ARC: TDTCB, Chapter 7

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BeardFisher-King

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« on: May 19, 2018, 01:36:14 am »
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The world is a circle that possesses as many centres as it does men.
--Ajencis, The Third Analytic Of Men
« Last Edit: May 19, 2018, 01:43:05 am by BeardFisher-King »
"The heart of any other, because it has a will, would remain forever mysterious."

-from "Snow Falling On Cedars", by David Guterson

ThoughtsOfThelli

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« Reply #1 on: May 19, 2018, 09:02:06 pm »
You know what? I'm going to go ahead and post my chapter 7 comment now, since I reread it last night and the thread has been posted earlier this week. (It'd have to wait until Wednesday - at the earliest - otherwise for work-related reasons.)



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I've wrought what no man has wrought. Doesn't that make me more than a man?
Conphas could no longer count how many times this breathless thought had beset him, and though he was loath to admit it, he yearned to hear it echoed by others--especially Martemus.

Last chapter we had only a small inkling of Conphas' opinion of his own divinity as seen from Cnaiür's POV. This chapter, we're not even 2 paragraphs in and we get the whole delusion spelled out for us in all its glory.
Though I wonder why someone with such a high opinion of himself and self-confidence would be "loath to admit it". Maybe some small part of him still realizes believing himself to be a god is delusional - or blasphemous?


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It was actually, Conphas realized with some distaste, a brilliant ploy, which probably meant Skeaös was behind it. As far as Conphas could tell, his uncle had exhausted whatever brilliance he possessed--especially when it came to the Holy War.

Conphas makes his first mistake this chapter and underestimates Xerius. As we talked about in the chapter 5 discussion, Xerius really isn't as incompetent as most people in and out of universe tend to believe. And we'll see more evidence of his in a while.
Also, Skeaös is established as someone who is behind all the "brilliant ploys" in Xerius' court (at least in Conphas' opinion). Doesn't really seem to be the case anymore, but then again, he is probably a skin-spy by this point.


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Never in his life had Conphas felt anything approaching the elation he'd experienced at the Battle of Kiyuth. Surrounded by his half-panicked staff, he had looked across the undecided battlefield and somehow, unaccountably, had known--known with a certainty that had made his bones feel like iron. I own this place. I am more . . . The feeling had been akin to rapture or religious ecstasy. It had been, he later realized, a revelation, a moment of divine insight into the immeasurable might of his hand.

This is an interesting passage, as it could of course be read as Conphas' usual sense of self-importance and recognition of his own brilliance...but could it be something more? He does mention that he'd never felt anything like that before. Intervention from Gilgaöl (or Ajokli?) perhaps? (Might be too much of a stretch, I know.)


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Unable to resist a final twist of the knife, Conphas arranged for a dozen captives to "overhear" his officers lauding those tribes who'd betrayed the horde--captives, who, through daring and ingenuity not their own, later managed a miraculous escape. Not only would the Scylvendi, Conphas knew, believe their allegations of treachery, they would be gratified. Far better that the People defeat the People than the Nansur. Ah, sweet dissension. It would be a long time before the Scylvendi took to the field with one will.

I can't help but appreciate the wicked genius of this plan. It's just so...classic Conphas. And of course the Scylvendi would believe X or Y or Z could have betrayed them. We've seen in the last chapter it doesn't take much to drive them to hate. Like Wilshire put it, "no one hates like a Scylvendi". Conphas would have undoubtedly succeeded at preventing the Scylvendi from uniting for quite a long time, too, if it hadn't been for the triumphant return of Wrencûx sometime after Shimeh.


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So far only three great lords had joined the Men of the Tusk: Calmemunis, the Palatine of the Conriyan province of Kanampurea; Tharschilka, an Earl from some obscure Galeoth march; and Kumrezzer, the Palatine-Governor of the Ainoni district of Kutapileth. Each of them had violently rebuffed the Emperor's demand to sign his Indenture. The negotiations had since deteriorated into a bitter contest of wills, with the Inrithi lords wreaking what havoc they could, short of incurring the Shriah's wrath, and with Ikurei Xerius III issuing proclamation after proclamation in an attempt to constrain and further coerce them.

Some exposition - we learn that two other noblemen of some renown have arrived at Momemn since chapter 5. Xerius isn't having an easy time keeping them in line long enough for his plan to work (more on that later).


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And now, the great triumph he'd so anticipated, the all-important recognition of what he'd wrought, had been overshadowed by greater events. The Holy War had dimmed his glory, had dwarfed even the destruction of the Scylvendi. Men would celebrate him, yes, but the way they celebrated religious festivals in times of famine: listlessly, too preoccupied by the press of events to truly understand what or whom they celebrated.
How could he not hate the Holy War?

