TDTCB, Ch. 1

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What Came Before

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« on: April 19, 2013, 03:53:41 am »
Quote from: Madness
Good morning from sunny Canada. I should be posting later this morning, probably over breakfast, before my day gets crazy again. Damned vacations. Post away, boys and girls...

What Came Before

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« Reply #1 on: April 19, 2013, 03:54:04 am »
Quote from: Tony P
These are the quotes at the start of chapter one:

There are three, and only three, kinds of men in the World: cynics, fanatics and Mandate Schoolmen.
- Ontillas, On the Folly of Men

The author has often observed that in the genesis of great events, men generally possess no inkling of what their actions portend. This problem is not, as one might suppose, a result of men’s blindness to the consequences of their actions. Rather it is a result of the mad way the dreadful turns on the trivial when the ends of one man cross the ends of another. The Schoolmen of the Scarlet Spires have an old saying: “When one man chases a hare, he finds a hare. But when many men chase a hare, they find a dragon.” In the prosecution of competing human interests, the result is always unknown, an all too often terrifying.”
- Drusas Achamain, Compendium of the First Holy War



Drusas Achamian (Akka), a gnostic sorcerer and Mandate Schoolman is in Carythusal, in the part of town known as The Worm; he’s meeting Geshrunni, a captain in the javreh, the slave-soldiers of the Scarlet Spires. This chapter gives us a lot of introduction on the political side of sorcery: sorcerers are called Schoolmen, and the Scarlet Spires is the most powerful school. It virtually controls High Ainon. Akka is part of the School of Mandate, founded by Seswatha, a gnostic sorcerer from the legendary School of Sohonc, back in the time of the First Apocalypse. Gnostic sorcery is the sorcery of the Ancient North, the Kuniüric nations that were destroyed during the First Apocalypse. This sorcery is more powerful than the sorcery of the other schools, as Akka admits that it’s the only reason the Mandate is taken somewhat seriously. The Mandate is hampered because it’s foe, the Consult, hasn’t been seen in over three hundred years, making their warnings against them seem silly. Yet they can’t help themselves, because of Seswatha’s mission: Seswatha knew that, over time, the terrors of the First Apocalypse would fade, so he has made it so that all Mandate Schoolmen relive parts of his life (from Seswatha pov) in their dreams. In this chapter, Akka himself dreams the dream of Anasurimbor Celmomas II’s death. Seswatha was the driving force behind the war against the Consult, who were responsible for the No-God, though this isn’t explained in depth in this chapter.

As Celmomas is dying, he tells Seswatha:

“The darkness of the No-God is not all-encompassing. The Gods see us yet, dear friend. They are distant, but I can hear them galloping across the skies. I can hear them cry out to me.”
“You cannot die, Celmomas! You must not die!”
The High King shook his head, stilled him with tender eyes. “They call to me. They say that my end is not the world’s end. That burden, they say, is yours. Yours, Seswatha.” [/quote]

Celmomas tells Seswatha his son is waiting for him, and he “tells him such sweet things to give me comfort. He says that one of my seed will return, Seswatha-an Anasurimbor will return… At the end of the world.”


For those who have read The Judging Eye and The White Luck Warrior:

(click to show/hide)

Mandate Schoolmen have recurring nightmares, but Akka notes that this time, the dream of Celmomas’ death is more powerful than usual. Even though better scholars than him have made entire studies of the dreams, Akka stubbornly keeps his own records about the dreams, in an attempt to analyse them.

As Akka wakes from this dream, he “drew his hands to his face and wept, a short time for a long-dead Kuniüric King and longer for other, less certain things.” Akka has suffered in life, but he’s a man of sensibility.


Geshrunni knows that Akka is a Mandate Schoolman, and he uses a Chorae to make Akka admit the truth. Chorea, Tears of God, are not found in creation but apparently manufactured, are a deathly threat to sorcerers, but harmless to everyone else:

Quote
“Chorae. Schoolmen called them Trinkets. Small names are often given to horrifying things. But for other men, those who followed the Thousand Temples in condemning sorcery as blasphemy, they were called the Tears of God. But the God had no hand in their manufacture. Chorae were relics of the Ancient North, so valuable that only the marriage of heirs, murder, or the tribute of entire nations could purchase them. They were worth the price: Chorae rendered their bearers immune to sorcery and killed any sorcerer unfortunate enough to touch them.”

