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By Schism Rent Asunder: Section Thirty

       Last updated: Monday, March 31, 2008 07:59 EDT




Royal Patent Office,
City of Tellesberg,
Kingdom of Charis

    " . . . and this is your office, Father."

    Father Paityr Wylsynn followed Father Bryahn into the large, square room and looked around. It was smaller than his old office in the Archbishop's Palace, but Wylsynn had always thought that chamber was larger and rather more magnificent than he required, anyway. This one was more than big enough, with windows in two walls and a skylight to admit plenty of light. The chair behind the desk looked comfortable, too.

    "I trust this is satisfactory, Father?" Father Bryahn asked after moment.

    "Um?" Wylsynn shook himself. "I mean, certainly, Father Bryahn," he told Archbishop Maikel's aide. "It's more than adequate."

    "I'm glad. We have a half-dozen trained clerks for you to choose from for your personal assistants, as well. I had them sent over this morning, and they're waiting for you to interview them. Feel free to choose any — or, for that matter, all – of them."

    "The Archbishop is most generous," Wylsynn said, and Ushyr shrugged.

    "His Eminence simply wants you to have the tools you require, Father."

    "Well, he's certainly seen to it that I will." Wylsynn walked across the office to examine the neatly shelved volumes in the floor-to-ceiling bookcase behind the waiting desk. He ran his eye across the printed spines, nodding unconsciously in approval. He had all the reference works he could possibly need.

    "In that case, Father, I'll take myself out of your way and let you begin settling in," Ushyr told him. "If you discover that there's anything we've overlooked, please notify us at once."

    "I will," Wylsynn assured him, and walked him to the door of his new office.

    Ushyr departed, and Wylsynn walked slowly back around to seat himself behind the desk. He looked around the office once more, but he didn't actually see it at all. He was too busy asking himself if he truly knew what he was doing to worry about furnishings or office space.

    That sort of second-guessing was rare for Paityr Wylsynn. From the day he'd told his father he was prepared to accept his posting to Charis, he'd always felt he was in the "right" place. Not necessarily a comfortable place, but the place he needed to be to accomplish whatever it was God desired from him. Until, of course, Charis had decided to bid defiance to not simply the Group of Four, but the entire hierarchy of Mother Church.

    The young priest closed his eyes, reaching out to that still, quiet place at the core of his being where he kept his faith. He touched it once more, and a welcome sense of peace spread out from it. His worries and concerns didn't magically disappear, but the assurance that he would be able to deal with each of them as they arose filled him.

    Of course, he thought, as he opened his eyes once again, "deal with" isn't exactly the same thing as being positive you're doing the right thing, is it, Paityr?

    The truth, he reflected, was that he was far less concerned by his decision to accept Maikel Staynair's authority — spiritual and secular — as the Archbishop of Charis than he was by this entire notion of a "patent office."

    When the idea had first been explained to him, he'd been a little perplexed. Register new ideas and techniques? Give the people who came up with them effective ownership of them and require others to pay them for using them? Absurd! Worse, the very concept had reeked of deliberately stoked innovation, and that was something no member of the Order of Schueler was likely to feel truly comfortable with. Still, he had to admit that he'd been unable to find anything in the Writ or The Commentaries which would have forbidden such an office. That might well be because it had simply never occurred to anyone that someone might even consider creating it, but the fact remained that there was no scriptural prohibition.

    And if these people are going to survive, they need innovative solutions to the problem of how someone outnumbered eight or nine-to-one defends himself.

    That grim thought sent a familiar chill through him. Part of him wanted to insist it was only a rationalization, a way to justify an unhealthy and spiritually dangerous fascination with new knowledge. Yet whenever that temptation arose, he found himself recalling the horrendous, unprovoked attack which Charis had somehow managed to fend off.

