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TFT Snippet #7

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TFT Snippet #7
Post by runsforcelery   » Tue Aug 14, 2018 4:49 pm

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In private, it remained “Rhobair” and “Allayn.” In official settings or in front of others, Maigwair was always careful to observe every point of formal etiquette. As he’d said to the man who’d been Rhobair Duchairn on the day of his formal elevation to Grand Vicar, “The last thing we need is anyone wondering whether or not you’re the one in charge, and you damned well are . . . praise God and all the Archangels!”

There were times—many of them—when Rhobair II wished with all his heart that he wasn’t. It looked like this was going to be another of them.

“Tell me,” he said, and Maigwair’s nostrils flared.

“They caught his entire column in the middle of the Mai-sun Forest, Holiness. If I had to guess, he didn’t have scouts out on his flanks. The terrain’s incredibly constricted, and it would have slowed him down when he was under orders to reach Shang-mi as quickly as possible. Besides, he was a Spear, not a regular. I doubt it would even have occurred to him to worry about a bunch of ‘rabble’ attacking him, no matter what the terrain was like.

“Anyway, they must have surprised him completely. They set the woods on fire in front of him and the wind was in his face. Then they set the woods on fire behind him, as well.” Rhobair’s face tightened, and Maigwair continued in the same flat tone. “There was nowhere they could go. Fifteen thousand men, not counting their supply echelon, caught strung out on the high road in the middle of a roaring forest fire. None of them got out.”

“None, Allayn?” Vicar Zherohmy Awstyn asked. Awstyn was young—ten years younger than Maigwair. Then again, a lot of Rhobair’s vicars were young.

“If they did, the rebels finished them off,” Maigwair said grimly. “To be honest, though, I doubt any of them did.” He shook his head. “No, they were all burned to death, Zherohmy. Unless they were fortunate enough to die of smoke inhalation first. Or shot themselves or cut their own throats.”

His voice was harsh, his eyes haunted. Every man sitting around that table had seen far too many people burned to death by Zhaspahr Clyntahn and his inquisitors. When Rhobair looked around their faces, his own guilt for letting that go on so long looked back at him from behind their eyes, as well.

“Do we know how they managed that?” Vicar Tymythy Symkyn, the man who’d become Rhobair’s Chancellor, asked. Maigwair looked at him, and the Chancellor shrugged. “The timing, I mean. How did serfs separated by so much distance—what? Five miles? Ten miles? How did they . . . coordinate, I guess, so well.” He shook his head. “That sounds a lot more sophisticated, for want of a better word, than anything we’ve seen out of Harchong since the Jihad.”

He spoke from a certain personal experience, and in more ways than one, Maigwair thought. He’d served as Rhobair’s representative to Shang-mi for two years before being recalled to assume the chancellorship after old Vicar Raiyn’s death. And like the Grand Vicar himself; Tymythy Symkyn was a Chihirite. But whereas Rhobair Duchairn was a Brother of the Quill, Symkyn was a Brother of the Sword. Like Maigwair, he’d been a soldier, not a clerk. In fact, he’d served under Archbishop Militant Gustyv Walkyr during some of the most desperate fighting of the Jihad’s final campaign. That meant he’d had the chance not simply to see the corruption and arrogance of the present court, but also the results of Earl Rainbow Waters decision to turn the serfs under his command into effective soldiers. And that meant—

“I see where you’re going, Tymythy,” the Captain General said. “And you’re right, ‘sophisticated’ is exactly the right word, at least where the timing’s concerned. I think burning fifteen thousand men to death is about as unsophisticated as a tactic comes, but getting both sets of fires lit in the right window of time took some forethought. They certainly weren’t in direct communication with one another across that many miles of woods. I’ve never been there myself, but some of the officers I’ve talked to tell me the Mai-sun is even worse than the Kyplyngyr or the Tarikah, and with a lot more oil trees. That’s what made the damned fire so effective—and so hot. It was like soaking the entire forest in lamp oil and then dropping one of the Charisians’ candles into it. But if you’re suggesting Rainbow Waters was involved in this, I’m positive he wasn’t. This is the last thing he’d be trying to do.”

“Which doesn’t mean some of his ex-officers and men weren’t involved,” Awstyn pointed out. Maigwair looked at him, and he shrugged. “I’ve been in close contact with the Earl, Allayn, and I’m sure you’re right about him. But as much as all of his veterans respect him, no one could possibly expect them not to be looking for ways to go home. Or at least to rescue their families, for Langhorne’s sake!”

