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By Schism Rent Asunder: Section Fifteen

       Last updated: Friday, December 28, 2007 18:43 EST



Erayk Dynnys' Cell and the Plaza of Martyrs,
The Temple of God,
City of Zion,
the Temple Lands

    Erayk Dynnys used his silver-headed cane to lever himself to his feet as he rose from the kneeler before the simple icon of Langhorne. The knee which had been half-crippled since his fall a year and a half earlier had been giving him even more trouble, of late. Not, he reflected, looking out his narrow window, that it was going to be a problem much longer.

    His lips twitched in what might almost have been a smile as he stepped back from the window and examined the small, spartan cell which had been his home for the past three and a half months. Its bare, undressed stone walls, narrow, barred windows, and thick, securely locked door were a far cry from the luxurious apartment he had enjoyed as the Archbishop of Charis, before his other, more serious fall. And yet....

    He turned to the small desk under the single window and settled himself into the chair behind it. Ever since his imprisonment, the only reading material he had been permitted was a copy of the Holy Writ and the twelve thick volumes of The Insights.

    He touched the golden scepter of Langhorne, embossed into the finely tooled leather cover of the Writ. He had not, he conceded, spent very much time reading that book over the last few decades. Consulting it when he required a specific passage for an episcopal decree, perhaps. Scanning for the scriptural basis for a pastoral message, or one of his infrequent sermons. But he hadn't truly read it since he'd gained the ruby ring of a bishop. It hadn't been irrelevant, exactly, but he'd studied it exhaustively in seminary, preached from it regularly as an under-priest. He'd already known what it contained, hadn't he? Of course he had! And the duties and responsibilities of a bishop, and even more of an archbishop, demanded too much daily attention. There'd been no time to read, and his priorities had been those of his office.

    It made a fine excuse, didn't it, Erayk? he asked himself as his fingertip stroked the scepter which was the emblem of the order to which he had belonged . . . until it cast him forth. It's a pity you didn't spend more time with it. At least then you might have been a bit better prepared for this moment.

    And perhaps it wouldn't have made any difference after all,  for the Writ and The Insights both assumed that those called to serve as shepherds in God's name would be worthy of their calling.

    And Erayk Dynnys had not been.

    I wonder what would happen if Clyntahn made all the Church's bishops and archbishops spend a few months alone with the Writ on a diet of bread and water? he thought whimsically. Probably not anything he'd like! He has enough trouble on his hands just with the Wylsynns without adding an entire flock of bishops who actually read the Writ.

    Well, it wasn't going to matter very much longer to Erayk Dynnys either way. All too soon, he would know what God had truly expected of him in his life. It would not, he was grimly certain, be an accounting he would enjoy hearing, for whatever it was God had expected of him, he had failed. Failed as all men must who presumed to claim to speak for God when, in fact, they had forgotten Him.

    Dynnys had done what he could to amend his failures, since his fall from power, yet it was pitifully little against what he ought to have been doing for years. He knew that now. And he knew that even though the charges brought against him by the Grand Inquisitor were false in every particular, what was about to happen to all of Safehold was truly as much his fault as that of any other living man.

    Much to his surprise, the only archbishop who had dared to visit him since his arrest had been Zhasyn Cahnyr, the lean, almost stringy Archbishop of Glacierheart. They'd detested one another cordially for years, and yet Cahnyr had been the only one of his fellows who had called upon him, daring the wrath of Clyntahn and the Group of Four to pray with Dynnys for the redemption of his soul.

    It was odd. Cahnyr had been permitted to see him only half a dozen times, and he had been allowed to remain no longer than an hour on any occasion. And yet, Dynnys had found himself drawing immense comfort from those visits. Perhaps it had been because the archbishop was the only human being he'd seen since his imprisonment who had not been interrogating, threatening, or haranguing him. He'd simply been there, the only member of the Church's entire hierarchy prepared to discharge his priestly office by ministering to the soul of one of the Inquisition's prisoners.

