Aug 272012

Prelate's seat, with chair, canopy, and drapery around it.  A sketch showing the magnificent detail of fabric, construction, and decoration.Each day, a list of arrivals and departures to and from the Pykalt Interstellar Spaceport appeared in the current file of Prelate Lorgan Edrell’s comlink. Not all the arrivals and departures, naturally. Although the Church kept an eye on such comings and goings, routine traffic was handled by officials much lower in the food chain.

Only the names that appeared on a watch list of those tried for heresy or currently suspected of heretical intent ended up on Edrell’s comlink. For the Prelate of Avatar Kanstan’s was also a Senior Interlocutor on Doctrinal Purity.

It would have been an important office in a big downside Province. Unfortunately, Edrell had neither the family pull nor the money to qualify him for such an appointment. Avatar Kanstan’s was the second largest Seat in the Insystem Province, but if you dropped the whole Insystem Province into one of the big downside Provinces it would barely make a ripple. And it was a dead end. The Insystem Provincial was only fifty-two and not ambitious for advancement.

If Edrell wanted to continue his upward path in the Church hierarchy, there was no place to go but downside. He’d carefully schemed for the Doctrinal Purity appointment with that in mind—the Guardian of Doctrinal Purity was well-known to have the Archprelate’s ear.

Thus, Lorgan Edrell was always diligent about following up when the Spaceport monitor alerted him to a clearance application from someone on the Doctrinal Purity watch list. When the double chime alerted him to an incoming communication from that source, he set aside the quarterly tithe report immediately.

So Zarel Kerant was back Insystem. Edrell’s eyes narrowed, and he called one of his lay clerks. “Contact the Censor’s Office, and get copies of the logs and manifests from the Star Song. It just arrived today. Send them to Junior Interlocutor Garstad for analysis, and tell him I want a report at the earliest possible time.”

“Yes, Reverend Prelate.”

It was barely two hours later that the clerk announced Garstad. The older man bowed respectfully as he entered, his Fryar’s habit hushing softly around his ankles. “Reverend Prelate.”

“Please, be seated, Brother,” Edrell invited. “You have the report on the Kerant woman?”

“I do, your Reverence,” he handed over the sliver of mylar as he sat on one of the hard, armless plastic chairs across the desk from his superior.

“Hmmm…. Censor passed on the manifest without inspection, I see,” Edrell frowned slightly.

“Indeed, your Reverence.”

“Got around, didn’t she…? Vir Galan, Tawan Center… Ir Kavatti II…” he scrolled through the list of clearances from each Hub port that the ship had visited. “Oh, now this might be interesting. Auriga VI. Isn’t there a major University League institution there?” He looked up at Garstad.

The Palatinian Fryar rarely showed much expression, but Edrell picked up a clear chill in his innocuous, “That is so, Reverend Prelate.”

Edrell’s eyes narrowed as he scrutinized the man. “But you don’t think we should follow up on this.”

Garstad cleared his throat. “It might present… difficulties, your Reverence. If you will recall the disposition of her case…”

“I wasn’t even in Seminary yet when she was tried, Brother. Refresh my memory,” Edrell was frowning. Probably he should have been able to recall the facts of the case, but his appointment to Doctrinal Purity was recent, and all he recalled was the media sensation that had surrounded a Kerant being arrested for heresy. He’d only been twelve years old at the time, after all.

“Of course, Reverend Prelate. Zarel Kerant was arrested for heresy in two-three-twenty-six, on the basis of an accusation by Randell Tarvine, whose proposal of marriage she had rejected in terms which led him to believe that she held heretical views with particular regards to female duty.”

Edrell nodded. Everyone knew of the long-standing rivalry between the two wealthy Boardsman families.

“A Case for Discussion was opened, under the authority of the Guardian, who himself served as Interlocutor, given the, ah… potential implications.”

Again, Edrell nodded. Naturally, they’d proceeded cautiously, given the money and influence of The Kerant. “Rather surprising that a Case was opened at all, given the source of the accusation.”

“Well, the Mutiny was quite recent.”

Oh, yes. The Kerant had taken quite a hit in the purges that had followed that. Their position had been precarious, for a time. Doubtless The Tarvine had hoped to use the Church to finish off his rival. “I see. And…?”

Fryar Garstad’s thin lips tightened a bit. “I believe the Guardian was prepared to find the accusation baseless, a mere artifact of the old rivalry. However, when the Query was established, he was dismayed to find more than enough corroborating evidence of the original charge, as well as evidence of—at best—doctrinal heterodoxy in several particulars. He really had no choice but to order a full trial.”

“And the disposition?”

“I was not on the Tribunal, you understand, so I have no knowledge of how the disposition came about. The original charge was laid aside, upon representation from The Kerant that, in fact, his daughter had accepted the duties of Adlitem for the orphaned children of his cousin, Resnek. The other charges were reduced to Deviationism, and an administrative penance imposed, the terms of which Zarel Kerant has strictly abided. I believe they included the retention of a Chaplain to act as her personal spiritual advisor, and regular catechetical examinations, as well as in-lieu gratuities to a number of worthy institutions that promote the application of feminine duty.”

“There has never been any reason,” Garstad said with lips slightly twisted, “to connect the extremely generous endowment for the renovation of the Archprelate’s Chancellery, given by The Kerant in memoriam of his second wife, to the disposition of Zarel Kerant’s case.”

“I see,” Edrell said. He did see. The Archprelate and The Kerant’s accounts were neatly balanced, and the books closed. And given the current level of Kerant power and influence, unless Zarel Kerant paraded herself naked across an inverted triangle in the Glorious Revelations Basilica courtyard, the Office for Doctrinal Purity couldn’t touch her. He restrained a sigh. “Very well. Thank you, Brother.”

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