He paused and frowned for a moment, then shook his head.
“Actually, that’s not quite true,” he said. “It’s created problems with a lot of people, of course — I think we’ve probably got more ‘Temple Loyalists’ here in Chisholm than you have in Charis, for a lot of reasons — but for other people, it’s actually helped.” He looked back into Gyrard’s eyes once more. “Charisians aren’t the only ones who could see what was happening in Zion, you know.”

“Yes, I do know.” Gyrard nodded.
“Well, Sir, I won’t say that anyone here in Chisholm is doing handsprings of delight at the prospect of open warfare with Mother Church, but you might be surprised by how many of us already agreed with you ‘schismatic’ Charisians, at least in principle. And once Her Majesty decided to marry the Emperor, well –”
He broke off with another, much more eloquent shrug, and Gyrard nodded once more. Sharleyan’s nobles might have been — or, at least, wanted to be — more fractious then Cayleb’s, but the flag captain had come to the conclusion that she’d been even more beloved by Chisholm’s commoners than King Haarahld had been by their Charisian counterparts before his death. That was saying quite a lot, and that deep reservoir of trust and devotion had carried her people with her. It also helped to explain why Cayleb’s demonstration that she truly was his coruler, not simply his consort, had legitimized his own authority in their eyes as probably nothing else could possibly have accomplished.
“Tell me, Commander Ahzmynd,” Gyrard said, asking the question he’d had no intention of explicitly voicing when he came ashore for this meeting, “how do you think your fellow Chisholmians feel about Charisians now?”
“Now, Sir?” Ahzmynd chuckled. “They still think every single one of you is out to turn a fast mark, and, to be honest, I think many of us are more than a little uneasy about all these changes — all these new weapons and ways of doing things — you seem intent on introducing. Certainly when you first arrived, most people here in Cherayth were bracing themselves just a bit. They expected an onslaught of moneychangers, loan krakens, and political hangers-on out to make a profit out of Chisholm. I think that despite everything, there were people who believed the Emperor’s marriage proposal was really only a ploy designed to let Charis get its hands on everything worth having here in Chisholm.
“That much, at least, is changing. Or that’s the way it seems to me, at any rate. I could be wrong, of course.” He twitched his shoulders in another brief shrug. “From where I sit, though, I think that what the Emperor’s had to say so far, coupled with the fact that he’s made absolutely no political changes here in Cherayth, hasn’t brought in any of his own political favorites from home and handed them plum assignments, and the fact that he and Baron Green Mountain and the Queen Mother are obviously on such excellent terms, really has turned most of that suspicion around. The fact that your sailors and Marines have been spending so freely hasn’t hurt anything, either. I haven’t heard any of the dockside tavernkeepers complaining, at any rate! Mind you, I can think of quite a few lords and ladies who probably don’t like the new arrangement a bit, but that’s more than offset — I think, at least — by how much the common folk have been reassured. They’ve always regarded the Queen — the Empress, I mean — as one of their own, someone they can trust to look out for them. Now most of them seem willing to at least tentatively accept that the Emperor feels the same way she does. And I think we’ve at least reached a point where all but the most dyed-in-the-wool Temple Loyalists are willing to wait to hear his address to Parliament before they really decide what they think of him. If he says what I rather suspect he’s going to say, that trust in Her Majesty is going to attach itself to him –provisionally, at least — and they’ll decide they can trust him, too.”
“I certainly hope you’re right, Commander,” Gyrard said quietly. “And it’s true, you know. His Majesty does feel the same way Her Majesty does, although, to be honest, the battle lines between the common folk and the nobility are less sharply drawn in Charis.”
“Really?” Ahzmynd cocked his head to one side, lips pursed. “I’d heard that that was the case, Sir,” he continued after a moment. “From my perspective, it’s a bit difficult to really accept, though. It’s so different from the way things have been here in Chisholm for as long as anyone can remember.”
“Well, Commander,” Ahndrai Gyrahrd said, sitting back in his own chair with a smile as tight as anything Ahzmynd had produced, “we’ll just have to see what we can do about changing that, won’t we? The Emperor has a saying, ‘If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.’ I’d say that’s probably one of the main reasons he and Her Majesty haven’t set out to make any political changes here in Cherayth. Baron Green Mountain and Queen Mother Alahnah are doing just fine. But if anyone thinks His Majesty is going to be any more tolerant than Her Majesty where great nobles with . . . delusions of grandeur, shall we say, are concerned, they’re sadly mistaken.”
“Really?” Ahzmynd repeated, then smiled back at his Charisian visitor. “Somehow, Sir, I can’t quite seem to find it in my heart to regret that. Odd, isn’t it?”