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.