ARC: TDTCB Chapter 5

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H

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« on: May 07, 2018, 11:11:02 am »
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The difference between the strong emperor and the weak is simply this: the former makes the world his arena, while the latter makes it his harem.
—CASIDAS, THE ANNALS OF CENEI

Thread for chapter 5, read whenever people get through it.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

Knee that Bends

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« Reply #1 on: May 08, 2018, 12:58:07 am »
Just commenting to declare that I have joined the slog! Just started today, I'll be caught up before chapter 6's discussion. I was confused about a few details in my first read-through, so nitpicking through every word of every book with the finest toothed comb imaginable sounds like a blast honestly. so I'm excited to join you all. IT'S GONNA BE A REAAAAAAALLL CHOPPER! EH, KIAMPAS?! KIAMPAS?
"And I renounce..." He trailed, warred with errant pas­sions. "I renounce my wife."
His eyes fell upon Esmenet, stricken upon the floor. My wife!
"Noooo," she wept and whispered. "Pleaaase, Akka..."
"As an adulteress," he continued, his voice cracking, "and a... a..."
His face a mask of nimil, he turned without leave, began walking back the way he came. The Men of the Tusk stared at him dumbstruck

MSJ

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« Reply #2 on: May 08, 2018, 06:02:44 pm »
Thanks H. Life has been hectic. I have to catch up. And I will. Probably this evening. But, thanks for making the thread. Was hoping someone did. :)
“No. I am your end. Before your eyes I will put your seed to the knife. I will quarter your carcass and feed it to the dogs. Your bones I will grind to dust and cast to the winds. I will strike down those who speak your name or the name of your fathers, until ‘Yursalka’ becomes as meaningless as infant babble. I will blot you out, hunt down your every trace! The track of your life has come to me,

TheCulminatingApe

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« Reply #3 on: May 08, 2018, 07:12:38 pm »
Part 2 of the book = new characters. 
It seems to me there is a contrast between the rather self-serving and self-interested realpolitik of Xerius (and Skauras), and the far more altruistic aims of Achamian and Inrau in the previous section.

We learn that human sacrifice is a thing - victims are burnt in the Cmiral when Calmemunis arrives in Momemn.  The Nansur at least also seem to be quite heavily into the reading of omens and astrology.  Fantasy Christendom this is not - despite the analogues to the Pope, the Bible and the Crusades and suggested in Part 1.  Clever and subtle world building - one of the great strengths of PON

Xerius seems a slightly pathetic figure.  He is addressed as 'god-of-men', and describes himself as "the face of one divine emperor" in order to try and claim the various provinces of Kian for himself.  He is of course not divine, and looks ludicrous given the existence of the Holy War, and religious element in Sumna which we have seen in Part 1.  No-one looks him in the eye and therefore he doesn't know any of them - quite sad.  His own mother very evidently prefers her grandson to her son.  His chief advisors show so little respect that they start bickering amongst themeselves in front of the Kianene envoy.  His imperial intelligence is shown to be lacking when Skauras reveals to him that Maithanet has enlisted the Scarlet Spires.

In this chapter he gets shitted on by what he says are his own birds.  We have of course seen a 'bird' at the end of Part 1, and we know from later in their series that the Consult are very deeply entrenched in the highest levels of the Nansurium.  There is nothing as yet to imply the presence of skin-spies.  Are the Nansur being manipulated, and by whom?  Skeaos and Cememketri seme to think that the Nansur own, or can posses the Holy War, which is an interesting pointer to later events, in both the delusions of the Ikurei and the fact that someone does indeed end up possessing the Holy War.

Xerius as a character, seems to reflect the status of his Empire quite nicely.  The Empire is far less important than its leaders might think, and is under the clear threat of being wiped out by its enemies north and south, with Maithanet as a further factor whose interests are not necessarily aligned with those of the Ikurei.

We learn of the Scylvendi as the People of War - some sort of unvanquishable horde, who will inevitably ride into town and cause havok.  The very fact that Xerius has sent an army north to fight them, seems doomed to failure in the eyes of both Istriya and Skauras.

We also get some reinforcement of what we start to learn in Part 1.  People are shit-scared of the Cishaurim.
And so Mallahet turns up. He is the number two Cishaurim, and it strongly implied that he would be number one if he were of the right ethnicity.  He is described as shockingly pale, and Xerius recollects that he is said have arms scarred like a Scylvendi. 
From various things we learn in subsequent chapters, this is essentially a big flashing sign telling us who Mallahet actually is, and as we know that Maithanet is 'pale as a Norsirai' and arrived from Kian himself, also gives some pointers as to what the new Shriah is all about.  However, as far as I can remember, Mallahet is barely mentioned after this chapter, and hence this clearly very powerful actor falls out of our minds - I know I didn't pick upon on who he was until the in-text reveal.