Rhobair nodded. Awstyn was one of Symkyn’s senior deputies, included in this conference because he was the vicar responsible for Mother Church’s contacts with the two million— two million —Harchongians who’d been summarily denied the right to return to their own homes, their own families. Men who’d fought their hearts out for Mother Church and then been told they could never come home again lest they contaminate their fellow peasants and serfs with all those dangerous, radical notions they’d absorbed when they were treated as human beings in a foreign land.

Of all the many atrocities which had resulted from the Jihad, all the crimes he had yet to expiate, that one weighed upon him even more heavily than most, because he and Allayn Maigwair were directly responsible for the training which had turned the Mighty Host of God and the Archangels into the most effective military force Mother Church had. They were the ones who’d convinced Zhaspahr Clyntahn to support the very measures which had made the Mighty Host too dangerous for Waisu VI’s ministers to ever let it come home. And, despite all his own power as the Grand Vicar of Mother Church, God and Langhorne’s deputy on Safehold, he’d been unable to shift that bedrock intransigence a single inch.

It’s not like you didn’t see this coming, Rhobair, he told himself drearily. The idiots—the idiots!— can’t even consider any response but to double down. To actually ramp up their brutality any time the serfs even look like they’re getting “uppity,” and the Church is supporting them! My God, those poor people think I support what’s happening to them!

His eyes burned, and he thought again about the decision he’d made when Waisu issued his decree. Maigwair had argued against it, and maybe he should have listened. If Mother Church had supported Rainbow Waters, launched him and that superbly trained Mighty Host into Harchong as an avenging, liberating army, nothing in the Empire could have stood up to him. It was simply impossible to conceive of the Emperor’s Spears lasting a single summer against Rainbow Waters’ veterans, especially with the downsized but still potent Army of God in support.

But if he’d done that it would have tainted his efforts to bind up all of the Jihad’s other wounds. He would have ended the Jihad against the Church of Charis and Mother Church’s own Reformists only to inaugurate a fresh civil war against the recalcitrant Harchongese church. He’d told himself he couldn’t do that, not when so many millions had already died. And, he knew, he’d told himself that because he’d realized exactly how a war like that, even under a commander like Rainbow Waters, must engender a million fresh atrocities as the serfs who’d been abused, tormented, and brutally oppressed for so many generations took vengeance upon the ones who’d done that to them. There was no point pretending human nature could have allowed any other outcome.

And is it going to be any better this way, Rhobair? he asked himself bitterly. Fifteen thousand human beings burned to death in a single afternoon. And if the reports coming out of Shang-mi are anything like accurate, two-thirds of the capital’s gone up in flames all its own! And in the middle of all that, do you really think the rioters and the serf “army” that took the city didn’t slake its appetite for blood and rape just as horribly as anything you could possibly imagine?

“You were right, Allayn,” he said. “Four years ago, you were right.”

“Maybe I was,” Maigwair said, but he also shook his head. “On the other hand, so were you, Holiness. I wouldn’t want to say anything about the Grand Vicar’s infallibility when he speaks from Langhorne’s Throne,” the Captain General actually managed a smile, “but if we’d armed and supported Rainbow Waters and sent him home—and that’s assuming he’d have been willing to invade his own homeland, which he probably wouldn’t have been—this is exactly what would’ve happened anyway. Oh, not where his own troops or ours were concerned,” he said quickly, waving one hand as Rhobair opened his mouth. “He’d never have allowed it, and neither would our men! But out in front of him, as he advanced, do you really think the serfs who heard he was coming wouldn’t have done exactly what these people are doing? Langhorne, Holiness! Who wouldn’t do what they’re doing after the way they’ve been treated?”

“Vicar Allayn has a point, Holiness,” Symkyn said, and there was a note of personal experience in his voice. The experience of Bishop Militant Tymythy, not Vicar Tymythy.

“And I’m pretty sure Zherohmy’s right about where these people’s ‘sophistication’ comes from,” he continued. “There were over two million men in the Mighty Host. There’s no way under God’s sun Rainbow Waters could keep tabs on all of them, even if he’d tried. And if only a couple of thousand—even only a couple of hundred —of them got past the Spears, found men and women desperate enough to listen to them, that could explain everything we’ve heard so far.”