    His example had shamed Dynnys, and all the more so because of the contempt Dynnys had once felt for the pastoral "simplemindedness" of Cahnyr's approach to his episcopal duties.

    I could've learned something from him, if I'd only bothered to listen. Well, I've still learned something, and as the Writ says, true knowledge and understanding never come too late for the profit of a man's soul.

    He opened the Writ to one of the marked passages, from the ninth verse of the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Langhorne.

    "For how will a man profit if he gains all the world's power, yet loses his soul? And how much will he pay, how much gold will he bring, for his soul? Ponder that well, for whoever is ashamed of the teachings God has sent through my hand, that man also will I be ashamed of on the day he stands before the God who created him, and I will neither hold forth my hand as his shield nor speak for him in that dread judgment."

    That, he thought, was a passage Zhaspahr Clyntahn might profitably spend a few hours contemplating.

    He turned the book's pages, listening to the crisp flutter of the thin, expensive paper. There were so many things in that book, so much he would not have time enough to ponder as it deserved. And there were a few things missing, as well.

    He reached the end of the Book of Chihiro. By ancient tradition, there was always a blank page between Chihiro and the beginning of Hastings, but there was no blank page in Dynnys' copy of the Writ. Not anymore, at any rate.

    He ran an index finger down the gutter between printed pages, feeling the raggedness where a single unprinted page had been removed, then drew a deep breath and closed the book once again.



    He sat back, and wondered if Adorai had received any of his letters. He'd considered writing to others among his onetime friends, or to the other members of his family, but decided not to. None of them had dared to emulate Cahnyr, and none of them had so much as spoken in his defense. It had scarcely come as any surprise, given the charges against him and the identity of his accuser, yet that had made his sense of abandonment hurt no less. That wasn't the reason he hadn't written to them, however. Whether they'd abandoned him or not, they were still his family, and he'd known every word of every letter he might write would be scrutinized by the Inquisition. Given the near-panic which had gripped the entire Temple since word of Charis' smashing naval victories — and even more, Staynair's letter to the Grand Vicar — had reached Zion, Clyntahn would be looking for additional victims. Searching for additional blood with which to placate his fellow vicars. Dynnys had no intention of helping him to offer up the other members of his own family simply because of some incautious word, some phrase which could be taken out of context, in a letter from him.

    But he did hope that at least one of his letters had reached Adorai. He doubted any of them had, whatever the Inquisitors might have promised him. After all, what promise was binding to an apostate heretic? To a man convicted — and Dynnys had been convicted long before any formal trial — of selling his protection to the very spawn of Shan-wei? Of deliberately lying to the Council of Vicars and to the Grand Inquisitor to conceal his own sins and the even greater sins being practiced by the heretics and blasphemers of his fallen archbishopric? Why should any of his letters be delivered to anyone?

    They'd taken all of them, though, whether to deliver, to somehow use against him, or simply to dispose of unsent. And they'd denied him any paper, except to write those letters upon. But they hadn't realized he had another source of paper. Nor had they suspected that Zhasyn Cahnyr had been more than simply a visitor. That Glacierheart's primate had very quietly volunteered to take messages from him.

    At first, Dynnys had suspected some sort of complex trap, organized by the Inquisition. That notion had lasted perhaps all of thirty seconds before he realized how patently absurd it was. At that point, he'd begun to worry about the deadly risk Cahnyr had offered to run for him, and he'd turned the archbishop down with a smile he hoped told the other man how unspeakably grateful he'd felt.

    But then, as he'd studied the Writ with newly refreshed eyes, and especially as he'd perused the sections of The Insights written by Grand Vicar Evyrahard, he'd realized it wasn't that simple. Not just a question of Cahnyr's carrying letters which might somehow serve Dynnys' own needs or ends.