Closing point from Xerius "everything now hinged on his nephew far to the north".  Who is Conphas and what is he doing?
Sez who?
Seswatha, that's who.

Wilshire

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« Reply #4 on: May 09, 2018, 03:57:30 pm »
I think Xerias appears to be far less than he is, actually. Its kind of a complex thing, but he demands everyone think he is strong, which makes him appear weak and overbearing. In reality though, he proves himself to be extremely shrewd, though the way things are written makes it seem like a double-bluff, making the reader want to prescribe his accomplishments as happenstance and luck.

On the first read, he seems like an archetypal incompetent ruler propped up by those beneath him and behind the scenes. Knowing what we do after the fact, we know that he actually manages to out-maneuver the machinations of fairly substantial Consult efforts. Given the fact that its likely his spy network is infiltrated with skin-spies, as is his top adviser as well as his own mother and confidant , AND he's beset by his more popular/charasmatic nephew trying to take the throne, AND the plots of both Maithanet and Moenghus, it becomes readily apparent that Xerias is actually quite the Master of Intrigue himself. Perhaps even the best we see in the series bar maybe Kellhus.

The Ikurei (or at least Xerias and Conphas) are extremely strong contenders in Earwa, and knowing what they are up against makes them all the more impressive. If not for the Dunyain, Xerias and Conphas would have come very nearly to completing the first part of the Thousandfold Thought, uniting humanity under one banner and religion. The two of them might actually have done if in less time, given that they didn't have to forcefully conquer and convert the entire world to a new religion, merely half, and both halves were already poised to be on their side.

This is probably too deep of speculation for this chapter, but whatever :P . All in all, the world would clearly have been better off without the Dunyain mucking it all up. No Dunsult, no Kelmomas, no Maithanet/Kellhus/Moenghus .
One of the other conditions of possibility.

TheCulminatingApe

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« Reply #5 on: May 09, 2018, 07:01:18 pm »
I think Xerias appears to be far less than he is, actually. Its kind of a complex thing, but he demands everyone think he is strong, which makes him appear weak and overbearing. In reality though, he proves himself to be extremely shrewd, though the way things are written makes it seem like a double-bluff, making the reader want to prescribe his accomplishments as happenstance and luck.

He's certainly intelligent and perceptive.  That's clear from his POV in this chapter.  He seems pretty insecure, which probably taints our perceptions of him, and we are getting his thoughts rather than other peoples.

The Ikurei (or at least Xerias and Conphas) are extremely strong contenders in Earwa, and knowing what they are up against makes them all the more impressive. If not for the Dunyain, Xerias and Conphas would have come very nearly to completing the first part of the Thousandfold Thought, uniting humanity under one banner and religion. The two of them might actually have done if in less time, given that they didn't have to forcefully conquer and convert the entire world to a new religion, merely half, and both halves were already poised to be on their side.

Not sure about this one.  The Holy War is a Dunyain conditioned event, as we later find out.  Neither Xerius nor Conphas would have been in any position to do anything without Moenghus and Maithanet setting it up, and it would surely have failed without Kellhus.

More generally, I can see alot of parallels between Xerius and Conphas in PON, with Kellhus in TAE.  Men who think they are gods trying to rule the world, and ultimately failing spectacularly at the end.
Sez who?
Seswatha, that's who.

Wilshire

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« Reply #6 on: May 09, 2018, 07:58:06 pm »
I don't think its that much of a stretch. Really, Xerias was playing all sides of the board - and yeah it would have failed without Kellhus which is what Xerias was trying to force. The Ikurei dynasty was poised to take over the world, via peace treaties with Kain. Presumably they had agents high up in the Thousand Temples as well.

Also keep in mind that without a holy war, and without the decimation of Kain, the Three Seas would have had probably twice the manpower, and more importantly the Cishaurim, to contest the Consult. Of course, without Kelmomas there would have been no No-God, so the three seas would have been more united and would have been perfectly safe from the Consult threat indefinitely.
One of the other conditions of possibility.

Dora Vee

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« Reply #7 on: May 09, 2018, 10:15:19 pm »
Every time I see Conphas, I picture this:

He's quite similar to Berserk's Griffith, imo.

Anyway, Xerius is certainly smarter than people give him credit for and I actually enjoyed him a great deal. Excellent comic relief. Birds don't care about your station. LOLOL! Loved his mother too. Wish there was of her, despite how she treated him.