Geshrunni hates his masters, and agrees to inform Akka. He tells Akka a valuable secret: the Scarlet Spires’ former grand master, Sasheoka, was assassinated by the Cishaurim (the sorcerers of the nation of Kian to the south) in the inner sanctums of the Scarlet Spires themselves. Akka calls the Chishaurim “the only heathen school”; the Kianene apparently don’t follow The God or the Thousand Temples.

Quote
There was a saying common to the Three Seas: “Only the Few can see the Few.” Sorcery was violent. To speak it was to cut the world as surely as if with a knife. But only the Few -sorcerers- could see the mutilation, and only they could see, moreover, the blood on the hands of the mutilator-the “mark,” as it was called. Only the Few could see another and another’s crimes. And when they met, they recognized one another as surely as common men recognized criminals by their lack of a nose.
Not so with the Cishaurim. No one knew why or how, but they worked events as grand and devastating as any sorcery without marking the world or bearing the mark of their crime. Only once had Achamian witnessed Cishaurim sorcery, what they called the Psûkhe-on a night long ago in distant Shimeh. With the Gnosis, the sorcery of the Ancient North, he’d destroyed his saffron-robed assailants, but as he sheltered behind his Wards, it had seemed as though he watched flashes of soundless lightning. No thunder. No mark.
Only the Few could see the Few, but no one-no Schoolman at least-could distinguish the Cishaurim or their works from common men or the common world. And it was this, Achamian surmised, that had allowed them to assassinate Sasheoka. The Scarlet Spires possessed Wards for sorcerers, slave-soldiers like Geshrunni for men bearing Chorae, but they had nothing to protect against sorcerers indistinguishable from common men, or against sorcery indistinguishable from the God’s own world. Hounds, Geshrunni would tell him, now ran freely through the halls of the Scarlet Spires, traind to smell the saffron and henna the Cishaurim used to dye their robes.
But why? What could induce the Cishaurim to wage open war against the Scarlet Spires? As alien as their metaphysics were, they could have no hope of winning such a war. The Scarlet Spires were simply too powerful.

Later, Geshrunni is attacked by someone who was in the background when he met Akka. Since he himself is a warrior, and larger than the man, he sees no reason to worry, but the man is incredibly strong. Geshrunni fears his masters are on to him, but the man is not touched by Geshrunni’s Chorae, so he’s not a sorcerer.

Quote
“Who are you?” Geshrunni asked.
“Nothing you could understand, slave.”

“Who are you?” Geshrunni grated. “How long have you been watching me?”
Watching you?” The fat man almost giggled. “Such conceit is unbecoming of slaves.”
He watches Achamian? What is this? Geshrunni was an officer, accustomed to cowing men in the menacing intimacy of a face-to-face confrontation. Not this man. Soft or not, he was at utter ease. Geshrunni could feel it. And if it weren’t for the unwatered wine, he would have been terrified.

Stunned, Geshrunni looked down at his senseless hand, watched his knife flop on to the dust. All he’d heard was the snap of the stranger’s sleeve.

“What a task we’ve set for ourselves,” the stranger said ruefully, following him, “when even their slaves possess such pride.”
Panicked, Geshrunni fumbled for the hilt of his sword.
The fat man paused, his eyes flashing to the pommel.
“Draw it,” he said, his voice impossibly cold-inhuman.
Wide-eyed, Geshrunni froze, transfixed by the silhouette that loomed before him.
“I said draw it!”
Geshrunni hesitated.
The next slap knocked him to his knees.
“What are you?” Geshrunni cried through bloodied lips.
As the shadow of the fat man encompassed him, Geshrunni watched his round face loosen, then flex as tight as a beggar’s hand about copper. Sorcery! But how could it be? He holds a Chorae-
“Something impossibly ancient,” the abomination said softly. “Inconceivably beautiful.”

As Akka informs his masters about his valuable informant, he is called back to his headquarters, at Atyersus, where the Mandate has its School and fortress.[/quote]
« Last Edit: April 19, 2013, 03:55:37 am by Madness »

What Came Before

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« Reply #2 on: April 19, 2013, 03:54:43 am »
Quote from: lockesnow
A couple of thoughts on this chapter.

