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.