TDTCB, Ch. 13

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What Came Before

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« on: April 19, 2013, 03:41:07 am »
Quote from: Madness
Even the hard-hearted avoid the heat of desperate men. For the bonfires of the weak crack the most stone.
- CONRIYAN PROVERB

So who were the heroes and the cravens of the Holy War? There are already songs enough to answer that question. Needless to say, the Holy War provided further violent proof of Ajencis’s old proverb, “Though all men be equally frail before the world, the differences between them are terrifying.”
- DRUSAS ACHAMIAN, COMPENDIUM OF THE FIRST HOLY WAR

Spring, 4111 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Central Jiünati Steppe


§13.1 - The Trial

“Never before had Cnaüir endured such a trial” (p395)

Cnaiur and Kellhus continue their journey across the Jiunati Steppe. They encounter few Scylvendi in traditional tribal lands.

“At first Cnaüir had dreaded the sight of galloping horsemen … In desperate times, Cnaüir knew, men rationed nothing so jealously as tolerance. They were more strict in their interpretation of custom and less forgiving of uncommon things … Soon Cnaüir found himself yearning for these encounters — for the escape they offered” (p396).

Cnaiur clearly is having issues travelling alone with Kellhus.

“On the ninth day of their journey, they awoke to woolen skies. It began to rain.”

Then Kellhus chooses to begin another notable conversation with Cnaiur. Mostly, it’s an infodump about religion and Empire.

“Tell me … about Shimeh” (p397).

“’It’s holy to the Inrithi … but possessed by the Fanim.’ He did not bother to raise his voice over the dreary roar: he knew the man would hear him.”

“He’d resolved to ration what he would and would not say about the Three Seas to the Dünyain. Who knew what weapons the man might fashion?”

Again, Cnaiur’s penetrating intelligence, though, of course, Kellhus must take his silence as omission, even if he can’t see his face.

“The Fanim … have made it their mission to destroy the Tusk in Sumna. They’ve warred for many years against the Empire. Shimeh is but one of many prizes.”

Cnaiur quickly recounts leading the Utemot at Zirkirta.

“The Dünyain nodded. ‘Your wives told me you were unconquered on the field of battle’ … He no longer responded to anything remotely intimate. Kellhus returned to his earlier tack. ‘You said the Fanim seek to destroy the Tusk. What is the Tusk?’”

“‘The first scripture of Men … There was a time, before the birth of Lokung, when even the People were bound by the Tusk.’

‘Your God was born?’

‘Yes. A long time ago. It was our God who laid waste to the northern lands and gave them to the Sranc’ … He could feel the Dünyain watching, scrutinizing his profile. What do you see?” (p398)

(click to show/hide)

“’What of the Fanim?’ Kellhus asked.



Either intentionally or inadvertently, Kellhus had struck upon an issue that had troubled him ever since he’d resolved to undertake this quest. That day — so long ago, it now seemed — hiding among the dead at Kiyuth, Cnaüir had heard Ikurei Conphas speak of an Inrithi Holy War. But a Holy War against whom? The Schools or the Fanim?”

The need this knowledge drives Cnaiur’s path across the trackless steppe.

“The Fanim were rumored to be surprisingly tolerant of pilgrims. But if the Inrithi were in fact mounting a Holy War against Kian, this route would have proven disastrous. For Kellhus especially, with his fair hair and pale skin...

No. He needed, somehow, to learn more about this Holy War before striking true south, and the nearer they traveled to the Empire, the greater the probability of happening across that intelligence became” (p398-99).

“The more he avoided looking at the man, the more dreadful he seemed to become. The more godlike. What do you see?

Two days pass on the steppe after the rains.

“They’d been discussing sorcery, far and away the most frequent theme of their rare discussions. The Dünyain continually returned to the subject, even telling Cnaüir of a defeat he’d suffered at the hands of a Nonman warrior-magi far to the north. At first Cnaüir assumed this preoccupation stemmed from some fear on the man’s part, as though sorcery were the one thing his dogma could not digest. But then it occurred to him that Kellhus knew he thought talk of sorcery harmless and so used it to broach the silence in the hope of steering him toward more useful topics. Even the story of the Nonman, Cnaüir realized, was likely another lie — a false confession meant to draw him into an exchange of confessions.”

So close Cnaiur, he shouldn’t have doubted himself so early or overestimated the Dunyain. Kellhus is ignorant. A true “confession meant to draw him into an exchange of confessions.”

“Regardless, the following night he slipped from his blankets and crept across the cold turf with his broadsword. He paused next to the embers of their fire, staring at the man’s inert form. Even breaths. His face as calm at night as it was impassive by day. Was he awake?

What manner of man are you?” (p400)

Cnaiur has some issues, hopes to murder Kellhus in his sleep even as he decides not to. He travels alone with a Dunyain. I can imagine no greater challenge.