Faith is the truth of passion. Since no passion is more true than another, faith is the truth of nothing.   
                          -Ajencis, the fourth analytic of man

MSJ

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« Reply #8 on: May 09, 2018, 10:46:06 pm »
Quote from:  The Ape
He's certainly intelligent and perceptive.  That's clear from his POV in this chapter.  He seems pretty insecure, which probably taints our perceptions of him, and we are getting his thoughts rather than other peoples.

I agree to a certain degree. Even on my first read, I read Xerius as a tragic, end of the line kinda character. He definitely seems as a character of immense power brought low....and it all started with some bird shat!
« Last Edit: May 09, 2018, 10:47:49 pm by MSJ »
“No. I am your end. Before your eyes I will put your seed to the knife. I will quarter your carcass and feed it to the dogs. Your bones I will grind to dust and cast to the winds. I will strike down those who speak your name or the name of your fathers, until ‘Yursalka’ becomes as meaningless as infant babble. I will blot you out, hunt down your every trace! The track of your life has come to me,

H

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« Reply #9 on: May 10, 2018, 02:17:43 pm »
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He sensed something odd in her manner, something bottled. But then everyone had seemed peculiarly ill at ease in his presence of late—no doubt, Xerius supposed, because they had finally glimpsed the divinity that dwelt within him, now that the two great horns of his plan had been set in motion.

My biggest wonder here is if Istriya had already been replaced.  It is plausible, seemingly even more so, given her (it's?) basically begging Xerius for information.  We just can't really know if the concern for Conphas is genuine, or cover for to get more out of the Emperor.
“I am a warrior of ages, Anasûrimbor . . . ages. I have dipped my nimil in a thousand hearts. I have ridden both against and for the No-God in the great wars that authored this wilderness. I have scaled the ramparts of great Golgotterath, watched the hearts of High Kings break for fury.” -Cet’ingira

MSJ

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« Reply #10 on: May 10, 2018, 07:49:40 pm »
Quote from:  H
My biggest wonder here is if Istriya had already been replaced.  It is plausible, seemingly even more so, given her (it's?) basically begging Xerius for information.  We just can't really know if the concern for Conphas is genuine, or cover for to get more out of the Emperor.

I think ive always been of the opinion that Skeaos and Istryia have been SS's.
« Last Edit: May 10, 2018, 10:54:24 pm by MSJ »
“No. I am your end. Before your eyes I will put your seed to the knife. I will quarter your carcass and feed it to the dogs. Your bones I will grind to dust and cast to the winds. I will strike down those who speak your name or the name of your fathers, until ‘Yursalka’ becomes as meaningless as infant babble. I will blot you out, hunt down your every trace! The track of your life has come to me,

MSJ

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« Reply #11 on: May 11, 2018, 12:51:15 am »
Maybe I argued Skeaos was replaced during the books. I can't remember.
“No. I am your end. Before your eyes I will put your seed to the knife. I will quarter your carcass and feed it to the dogs. Your bones I will grind to dust and cast to the winds. I will strike down those who speak your name or the name of your fathers, until ‘Yursalka’ becomes as meaningless as infant babble. I will blot you out, hunt down your every trace! The track of your life has come to me,

ThoughtsOfThelli

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« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2018, 04:15:36 pm »
Here are my comments on this chapter. This ended up turning into "Ikurei Xerius III: a character study (and some other things)", which was surprising to me, as I never cared too much about Xerius as a character before. Rereading this chapter has given me a newfound appreciation for him (even if he's still far from being one of my favourite characters).


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Save for Skeaös, I know none of these people.

This is just sad, especially since Skeaös is actually a skin-spy by this point. Meaning he really doesn't know anyone, not truly. Emperor he might be, but Xerius is really quite lonely.


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Not three hours earlier, the Prime Counsel had informed him of Calmemunis' feud with his illustrious kinsman. According to their sources in Conriya, Proyas had ordered Calmemunis whipped for impiety at the Battle of Paremti the previous year.

And we have yet another moment establishing Proyas' character. Very telling.


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The old ingrate, Xerius was convinced, was becoming as bad as his mother.

They do seem to be working together, which is more evidence for them both being skin-spies at this point.


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Xerius paused, moved by his words and thrilled by the resonance of his voice across the distance of polished marble. How could they deny the force of his oratory?

This chapter really got me thinking about Xerius' character. Besides the loneliness I mentioned above, he does seem to be quite insecure - the constant self-reassurance of his might and divinity reads like someone desperately trying to convince themselves to me. He might be a terrible person (but then again, who is a fully good person in this series, except maybe Inrau?), but I just felt sorry for him while rereading this chapter.