“Exactly, Holiness,” Awstyn said. His voice was firm, but his expression was oddly gentle. “I know you still blame yourself for it,” he continued, “but you didn’t have any good options. All you had were bad and worse.”

“I know,” Rhobair sighed. “I know.”

And he did know. That was why, despite Mother Church’s ravaged exchequer, he’d insisted she had a moral and religious responsibility to see to it that her two million marooned defenders were cared for. He’d paid their salaries, somehow, for over half a year, and then he’d settled them on largely empty land in the western episcopates. They’d had to clear and consecrate much of that land, but the vast majority of Rainbow Waters’ veterans had been born serfs. They’d never owned anything, not even themselves, and the ferocity with which they’d attacked the task that would let them become landowners, on however small a scale, had been staggering to behold.

One thing he had held out for, though. If Waisu and his ministers—and his archbishops—refused to allow the Mighty Host’s return, then any of the Host’s officers’ families who wanted to join them in the Temple Lands must be allowed to do so. He’d sent Maigwair to make that point clear in person, and the Captain General had summoned Waisu’s ambassador to his office and flatly informed him that if those officers’ families were not allowed to join them, Mother Church would arm, supply, and support the Mighty Host when it came to get them.

Rhobair had meant it. In fact, he’d longed to make that an across-the-board demand, for the noncommissioned officers and the men in the ranks, but he’d known he couldn’t push that far. Not unless he really did want to invade. Waisu would let the officers’ families go, if that was what they wanted. After all, then he could expropriate their lands for the Crown or distribute them to new, more reliable favorites. But that was as far as he would go. Letting millions upon millions of serfs flee the land to join their husbands and brothers and fathers and sons in the Temple Lands’ freedom would have decimated his labor force . . . and left the still greater number of serfs who couldn’t flee even more embittered and restive. Waisu would let him have the officers’ families; if he’d wanted more, he’d have had no choice but to unleash the Mighty Host, and he’d settled for the best he could get.

“All right,” he said finally. “I think it’s obvious our worst fears are about to be realized. So, what can we do about it?”

“I don’t think there’s a lot we can do, unfortunately, Holiness,” Symkyn said. “We could always send money and supplies to the archbishops, but you and I both know where that money and those supplies would end up.”

Rhobair grimaced unhappily. The Harchongese clergy had officially accepted him as Grand Vicar Erek’s legitimate successor after Erek’s “spontaneous” abdication, but they’d stubbornly resisted all of his efforts to reform Mother Church’s abuses. They’d been careful to avoid statements of outright defiance, but Harchongese bureaucrats—and, it seemed, prelates—had no peers when it came to obstructionism. Every one of his reform initiatives had been stymied, stalled and ignored amid a gathering tension between the Temple and the Church in Harchong. Instead, the senior Harchongese clergy, almost without exception, had thrown its support behind the oppressive policies of Waisu’s ministers. After all, that was what Mother Church had done in Harchong since time out of mind! Any “humanitarian relief” Mother Church might send to Harchong would be diverted to the support of those same policies . . . or into the pockets of corrupt clerical and secular bureaucrats.

“What about Charis?” he asked and saw both Symkyn and Awstyn stiffen, although for rather different reasons, he suspected.

“I assume you mean what about the Church of Charis, Holiness?” the Chancellor said after a moment. Rhobair nodded, and Symkyn raised both hands in front of himself. “How would you approach them, Holiness?”

“I don’t know,” Rhobair said frankly. “I do know we can’t trust our own archbishops and bishops—even our parish priests—to do what we know needs to be done in Harchong.” His voice was as bitter as his eyes. “I’ve come to the conclusion that I should have been more . . . proactive about dismissing some of those archbishops and bishops from their sees. I know all the arguments about provoking another schism, and you were probably right, Tymythy. It would have created an official ‘Church of Harchong’ right alongside the Church of Charis. But that’s what we got anyway, no matter what they call it!”

Symkyn nodded unhappily, and Rhobair shrugged angrily. Not at Symkyn, but at the problem—the fresh problem—he faced.

“The fact that we can’t use our own clergy doesn’t absolve us of our responsibility to care for God’s children wherever they are,” he continued, “but I don’t see very many avenues open to us. To be brutally honest, I think that even if we tried to go around ‘our’ clergy and make direct contact with the rebels—assuming we could figure out a way to do that—they wouldn’t trust us. Why should they? The only Church they’ve ever known supports the very people they’re rebelling against! They’d probably murder anyone we sent to contact them!”