Two weeks more bring them to the Hethantas.

“As always when sighting the mountains, Cnaüir could feel the Empire on the far side, a labyrinth of luxuriant gardens, sprawling fields, and ancient, hoary cities. In the past, the Nansurium had been the destination of his tribe’s seasonal pilgrimages, a place of shouting men, burning villas, and shrieking women. A place of retribution and worship. But this time, Cnaüir realized, the Empire would be an obstacle — perhaps an insurmountable one. They had encountered no one who knew of the Holy War, and it looked as though they would be forced to cross the Hethantas and enter the Empire” (p401).

Cnaiur sights a yaksh and places them mentally within Akkunihor lands. Kellhus is first to notice something wrong.

“’This camp,’ he said tonelessly, ‘is dead.’”

“Ikurei Conphas … The Emperor’s nephew did this” (p402)

“’How can you be sure?’ Kellhus asked. ‘Perhaps the inhabitants no longer needed this place.’

Cnaüir shrugged, knowing this was not the case. Though places on the Steppe could be discarded, things could not be — not by the People, at least. Everything was needed.”

“’We must cross the Hethantas,’ he declared, pretending to survey the desolate yaksh.

‘They look formidable,’ Kellhus replied.

‘They are... But I know the shortest way.”

An inversion of Dunyain leading humans, Cnaiur leading Kellhus.

§13.2 - Killing Sleep

That night Cnaiur does not sleep and instead obsesses on his wager.

“He had struck a bargain with the Dünyain: freedom and safe passage across the Steppe in return for his father’s life. Now, with the Steppe almost behind them, it seemed he had always known the bargain was a sham. How could he not? Was not Kellhus the son of Moenghus?



Use the son. Use a Dünyain...”

“He could feel him listening from somewhere out there. He could feel him knowing.

What did he see?

It did not matter. The fire burned and it had to be fed.

On lies if need be.

Because the fire burned true. The fire alone” (p403).

(click to show/hide)

§13.3 - Fighting Foot Hethantas

“In the hills, anything or anyone might be concealed. In the hills, one must find summits to see.

Dünyain country, he thought.”

Kellhus and Cnaiur sight a tribe returning from worship and Kellhus asked which tribe, a question unnerving Cnaiur for its cultural connotations.

“He realized quite quickly that they were men rather than boys, but none of them wore Kianene battlecaps, which meant they were too young to have fought the Fanim at Zirkirta. Then he saw the white paint streaking their hair. They were Munuati” (p404).

“Of course the Dünyain saw as much and more. ‘The one in the lead,’ he warned, ‘sees us as an opportunity to prove himself.’

‘I know. Say nothing.”

Another testament to Cnaiur’s intelligence and observation.

“Cnaüir noticed the several fresh-cut swazond on their arms.”

There is some honourary dick-waving between the leader of the Munuati and Cnaiur. Accusations of dissension among the tribesmen, which we know Conphas fostered himself.

“’I too was at Kiyuth! What I saw could be explained only by treachery!’

There was no mistaking the tone: the willful affront-taking of someone who wanted to spill blood. Cnaüir’s limbs began to tingle. He glanced at Kellhus, knowing the Dünyain would take everything he needed from his expression” (p405)

One of my favorite passages, during Cnaiur and Kellhus’ initial arc, this purposeful communication through Cnaiur’s face.

“A mad instant, then scrambling violence.

An intense couple pages of epic fighting for which I appreciate Bakker’s prose immensely.

Kellhus does some wicked Dunyain moves. Cnaiur is all martial prowess.

“’I’m stronger,’ Cnaüir grated, butting the man’s face again.



With sheer might he wrenched the horse off-stride then shrieking to the ground. The astounded Munuati rolled clear. Cnaüir kicked through the grasses methodically, at last finding his sword in a pocket of weeds. He scooped it up, arrested the Munuati’s initial strike with a ringing clang.

The man’s sword flashed shining arcs across the sky. The assault was furious, but within heartbeats, Cnaüir was hammering him back, throwing him off balance with pure ferocity. The man stumbled.

And it was over. The Munuati stared at Cnaüir stupidly, bent over to pick up his arm.

And lost his head as well.

I am stronger” (p408-09)

§13.4 - Not of the Land

“Striding through the carnage, Cnaüir silenced the wounded.

Eventually he came to Panteruth



‘See, Munuati?’ he cried. ‘See how easily the People of War are undone? Spies!’ he spat. ‘A woman’s excuse!’” (p409-10)

“A shameful death. A fitting death. Panteruth urs Mutkius would not return to the land.”

§13.5 - Mad Cnaiur & the Prize of Woman

“From a distance, Kellhus watched Cnaüir retrieve his sword. The plainsman walked toward him, picking his way with strange care among the bodies. His eyes were wild, bright beneath an overcast sky.