    Evyrahard's had been a short grand vicarate, and as Dynnys pored over his brief contribution to The Insights from the perspective of his own current plight, he'd realized exactly why that had happened. Saint Evyrahard could not have been a welcome presence in the Temple's corridors of power. Clearly, he'd had no notion how "the game" was played, and, equally clearly, his efforts at reform had made him dangerous enemies in plenty. Indeed, Dynnys suspected that much of Clyntahn's hatred for the entire Wylsynn family was an almost institutional thing, going clear back to Evyrahard the Just's grand vicarate.

    And as he'd read Saint Evyrahard's century-old words, and remembered the clear-eyed commitment and faith of that long-dead Grand Vicar's distant grandson, Paityr, he'd recognized something he himself had never truly had. Something he wished desperately had been his. And in that recognition, he'd realized there were, indeed, two letters he needed delivered. Two letters no Inquisitor could ever be permitted to see. And so, he'd found his notepaper in the Writ itself. He couldn't believe God or the Archangel Langhorne would begrudge him its use, not given the task for which he had needed it.

    Cahnyr hadn't so much as flinched when Dynnys handed him the tightly folded piece of paper when they clasped hands in greeting at his next visit. Dynnys was certain he'd seen the other man's cheek muscles tighten, seen the sudden flicker of anxiety in Cahnyr's eyes, but all the archbishop had done was to slip the note unobtrusively into a cassock pocket.

    Despite everything else that had happened, Dynnys had no fear Cahnyr might have delivered his note to the Inquisition's hand, or betrayed his confidence. No. Here at the very end of his life, Erayk Dynnys had finally met the duties of his office, and he had prayed nightly that Zherald Ahdymsyn and Paityr Wylsynn would heed the final directives he'd sent them.

    It wasn't very much, not at the end of everything, after a life he'd wasted so profligately. It was simply the only thing he could have done.

    He folded his hands before him, leaning his forehead against them in silent prayer. He didn't know how long he sat there, praying, before the sudden, loud "clack" of his cell door's lock yanked him up out of his state of meditation.

    He straightened slowly, with as much dignity as he could muster, and turned to face the two upper-priests in the flame-and-sword-badged purple of the Order of Schueler. The Inquisitors wore the stark black stoles and gloves of the executioners they were, and their eyes were pitiless and cold. The half-dozen Temple Guardsmen behind them were expressionless, their faces masks for whatever they might have been feeling, but there was no doubting the satisfaction and icy hatred in the Inquisitors' stony gazes.

    "It is time," the senior of them told him flatly, and he nodded.

    "Yes, it is," he replied with a calmness which astounded him. He thought he might have seen surprise flicker in the backs of the Schuelerites' eyes, as well, and the possibility gave him a curious satisfaction.

    One of the guardsmen stepped forward with a heavy set of manacles. His eyes were reluctant, almost apologetic, and Dynnys looked at the senior Inquisitor.

    "Are those truly necessary?" he asked.

    The Inquisitor returned his gaze for several long, taut moments. Then, slowly, he shook his head.

    "Thank you," Dynnys said, and stepped forward, leaning on his cane as he took his place at the center of the hollow square of guardsmen. It wasn't exactly as if he might somehow have miraculously run away and escaped his fate simply because they hadn't chained his hands. Besides, there was the . . . agreement he'd struck with Clyntahn to be considered, wasn't there?

    "Shall we go, Father?" he asked, looking back at the senior Inquisitor.



    It was a beautiful morning, the sewing woman called Ailysa thought. More than a bit cool, as May often was, here in the City of Zion, with a brisk breeze blowing in off Lake Pei, but filled with sunlight. The vast, beautiful Plaza of Martyrs was drenched in that rich, golden radiance, and the sounds of the early-morning city were hushed, stilled. Even the birds and wyverns seemed subdued, muted, she thought.

    But that was almost certainly just her imagination. God's winged creatures had no concept of what was about to happen here on this beautiful spring morning. If they had, they would have fled as quickly as they could fly.

