to you that they might have every motive in the world to lie about what happened and blame it on Mother Church in order to justify their own murderous actions?”

    “Of course the possibility occurred to me. Unfortunately, they sent King Zhames certain . . . documentary evidence. I’m sure there were already copies of most of it in your files, Zhaspahr.”

    “What do you mean?” A thin note of caution had crept into Clyntahn’s voice, and Trynair’s lips tightened.

    “You know perfectly well what I mean! They captured Graivyr’s files, Zhaspahr! The originals of the reports he and his fellow Inquisitors sent to you, detailing the role they played. In fact, I was quite astonished at how openly and honestly Graivyr admitted in his correspondence with you that the first shot was fired by one of the Delferahkans, not by the Charisians. Or the fact that as soon as the first shot was fired, his handpicked Schuelerites immediately took command of the detachments to which they were assigned and ordered — ordered, Zhaspahr — the massacre of Charisian women and children! My God, man! The idiot boasted about it, and you knew he had, and you never warned us!”

    “He didn’t ‘boast’ about it!” Clyntahn snapped back.

    “Oh, yes, he did!” Trynair retorted. “I’ve read the reports now, Zhaspahr. He was proud of what he did!”

    “Of course he was!” Clyntahn’s eyes flared with contempt. “They were heretics, Zahmsyn. Heretics, you understand? They were God’s own enemies, and they deserved exactly what they got!”

    “Some of them were only eight years old, Zhaspahr!” For the first time in Clyntahn’s memory, someone leaned across a desk and shouted at him. “How in Shan-wei’s name are you going to convince anyone with a working brain that an eight-year-old child was a heretic? Don’t be insane!”

    “They were the children of heretics,” Clyntahn grated. “Their parents were responsible for putting them in that position, not me! If you want to blame someone for their blood, blame Cayleb and Staynair!”

    “The Charisians are going to publish these reports, Zhaspahr. Do you understand what that means? They are going to publish the documents, the very words in which Graivyr and his . . . his accomplices wrote down, for the record, in their own words, exactly what the Charisians accused them of doing!” Trynair glared at his colleague. “I can’t think of a more effective piece of propaganda we could have handed them if we’ve tried!”

    “And I say let them publish!” Clyntahn snapped back. “I’ve already got confessions out of those bastards, too, some of them!”

    “Oh?” Trynair’s eyes were suddenly much colder. “Would those be the confessions Rayno tortured out of the Charisian prisoners you had secretly transferred to Zion without mentioning it to the rest of us?”

    Clyntahn twitched, and the Chancellor shook his head, his expression disgusted.

    “I know you’re the Grand Inquisitor, Zhaspahr. I know you have agents everywhere, more than I could possibly have. But don’t make the mistake of thinking that I’m stupid, or that I don’t have agents of my own. Of course I knew about your orders to Rayno!”

    “Then if you disagreed with what I was doing, you should have said so at the time!” Even Clyntahn seemed to realize his retort sounded remarkably lame, and Trynair snorted.

    “I’m not the Grand Inquisitor,” he pointed out. “As far as I was concerned, if you could get confessions out of some of them, it might at least have ameliorated the disaster I was already afraid Ferayd could be turning into. Of course, not even I had any reason to suspect the full magnitude of the catastrophe you and Graivyr were busy cooking up for us, did I?”



    Clyntahn sat back down, tipped back his chair, and glowered sullenly.

    “As you say, you aren’t the Grand Inquisitor; I am. And the bottom line, Zahmsyn, is that I’ll do whatever God requires of me as his Grand Inquisitor. If that means a few innocents are going to get caught up in bloodshed that was provoked by their own parents, then that’s going to happen. And before you tell me anything more about Graivyr or the other Inquisitors in Ferayd, let me point out to you that without the blasphemy, without the schism, being pushed by the goddamned Charisians, none of this would be happening! Forgive me if I seem just a bit more concerned with the future of God’s Church and the protection of the souls of God’s people than with the well-being of a few dozen Charisian heretics or their miserable brats!”

    For just a moment, Trynair looked as if he were literally about to explode. The Chancellor’s entire body seemed to quiver, and a neutral bystander might have been excused for thinking he saw lightning flickering from the ends of his hair. But then, visibly, he fought for calm.

    It’s just like you to blame every bit of this on the Charisians, Zhaspahr, he thought icily. It was you and your “final solution to the Charisian problem” which started all of this! I should never have let you push us all into accepting your proposals!