He’s mad.

‘There are others,’ Kellhus said. ‘Chained together on the path below. Women.’

‘Our prize,’ Cnaüir said, avoiding the monk’s scrutiny. He walked past Kellhus toward the sound of wailing.”

§13.6 - Serwe, the Prize

And we’re introduced to Serwe. Enigma.

Even when the others have realized Cnaiur’s brutal aspect:

“’Pleeaase!’ Serwe cried again as the great towering figure approached, drenched in the blood of his kinsmen. ‘You must save us!’

But then she glimpsed the man’s merciless eyes.

The Scylvendi slapped her to the ground” (p411)

§13.7 - Outrage & His Father's House

Cnauir has picked his prize. Kellhus asks what he’ll do with her.

 “’Keep her … We’ve done bloody work … Now she’s my prize.’

There’s more. He fears... Fears to travel alone with me.”


Instantly, we have Serwe’s identification as necessary to maintain sanity for Cnaiur.

“She reminds him of someone. One of his wives...
Anissi, the only one he dares love.”


Here is the instance of Cnaiur raping Serwe.

“Kellhus watched while the Scylvendi took her again. With her whimpers, her suffocated cries, it seemed the ground beneath slowly spun, as though stars had stopped their cycle and the earth had begun to wheel instead. There was something... something here, he could sense. Something outraged.

From what darkness had this come?

Something is happening to me, Father.

Is this simply Kellhus vestigial emotions?

(click to show/hide)

“Kellhus looked through her expression and into her soul.

She had suffered much, he realized, so much that she’d long ago learned to hide hatred and resolution beneath abject terror. Her eyes found his, momentarily, then flashed to the darkness around him. She wants to be certain we are only two” (p412).

Does she have the courage?”

What is Kellhus hinting at?

“The Scylvendi left her and returned to his place before the fire — next to Kellhus. He’d stopped sitting across from him some time ago: to prevent him, Kellhus knew, from reading his face."

“’No. She bears different chains now.’ After a moment he added, ‘Women are easy to break.’

He does not believe this.”

Interesting. What does Cnaiur believe about woman then? Especially, as Scylvendi woman are some of the most empowered we’ve encountered through the series.

More infodump:

“’Sheyic. The language of the Empire. She was a Nansur concubine until the Munuati took her’

‘What did you ask her?’

 ‘I asked her about the Nansurium,” he said finally. “There’s a great movement in the Empire — in the whole Three Seas. A new Shriah rules the Thousand Temples. There’s to be a Holy War.’

She did not tell him this; she confirmed it. He knew this before.

‘A Holy War... Waged against whom?’



Then something strange came across Cnaüir’s expression. A realization of some sort, followed by a look of supernatural dread, the sources of which eluded Kellhus.

‘The Inrithi gather to punish the Fanim,’ Cnaüir said. ‘To retake their lost holy lands.’ Faint disgust colored his tone. As though a place could be holy. ‘To retake Shimeh.’

Shimeh... My father’s house.


Another groove. Another correspondence of cause. The implications for the mission bloomed through his intellect. Is this why you’ve summoned me, Father? For holy war?” (p413)

§13.8 - Killing Sleep, Part le Deux

Serwe is getting prepped to gut Cnaiur in his sleep.

“And his voice! Grating, elemental words: ‘If you leave, I will hunt you, girl. As sure as the earth, I will find you... Hurt you as you have never been hurt’” (p414).

“There was a pinch, and the knife fell from her senseless fingers, was caught before it fell upon the Scylvendi. She felt herself lifted, pulled back to the far side of the smoldering fire-pit.”

Dunyain skills.

“In the light, she could discern his features. Sad, tender even. He shook his head once again, his dark eyes brimming with concern... even vulnerability. He lifted his hand from her lips slowly, then brought it to his chest.

Kellhus,’ he whispered, then nodded.

She gathered her hands, stared at him wordlessly. ‘Serwe,’ she replied at last, in a tone as hushed as his own. Burning tears streamed down her cheeks.

Serwe,’ he repeated — gently. He reached out a hand to touch her but hesitated, drew it back to his lap. For a moment he fumbled in the dark behind him, eventually producing a blanket of wool still warm from the fire.

Dumbstruck, she took it from him, held by the faint glitter of the moon in his eyes. He turned away and stretched back out across his mat.

In the midst of quiet, anguished sobs, she fell asleep” (p415).

And the seduction of Serwe and by proxy, Cnaiur, begins anew…

§13.9 - This Doesn't Really Happen

“Dread.”

“Punishment for her breathing, for her blood, for her beauty, for nothing.

Punishment for punishment.

She was helpless. Utterly alone. Even the Gods had forsaken her.

Dread.”

Serwe watches as Cnaiur frees the other woman taken from the Gaunum household.