“You’re thinking about using Staynair and his people?” Maigwair said.

“Well, given that the rebels have every reason—from their perspective—to hate and distrust Mother Church, I think it’s only reasonable to assume they’d be more likely to at least give the Charisians a chance. After all, who did we just spend seven or eight years trying to massacre?” He shook his head. “As they say, my enemy’s enemy is my friend.”

“Holiness, with the deepest respect, I think that would be a mistake,” Awstyn said after a long, still moment. Rhobair raised an eyebrow, inviting the younger vicar to continue.

“Holiness, I can’t refute your logic but there are other implications. Please don’t think I’m offering a better solution, because I’m not. I don’t think there is one. But if we . . . I don’t know, delegate our responsibility as Harchong’s shepherds to Charis, then we give Harchong to the Church of Charis. I don’t see how it could work any other way. I know how the argument that souls matter more than bodies enabled Clyntahn’s madness, but that was because however he twisted it, it’s ultimately true. It can’t be an excuse for murdering and torturing, but it can’t be simply ignored, either. Would the amount of good the Church of Charis could accomplish against such enormous need justify consigning so many of God’s children to the other side of the schism?”

Awstyn’s brown eyes were deeply and sincerely troubled, and Rhobair sympathized. Vicar Zherohmy was a man of warmth and deep compassion, yet he was also one of the new vicarate’s conservative voices. Rhobair had made a point of incorporating both Conservative and Reformist viewpoints in the Church’s bureaucratic hierarchy, and Awstyn was one of those Conservatives. He accepted Rhobair’s decision that the Church of Charis must be allowed to go in peace, but he found it more difficult to accept the Grand Vicar’s view that any church which accepted the fundamentals of the Holy Writ couldn’t truly be heretical. His reason for that was simple—and inarguable: “fundamentals” was an inherently and dangerously elastic term. He supported the vast majority of Rhobair’s internal reforms, yet the Charisians’ refusal to acknowledge the paramount authority of the Grand Vicar, as Langhorne’s direct—and only—successor upon Safehold, to define right doctrine was farther than he could go. He could respect their sincerity, their piety, the strength of their faith; he could not accept that they might be right.

“Zherohmy, I understand what you’re saying,” the Grand Vicar said now. “You may even be right. But I can’t help the people, the children of God, I’m supposed to help as God’s steward and shepherd in this mortal world. The Holy Writ underscores that responsibility in every chapter of the Book of Bédard and the Book of Langhorne. We have no choice—we’re not given the option —to do nothing for our brothers and sisters in God while they and their children starve.” His eyes burned as he remembered how many millions of other parents and children had already starved while Mother Church stood by. “If the only way we can do that is to . . . coordinate with the Church of Charis, then I think that’s what God and Langhorne are telling us to do.”

Awstyn’s internal struggle showed in his eyes, and Symkyn reached out and laid a hand on his forearm.

“I share many of your concerns, Zherohmy,” he said quietly. “To be honest, if I’d truly understood what sorts of decisions we’d face when we were called to the orange, I’d have stayed a simple soldier and run the other way! But we’re here, and His Holiness is right. We don’t have any option but to do whatever we can.”

Awstyn looked at the Chancellor. Then, slowly, he nodded. Not in agreement, but in acceptance.

“At the same time,” Symkyn continued, turning back to Rhobair, “I have to say that I think Archbishop Maikel will also understand our concerns, Holiness. I may not see eye-to-eye with him on every issue, but you can’t read the man’s sermons or correspond with him as often as I have and not sense the depth and sincerity of his personal faith. He’d be more than human if he didn’t see the opportunity to make inroads for the Church of Charis, but I believe he’d be more than willing to publicly, firmly, and sincerely acknowledge that this is a joint, ecumenical initiative of Mother Church and the Church of Charis. That we’re both responding to a humanitarian crisis, not seeking converts . . . or to prevent anyone from converting.”

“I’m sure he will,” Rhobair said, and smiled sadly at Awstyn. “And I’m equally sure that whatever we proclaim we’re doing, the Church of Charis will make ground in Harchong, Zherohmy. We’ll just have to do our best to win some of those souls back in the fullness of time.”

“Of course, Holiness,” Awstyn said.

“In the meantime, though, Holiness,” Maigwair said, “I think we need to consider a more secular string to our bow, as well.”