I'm fairly certain that Akka has this dream repeat--almost word for word, if not an exact copy--just before he meets Kellhus later on in this book, or just after.  One thing this reread should do is a close comparison of the two iterations of the dream in this book--As Celmomas tells Seswatha about the sun, so much is hidden in simple things.

Also note that the very first dream we're privy too has Akka notating that his dreams have changed.  He also had two more dreams before the prophecy dream, and in one notes he sees his own face in the mirror, intriguing.

The other thing I noted is that Akka is a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad narrator, in that he's unreliable, from just about the very first second we meet him he's making assumptions and jumping to conclusions that are ridiculously biased and often hopelessly wrong.  Bakker hides this well because he knows the first biased conclusions Akka makes in this chapter are intimately shared by most of the fans of epic fantasy--that jocks are stupid and dumb and far inferior to someone 'smart,' 'nerdy,' 'educated,' or 'bookish.'  In this way Bakker ropes the vast majority of the likely reading audience into not only sympathizing with Akka (because they share his prejudices), but into also being complicit in making the same mistakes and in dismissing the failings and weaknesses as though they were one's own.  It's a tricky, and fascinating, bit of writing and means that the audience is perfectly primed to overlook all of Akka's other perception failures.

Also, the last line of section 1.1 has Akka identify himself as a whore twice: because spies are whores, and sorcerers are whores.  many chapters before Esmenet enters the picture, we get our first whore of the book. ;)  Such a misogynist this author, calling men--and his hero--a whore.

I want to do much more detailed breakdowns of the prologue and chapter one, but birthdays and going out of town will delay that for a while.

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« Reply #3 on: April 19, 2013, 03:56:15 am »
Quote from: Madness
Nice, Tony. I have some observations, which resonate with your own.

I had plodded through a very thorough piece for this chapter and after three hours of writing on Monday morning at my buddy's house then forgot about automatic logins and timeouts on forums. Lost to the Netherworld.

Since there's only this afternoon and tomorrow for the reread - though obviously, continue your speculations as they've happened in TDTCB, PRLG - I thought I'd try this again and just post my notes without as much embellishment, though that helped exposition in my first writing. I just intend on keeping up on our time-frame. Its also good practice for school.

Carythusal

The author has often observed that in the genesis of great events, men generally possess no inkling of what their actions portend. This problem is not, as one might suppose, a result of men's blindness to the consequences of their actions. Rather it is the result of the mad way the dreadful turns on the trivial when the ends of one man cross the ends of another. The Schoolmen of the Scarlet Spires have an old saying: "When one man chases a hare, he finds a hare But when many men chase a hare, they find a dragon." In the prosecution of competing human interests, the result is always unknown, and all too often terrifying.

- DRUSAS ACHAMIAN, COMPENDIUM OF THE FIRST HOLY WAR

Midwinter, 4110 Year-of-the-Tusk, Carythusal

Right from the get-go, the Compendium, that so far includes two epigraphs of TDTCB, seems to be a retrospective chronicle. Drusas Achamian, arguably the Achamian from Ch. 1, talks about survivors writing the conclusions to histories.

Also, I found myself making up little titles for the passages as lockesnow suggested, however, mine seem to reflect themes, motifs, or metaphors/analogies, which were developed in each passage.

§1.1 Spies & Sorcerers

This really seemed to reflect Tony's idea about introducing sorcery, it's place in the Three Seas individually and politically, some things about the secular institutions and their relationships.

- There's the division of Schools, sorcerers as Schoolmen (p38-39).
- Chorae & Trinkets - the Tears of God - "rendered their bearers immune to sorcery and killed any sorcerer unfortunate enough to touch them ... encased in the cursive script of the Nonmen ... Death to all blashphemers" (p40-41)

There's a really interesting reflection by Geshrunni, Captain of the Jevrah, also known as "the common man," that he wants "what all men want, Akka. Truth" (p41) followed by an analogy concerning Schoolmen and the Truth.

We also learn that only sorcerers can see sorcerers, though that isn't explicitly defined until §1.2.