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The stocky officer at his side could bear no more. "Sign nothing, Lord Palatine! The Shriah, I wager, has heard nothing of this either."
"And who would you be?" Xerius snapped.
"Krijates Xinemus," the man said briskly, "Lord Marshal of Attrempus."
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"(...) Lord Xinemus, here, is a close friend of Nersei Proyas"-the old Counsel paused for the briefest of instants, no doubt to allow his Emperor time to digest the significance of this-"his childhood sword trainer, if I'm not mistaken."

Xinemus' first appearance! We learn right away how close he is to Proyas, and how much Proyas seems to trust him.


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Xinemus laughed and ruefully shook his head. Turning to Calmemunis, he said, "We were warned this might happen, my Lord."
"Warned what might happen, Marshal?" Xerius cried. This was beyond all tolerance!
"That House Ikurei would play games with what is holy."

Unlike Calmemunis, Xinemus is smart enough to realize what is going on and is not afraid of confronting Xerius outright.
Sadly, being bold, direct and quick to action will not go well for him at all later on, as we all know... :(


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Something warm and viscous struck his cheek. Stunned, he slapped at his face, then studied the muck on his fingers. A premonition of doom struck him, gouged his breast of all breath. What was this? Some kind of omen?
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One of his birds had defiled him . . . What could it mean? He had risked everything. Everything!

As funny as Xerius being shat on by a bird is, this is just more proof of what I've been saying. He's so paranoid and superstitious that everything has to be some sort of omen (granted, Eärwan societies do seem to be very superstitious as a whole, but still).


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He studied the bird for a moment, watched it convulse and shudder. Was it you, little one? Who bid you do this? Who?
A mere bird would never dare offend an emperor.

Yet he's not wrong - someone is definitely manipulating him...several "someones", in fact. He's just paranoid about the wrong things.


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"Good fortune," Arithmeas, his favourite augur and astrologer, called out. "Among the lower castes, to be . . . ah, shat upon by a bird is the cause of great celebration."
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His cheek tingled, as though it too recognized the truth of the augur's words. It was an omen! And a good one at that. He could feel it!
Again the Gods have touched me!
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Suddenly revived, he climbed the steps, avidly listening as Arithmeas expanded on the way this event coincided with his star, which had just entered the horizon of Anagke, the Whore of Fate, and now stood upon two fortuitous axes with the Nail of Heaven.

Arithmeas is messing with Xerius. Seriously. Don't tell me that astrology really is a legitimate thing in Eärwa, I know that, I'm just certain that there is more to it in this case. Xerius is being played by so many people (and skin-spies) at this point.
No, Xerius, Anagkë isn't really favouring you...in fact I'd say you're one of her favourite playthings, right after Akka.


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"My cheek . . . Should I wash it?"
The man waved his hands in a comical fashion. "No! D-definitely not, God-of-Men. It's crucial that you wait at least three days. Crucial."

Come on, tell me he's not having fun at Xerius' expense here. I dare you. (Still a very amusing moment.)


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He sensed something odd in her manner, something bottled.
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She turned and appraised him in a manner that was at once coquettish and masculine.

More red flags...I'm fully convinced Istriya is a skin-spy already by this point. Behaving oddly, looking somewhat masculine...it makes sense.


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The old, Xerius had always thought, were ugly, both in flesh and spirit. Age forever transformed hope into resentment. What was virile and ambitious in young eyes became impotent and covetous in old.

Here's some more ageism, just like we had in chapter 2 with Akka's thoughts about Nautzera. Xerius is even older than Akka, though - he's 50-51 by this point - and Istriya (if she was the real Istriya, that is) would be 64-65. He does seem to be (along with everything else I've pointed out already) someone who's terrified of growing old.


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Ikurei Istriya, the Empress of Nansur, whose dowry had been the burning of the Imperial Harem.

Check Istriya and Xerius' ages in the glossary or the wiki. She gave birth to him when she was ~14. Now imagine a newly wed Istriya, at most 14 years old (assuming she had recently turned 14 when she was married and that Xerius was conceived very shortly afterwards), forcing her husband to burn the Imperial Harem for her sake.
Istriya really was a force to be reckoned with. I wish we could have met the real one, especially when she was still in her prime. Just another thing that makes me wish for a PON prequel of some sort, even if it was only a short story or something...


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Do they plot? Is this treachery? But he shrugged these thoughts away; they occurred far too frequently to be trusted.