“Somehow, I’m not surprised,” Rhobair said, smiling a bit crookedly at his old ally. “Should I assume this has something to do with Earl Rainbow Waters?”

“Of course you should.” Maigwair smiled back, then his expression sobered. “I think Gustyv and I need to have a talk with him. With your permission, I propose to tell him Mother Church is ready to provide funds and arms for him to organize a body of troops from the Mighty Host’s veterans. If what’s happening in Harchong continues to spread, it’s only a matter of time until it hits their eastern provinces, and that’s right on the other side of our border. God only knows how that might spill over into the western episcopates, especially with so many of the Mighty Host’s veterans settled there. At the very least, we need to organize a sufficiently powerful ‘local militia’ to deal with anything that does cross the border. And, if the situation continues to worsen, I think we have to very carefully consider the possibility of actually using him and those veterans of his to establish as much security as we can in Langhorne and Maddox and Stene, as well. There’s no way he could come up with the manpower to ‘pacify’ the rest of North Harchong, but maybe— maybe —we can at least minimize the carnage in those provinces. And I think we’d be far wiser to use Rainbow Waters’ Harchongians instead of inserting the Army of God into the mix. Shan-wei only knows where sending Mother Church’s army into armed conflict with Mother Church’s own, “true” bishops—which is exactly how the bastards will portray themselves if we do send in our own troops—would end.”

Rhobair looked at him, thinking about it. Then, finally, he nodded.

“You’re right,” he said. “I wish you weren’t, but you are. And you and Gustyv are definitely the best people to discuss that with him.”


"Oh, bother!" said Pooh, as Piglet came back from the dead.
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Re: TFT Snippet #7
Post by WeberFan   » Tue Aug 14, 2018 5:04 pm

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Awesome! Thanks RFC! Looking forward to the release and getting more and more excited about it.
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Re: TFT Snippet #7
Post by Kufat   » Tue Aug 14, 2018 5:13 pm

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runsforcelery wrote:“What about Charis?” he asked


Oh, wow. Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Edit: But I'm surprised they have a word for "ecumenical" in Safeholdian English.
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Re: TFT Snippet #7
Post by ksandgren   » Tue Aug 14, 2018 5:51 pm

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Thanks for the snippet. It is getting me deeper and deeper into needing an arc rather than wait another 4 months. Now I have to find out if one is available through means I have.
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Re: TFT Snippet #7
Post by Bluesqueak   » Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:02 pm

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Kufat wrote:
runsforcelery wrote:“What about Charis?” he asked


Oh, wow. Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Edit: But I'm surprised they have a word for "ecumenical" in Safeholdian English.


It's from the New Testament, (Matt 24:14) and actually means 'all the world' .

I suspect it slipped into the Testimonies somewhere as the name for an early Safeholdian Council of Bishops - one of the Command Crew might have referred to such a Council as an 'Ecumenical Council.'

;)
Last edited by Bluesqueak on Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:03 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: TFT Snippet #7
Post by NervousEnergy   » Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:03 pm

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Kufat wrote:
runsforcelery wrote:“What about Charis?” he asked


Oh, wow. Looking forward to seeing where this goes.

Edit: But I'm surprised they have a word for "ecumenical" in Safeholdian English.

Good point. I suppose the word could have stayed in the vernacular to indicate a joint action on behalf of different national diocese or archdiocese under Mother Church, but the modern interpretation is different sects working together. Obviously not a situation that would ever have arisen before the Church of Charis.

Hindsight is 20/20, but I agree with the current sentiment of the council - the bill might have been less if they'd have convinced RW to invade and take an emperor's crown.
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Re: TFT Snippet #7
Post by Annachie   » Tue Aug 14, 2018 6:40 pm

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Kufat wrote:
Edit: But I'm surprised they have a word for "ecumenical" in Safeholdian English.


There's been quite a few words that are far more unlikely than that one.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
You are so going to die. :p ~~~~ runsforcelery
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still not dead. :)
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Re: TFT Snippet #7
Post by Cartref   » Tue Aug 14, 2018 7:06 pm

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Very enjoyable and I for another one can't wait for it to be released. :D
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Re: TFT Snippet #7
Post by XofDallas   » Tue Aug 14, 2018 9:42 pm

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Thank you! :D
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Re: TFT Snippet #7
Post by isaac_newton   » Wed Aug 15, 2018 1:51 am

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Thanks also :-)
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