“She could hear them weeping, pleading, not for mercy — they had crossed the mountains, and they knew they were far beyond mercy’s reach — but for sanity. What sane man destroys useful tools? This one could cook, that one could couple, and this one could fetch a thousand slaves in ransom, if he would just let her live...”  (p416)

Not Cnaiur. Not on this journey.

“She couldn’t remember when she’d ceased feeling her tears. Now, for some reason, she had to taste them before realizing she wept.”

She’s already been so brutalized by her history.

“Bewildered, Serwe glanced at the Norsirai — what was his name? Kellhus? He regarded her for a grave yet somehow heartening moment, then looked away.”

“The Norsirai asked him something unintelligible. The Scylvendi shrugged and looked at Serwe.

‘Others will find them, use them,’ he said casually. He had said this to her, Serwe knew, because the one called Kellhus did not speak Sheyic. He leapt onto his horse and studied the eight remaining women. ‘Follow,’ he shouted in a matter-of-fact tone, ‘and I will put out your eyes with arrows.’

Then, madly, they began wailing again, begging him not to leave. Barastas’s wife even sobbed for her chains. But the Scylvendi seemed not to hear them. He bid Serwe to mount her horse.

And she was glad. Glad of heart! And the others were envious” (p417)

Serwe is being redefined before our eyes.

“She saw Barastas’s wife marching toward their train of horses, her hands sweeping in deranged gestures. The Scylvendi yanked his mount about, pulled his bow from its case. He nocked and loosed an arrow in one effortless motion.

The shaft caught the noblewoman in the mouth, shattering teeth and embedding itself in the moist hollows of her throat. She fell forward like a doll, thrashed amid grasses and goldenrods. The Scylvendi grunted with approval, then continued leading them into the mountains.

Serwe tasted tears.

None of this is happening, she thought. No one suffered like this. Not really.

She feared she might vomit for dread” (p418).

§13.10 - Serwe, who is Nothing

We follow Serwe’s perspective further into the Hethantas.

“Kellhus followed Serwe. She found herself talking to him, compelled by something in his demeanor. It was as if the man’s mere presence betokened intimacy, trust. His eyes encompassed her, as though his look somehow mended the broken ground beneath her feet” (p418).

She tells him about her life – sold to House Gaunum as a child, how the other woman tortured Serwe with thoughts of blue babies.

“This, Serwe explained to Kellhus, became the morbid joke shared by all the members of the household, especially among those concubines or slaves proper fortunate enough to be visited by their masters. We bear them blue babies... Blue like the priests of Jukan.”

“But she soon discovered that he did understand. After three days, he began asking her questions in Sheyic — a difficult language, one that she had mastered only after years of captivity in Nansur. The questions thrilled her somehow, filled her with a longing to do them proper service. And his voice! Deep, wine-dark like the sea. And the way he spoke her name. As though jealous of its sound. Serwe — like an incantation. In mere days, her wary affection became awe” (p419)

Kellhus' manipulations continue.

Serwe wonders at the relationship between Kellhus and Cnaiur. Cnaiur “acted like someone trying to preserve himself from ritual pollution.

At first this insight thrilled her. You fear! she would silently howl at the Scylvendi’s back. You’re no different from me! No more than I am!

But then it began to trouble her — deeply. Feared by a Scylvendi? What kind of man is feared by a Scylvendi?

She dared ask the man himself.

‘Because I’ve come,’ Kellhus had replied, ‘to do dreadful work.’

She believed him. How could she not believe such a man? But there were other, more painful questions. Questions she dare not speak, though she asked him with her eyes each night.

Why don’t you take me? Make me your prize? He fears you!

But she knew the answer. She was Serwe. She was nothing.”

This theme that Serwe is nothing.

(click to show/hide)

“The fact of her nothingness was a lesson hard learned.



Happy in the immeasurable way of children who have no real suffering to throw upon the balance.

She had heard many tales of suffering, to be sure, but then the hardships related had always been ennobling, encased in morals, and containing lessons she had already learned. Besides, even if fate did betray her, and she was certain it would not, she would be steadfast and heroic, a beacon of strength for the flagging souls about her.

Then her father sold her to the Patridomos of House Gaunum” (p420).

“She was nothing, they [the Gaunum men] told her. Nothing. Just another worthless Norsirai peach. She almost believed them.

Soon she began praying for this or that son of the Patridomos to come visit her — even those who were cruel. She flirted with them. Seduced them. She was the delight of their guests. Other than pride in their ardor, pleasure in their gratification, what else did she have?

In the great villa of House Gaunum, there had been a shrine filled with small idols to the ancestors of the House. She had knelt and prayed in that shrine more times than she could count, and every time she had begged for mercy. She could feel the dead Gaunum in every corner of that place, whispering hateful things, moving her with dreadful premonitions. And she had begged and begged for mercy”

What does this mean?

