How Firm A Foundation – Snippet 18

Locating it inside the pipe, however, allowed the “turbine” to use the full force of all the water rushing through the pipe under all that pressure. Not only that, but the accumulator’s design meant the pressure reaching the turbine was constant. And while it took a half dozen conventional waterwheels just to pump enough water to keep each accumulator supplied, the outflow from the turbine was routed back to the holding ponds supplying and driving the waterwheels, which allowed much of it to be recirculated and reused. Now if Howsmyn’s plans to pump water from the lake proved workable (as most of his plans seemed to do), his supply of water — and power — would be assured effectively year-round.

He’s got his canals completed now, too, the priest reflected. Now that he can barge iron ore and coal directly all the way from his mines up in the Hanth Mountains he can actually use all of that power. Archangels only know what that’s going to mean for his productivity!

It was a sobering thought, and the fresh increases in Delthak’s output were undoubtedly going to make Ehdwyrd Howsmyn even wealthier. More importantly, they were going to be crucial to the Empire of Charis’ ability to survive under the relentless onslaught of the Church of God Awaiting.

No, not the Church, Paityr, Wylsynn reminded himself yet again. It’s the Group of Four, that murderous bastard Clyntahn and the rest. They’re the ones trying to destroy Charis and anyone else who dares to challenge their perversion of everything Mother Church is supposed to stand for!

It was true. He knew it was true. And yet it was growing harder for him to make that separation as he watched everyone in the Church’s hierarchy meekly bend the knee to the Group of Four, accepting Clyntahn’s atrocities, his twisting of everything the Office of Inquisition was supposed to be and stand for. It was easy enough to understand the fear behind that acceptance. What had happened to his own father, his uncle, and their friends among the vicarate who’d dared to reject Clyntahn’s obscene version of Mother Church was a terrible warning of what would happen to anyone foolish enough to oppose him now.

Yet how had he ever come to hold the Grand Inquisitor’s office in the first place? How could Mother Church have been so blind, so foolish — so stupid and lost to her responsibility to God Himself — as to entrust Zhaspahr Clyntahn with that position? And where had the other vicars been when Clyntahn had Samyl and Hauwerd Wylsynn and the other members of their circle of reformers slaughtered? When he’d applied the Punishment of Schueler to vicars of Mother Church not for any error of doctrine, not any act of heresy, but for having the audacity to oppose him? None of the other vicars could have believed the Inquisition’s preposterous allegations against their Reformist fellows, yet not one voice had been raised in protest. Not one, when Langhorne himself had charged Mother Church’s priests to die for what they knew was true and right if that proved necessary.

He closed his eyes, listening to the shriek of the blast furnaces, feeling the disciplined energy and power pulsing around him, gathering itself to resist Clyntahn and the other men in far distant Zion who supported him, and felt the doubt gnawing at his certainty once again. Not at his faith in God. Nothing could ever touch that, he thought. But his faith in Mother Church. His faith in Mother Church’s fitness as the guardian of God’s plan and message to His children.

There were men fighting to resist the Group of Four’s corruption, yet they’d been forced to do it outside Mother Church — in despite of Mother Church — and in the process they were taking God’s message into other waters, subtly reshaping its direction and scope. Were they right to do that? Wylsynn’s own heart cried out to move in the same directions, to broaden the scope of God’s love in the same ways, but was he right to do that? Or had they all fallen prey to Shan-wei? Was the Mother of Deception using the Reformists’ own better natures, their own yearning to understand God, to lead them into opposition to God? Into believing God must be wise enough to think the same way they did rather than accepting that no mortal mind was great enough to grasp the mind of God? That it was not their job to lecture God but rather to hear His voice and obey it, whether or not it accorded with their own desires and prejudices? Their own limited understanding of all He saw and had ordained?

And how much of his own yearning to embrace that reshaped direction stemmed from his own searing anger? From the rage he couldn’t suppress, however hard he tried, when he thought about Clyntahn and the mockery he’d made of the Inquisition? From his fury at the vicars who’d stood idly by and watched it happen? Who even now acquiesced by their silence in every atrocity Clyntahn proclaimed in the name of his own twisted image of Mother Church, the Archangels, and God Himself?

And, terribly though it frightened and shamed him to ask the question, or even dare to admit he could feel such things, how much of it stemmed from his anger at God Himself, and at His Archangels, for letting this happen? If Shan-wei could seduce men through the goodness of their hearts, by subtly twisting their faith and their love for their fellow men and women, how much more easily might she seduce them through the dark poison of anger? And where might anger such as his all too easily lead?

I know where my heart lies, where my own faith lives, Paityr Wylsynn thought. Even if I wished to pretend I didn’t, that I weren’t so strongly drawn to the Church of Charis’ message, there’d be no point trying. The truth is the truth, however men might try to change it, but have I become part of the Darkness in my drive to serve the Light? And how does any man try — what right does he have to try — to be one of God’s priests when he can’t even know what the truth in his own heart is . . . or whether it springs from Light or Darkness?

He opened his eyes once more, looking out over the fiery vista of Ehdwyrd Howsmyn’s enormous foundry complex, and worried.