    Unlike them, Ailysa knew exactly what was going to happen, and her stomach muscles were tight with tension and incipient nausea. Ahnzhelyk had been right about how horrible this day was going to be, but Ailysa had meant what she'd said. She had to be here, however dreadful it might prove to be.

    The crowd was vast, filling a good half of the enormous plaza before the Temple's soaring colonnade. She'd tried to decide what that crowd's mood was. She'd failed.

    Some of them — many of them — were as silent as she herself was, standing there in their jackets or shawls, waiting. Others chattered to one another as if this were to be some sort of sporting event, yet the very brightness of their chatter, their smiles, said otherwise. And then there were the others, the ones who waited in a silent anticipation fueled by rage and fired by a savage demand for the Church's justice.

    Justice, she thought. This wouldn't be justice even if he'd actually done the things he was accused of!

    A sudden stir warned her, and she looked up, biting her lower lip, as the procession of guardsmen, Inquisitors, and, of course, the victim appeared on the Temple's steps and began the descent to the platform which had been erected so that the spectators could be sure they wouldn't miss a single grisly detail.

    Voices began to cry out from the crowd, from the ones who'd waited in anticipation for so long. Jeers, catcalls, curses. All the pent-up hatred, all the bitter-tasting fear which Charis' rebellion against Mother Church had awakened, was in those half-inarticulate screams of fury.

    The ex-archbishop appeared not to notice. He was too far away for Ailysa to see his face clearly, but his shoulders were square, his spine straight, as he limped along on his cane in the plain, scratchy burlap robe of a condemned heretic. He carried himself well, she thought, her heart swelling with a pride she was surprised to feel even now, and the bright sunlight wavered through the sudden welling of her tears.

    He and his guards and executioners reached the platform where all of the hideous tools had been assembled to carry out the penalties assigned for heresy and blasphemy by the Archangel Schueler. His stride seemed to hesitate for just a moment as he stepped up onto it, and if it had, who should blame him? Even from here, Ailysa could see the heat-shimmer above the braziers whose glowing coals embraced the waiting irons and pincers, and those were but one of the horrors awaiting him.

    If he did hesitate, it was only for a moment. Then he moved forward once again, taking his place before the waiting, shrieking multitude who had come to see him die.

    Another figure appeared. As the executioners, he wore the dark purple of the Order of Schueler, but he also wore the orange priest's cap of a vicar, and Ailysa's mouth tightened as she recognized Vicar Zhaspahr Clyntahn.

    Of course, she thought. This is the first time in the entire history of Mother Church that one of her own archbishops has been put to death for heresy and blasphemy. How could the Grand Inquisitor not appear? And how could a man like Clyntahn possibly stay away from the judicial murder of the sacrifice for his own crimes?

    The Grand Inquisitor unrolled an archaic, formal scroll, and began to read from it. Ailysa tuned him out. She had no need to listen to a recitation of the alleged crimes for which Dynnys was to be executed. Not when she knew that the one crime of which he was truly guilty was being the Group of Four's perfect scapegoat.

    It took quite a while for Clyntahn to finish the lengthy litany of condemnation, but he came to the end at last, and turned to Dynnys.

    "You have heard the judgment and sentence of Holy Mother Church, Erayk Dynnys," the vicar intoned, his voice carrying well, despite the breeze. "Have you anything to say before that sentence is carried out?"



    Dynnys looked out across the vast plaza, and a corner of his mind wandered how many times he'd walked across those same stones, passed those same statues, those same magnificent sculptures and fountains? How many times had he passed under the Temple's colonnade, taking its majesty and beauty for granted because he had so many "more important" things to think about?

    His thoughts had floated back through those other days, other visits to this place, as Clyntahn read off the list of offenses for which he was to die. Like Ailysa, if he'd only known, he had no need to actually listen to them. He knew what they were, and as the Inquisition had demanded, he had duly confessed to all of them. There'd been no point refusing to. Eventually, he knew, they would have brought him to confession. That was something at which the Inquisition was well skilled, and even if he'd somehow managed not to confess, it wouldn't have changed his fate.

