Dindrane was at that point in pregnancy when the thought of labor was slowly beginning to lose its terrors, and the thought of being able to walk without a massive lump of stomach carried before her was beginning to become more and more attractive every day. It was an impatience that had nothing to do with her eagerness to meet the little one who was currently sleeping inside her, or the joy she now knew she would feel when Kata Thatcher placed her new baby in her arms. Dindrane just wanted her body back, thank you very much.
Her baby had decided that it was happiest when Dindrane was walking around, which was irksome, since Dindrane was also at the point of her pregnancy where she felt most comfortable sitting or laying down. Except, of course, for the kicking. So now, even though Lady Morgause insisted that she spend most of her time resting, even though most of the servants stared at her and quickly assured her that they would get her anything she needed, Dindrane was walking — or more accurately, waddling — about the keep.
She found her way to the library, because if she said she was going there, she knew that the servants wouldn’t argue the point. There was no point in her asking them to fetch books, and they knew it, because when Dindrane needed a book, she usually needed to look through the titles to determine which of them she wanted. And naturally, when she did know a title that she wanted, it was in Reman or the ancient language, which none of the servants could read.
Yet when Dindrane entered the library, she found that it was not, as it often was, empty.
Or as it had often been empty, before Garnet decided she wanted to go to Camford early.
“How is it going?” Dindrane asked.
“The monks who design these essay questions ought to be hung, drawn and quartered; resurrected; zombified; and then burned — er — undead.”
“I see.” Dindrane waddled to the other side of the table. “Do you need any help?”
“Hunting down the monks?”
“Answering the question.” Dindrane patted her stomach. “Your niece or nephew, much as I’m sure he or she would love to be along for the ride, would slow us down considerably.”
Garnet almost laughed. “You’re probably right about that.”
Dindrane smiled and stretched. The baby must have been lulled by her walk up to the library, for he or she nestled quiet inside her. There would be hell to pay for these few minutes of quiet, Dindrane knew, when she wanted to sleep, but for now, the opportunity to put her feed up more than made up for that.
Garnet sighed, and Dindrane looked at her, one eyebrow gently raised. Garnet sighed again. “It’s about the Mashuga heresy.”
“I see. What about it?”
Garnet looked at the prompt and declaimed in her best academic voice, “Many times the cow demons have tried to spread the seeds of dissent and disunity among the faithful, often pursuing their evil aims through the creation of heresies.”
“So they want you to look at it from a theological point of view.”
“What other point of view is there?”
“Well, one can take the theology out of it, and simply look at the historical circumstances,” Dindrane replied. “But clearly, that is not what the writer of this question wants. Continue, please.”
Garnet cocked her head a little to one side, then sighed. “All right. ‘One of the most notorious of these heretics, these servants of the cow demons, was Sylvia Marie the Mashuga. Give at least two of her heretical arguments and refute them using the approved teachings of the Church.'” Garnet sighed and tapped her quill against the parchment. “Somehow I think ‘for the Book of Wright tells me so’ isn’t what they want for an answer.”
“References to the Book of Wright won’t hurt, though.”
Dindrane smiled. “I always hated those kinds of questions, too.”
Garnet looked up. “You did?”
“You sound surprised.”
“Well — I am. I mean — I thought these sorts of questions would be right up your alley.”
Dindrane raised one eyebrow. “And why would that be?”
“Well — I mean — I just figured you could answer something like this in your sleep … you know, this would be an easy question, that you can just give them what they want, and then you can worry about knocking their socks off with a couple of the other essay questions.”
“Ah.” Dindrane pursed her lips together. “I could, indeed, give them what they want in their sleep.”
“So why hate the question?”
“Because … giving them what they want to hear is academically illegitimate.”
“What was the first thing you wrote?”
“I — um — well, I talked about Sylvia Marie’s insistence that the Lord Wright didn’t raise St. Robert from the dead, but rather that he had a magical object that did it for him.”
“And how did you refute it?”
“Well … I don’t know, I … I know how I would refute it, but that’s not what the Church wants.”
That wasn’t what Dindrane was expecting her to say. “Oh?”
