Midst Toil And Tribulation – Snippet 44

“There are several other questions which need to be considered, of course,” he said. “For example, Father Davys has many commitments among the Loyalist congregations here in Tellesberg. I think it would be difficult for him to leave the Old Kingdom, that he’d feel he was abandoning those who depend upon him. Neither Their Majesties nor I wish to deprive you of clergy of your choice, however. Would you wish for me to ask Father Davys to nominate a Loyalist chaplain to accompany you on the voyage? I’m sure he’d be able to come up with several possibilities.”

“That . . . would probably be a good idea, Your Eminence,” Irys replied slowly, her eyes hooded. “I think, if you’ll forgive me for saying it, that it’s important Daivyn not be faced with . . . competing orthodoxies at this time in his life.”

“It’s never a good idea to confuse children,” Staynair agreed. “At the same time, however, if you’ll forgive me for saying it, they’re capable of grasping differences of view with rather more acuity than adults give them credit for. Your brother is going to have to decide what he himself believes in the fullness of time, and I’m afraid he’ll probably have to make that choice earlier in his life than most, simply because of who he is. I agree that this is no time for him to be trapped between men of God who both claim to know the truth yet persist in telling him different things, but I think you owe it to him — and to yourself, perhaps, if you’ll forgive the observation — to see both sides of the issues which are currently wounding Mother Church so severely.”

“I can’t disagree with you about that,” Irys said, meeting his gaze levelly, “but neither am I prepared at this moment to lend myself to undermining my brother’s beliefs. The truth is that he’s more concerned about winning at baseball or basketball — or telling me about that marsh-wyvern hunt Earl Hanth took him on — than he is about the state of his immortal soul. I think it’s called being a ten-year-old.” Despite herself, her lips twitched into a brief smile, but it disappeared quickly. “Yet I think that makes it even more important for me and for the adults in his life not to confuse him. Give him a little longer, Your Eminence, please. You yourself say in your sermons that a child of God has to choose what he or she believes, and whether or not I can agree with you about Mother Church and the Grand Vicar, I do agree with you about that. But no one can make an informed choice when they don’t understand what it is they’re choosing between, and Daivyn doesn’t. Not yet. For that matter,” her nostrils flared as she made the admission, “I don’t understand yet, not fully, what I have to choose between.”

“Of course you don’t,” he said simply. “I think, perhaps, you’ve come closer to that understanding than you yet realize, but you’re absolutely right that it isn’t something you rush into. Not if you’re going to give it the amount of thought and prayer a decision that important deserves. And we’re also right about the need to give Daivyn as much time as we can before he’s pushed to decide. I’ll send Father Davys a note this afternoon asking him to nominate a chaplain for both of you. And for Earl Coris, of course.”

“Thank you, Your Eminence,” she said with quiet sincerity.

“I do have to wonder where Captain Lathyk’s going to put everyone, though,” the archbishop said with a faint smile.

“Captain Lathyk?” Irys asked just a bit more quickly than she’d really intended to, and the archbishop’s smile grew a little broader.

“Admiral Yairley — I’m sorry, I mean Baron Sarmouth, of course — is being sent out to Chisholm, and he’s retaining Destiny as his flagship. Their Majesties thought that since he and Captain Lathyk seem to’ve done a reasonably adequate job of plucking you and your brother out of captivity and delivering you safe and sound to Tellesberg, the Empress might as well avail herself of their services for delivering her — and you — safe and sound to Cherayth, as well.”

“Daivyn will be delighted to hear that, Your Eminence!” Irys felt her own eyes sparkling. “He had so much fun aboard Destiny! Of course, with Haarahld Breygart to help him get into trouble, it’s going to take the entire crew to keep the two of them from burning the ship to the waterline.”

“Oh, I doubt it will be quite that bad, Your Highness.” Staynair’s eyes twinkled back at her. “Not with you and Lady Hanth there to keep an eye on things, at least. For that matter, it takes a very brave person to cross Empress Sharleyan, as well, now that I think about it. And although I’m afraid Seijin Merlin won’t be able to join you for the voyage, I understand your brother has become almost as fond of Lieutenant Aplyn-Ahrmahk. I imagine he’ll serve as a . . . restraining influence on the two of them.”

“I’m sure you’re right about that,” Irys agreed, uncomfortably aware her cheeks had grown ever so slightly warm for some reason. “The truth is that Daivyn adores Hektor — I mean, Lieutenant Aplyn-Ahrmahk — almost as much as he does Seijin Merlin. He’ll be so happy to make another voyage with him.”

“I’m glad to hear that.” The twinkle was still in Staynair’s eyes, and Irys felt her face turn a little hotter, but he only smiled. “I’m rather attached to young Hektor myself,” he said, “and I’m sure Her Majesty will look forward to spending some time with him, as well. When he can be spared from his duties and from riding herd on Daivyn and Haarahld, of course.”

“Of course, Your Eminence,” Irys agreed, and turned quickly back towards the panoramic view of the harbor. “Is that Destiny?” she asked just a bit hurriedly, pointing at a galleon making its way into the outer roadstead.

“No, Your Highness,” the archbishop said gravely. “No, I believe Destiny’s currently at King’s Harbor, refitting for the voyage to Cherayth, although that’s obviously one of her sister ships.”

“I see,” she said, keeping her eyes resolutely on the ship’s sails until she could be sure that inexplicable heat had faded from her face.

“Of course, Your Highness.” She sensed rather than saw the archbishop’s small, possibly slightly ironic half-bow. “But now, I’m afraid, I have to return to my office. There are a great many details I have to deal with before our departure, as well, I fear.”

“Of course, Your Eminence,” she replied, still gazing at the nameless galleon making her slow, steady way closer to Tellesberg. “Thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to tell me about all this in person. I appreciate it.”

“It was my honor, Your Highness,” Staynair murmured, and she heard the glass-fronted door open and close as he left her to the view, in sole possession of the balcony once more.