    Yet even as he thought that, a small voice somewhere deep inside was reminding him that he had let Clyntahn push — or, at least, draw — the rest of the Group of Four into doing things his way. And he’d let Clyntahn do that because it hadn’t seemed important enough to him not to let him do it. Which meant, however much he might try to worm out of admitting it, that the disaster which had resulted was as much his fault as Clyntahn’s.

    Of course, unlike Zhaspahr, I’ve at least been trying to make things better since then!

    Still, he couldn’t honestly pretend that at least some of the blood wasn’t on his own hands. And however furious he might be with Clyntahn just now, the fact remained that it could be dangerous — even fatal — to push the Grand Inquisitor and the Order of Schueler too far. Ostensibly, and possibly even actually, Trynair’s power and authority as Chancellor was greater than Clyntahn’s. Even the Office of Inquisition was legally bound to accept the direction of the Grand Vicar, after all, and Grand Vicar Erek would direct the Inquisition to do whatever Trynair decided needed to be done. But if it came to an open showdown between him and Clyntahn, it was far from certain that the Order of Schueler would bother to remember to whom it owed formal obedience.

    “Listen to me, Zhaspahr,” he said finally, his voice calmer than it had been since the conversation began. “This entire episode in Ferayd has the potential to do us enormous damage. It’s got to be handled very carefully from this point out.”

    “Like Hell it does!” Clyntahn’s native belligerence was rousing as surprise began to ease a bit. “They’ve murdered priests, Zahmsyn. They can call it whatever they want, but the fact is that they’ve killed men consecrated to the service of God! Yes, it’s a pity children were killed in the original confrontation. And, yes, servants of the Office of Inquisition were involved. But we’re in the midst of a fight for the very survival of Mother Church. This is no time to handle things ‘very carefully!’ It’s a time to counterattack. They don’t have any proof of the authenticity of the documents they’re claiming to have. Call them on it. Denounce their claims as lies and convict them of murdering priests! Then go ahead and call for Jihad — Proclaim Holy War and burn out the canker of rebellion and apostasy and heresy in Charis once and for all!”

    “No.” Trynair said the single word softly, but there was nothing at all soft about his flint-hard eyes.

    “Damn it, what are you waiting for?!” Clyntahn demanded. “For the fucking Charisians to invade the Temple Lands?!”

    “If it weren’t for what just happened in Ferayd, I’d be a lot more willing to proclaim Holy War,” Trynair said bitingly. “Unfortunately, we have a little problem just now.”

    “What problem?” Clyntahn half-sneered.

    “The problem that while they may not have ‘proof’ of the authenticity of the documents in their possession, they do have the documents themselves, don’t they? Trust me, when they publish those documents abroad there are going to be enough people — especially sitting on various thrones scattered around the planet — who recognize the truth when they hear it. My office is the one in charge of Mother Church’s diplomacy, Zhaspahr. Believe me, I know what’s going to go through the minds of all those throne-sitters, and we aren’t going to like it very much. Because, Zhaspahr, they’ll also recognize what happened to Ferayd after King Zhames did exactly what we instructed him to do for what it was. They’re going to see these hangings as completely justified, whatever we may say, or whatever they may say openly.”


    “So how many Greyghor Stohnars do you want to create, Zhaspahr?”

    Trynair’s question was sharp, and Clyntahn paused abruptly. Greyghor Stohnar, Lord Protector of the Republic of Siddarmark, and his predecessors had been the worst nightmare of the Group of Four and their immediate predecessors for years. There was no doubt in Zhaspahr Clyntahn’s mind that Stohnar would gleefully have overthrown the Church of God Awaiting in his own lands if he’d imagined for a moment that he could make the attempt and survive. For his part, Trynair had never shared Clyntahn’s suspicion that Stohnar was actively seeking a pretext to break with Mother Church. His fear had been simply that someday some difference of opinion between Siddarmark and the Church would spill over into open confrontation whether either side wanted it to or not. But in its own way, that difference between his own and Clyntahn’s view of Stohnar only lent his question even more point.



    “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?”



    Clearly, Clyntahn didn’t want to do anything of the sort, and Trynair smiled thinly.

    “I didn’t think you would.”

    “And we avoid this precisely how?” Clyntahn demanded, his face still dark and his eyes more suspicious than ever.

    “We hold our own inquiry, and we conclude that the Charisians were right,” Trynair said flatly.


    Trynair didn’t even flinch. It wasn’t as if Clyntahn’s instant, explosive response were something he hadn’t anticipated all along.