    Still, there could be one mercy yet. He remembered the upper-priest's cold promise, the message from Clyntahn himself which the Grand Inquisitor was unwilling to deliver in person. Confession, and the proper public admission of his guilt, would buy him a strangling garrote and a quick death before the full catalog of punishments the Archangel Schueler had decreed were visited upon his no longer living body.

    Dynnys had understood Clyntahn's minion perfectly.

    Public contrition, the admission of guilt and entreaty for forgiveness, were an important part of the Inquisition's punishment of sin. God's mercy was infinite. Even on the lip of hell itself, a soul touched by true remorse, true contrition, might yet find forgiveness and sanctuary in Him. And so tradition decreed that anyone condemned before the Inquisition was entitled to make public repentance and to recant his sins  before execution of his sentence.

    It was a tradition which was sometimes ignored. Dynnys had always known that, even before his own fall from grace. To his shame, he'd never been so much as tempted to speak out against that practice. It hadn't been his business, and the Inquisition was jealous of its responsibilities and prerogatives. If it chose to silence some criminal lest he use his final moments to spew forth protests of innocence, accusations of torture, fresh declarations of heresy or fresh blasphemies, then surely that was the Inquisition's business.

    But it was also a tradition the Inquisition had learned to use well for its own advantage. A prisoner who acknowledged his guilt, besought forgiveness, proclaimed his penitence, and thanked Mother Church — and the Order of Schueler — for saving his immortal soul, even if it had to come at the expense of his mortal body, proved the justice of the Inquisition. It was the demonstration that no one had acted in haste, that true justice and the holy purpose of God had been duly and properly served.

    And so, Dynnys had given the Inquisitor his word. Had promised to say what was "proper. "

    To give Clyntahn what he'd known the Group of Four wanted from him, obedient to their final script.



    "Yes, Your Grace." Ailysa's stomach clinched more tightly still as Dynnys faced Clyntahn on the platform. "Of your kind permission and Mother Church's grace, I would take this final opportunity to express my contrition and acknowledge my guilt before God and man, seeking God's forgiveness."

    "If that is your true desire, then speak, and may God hear your words and measure the truth in your heart," Clyntahn replied.

    "Thank you, Your Grace."

    Dynnys' voice wasn't as deep, or as powerful, as Clyntahn's, yet it carried well against the breeze. He moved closer to the lip of the platform, leaning on his cane, gazing out across the crowd which had stilled its own shouts into silence as it awaited his public admission of guilt. The grim implements of torture loomed behind him, pregnant with their promise of cleansing agony, but he seemed unaware of them now.

    Ailysa looked up at him, wishing she dared to come closer, yet already half-sick with what she knew was about to happen.

    And then, he began to speak.



    "Your Grace, you have asked if I have anything to say before I die for my crimes, and I do. I freely admit my most grievous failure in my duties as an archbishop of Mother Church. It was my solemn charge to be both shepherd and father to the flock Mother Church had entrusted to me in God's name. It was my responsibility, and my privilege, to safeguard their souls. To teach them aright, to keep them in the way of God and the teachings of Langhorne. To discipline, as a father must, when discipline is necessary, knowing that only in that way can those committed to his charge be brought to proper understanding in God's unending love in the fullness of time.

    "Those were my responsibilities to Mother Church and to the souls of the Archbishopric of Charis, and I have most grievously failed to meet them."

    Dynnys never looked away from the crowd in the plaza. Never so much as glanced at Clyntahn, lest it be obvious he was seeking the Grand Inquisitor's approval of all he said. Yet even without turning his head, he could see Clyntahn from the corner of his eye, and the satisfaction hiding behind the vicar's solemn expression was obvious. He knew what was coming next, for he had Dynnys' promise.