“I would say that if St. Robert was resurrected by magic, then he would be a zombie,” Garnet replied. “Since the Book of Wright says that he died of happy old age, that’s impossible — if he was a zombie, he would still be alive now. Unless he got himself killed some other way,” she mused. “But anyway, you can’t raise someone from the dead by magic — not after the Grim Reaper has taken them. A virtuous witch or wizard can revive one of the recent dead, before the Grim Reaper takes their soul — but since St. Robert was dead and buried for over twenty-four hours, we know that was impossible. And a horrifically evil one can take someone who’s been dead for any amount of time and make a zombie of them.”
“If I recall correctly, did not your mother do that to your aunt’s husband?”
Garnet glared at her, her eyes narrowed as if to ask, Your point? But all she said aloud was, “Anyway, that’s it, and neither fits what the Book of Wright says happened to St. Robert. So it couldn’t have been magic.” Garnet sighed. “But writing that is just asking them to fail me.”
“Indeed. They can safely ignore high-born witches and wizards once they enter Camford, but they hardly seem amenable to inviting them in wholesale.”
“Right. So I guess I’m stuck with what the Church would want me to say.”
“And that would be?”
“That if St. Robert did have a magical something-or-other that he used to raise himself from the dead, that would make him a witch or wizard — who could certainly never become a prophet of the Lord Wright, even if the Lord Wright didn’t actually mean that bit about none of us being suffered to live — but more importantly, if he’d done that and then claimed that the Lord Wright had raised him from the dead for his virtue or something, then the Lord Wright would have struck him down for blasphemy.” She shook her head. “At least that’s what I wrote down,” she added, gesturing to the parchment.
“You’re begging the question.”
Dindrane shook her head. “No, not literally — it’s a form of fallacious argument. The conclusion you wish to prove is implicit in the premise you present to prove it.”
“You wish to prove that the Lord Wright truly raised St. Robert from the dead, correct?”
“Well, the first premise of your argument is that the Lord Wright would strike down as a blasphemer anyone who falsely claimed that He raised that Sim from the dead for virtue.”
“The second is that St. Robert was, so far as all historical evidence — both the Book of Wright and Reman documentation — can assert, was not stricken down for blasphemy.”
“Therefore, St. Robert is not a blasphemer, and what he said must be true.”
“How is that implicit in the first premise?”
“Because we get our notions of what the Lord Wright would or would not allow from the Book of Wright — which is held to be a true authority because St. Robert is held to be a true prophet, and not a blasphemer.”
Garnet’s jaw fell. “So — so everything I wrote was wrong? But I checked my notes! That’s what Mother Julian told us!”
“Indeed, it is.”
“But — but then, what do I write?”
“What you wrote was fine.”
“You just said it was wrong!”
“It is not ‘wrong.’ It is not well-reasoned — not reasoned at all, in fact. But it is still the correct answer to the question, as long as you define ‘correct’ as ‘what the examiners want you to say.'”
“But that’s — that’s …”
“I don’t think this particular question is meant to test your skills of reasoning, Garnet,” Dindrane replied. “There are other questions for that. This is to test your faith.” Before she could give the younger woman a crisis of conscience, Dindrane added, “Faith, after all, is believing in what our hearts tell us to be true, no matter what reason might have to say about it. What was the next heresy you named?”
“That she herself had found this object, and had already raised three people from the dead with it, and was prepared to raise more if people would give her the money for it.”
“I said,” Garnet continued, “that since the Church had already established that there was no such object — because of, well, what I said before — which you said was wrong–”
“I said it wasn’t very well-reasoned, Garnet, not that it was wrong.”
“If you insist. Well, I said that since there was no such object, obviously Sylvia Marie the Mashuga couldn’t have found it.”
“Actually, since there is no proof that St. Robert used any such object — despite what Sylvia Marie the Mashuga said — your response makes sense.”
Garnet smiled. “All right. And then I went on to say that if her aims were holy and good, as she claimed they were — she did claim they were, didn’t she?”
“Most heretics do.”