Defeating the Scylvendi was an unprecedented accomplishment, to be sure. The timing just didn't work out so well. And you know Conphas just hates it when he's not the centre of attention. (Still, I kind of feel for him. Just a little bit.)


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Where power was perceived, power was given. For his entire life Conphas had been surrounded by tutors. But it had been his grandmother, fierce Istriya, who had done the most to prepare him for his birthright. Contrary to his father's wishes, she had insisted he spend his early childhood surrounded by the pomp and circumstance of the Imperial Court. And there she had reared him as if he were her own, teaching him the history of their dynasty and through it, the unwritten secrets of statecraft. Conphas even suspected she had had a hand in the trumped-up charges that led to his father's execution, simply to guarantee the man would not interfere with the succession should her other son, Ikurei Xerius III, unexpectedly find himself upon the bier. But more than anything, she had ensured, even enforced, the perception that he, and he alone, was heir apparent. Even when he was a young boy, she had crafted him into a spectacle, as though his every breath were a triumph for the Empire. Now not even his uncle would dare contravene that perception, even if he did manage to produce a son who did not drool or require diapers into adulthood.

So much to unpack here! (Ah, backstory, intrigue, manipulation, dysfunctional dynasties, little genealogy tidbits, just my kind of passage.)
First of all, "Where power was perceived, power was given." is very reminiscent of that famous ASOIAF quote, "Power resides where men believe it resides. No more and no less." Just had to throw that out there.
We learn how Istriya almost fully made Conphas who he is in the current time. She seems to have planned to set him up as his uncle's successor from the moment he was born (or from the time he was very young, at least). Istriya had firm control of the succession in the Ikurei dynasty from day one.
Conphas' father is one of those characters that only gets mentioned a couple of times (he doesn't even get a name!), but those few mentions are enough to make me desperately want to know more. He definitely doesn't seem to have taken after his mother in personality, wanting to raise Conphas away from court and all. After what happened to his father, and given the history of their dynasty overall, it's likely he would want his son away from Xerius (and presumably away from Istriya as well). As he was interfering too much with Istriya's plans, she at the very least manipulated the circumstances in a way that would lead to his execution (again, more on that later).
We get some more information about the Ikurei family, too, with that intriguing mention of Xerius not having been able to produce a healthy son. From the way that is phrased, there is no way Conphas is just referring to hypothetical mentally handicapped sons. The question is...was Xerius just unlucky when it came to his offspring? (Was inbreeding involved? There must have been quite a few intermarriages between the Houses of the Congregate over the centuries...) Or was it something else? It's not implausible Istriya might have had a hand in her other grandson(s) mental state, ensuring Xerius' heir would be whoever she wanted it to be. With Xerius being 25 years older than Conphas (thank you, wiki), it's not unlikely this could have happened even before Conphas' own birth.


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Over the course of his return from the Jiünati Steppe, Conphas had pondered his uncle to the point of obsession. The real question, Conphas understood, was whether his uncle would be inclined to accommodate him as a tool with further uses or to dispose of him as a threat. The fact that Xerius had sent him to destroy the Scylvendi in no way diminished the possibility of disposal. The irony of murdering someone for successfully doing his bidding would mean nothing to Xerius.

It's not paranoia if your uncle really does want you dead. Though, since Xerius is no idiot, I wonder what would he do about his lack of an heir then. There don't seem to be any other Ikureis around besides the two of them and Istriya (and maybe Conphas' half-sister, we'll get to her in a while). Maybe having Conphas around is too much of a risk for him despite that fact? Maybe he thinks he can still father a (healthy) son in the future?


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Even if, as Conphas feared, his triumph did not translate into the power to overthrow his uncle, Xerius, who suspected conspiracy whenever two of his slaves farted, would simply assume he possessed that power.

Amusing turn of phrase, and a very fair assessment of Xerius' character. Of course, all of them have very valid reasons to be paranoid, as previously discussed.


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The Battle of Kiyuth had been but the first step in a larger scheme to wrest the Holy War from Maithanet, and the Holy War was key to his uncle's dream of a Restored Empire. If Kian could be crushed, and if all the old provinces could be reconquered, then Ikurei Xerius III would be remembered not as a warrior-emperor like Xatantius or Triamus but as a great statesman-emperor such as Caphrianas the Younger. This was his dream.