    Surely God didn't want or expect His children to stand helpless while their families were murdered and their homes were burned over their heads! Innocent men had every right to seek the means to protect themselves against someone else's attack, and no matter what the Churh might officially say, Wylsynn knew the attack on Charis had been totally unjustified. Not that he was particularly surprised by the claims to the contrary coming out of Zion and the Temple. Saddened and disgusted, yes, but not surprised.  Despite his own deep and abiding faith, Paityr Wylsynn had never had any illusions about the corruption of the Group of Four and of the Council of Vicars in general.

    No, that isn't quite right, he told himself harshly. You did cherish at least some illusions, didn't you? Like the illusion that not even the Grand Inquisitor would set out to destroy an entire kingdom just because it irritated him.

    He'd thought, prayed, and meditated in the wake of that decision of Clyntahn's, and he'd finally come to the conclusion that what was happening here in Charis was God's will. However uncomfortable, however . . . worrisome, he might find Archbishop Maikel's beliefs, there was no question in his mind that the Archbishop of Charis stood far closer to the mind of God than the Grand Inquisitor. Maikel Staynair might be mistaken; he was not evil . . . and that was no longer something Wylsynn could say of Zhaspahr Clyntahn and the rest of the Group of Four. And, truth to tell, Wylsynn had become steadily more confident that Staynair wasn't mistaken, either. The implications of that, and the monumental changes in Wylsynn's own understanding of scripture and doctrine inherent in them, were frightening, but God had never promised doing His will would be easy.

    And so, Father Paityr Wylsynn, Intendant of Charis, ordained  priest of the Order of Schueler, found himself here, sitting in an office in a building specifically dedicated to encouraging people to think of new ways to do things.

    He shook his head, lips twitching in a half-smile, at the thought. Then he stood and crossed to one of his new windows, gazing out it into the afternoon.

    The Patent Office had been housed in a building which belonged to Baron Ironhill's ministry. The Keeper of the Purse had rather more to do in Charis than in many of Safehold's other kingdoms, and Ironhill had moved his main staff to a considerably larger building the previous year. This one might have been to small for Ironhill's needs, yet it had a plethora of offices — many of them no larger than a moderately small closet — in which the new Patent Office (which also belonged to Ironhill's ministry, at least for the moment) could tuck away the innumerable clerks it was likely to require. It was also surrounded by mature nearoak and pine trees, which provided a welcome shade.

    And the low wall around it was patrolled, night and day, by rifle-armed Marines.

    Wylsynn's mouth tightened as he watched the afternoon sun glitter on the bayonets of the Marines stationed by the Patent Office gates. Their presence — along with what had happened to the Royal College's original home — was a grim reminder that not everyone agreed with his own assessment of events here in Charis. The thought that he had to be protected from people who thought of themselves as loyal sons of Mother Church was . . . disturbing. But so was the fate the Inquisition had dealt out to Erek Dynnys.

    No easy answers, he thought. The Writ says God tests those he loves, and I've always believed that's true. But usually, what he wants of me is simple enough to recognize quickly. Not easy to do, maybe, but simple enough to recognize.

    He drew a deep breath. It was time to put the second-guessing aside. He was here not to encourage innovation — God knew there were already plenty of Charisians energetically doing that! — but to insure that none of the newly patented processes or concepts violated the Proscriptions of Jwo-jeng. That much, he could do with no qualms at all.

    And what do you do when you've seen so many new processes and concepts flow across your desk that the Proscriptions began to erode even for you, Paityr? he asked himself. How do you say "Stop" after you've become part of telling people that change is good? His Eminence is right, On Faith and Obedience does say there are times when change is good, even necessary. But if this is one of those times, where will it end . . . and who will you be when you get there?

    Those were questions he had no answers to . . . yet. But there were times when any man, especially a priest, simply had to trust God to bring him to the proper final destination.

    Paityr Wylsynn straightened his shoulders, crossed to the door of his new office, and looked out it at the porter for this floor.

    "Father Bryahn told me he's assembled several candidates for me to interview as potential clerks," he said calmly. "Would you be kind enough to ask the first of them to step into my office?"

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