“That’s what I thought. If her aims were good, why was she asking for money? That seems like the absolute last thing anyone who was aiming for the good would do.”
Dindrane pursed her lips together.
“That’s wrong too?”
“It would not get anything marked off on your essay — actually, the grader might be rather impressed,” Dindrane said slowly. “But there are theories …”
“What kind of theories?”
She bit her lip. The sort that barely avoid falling into heresy themselves. “The sort that certainly wouldn’t be taught to students your age — your teachers may not have even heard of them.”
“They say,” Dindrane murmured slowly, “that is, some authorities claim, that though Sylvia Marie’s statements about St. Robert are obviously heretical, that does not mean that she might not have found — or invented — something that allowed her contact with the Grim Reaper. Despite the Church’s best efforts, they were never able to get her to change her story about the people she claimed to bring back from the dead — and none of the formerly dead people changed their stories, either. Nor did their families, their friends, their villages … not all of those people could have been deceived. Or lying.”
“But — but what about the money?”
“Ah. The money.” Dindrane smiled. “There are stories, you know, about the Grim Reaper — stories alluded to in the Book of Wright, though the stories have died out by now.”
“What kind of stories?”
“That the Grim Reaper, once upon a time, was a Sim — a very greedy one — who, because of his greed, was punished in the afterlife by having to guide recently departed souls to the other side — for a fee, of course. You’ve heard of the coin for the dead?”
“Aye, but nobody does that anymore. St. Robert — in the Book of Wright, he discontinued the practice, didn’t he? Told people to donate that money to the church instead of burying it with the dead person?”
“Indeed he did. But Sims practiced that tradition for thousands of years before St. Robert abolished it.” And for hundreds of years afterward. “That’s quite a lot of copper coins.”
“So then how is that a punishment?”
Dindrane grinned. “What would the Grim Reaper spend it on?”
Garnet stared at her. Then she laughed.
“Precisely. But — despite, one would assume, the hoards of cash the Grim Reaper is sitting on somewhere in the Underworld, presumably he is still greedy.”
“So why would he release the souls and bodies in his care for free? They never found, you know, the money Sylvia Marie the Mashuga took from the families of those she raised from the dead.”
“Obviously, she used it to help her escape.”
“But when she was arrested, they searched her home, her person, her whole village and the environs surrounding it — and they never found it.”
“Oh.” Garnet bit her lip. “Well … maybe there is something to that. But then what do I say for my essay?”
“Exactly what you said before, my dear,” Dindrane replied. “As I said before — this essay was not crafted to test your reason or your imagination. It was crafted to test your faith.” And your ability to supply the approved answers by rote. That’s all they want, Garnet. The same answers given by generation after generation of students. If there’s a place for brilliance, for creativity at Camford — it sure as hell isn’t on the entrance exam.
Perhaps because of this conversation with Garnet, when Dindrane chose her reading material that night, she dipped into the “stash.”
The “stash” was a pile of books she kept under the bed, scrupulously moved every cleaning day. They were the sorts of books that had to be hidden, because they skated just this side of the heretical — and just this side could change to the other side at any moment. Nobody noticed what they were when they were in Dindrane’s hands, for their titles were obscure (purposely so) and the handwriting cramped and narrow; hard to read over a shoulder. But if someone were to find one on, say, the shelves of the library and peek inside it — things could get ugly.
Dindrane preferred not to let things get ugly.
But would she have a choice? For — perhaps because of her conversation with Garnet that afternoon — this night, even though she had read this particular volume, this particular passage before, this time … she found something new within it.
Dindrane blinked. She ran her finger under the offending passage. She read it again, and again, and again.
“What’s the matter with you?” Mordred grumbled as he climbed into bed beside her. “You look like you’ve seen a ghost.”
“Nothing,” Dindrane replied. “The baby — kicking — I think it hit my kidney.”
Mordred made a face, then rolled over. “Blow out the candle when you’re done.”
“I will.” And it was not long before Dindrane returned the book to the stash, and blew the candle out.
But when she lay on her side, staring into the night, she did not sleep — and this time, her child’s nocturnal exercises had nothing to do with her wakeful state.