See, the thing is, Xerius is aware of his own paranoia. He does have legitimate reasons to be paranoid (given not only the current events, but the Nansur Empire's own history), but seems to wish he didn't have to be so suspicious of everyone and everything all the time.


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"But does this mean that you play Maithanet, or that Maithanet plays you?"

Oh, he tries his best, he really does, but Dûnyain play everyone in this game.


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"Our new Shriah," he said, "is much overrated."
Let him think he plays me.

Unfortunately for Xerius, Maithanet is not at all overrated, though it's not like he could know that.


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Xerius was not fool enough to think that he was the equal of his ancestors in strength of arms or spirit. Ikurei Xerius III was no fool. The present age was different, and different strengths were called for.

Once again, more self-awareness. He doesn't seem to be as incompetent as everyone else thinks (though he's no master manipulator either, in my opinion at least), it's just that he's completely overmatched, dealing with Conphas and the machinations of two (soon to be three) Dûnyain.


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"What is it you plan, Xerius? You must tell me!"

Thing-called-Istriya is being too careless here. Like thing-called Sarcellus 1.0, she (he? I'm never sure what pronouns to use for skin-spies impersonating women) is not too great at his/her job.
Also, here we have one of the many, many variations of "TELL ME..." that are much more easily noticed on a reread.


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"Tell me you see!" Xerius cried. "Tell me!"

Another one, this one closer to the "WHAT DO YOU SEE?" part.


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He will overcome the Scylvendi. He'll humble the People of War! And it seemed to Xerius that he knew these things with impossible certainty. My star enters the Whore, bound by twin portents to the Nail of Heaven . . .
A bird shat upon me!

Xerius keeps trying to reassure himself, still thinking that Anagkë definitely favours him (and Conphas), poor guy.


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He dropped his hands to Skeaös' shoulders, and was struck by the magnanimity of the act. How he must love me.

Again, this is just kind of sad. He wants to be that godly Emperor, high above everyone else, but yet yearns for love and adoration. And the old, trusted Counsel, the only one he thinks he knows, the one that surely loves him, is not even who he thinks he is.


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Istriya regarded him imperiously. "My age is my own affair. I've no need of fools to remind me."

I love this comeback, I really do. And it can also be read as a sneaky "skin-spy alert". This is certainly something that the human Istriya in her 60s could say, but also a nice remark by a skin-spy who is hundreds of years old, if not more.


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Old and frightened! For the first time she looked pedestrian, far from the indomitable, all-knowing matriarch she had always seemed.

Hmm, it's almost as if she's...not herself, isn't it? ;)


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The emissary drew back his cowl, pulling it wide over his shoulders. Then he lowered his arms so that the robe fell to the ground, revealing the long saffron cassock he wore beneath. His bald scalp was pale, shockingly so, and his face was dominated by the black sockets beneath his brow.

Enter Moënghus, chessmaster extraordinaire and launcher of a thousand theories.
Much like in the case of Maithanet in chapter 3, the hints to his true identity are very noticeable on a reread.


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"Emperor," the sorcerer murmured, "you must leave at once. If this is truly Mallahet, then you're in grave danger. We all are!"

This has been discussed many times in the past, I know, but it's still such a sharp contrast to Kellhus' comments on Moënghus' sorcerous abilities in TTT. To this day, I still have no idea if a) Moënghus-as-Mallahet's reputation was blown out of proportion in the Nansurium, b) Kellhus was underestimating him or c) a bit of both.


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Mallahet . . . He had heard that name before, in one of Skeaös' briefings. The one whose arms were scarred like a Scylvendi.

Glaringly obvious on a reread...but then again, on a first read, most people will have completely forgotten this piece of information by the time Cnaiür mentions how Moënghus scarred his arms. I know I did.


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Mallahet is second only to Seokti in the Cishaurim. And only then because their Prophetic Law bars non-Kianene from the position of Heresiarch. Even the Cishaurim are fearful of his power!"

Some more exposition on Mallahet's fearsome reputation. And this just made me randomly wonder about something - is Moënghus-as-Mallahet one of the Nine Incandati? I'd assume he is given his reputation, but do we ever get confirmation? I really can't remember.
Checking the wiki, five of the nine are named in PON. It's not implausible that Moënghus and Meppa could be two of the four who are unnamed.


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"Well enough, Ikurei. I'll grant you that trifle. The Solitary God knows you Nansur are a stubborn people. I'll even grant that Conphas may prosper where my own son faltered. I'll not underestimate that snake charmer. He was my hostage for four years, remember? But none of this makes Maithanet's Holy War your instrument. You hold no hammer above us."