§1.2 The Scarlet Massacre

As Achamian leaves the Worm, Bakker uses his reflection to throw us some of his world's Pronouns. You may peruse at your leisure p43-44, I don't have the time to do the extensive listing I'd done in my last post.

He sets up for an interesting dichotomy between holy vs. unholy on p43 and reflects that all men simply versions of each other because "avarice, it seemed to him, was the world's only dimension" (p44).

We learn of ongoing antagonism between the Scarlet Spires & the Cishaurim, "the only heathen School" (p46).

As Tony points out above, Bakker spends some time highlighting the unexplained nature of the Cishaurim sorcery.

"Only the Few could see the Few, but no one - no Schoolman, at least-could distinguish the Cishaurim or their works from common men or the common world. And it was this, Achamian surmised, that had allowed them to assassinate Sasheoka. The Scarlet Spires possessed Wards for sorcerers, slave-soldiers like Geshrunni for men bearing Chorae, but they had nothing to protect against sorcerers indistinguishable from common men, or against sorcery indistinguishable from the God’s own world" (p47)

This part seems most important to me, as it is something Bakker repeats.

(click to show/hide)

§1.3 The Watcher

Some power, unaffected by Chorae, "the stranger picked the Trinket from the air as though it had been tossed for his friend perusal" (p49) and not quite natural, as Geshrunni watches "his round face loosen, then flex as tight as a beggar's hand about copper ... "Something impossibly ancient" (p51), is keeping tabs on Achamian.

§1.4 Seswatha & the Anasurimbor Celmomas

We're introduced to the Mandate's founder, who lived during the wars against the No-God. Apparently, the Mandate Schoolmen dream his life.

Celmomas is referred to as both the last High King of Kuniuri (p51) and the last Anasurimbor King (p52). As we're given no indication of the actual date of the dream, we cannot decide how Celmomas relates to the High King Anasurimbor Ganrelka from the Prologue.

Achamian makes multiple comparisons between himself and Seswatha, the Mandate's founder, and as Tony says Bakker seems to evoke a sense Achamian's low self-esteem a number of times in the chapter.

About just over half of §1.4 is devoted to Anasurimbor Celmomas' last words so I'd hazard importance. The difference in the High King's character is noted on p52, the Gods telling Celmomas that the end of the world is Seswatha's burden, and that Celmomas' dead son tells Celmomas that "An Anasurimbor will return at the end of the world" (p53). I actually call into question the truth of the Bastard Anasurimbor's heritage at this point.

Otherwise, arguably, Anasurimbor Kellhus is "returning to the world" and his Father already did thirty years ago.

§1.5 Faceless Geshrunni

We're given another quick perspective from Geshrunni, now sans face, being dragged through the streets of Carythusal by the stranger he's now referring to as the thing (p54). Also, the thing explicitly admits that it is watching Achamian because he is a Mandate Schoolman.

§1.6 The Call to Arms

Achamian wakes from his nightmares and begins chronicling Seswatha's Dreams because this is something some Mandate Schoolmen do.

(click to show/hide)

He notes again his low self-esteem and that Seswatha "passed not from but into his followers. By reincarnating his harrowing life in their dreams, he had made his legacy a never-ending call to arms" (p57).

As Tony noted, the Mandate has warred without a foe for three hundred years p58, while being the laughingstock of Three Seas politi, despite the Gnosis, the sorcery of the Ancient North.

Achamian tries to reassure Geshrunni by runner, that the warrior-slave still has allies in the Mandate, after Achamian himself is called home by the Mandate.

Yet Faceless Geshrunni lies dead in the River Sayut...

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« Reply #4 on: April 19, 2013, 03:56:29 am »
Quote from: generic
One minor thing that jumped out at me is that Akka is absolutely convinced that the Spire will wipe the floor with the Cish even after he learned that they pulled something off he previously considered unthinkable. And he seems to know very little about them. Why the confidence?

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« Reply #5 on: April 19, 2013, 03:56:38 am »
Quote from: Callan S.
Quote
I had plodded through a very thorough piece for this chapter and after three hours of writing on Monday morning at my buddy's house then forgot about automatic logins and timeouts on forums. Lost to the Netherworld.
Oh god, sorry man! I know how that feels!

lockesnow: What did Achamian predict? Okay, I'll admit I'm following along these posts - haven't busted out the books again?