    “We don’t have any choice, Zhaspahr. Either we hold the inquiry, and at the end of it we condemn Graivyr’s actions, or else Wylsynn and the other waverers on the Council — not to mention secular rulers like Stohnar — realize we’re whitewashing them. We can’t afford that, Zhaspahr. Especially not in light of the evidence Cayleb and his Charisians are prepared to present. Besides, it’s not as if Graivyr was still alive, is it? He’s dead. Nothing we say or do is going to affect him in any way, and even if we end up condemning his actions, we won’t be obliged to punish him; Cayleb’s already taken care of that little chore for us. Besides, think of all the points we’ll get. Faced with proof of wrongdoing by those pledged to Mother Church, even if that proof came from heretics and apostates, we will have acted.”

    Clyntahn frowned, but at least he wasn’t shouting anymore, and Trynair pressed his advantage.

    “Let’s be clear on one thing here, Zhaspahr. I realize there were special circumstances in Ferayd’s case, but you realize as well as I do that priests actually guilty of the ‘crimes’ Charis has accused them of are subject under Church law to exactly the punishment they received. In fact, according to the Book of Schueler, they were liable to far worse punishment. I know, I know!” He waved his hands as Clinton’s started to fire back. “It should have been done through a proper Church tribunal, and the extenuating circumstances ought to have been taken into consideration. But the fact remains that, aside from the way in which Church law was profaned when a secular authority judged and executed ordained priests, what happened to Graivyr and the others is completely in accordance with charges framed the way Cayleb’s framed these charges. We couldn’t deny that even if we wanted to, and, frankly, we don’t want to. Not at this moment.”

    From the look in Clyntahn’s eyes, he, for one, obviously didn’t agree with that last statement. Not deep inside, at any rate. But he clamped his jaw on any protests, and Trynair continued.

    “We’re not going to be ready to take the war to Charis until our new fleet is built and manned,” he pointed out. “If we were to declare Holy War tomorrow, it wouldn’t bring the day we could actually begin operations even an hour nearer. But what we can do with that time is use it to improve our own position before the day we can declare Jihad. Convene a special commission to investigate what happened in Ferayd, Zhaspahr. Look at all of the evidence, including anything from Charis. And if your special commission should conclude that Graivyr did what Charis accuses him of doing — and what you and I both know he actually did — say so. Publicly acknowledge what happened, express contrition on behalf of of the Office of Inquisition, possibly even impose a public penance upon yourself — even upon me and the other two — for permitting it to happen. In the end, we’ll emerge with even more moral authority because we dared to admit wrongdoing within the Church at a time like this.”

    “I don’t like it.” Clyntahn appeared to be oblivious to the fact that he was repeating something Trynair had already said several times. “I don’t like it a bit. This is a time for strength, not for weakness!”

    “It’s a time for guile as well as for open confrontation,” Trynair countered.

    “It will delay the final confrontation.”

    “Not necessarily. Or, at least, not for long. Remember, we still need to build a navy before we can do anything effective against Charis, anyway.”

    Clyntahn fumed silently for several seconds, then drew a deep breath.

    “You really think this is necessary?”

    “It may not be absolutely necessary,” Trynair acknowledged, “but it’s the best way I can think of to defuse Charis’ attack. For that matter, you know I’ve always thought it would be a mistake to declare Holy War any farther in advance of the ability to take that war to Charis than we can help. I know you and Allayn haven’t agreed with me entirely on that point. And I know Rhobair finds the entire notion of Holy War frightening. This is the best way I can think of to control when and where that declaration gets made. It leaves the initiative in our hands, and it allows us to stake out a claim to the moral high ground. After all, we’ll have shown the world we’re willing to consider genuine charges that servants of Mother Church — as individuals, Zhaspahr, not as Mother Church herself — are capable of criminal acts. And when we condemn Graivyr and the others, it will be one of those ‘more in sorrow than in anger’ affairs. In the end, we’ll actually be able to turn some of this at least partly to our own advantage.”

    “If you can call that an ‘advantage,’” Clyntahn muttered. He sat silently for a well over a minute, gazing sightlessly at his own blotter, then shrugged.

    “Very well, Zahmsyn,” he said. “We’ll try it your way. As you say,” he showed his teeth in a white smile that contained very little humor, “we’ll have proved our willingness to go the extra mile, to be sure of our ground before we make charges or allegations.”

    “Exactly,” Trynair agreed, making no particular effort to hide his relief at Clyntahn’s agreement. “Trust me, if we can establish that, get it fixed in everyone’s mind, we’ll have an enormous advantage in the battle between our propagandists and theirs.”

    “Well, in that case,” Clyntahn said, “I suppose it’s time I had Father Dahnyld start pulling copies of Graivyr’s reports. I’ll need them for the investigation, won’t I?”

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