Skauras is such a great character, I'm really looking forward to his scenes in TWP. And here we learn that Conphas definitely did not learn everything he knows only from Istriya.


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"Speechless, Ikurei?" Mallahet's surrogate voice sneered. "Well, choke on this: Maithanet has sealed a pact with the Scarlet Spires. Even now, the Scarlet Magi prepare to join the Holy War. Maithanet already possesses his School, one that dwarfs even your Imperial Saik in both numbers and power. As I said, you are moot."
"Impossible!" Skeaös spat.
Xerius whirled to face the old Counsel, stunned by his audacity.
"What's this now, Ikurei? You let your dogs howl at your table?"
Xerius knew he should be outraged, but such an outburst from Skeaös was . . . unprecedented.

Xerius realizes he's been played by Maithanet after all...and Skeaös is indeed acting very suspicious. Yes, skin-spies, Maithanet is playing you as well, you didn't expect that, now did you?


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Skauras' visage flickered then reappeared, as though nodding in and out of some unseen shaft of light. How the old wolf must be laughing.

Obligatory notice of a mention of wolves.


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Xerius paused, possessed by a calculating cold. He had always been at his canny best when wroth.

Yet another facet of Xerius' personality, and if I remember correctly, Conphas himself will confirm this in one of his POV sections.


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Everything now hinged on his nephew, far to the north. More than ever. The omens . . .

The omens have to be right, or else all of his plans are in ruins. This is what he keeps telling himself in order to sleep at night (literally, there's a mention of how he's having trouble sleeping earlier on, I just didn't quote it because this post was getting too long already).
Next time on the reread, we meet the man, the myth, the legend, Ikurei Conphas himself (and, of course, a certain breaker-of-horses-and-men).



As this is an insanely long post already, I'll comment on what everyone else has said in a later post.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2018, 04:31:40 pm by ThoughtsOfThelli »
"But you’ve simply made the discovery that Thelli made—only without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasûrimbor Kayûtas (The Great Ordeal, chapter 13)

"You prefer to believe women victims to their passions, but we can be at least as calculating as you. Love does not make us weak, but strong."
-Ykoriana of the Masks (The Third God, chapter 27)

Dora Vee

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« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2018, 07:21:13 pm »
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Check Istriya and Xerius' ages in the glossary or the wiki. She gave birth to him when she was ~14. Now imagine a newly wed Istriya, at most 14 years old (assuming she had recently turned 14 when she was married and that Xerius was conceived very shortly afterwards), forcing her husband to burn the Imperial Harem for her sake.

Actually, dorwy is what the bride brings into the relationship. So, I read it as the burning of the Harem was what she/her family did to pay their way into the Imperial Family. Bride Price, otoh, then yea, the Emperor would have paid that price. Whatever the case, yea, Istriya was very interesting to say the least.

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Istriya really was a force to be reckoned with. I wish we could have met the real one, especially when she was still in her prime. Just another thing that makes me wish for a PON prequel of some sort, even if it was only a short story or something...

Yup. Bakker was trying to say that some women still had a great deal of power despite the disadvantages they were forced to have.




I can't wait to get to the Xinemus/Achamian chapter.
Faith is the truth of passion. Since no passion is more true than another, faith is the truth of nothing.   
                          -Ajencis, the fourth analytic of man

ThoughtsOfThelli

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« Reply #14 on: May 12, 2018, 09:03:43 pm »
We learn that human sacrifice is a thing - victims are burnt in the Cmiral when Calmemunis arrives in Momemn.  The Nansur at least also seem to be quite heavily into the reading of omens and astrology.  Fantasy Christendom this is not - despite the analogues to the Pope, the Bible and the Crusades and suggested in Part 1.  Clever and subtle world building - one of the great strengths of PON

To be fair, not everything has to be a 1:1 equivalent between real life cultures/religions/etc. and TSA ones, but yes, there is much more to the Nansur Empire that you'd think on a first read, that's for sure. Passages like this are easily overlooked. And I absolutely agree about the worldbuilding.


Xerius seems a slightly pathetic figure.  He is addressed as 'god-of-men', and describes himself as "the face of one divine emperor" in order to try and claim the various provinces of Kian for himself.  He is of course not divine, and looks ludicrous given the existence of the Holy War, and religious element in Sumna which we have seen in Part 1.  No-one looks him in the eye and therefore he doesn't know any of them - quite sad.  His own mother very evidently prefers her grandson to her son.  His chief advisors show so little respect that they start bickering amongst themeselves in front of the Kianene envoy.  His imperial intelligence is shown to be lacking when Skauras reveals to him that Maithanet has enlisted the Scarlet Spires.