(click to show/hide)

“And she continued praying to the idols, even though their squat little faces now seemed to laugh at her. She, Serwe, had to mean something, hadn’t she? All she wanted was some sign, something, anything... She groveled before them” (p421)

More and more I believe this passage to be a cypher.

Serwe is visited by one of the Padridomo’s sons. She steals his seed to spite his wife.

“Though troubled by the glee this occasioned, Serwe had rushed to the shrine to thank the Gaunum ancestors. And shortly after, when she realized she carried Peristus’s child, she stole one of the hostler’s pigeons and sacrificed it to them” (p422).

When Serwe gives birth, her baby is blue, strangled in the kitchens.

“Even still, Serwe continued to pray — this time for vengeance. She prayed to the Gaunum for the destruction of the Gaunum.

A year later, the Patridomos rode from the villa with all his men. The gathering Holy War had grown unruly, and the Emperor had need of his generals. Then the Scylvendi arrived. Panteruth and his Munuati.

The barbarians found her in the shrine, shrieking, smashing stone idols against the floor.”

“Nightmarish misery. Brutality. Unlike anything she had hitherto suffered. Each of them was bound to the saddle of a Munuati warrior who made them run and run, all the way to the Hethantas. At night they huddled and wept and screamed when the Munuati came for them, their phalluses greased with animal fat. And Serwe thought of a word, a Sheyic word that did not exist in her native Nymbricani... A word of outrage.

Justice.

Despite all her vanities and all her peevish sins, she meant something. She was something. She was Serwe, daughter of Ingaera, and she deserved far more than what had been given. She would have dignity, or she would die hating” (p423).

Serwe is convinced of justice for her, one day. What instills these thoughts, I wonder, while praying especially?

“And watching the Munuati die at the hands of these two men, she had dared rejoice, had dared believe she would be delivered. At last, justice!

'Please!' she had cried at Cnaüir’s approaching figure. 'You must save us!'

Worthless, the Gaunum had told her. Just another worthless Norsirai peach. She had believed them, but she had continued praying. Begging. Show them! Please! Show them I mean something...

And then, begging mercy from an insane Scylvendi. Demanding justice.



Justice was but another treacherous Gaunum idol”

“Why were they so mean to her? Why did everyone hate her? Punish her? Hurt her? Why?

Because she was Serwe, and she was nothing. She would always be nothing.

That was why Kellhus abandoned her every evening.”

§13.11 - The Most Violent of All Men

At last, Kellhus looks upon a living civilization.

I draw near, Father” (p424).

Cnauir calls to Kellhus and they begin their inevitable dance, now that Cnaiur thinks Kellhus will betray their pact.

 “’No,’ the Scylvendi said sullenly. ‘We cannot travel through the Empire... I brought you here to kill you.’
‘Or,’ Kellhus replied, still speaking to the vista before him, ‘to be killed by me’” (p425).

“Kellhus cupped the barbarian within his scrutiny the way a child might imprison a bird within tingling palms — alive to every tremor, to the pulse of a pea-sized heart, to the small heat of panicked respiration.



So much torment.

Hatred, tidal in its scope and strength, enough to murder endless thousands, enough to murder self or even truth. A most potent tool” (p426).

Kellhus has decided that he needs Cnaiur, even if Cnaiur doesn’t believe.

I have use for him still.

If the pilgrim routes to Shimeh were closed, Kellhus had no alternative but to join the gathering Holy War. Yet the prospect of war presented a near insuperable dilemma. He’d spent hours in the probability trance, trying to draft models of war, but he lacked the principles he needed. The variables were too many and too fickle. War... Could any circumstance be more capricious? More perilous?

Is this the path you’ve chosen for me, Father? Is this your test?

‘And what is my mission, Scylvendi?’

‘Assassination. Patricide.’

‘And after thirty years among world-born men, what kind of power do you think my father, a Dünyain possessing all the gifts I possess, wields?’

The Scylvendi looked stunned. ‘I had not thought —‘

‘I have. You think that I have no need of you? That I have no need of Cnaüir urs Skiotha the many-blooded? The breaker-of-horses-and-men? A man who can strike down three in the space of as many heartbeats? A man who is immune to my methods, and therefore to those of my father as well? Whoever my father is, Scylvendi, he will be powerful. Far too powerful for any one man to kill.’



Again the wall of his distrust, blunt and stubborn. He must be shown.

Again epic fight! There’s again the theme of intimacy and violence between men.

“Heaving him up, Kellhus thrust the barbarian out over the precipice and, with one arm, held him dangling over the distant Empire. The wind swept his jet hair across the abyss.

‘Do it.’ Cnaüir gasped through snot and spittle. His feet swayed over nothingness.

So much hatred.