    Too bad, Your Grace, the condemned ex-archbishop thought with a sort of grim, cold, terrified exaltation. Some things are more important than what you want . . . and why should any condemned and apostate heretic keep a promise to a lying bastard like you?

    "A true shepherd dies for his flock. As the Archangel Langhorne himself said, 'There is no greater love in any man than his willingness to die for others,' and as Charis' archbishop, I ought to have been willing to listen to Langhorne's words. I was not. I feared the personal consequences of my failures as a child of God and an archbishop of Mother Church. And so, when Vicar Zahmsyn came to me, expressing the concerns, the suspicions and fears, which the reports of others had aroused in Charis' case, I did not tell him that each and every one of those reports was a lie."



    Ailysa's head jerked up in astonishment. Surely, she hadn't heard him correctly! He couldn't possibly have said –

    Then her eyes darted to Clyntahn, saw the Grand Inquisitor's sudden dark-faced fury, and knew she hadn't misunderstood a thing.



    "Instead of telling him the allegations of heresy, apostasy, and violations of the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng were lies, false reports spread by Charis' enemies and carried throughout the Temple by corrupt priests of Mother Church in return for gold from those same enemies, I promised to investigate. To make 'examples' of those falsely accused of sin. And I fully intended to keep those promises."

    Dynnys forced himself to continue to speak calmly and distinctly. Sheer stunned disbelief seemed to have paralyzed Clyntahn and his Inquisitors, at least briefly, and Dynnys looked out into the equally stunned silence of the Plaza of Martyrs and made his voice ring out clearly.

    "For myself, I amply deserve the penalty I am to suffer this day. Had I discharged my duties to my archbishopric, thousands might not have already died, and more thousands might not be about to die. But whatever I may deserve, Your Grace, whatever punishment I may merit, the souls you and the Council of Vicars entrusted to my care are, as you know full well, innocent of the crimes you have charged against them. Their only crime, their only sin, has been to defend themselves and the families they love against  rape, murder, and destruction at the orders of the corrupt and greedy –"

    One of the Inquisitors reacted at last, spinning around to Dynnys and driving a gloved fist into the ex-archbishop's face. The steel studs reinforcing the glove's fingers pulped Dynnys' lips, and the blow's savage force broke his jaw in at least three places. He went to his knees, more than half-stunned, and Clyntahn pointed down at him in a rigid gesture of anathema.

    "Blasphemer! How dare you raise your voice against the will and plan of God Himself?! Servant of Shan-wei, you prove yourself, your guilt, and the damnation awaiting you with every word you speak! We cast you out, we commit you to the outer darkness, to the corner of Hell reserved for your dark mistress! We expunge your name from the children of God, and strike you forever from the company of redeemed souls!"

    He stood back, and the upper-priests seized the semi-conscious, bleeding man who had once been the Archbishop of Charis and yanked him to his feet. They ripped the burlap robe from his body, stripping him naked before the stunned, mesmerized crowd, and then they dragged him towards the waiting instruments of torture.



    The sewing woman known as Ailysa pressed both hands to her trembling mouth as she watched the executioners chaining their victim's unresisting body to the rack. She was weeping so hard she could scarcely see, but the sobs were silent, too deep, too terrible, to be shared.

    She heard the first deep, hoarse grunt of agony, knew it was only a matter of time before grunts became screams, and even now, she could scarcely believe what he'd done, what he'd said.

    Despite all she'd said to Ahnzhelyk, she had never wanted anything more than she wanted to flee this place of gathering horror. Of horror made still worse by the final gesture of Erayk Dynnys' life.

    But she couldn't. She wouldn't. She would stay to the very end, and, as she had told Ahnzhelyk, she would know what to tell her sons. His sons.

    Sons, she thought, who need never feel shame for the name they bore. Not now — not ever. Never again after this.

    For the first time in too many years, the sewing woman known as Ailysa felt a deep, fierce pride in the man she had married, and whose agonizing death she stood to witness for her sons and for history.

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