Xerius really is a sad character, isn't he? Like I said in my chapter 5 comment earlier, I found myself feeling kind of sorry for him while rereading this chapter. He's lonely at the top, he's insecure, clearly has a deeply ingrained inferiority complex he tries to compensate for by constantly reassuring himself of his "divine status"... Not to mention how he is constantly being manipulated by everyone, and has been ever since he was in his early teens or so, when his mother started seducing him to get him to murder his father (but I'll talk more about that when we get to the chapter where that's actually spelled out).


There is nothing as yet to imply the presence of skin-spies.  Are the Nansur being manipulated, and by whom?  Skeaos and Cememketri seme to think that the Nansur own, or can posses the Holy War, which is an interesting pointer to later events, in both the delusions of the Ikurei and the fact that someone does indeed end up possessing the Holy War.

I'll disagree on the fact that there is nothing to imply the presence of skin-spies in this chapter - there are quite a few hints that can be used as evidence for both Skeaös and Istriya being skin-spies at this point in time.
Cememketri seems to be going along with Xerius' belief that he can use the Holy War as his tool, but Skeaös (most likely already a skin-spy) has his own ends in mind, being outraged at the fact that Maithanet has played not (only) Xerius, but the Consult.


We also get some reinforcement of what we start to learn in Part 1.  People are shit-scared of the Cishaurim.
And so Mallahet turns up. He is the number two Cishaurim, and it strongly implied that he would be number one if he were of the right ethnicity.  He is described as shockingly pale, and Xerius recollects that he is said have arms scarred like a Scylvendi. 
From various things we learn in subsequent chapters, this is essentially a big flashing sign telling us who Mallahet actually is, and as we know that Maithanet is 'pale as a Norsirai' and arrived from Kian himself, also gives some pointers as to what the new Shriah is all about.  However, as far as I can remember, Mallahet is barely mentioned after this chapter, and hence this clearly very powerful actor falls out of our minds - I know I didn't pick upon on who he was until the in-text reveal.

Yes, Mallahet and Maithanet's true identities are very clearly foreshadowed from the very beginning. It's just that the vast majority of us had no idea what to look for as first-time readers.
Mallahet does disappear from the story very quickly and very conveniently. I had almost completely forgotten about him by the time he was revealed as being Moënghus. Not even the mention of how Moënghus scarred his arms, or the conclusion that he had to be one of the Cishaurim set off alarm bells in my mind.


I think Xerias appears to be far less than he is, actually. Its kind of a complex thing, but he demands everyone think he is strong, which makes him appear weak and overbearing. In reality though, he proves himself to be extremely shrewd, though the way things are written makes it seem like a double-bluff, making the reader want to prescribe his accomplishments as happenstance and luck.

On the first read, he seems like an archetypal incompetent ruler propped up by those beneath him and behind the scenes. Knowing what we do after the fact, we know that he actually manages to out-maneuver the machinations of fairly substantial Consult efforts. Given the fact that its likely his spy network is infiltrated with skin-spies, as is his top adviser as well as his own mother and confidant , AND he's beset by his more popular/charasmatic nephew trying to take the throne, AND the plots of both Maithanet and Moenghus, it becomes readily apparent that Xerias is actually quite the Master of Intrigue himself. Perhaps even the best we see in the series bar maybe Kellhus.

Xerius really has the misfortune to live in a specific period of time with so many factions' schemes converging at once. I wouldn't go as far as to call him a master of intrigue (opinions will vary on this, I'm sure), but he is cunning in his own way. Not as much as Conphas, nowhere near the level of the Dûnyain, but clearly not the idiot some people paint him as.


The Ikurei (or at least Xerias and Conphas) are extremely strong contenders in Earwa, and knowing what they are up against makes them all the more impressive. If not for the Dunyain, Xerias and Conphas would have come very nearly to completing the first part of the Thousandfold Thought, uniting humanity under one banner and religion. The two of them might actually have done if in less time, given that they didn't have to forcefully conquer and convert the entire world to a new religion, merely half, and both halves were already poised to be on their side.

I agree, it was very unfortunate for them that these three Dûnyain happened to appear and start influencing events at this particular time. Conphas was very capable, and as you said, Xerius was not as incompetent as people seem to think (though no mastermind either). Xerius could have ended up as Aspect-Emperor instead (as Conphas himself hoped to do), with Conphas then succeeding him. The Ikurei dynasty could have lasted for much longer, if it hadn't been for those meddling Dûnyain.