‘But I spoke true, Cnaüir. I do need you.’

The Scylvendi’s eyes rounded in horror. Let go, his expression said. For that way lies peace” (p429)
Cnaiur’s life is a descending into madness…

 “’Do you believe me?’ he demanded of the Scylvendi.



 ‘Do you believe me?’ Kellhus asked again. Serwe whimpered, struggled to swallow her sobs. So much sorrow.

‘I believe you’



Yet when the Scylvendi at last looked at him, the old fury animated his eyes, burning with almost carnal intensity. If Kellhus had assumed as much earlier, he now knew with utter certainty: the Scylvendi was insane.

‘I believe you think you need me, Dünyain. For now’” (p430).

They trade comments back and forth about Cnaiur’s frustration at the end being made difficult by travel through the Empire. The Scylvendi are hated

“No. Everything depended on the domination of circumstance. He would not join the Holy War, he would seize it, wield it as his instrument. But as with any new weapon, he needed instruction, training. And the chances of finding another with as much experience and insight as Cnaüir urs Skiotha were negligible. They call him the most violent of all men.

If the man knew too much, Kellhus did not know enough — at least not yet. Whatever the dangers of crossing the Empire, it was worth the attempt. If the difficulties proved insurmountable, then he would reassess.

‘When they ask,’ Kellhus replied, ‘the disaster at Kiyuth will be your explanation. Those few Utemot who survived Ikurei Conphas were overcome by their neighbors. You’ll be the last of your tribe. A dispossessed man, driven from his country by woe and misfortune.’

‘And who will you be, Dünyain?’

Kellhus had spent many hours wrestling with this question.

‘I’ll be your reason for joining the Holy War. I’ll be a prince you encountered traveling south over your lost lands. A prince who’s dreamed of Shimeh from the far side of the world. The men of the Three Seas know little of Atrithau, save that it survived their mythic Apocalypse. We shall come to them out of the darkness, Scylvendi. We’ll be whoever we say we are.’

‘A prince...’ Cnaüir repeated dubiously. ‘From where?’

‘A prince of Atrithau, whom you found traveling the northern wastes.’

Though Cnaüir now understood, even appreciated, the path laid for him, Kellhus knew that the debate raged within him still. How much would the man bear to see his father’s death avenged?

The Utemot chieftain wiped a bare forearm across his mouth and nose. He spat blood. ‘A prince of nothing,’ he said” (p432).

He said it! He said the name of the trilogy!

§13.12 - Suffer Him

“In the morning light, Kellhus watched the Scylvendi ride up to the pole. Perched high on it was a skull, still leathered by skin and framed by a shock of dark, woolly hair. Scylvendi hair. Some distance away to either side rose further poles — further Scylvendi heads, planted the distance prescribed by Conphas’s mathematicians. So many miles, so many Scylvendi heads.”

Conphas’ road to Momemn.

Serwe keeps pushing the boundaries, trying to convince Kellhus to kill Cnaiur.

 “’You mustn’t betray us, Serwe,’

 ‘I would never betray you, Kellhus,’ she blurted. ‘You must know —‘

‘I know that you wonder what binds me to this Scylvendi, Serwe. This isn’t for you to understand. Know only that if you betray him, you betray me.’

‘Kellhus, I...’ The shock had transformed to hurt, to tears.

‘You must suffer him, Serwe.’

She turned away from his terrible eyes, began weeping. ‘For you?’ she spat bitterly.

‘I am only the promise.’

‘Promise?’ she cried. ‘Whose promise?’

Wow. Kellhus makes Serwe own her suffering… for lies?

“Hold tight this moment, woman … It will be your only measure of this man” (p433) Cnaiur says to her.

“This is the way to Momemn.”

What Came Before

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« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2013, 03:41:30 am »
Quote from: Church
I thought this chapter was one of the saddest in the entire book, maybe the entire series. Definitely led to my first incident of major post-reading-RSB depression! What Serwe's role (in the series as a whole) is probably the most interesting question that comes out of this chapter. I can't really add much to all the speculation in another thread, but what I can't get quite straight is how her influence remains after:

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« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2013, 03:42:41 am »
Quote from: Madness
+1 Church. Also, just food for thoughts.

I'm never sure how I feel about Serwe.

She is innocent and ignorant - a friend and I were having this conversation the other day: are these conceptions synonymous?

She's unleashed in the world by her father; never clear on why.

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She prays to the Gods and the Gaunum ancestors for intercession - and gets it in the form of Panteruth and his Scylvendi, though probably not in the form Serwe wanted, for which interpretation of betrayal, she destroys the Gaunum shrine.

Kellhus clearly sees use in keeping Serwe around initially because he asks her to own her suffering at the hands of Cnaiur...

Brutal.

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Also note, Kellhus, not Cnaiur, is the Most Violent of All Men... having beat the previous record holder in hand to hand combat ;).