"You know spies.. bunch of whiny little bitches!"

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« Reply #6 on: April 19, 2013, 03:56:53 am »
Quote from: Tony P
Madness:
Sucks about losing your drafted post... Good points about Geshrunni's face and Akka's face in Seswatha's dreams. I noted them while reading, but couldn't remember them when writing my post.

Quote from: generic
One minor thing that jumped out at me is that Akka is absolutely convinced that the Spire will wipe the floor with the Cish even after he learned that they pulled something off he previously considered unthinkable. And he seems to know very little about them. Why the confidence?

I assume because Akka has torn a few Cishaurim down, enabling him to realistically assess their power, and because the Scarlet Spires are simply that powerful. There could be an element of Akka favouring what he knows best, and he is quite familiar with the reach of the SS thanks to being stationed in Carythusal and his work as a sorcerer and spy for so long.

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« Reply #7 on: April 19, 2013, 03:57:09 am »
Quote from: Madness
No worries, thanks for the condolences. Brushed it off my shoulder day of and if I haven't learned my lesson, it'll happen again lol.

I'm not sure I was trying to make comparison between Geshrunni and Achamian's Dream as much as:

(click to show/hide)

Achamian clearly spends some time ruminating about the Scarlet Spires preeminence as a School within the Three Seas. He also suggests that the Cishaurim's sorcery is almost equal to any other sorcery, excepting - the pretty big deal - that no Schoolman - also said explicitly in the quotes Tony and I used above - can see the Cishaurim as the Few.

Any idea what gave you that feel initially, generic?

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« Reply #8 on: April 19, 2013, 03:57:53 am »
Quote from: Tony P
Quote from: Madness
I'm not sure I was trying to make comparison between Geshrunni and Achamian's Dream as much as:

(click to show/hide)

I know, I wasn't trying to link the separate points ;)

Spoilers for The Judging Eye:
(click to show/hide)

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« Reply #9 on: April 19, 2013, 03:58:05 am »
Quote from: Madness
Lol, of course, this is the inherent risk of spoiler tags beyond the thread title.

For brevity, however:

(click to show/hide)

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« Reply #10 on: April 19, 2013, 04:03:14 am »
Quote from: generic
Quote from: Madness

Any idea what gave you that feel initially, generic?
On p48 in the Uk edition:

Quote
But why? What could induce the Cishaurim to wage open war against the Scarlet Spires? As alien as their metaphysics were, they could have no hope of winning such a war. The Scarlet Spires was simply too powerful.

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« Reply #11 on: April 19, 2013, 04:05:49 am »
Quote from: Madness
I internalized that as ignorance. Achamian could hold the conceit for a variety of reasons. It sounded to me, though, that Achamian doesn't know enough about the Cishaurim and fears the Spires to an extent. Clearly, Achamian's perspective colours our perspective.

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« Reply #12 on: April 19, 2013, 04:06:00 am »
Quote from: bbaztek
I'm afraid I don't have TDTCB on hand right now, so I have to ask here: why does Aurang kill Geshrunni? On my first read I thought his killer was the Nonman/Mek that Kellhus encountered in the prologue but now I realize there's no way Mek could have crossed such a large distance in so short a time for no apparent reason.

edit: Loving the discussion on this board btw!

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« Reply #13 on: April 19, 2013, 04:06:12 am »
Quote from: Madness
Welcome bbaztek.

As I said in the spoiler tags, §1.3 and §1.5 always gave me trouble because it doesn't even really fit canonical descriptions of spoilers.

I'm wondering where you've read so far as I think, ultimately, it should be obvious the stranger's identity.

(click to show/hide)

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« Reply #14 on: April 19, 2013, 04:06:26 am »
Quote from: bbaztek
Quote from: Madness
Welcome bbaztek.

As I said in the spoiler tags, §1.3 and §1.5 always gave me trouble because it doesn't even really fit canonical descriptions of spoilers.

I'm wondering where you've read so far as I think, ultimately, it should be obvious the stranger's identity.

(click to show/hide)

Thank you. Now, to play it safe,

(click to show/hide)