This is probably too deep of speculation for this chapter, but whatever :P . All in all, the world would clearly have been better off without the Dunyain mucking it all up. No Dunsult, no Kelmomas, no Maithanet/Kellhus/Moenghus .

But Wilshire, without Moënghus and sons showing up to pull the strings, we'd have no Thelli and no Serwa later on, would you really want that? ;)
But seriously, you are right - for Eärwa in general things would have been much, much better. No Second Apocalypse (at least not for a while, however long it took the Consult to find another person that could activate the Carapace).


Not sure about this one.  The Holy War is a Dunyain conditioned event, as we later find out.  Neither Xerius nor Conphas would have been in any position to do anything without Moenghus and Maithanet setting it up, and it would surely have failed without Kellhus.

More generally, I can see alot of parallels between Xerius and Conphas in PON, with Kellhus in TAE.  Men who think they are gods trying to rule the world, and ultimately failing spectacularly at the end.

I think it wouldn't have been completely out of the realm of possibility for Conphas to succeed had there been no Dûnyain around. Who knows what would have changed in that alternate timeline? He might not have been able to expand the empire to the level Kellhus did, but I definitely don't think he would have outright failed. Kellhus has had an extraordinary amount of luck (or divine intervention, however you choose to interpret it) since day one. It certainly influenced the outcome of many important events, Dûnyain or not. Who's to say that Conphas couldn't have succeeded if things had managed to work out in his favour?


Also keep in mind that without a holy war, and without the decimation of Kain, the Three Seas would have had probably twice the manpower, and more importantly the Cishaurim, to contest the Consult. Of course, without Kelmomas there would have been no No-God, so the three seas would have been more united and would have been perfectly safe from the Consult threat indefinitely.

Without learning of the existence of the Dûnyain, it's very likely the Consult wouldn't have been that much of a threat, skin-spies or not. No Anasûrimbor at the end of the world, no Mutilated, no Kelmomas. Sure, they might have been able to find someone else to insert in the Carapace, but that could take centuries, millennia even. There was a ~2000-year gap between Apocalypses, after all, it's safe to say that the Three Seas would be free from any major threat for a long time.


Every time I see Conphas, I picture this:

He's quite similar to Berserk's Griffith, imo.

I tend to think of Kellhus as the Griffith parallel in TSA, but that's more because of the saviour/supernatural angle.
Does that make Cnaiür the Guts of TSA?


My biggest wonder here is if Istriya had already been replaced.  It is plausible, seemingly even more so, given her (it's?) basically begging Xerius for information.  We just can't really know if the concern for Conphas is genuine, or cover for to get more out of the Emperor.

I, for one, am absolutely convinced Istriya was a skin-spy by this point (unless Bakker ever confirms this was not the case). He/she/they? seems to be trying to mimic the concern that the actual Istriya would show towards her grandson, and risking having their cover blown by being too forceful with their questions.


I think ive always been of the opinion that Skeaos and Istryia have been SS's.

I'm on the same camp, MSJ.


Actually, dorwy is what the bride brings into the relationship. So, I read it as the burning of the Harem was what she/her family did to pay their way into the Imperial Family. Bride Price, otoh, then yea, the Emperor would have paid that price. Whatever the case, yea, Istriya was very interesting to say the least.

I do know that, but it seems so strange that her family's contribution to the marriage would be the burning of the Harem, don't you think? It's possible that Bakker did mean bride price. It makes sense that you'd have both Istriya's family paying the customary dowry to the Ikurei family and Istriya then asking her husband to have the Harem burned. I can definitely imagine the Emperor being so in love with/easily manipulated by his beautiful young wife that he'd do that for her, making the statement that she would be the only woman in his life.


Yup. Bakker was trying to say that some women still had a great deal of power despite the disadvantages they were forced to have.

Overall, Eärwa seems like a nightmarish place to live in if you're a woman, so it's always pleasant when we hear about cases like Istriya's, where a woman gets to actually be in a position of power, or at least have some control over her life and circumstances.
This is kind of a tangent, but I've been toying with the idea of making a "top x" (was thinking of top 10, might end up being more) female characters in TSA I'd like to know more about. Characters that seem like they'd have interesting backstories just from the tidbits we get. If I ever get around to doing that in the near future, I'll post a link somewhere.


I can't wait to get to the Xinemus/Achamian chapter.

I'm looking forward to that too, I love the interactions between those two.
"But you’ve simply made the discovery that Thelli made—only without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasûrimbor Kayûtas (The Great Ordeal, chapter 13)

"You prefer to believe women victims to their passions, but we can be at least as calculating as you. Love does not make us weak, but strong."
-Ykoriana of the Masks (The Third God, chapter 27)