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« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2013, 03:42:57 am »
Quote from: lockesnow
Quote from: Madness
She prays to the Gods and the Gaunum ancestors for intercession - and gets it in the form of Panteruth and his Scylvendi, though probably not in the form Serwe wanted, for which interpretation of betrayal, she destroys the Gaunum shrine.

Kellhus clearly sees use in keeping Serwe around initially because he asks her to own her suffering at the hands of Cnaiur...

Brutal.
What is it that Kellhus thinks when first evaluating Serwe, "is she strong enough"? or something like that...

How much of what we see is an invention of Serwe's perspective?  She tells us "none of this happened" right at the start, eh?  is an unreliable narrator reliable in telling us they are unreliable?  Sounds like game theory.

Or rather than invention, is her perspective privileged to reveal what other perspectives would miss--particularly is she supposed to be Kellhus' opposite, seeing what he does not see.  Serwe feels/hears the thought of ancient souls in the trees, Kellhus twice dismisses trees as noise when he hears them, irrelevant in his pursuit of pure signal. 

Yet it is a tree that hypnotizes and paralyzes him for a day, it is a tree that triggers the crucial decision that a dead world and a live world are not equal... and more--think of all the trees at the climax of the next novel.

but getting back to Serwe destroying the shrine, it's almost as if what comes after--becoming the first apostle of a new religion, determines what came before (destroying the false idols of the old religion).  Again, how much of her perspective can we trust when she tells us not to trust it...

(and of course she prays to ancestors (which are not hers) and this seems to have worked...)

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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2013, 03:43:57 am »
Quote from: Madness
"Does she have the courage?" (p412)

Maybe its not Kellhus' thought, as its mildly difficult to interpret in the story. Does she have the courage for what, Kellhus? Are you already planning on using Cnaiur's attempt to hid in the common brush of more human wilderness? Maybe its Onkis - again, Kellhus' knowledge is thought absolute yet all these narrative nuggets seem to be hiding in the ignorance of his perspective.

Lost Spoiler/Analogy:

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It's like sitting in a room watching a show for the second time but the characters can hear you and your friends talking about them in whispers... or their thoughts.

Thus, I think that was striking/jarring thought for Kellhus to suddenly have as well, lockesnow.

Obviously, we're noting her almost immanent connection to the metaphysical world...

You've given me another thought but it deserves its own place.

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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2013, 03:44:10 am »
Quote from: Church
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Serwe feels/hears the thought of ancient souls in the trees, Kellhus twice dismisses trees as noise when he hears them, irrelevant in his pursuit of pure signal.

Yet it is a tree that hypnotizes and paralyzes him for a day, it is a tree that triggers the crucial decision that a dead world and a live world are not equal... and more--think of all the trees at the climax of the next novel.

Nice link - so Serwe is his link to the non-rational side of the world? Or to a different kind of rationality which is just as open to manipulation?

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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2013, 03:44:22 am »
Quote from: Madness
Innocent, Ignorant, Immanent and... Implicit?

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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2013, 03:44:37 am »
Quote from: lockesnow
The four eyes, me myself and moenghus.

(I couldn't resist)

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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2013, 03:45:02 am »
Quote from: Madness
Lol. Worth it.

EDIT: And I seriously think we're onto something with Serwe...

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But the idea is that agnosia is ignorance... which is freeing?

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« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2013, 03:45:14 am »
Quote from: Wilshire
Quote from: Madness
Should I dig up the quote, does it belong here?

Don't dig too deep, you never know what you could unleash.

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« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2013, 03:46:29 am »
Quote from: Madness
Yeah, had to do it. Some grist nuggets, for sure ;). His italics.

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« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2013, 03:46:41 am »
Quote from: lockesnow
Quote from: Church
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Serwe feels/hears the thought of ancient souls in the trees, Kellhus twice dismisses trees as noise when he hears them, irrelevant in his pursuit of pure signal.

Yet it is a tree that hypnotizes and paralyzes him for a day, it is a tree that triggers the crucial decision that a dead world and a live world are not equal... and more--think of all the trees at the climax of the next novel.

Nice link - so Serwe is his link to the non-rational side of the world? Or to a different kind of rationality which is just as open to manipulation?

Cnaiur describes them; he defines her as rushing water to his inert rocks/empty riverbed.

Which should bring you right back to the prologue and the stream...

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« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2013, 03:46:54 am »
Quote from: Church
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Cnaiur describes them; he defines her as rushing water to his inert rocks/empty riverbed.

Where is this quote? Had a look but couldn't find it.

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« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2013, 03:47:07 am »
Quote from: lockesnow
sorry I should have mentioned, it's in chapter 19, not 13. I just finished the reread of TDTCB last night.

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« Reply #14 on: April 28, 2013, 03:28:04 pm »
the crossing of the mountains. 

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The Hethantas massed above them.  They negotiated steep granite slopes, picked their way through narrow ravines, beneath cliffs of sedentary rock pocked with strange fossils.  For the most part, the trail followed a thin river hedged by spruce and stunted screw pine.
  (I.13 at 389).  We are no longer on the trackless steppe, even though CuS has been inscribed by tracklessness:
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As always, Cnaiur found the change of terrain unsettling, as though the years had tattooed linear hoizons and vast bowl skies onto his heart.
(I.13 at 376.)  tracklessness therefore inscribes its own trackiness.  part of the trackiness of the steppe is that the mountains mark out the limit of religious ritual:
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Cnaiur could feel the Empire on the far side, a labyrinth of luxuriant gardens, sprawling fields, and ancient, hoary cities.  In the past, the Nansurium had been the destination f his tribe's seasonal pilgrimages, a place of shouting men, burning villas, and shrieking women.  A place of retribution and worship.
  (I.13 at 373).

a significant scene, then, the crossing of the mountain is historiczed at livy XXI, regarding hannibal in the alps.  but it is more importantly mythologized in numerous places:  tolkien numerous times, RSB numerous times--but most significantly in deuteronomy:

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32:48 And the LORD spake unto Moses that selfsame day, saying, 
32:49 Get thee up into this mountain Abarim, unto mount Nebo, which is in the land of Moab, that is over against Jericho; and behold the land of Canaan, which I give unto the children of Israel for a possession: 
32:50 And die in the mount whither thou goest up, and be gathered unto thy people; as Aaron thy brother died in mount Hor, and was gathered unto his people: 
32:51 Because ye trespassed against me among the children of Israel at the waters of MeribahKadesh, in the wilderness of Zin; because ye sanctified me not in the midst of the children of Israel. 
32:52 Yet thou shalt see the land before thee; but thou shalt not go thither unto the land which I give the children of Israel.


moses can't cross the mountains, but only may be permitted to see; only joshua may cross and complete the holy war.  moses must die on the mountain.

cnaiur and kellhus are both hannibal, but hannibal as he should have been.  the question remains:  who is moses, who joshua in the hethantas?  we know that kellhus is permitted a mosaic glimpse of the promised land:
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Kellhus paused at the promontory's lip and looked over jumbled ravines and ancient forests.  Kuniuri had looked much the same from the roof of the Demua, he supposed, but while Kumiuri was dead, this land was alive.  The Three Seas.  The last great civilization of Men.
  (I.13 at 395).  there is the gaze, but is there death? the contention must be that there is death on the mountain, for CuS:
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Heaving him up, Kellhus thrust the barbarian out over the precipice and, with one arm, held him dangling over the distant Empire.  The wind swept his jet hair across the abyss.
"Do it!" Cnaiur gasped through snot and spittle.  His feet swayed over nothingness.
So much hatred.
"But I spoke true, Cnaiur.  I do need you.
The Scylvendi's eyes rounded in horror.  Let go, his expression said.  For that way lies peace.
  (I.13 at 399).

all involved knew that this scene aforesaid was imminent:
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Cnaiur shrugged, knowing this was not the case.  Though places on the Steppe could be discarded, things could not be--not by the People, at least.  Everything was needed.
Then, with unaccountable certainty, he realized that Kellhus would kill him.
(I.13 at 374).

the need is war (I.13 at 397), and "the chances of finding another with as much experience and insight as Cnaiur ur Skiotha were negligible.  They call him the most violent of all men" (I.13 at 401).

CuS is reduced on the mountain.  it is not literal death, of course, but an equivalent reification as instrumentality.  it is an extension of the process famously described by mr. marx:
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There is a physical relation between physical things. But it is different with commodities. There, the existence of the things quâ commodities, and the value relation between the products of labour which stamps them as commodities, have absolutely no connection with their physical properties and with the material relations arising therefrom. There it is a definite social relation between men, that assumes, in their eyes, the fantastic form of a relation between things. In order, therefore, to find an analogy, we must have recourse to the mist-enveloped regions of the religious world. In that world the productions of the human brain appear as independent beings endowed with life, and entering into relation both with one another and the human race. So it is in the world of commodities with the products of men’s hands. This I call the Fetishism which attaches itself to the products of labour, so soon as they are produced as commodities, and which is therefore inseparable from the production of commodities.
(Capital I.1.iv).

instead of commodities masking relations between persons as mere relations between things, AK has transformed his relation with CuS from a relation with a person into a relation with a thing.  cnaiur has a use value, of course, that exceeds any exchange value--this is made very explicit from AK's perspective, whereas CuS believes that his exchange value has exceeded his use value.  the latter point makes him moses. 

the natural sequellae of this point:  what law, then, has he handed down?