As we learned from his POV in chapter 5, Xerius is quite aware of his strengths and weaknesses when compared to previous emperors (to an extent, anyway). It really wasn't a bad scheme, not at all. Xerius and Conphas really got unlucky with the Dûnyain involvement.
Also, minor nitpicks, Triamis really is misspelled as "Triamus" and Caphrianus as "Caphrianas" in my copy of TDTCB. I guess Bakker made up his mind on the spellings later on for the TTT glossary? Or is it supposed to be deliberate?


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He had always hated his uncle--even as a child. But for all the contempt he bore him, he'd learned long ago not to underestimate him. His uncle was like those uncommon drunks who slurred and staggered day after day yet became lethally alert when confronted by danger.

Conphas confirms what Xerius himself thought in chapter 5 ("He had always been at his canny best when wroth."). Yet he is still underestimating him.
His hatred of the Holy War and his uncle are remarked upon quite a few times, but we all know he's no Scylvendi in this regard.


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"(...) And yet my uncle has feared me since the first evening I beat him at benjuka. I was eight. He would have had me strangled--had the entire matter blamed on an unfortunate grape--had it not been for my grandmother."

To be fair, if Conphas as a child was anything like Kelmomas (I have the feeling he was), I really can't blame Xerius much. ;)
I wonder if Conphas' father was already dead by this point. If his execution happened when he was, say, 7 or 8, it makes sense he'd be old enough to remember what he does. (Yes, here I go babbling about timelines again...)


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"But didn't he . . ." He trailed off, as though shocked by his own gall.
"Have my father executed? Of course he did. But he never feared my father from the beginning. Only later, after . . . after the Biaxi faction had poisoned his heart with rumours."

Hmm. So, the Biaxi were responsible for feeding Xerius' paranoia about his brother, and Istriya might have had a hand in it. Seems plausible she and whoever was in charge of the Biaxi family back then (Sompas' father?) could have worked together.
There's something else I noticed for the first time during this reread. See how Conphas briefly hesitates when talking to Martemus about his father? This could just be him not wanting to mention his grandmother's possible involvement, but it could be something else. Namely, Conphas showing a very uncharacteristic display of emotion when thinking of his father. There's further evidence for this little hypothesis of mine later in the chapter.


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Conphas glared at the man. Why was it so hard for them to see? Was this the way the Gods felt when plagued by the inability of men to grasp the grand portent of their designs? Did he expect too much of his followers? The Gods certainly did.

Conphas thinks of himself as a god some more. What he doesn't know is that the Gods do not know or see as much as he'd think/hope...
This could also be interpreted as foreshadowing regarding Kellhus, especially the last two sentences.


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Suddenly Conphas realized he had no inkling of which way many of those men who mattered most would turn. Of course Gaenkelti, the Exalt-Captain of the Eothic Guard, would stand by his Emperor--to the death, if need be. But Cememketri? Would the Imperial Saik prefer a strong emperor to a weak one? And what of Ngarau, who controlled the all-important coffers?

Conphas is very much right about Gaenkelti, he does die defending Xerius later in this very same book. I don't think Cememketri would really mind having Conphas as Emperor instead of Xerius (can't really remember what kind of working relationship the two had in TTT, it has been a while). And Ngarau is loyal to whoever happens to be in power. He didn't seem to have much of a problem switching his loyalties - and the control of the coffers (The Coffers, boys!) - to House Anasûrimbor, as we know.


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Their eyes locked, and for an instant Conphas was startled. He'd forgotten how much Xerius looked like his father.

See? This is what I meant earlier. The fact that Xerius resembles his father makes Conphas lose control for a second here. There's something to this.


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He would grasp the back of his neck as though to place an intimate kiss, then punch his knife through his sternum. He would wrench the blade and halve his heart. The assassination would be quick and, Conphas realized, remarkably free of malice. Then he would cry out to his men below, command them to secure the Imperial Precincts. In the space of heartbeats the Empire would be his.

We can only wonder what would have happened if this plan had succeeded. (Do we have any what-if thread for this?) Conphas is certainly more popular than Xerius, he would have more of a chance to get away with murdering his uncle than the opposite. But there is something he doesn't know yet...


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He raised his hand for the kiss, but his uncle waved it away and jostled by him, apparently captivated by something farther down the steps.

The first sign that Xerius knew fully well what Conphas intended.


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"And who is he?"
The man had been thrust to his knees, and he now leaned over his nakedness, his scarred arms chained behind his back. One of the bodyguards grabbed his black mane and jerked his face to the Emperor. Though the memory of scorn haunted his expression, his grey eyes were vacant, fixed on things not of this world.
"Xunnurit," Conphas said, "their King-of-Tribes."
"I'd heard he'd been taken, but I dared not believe the rumours. Conphas! Conphas! A Scylvendi King-of-Tribes made captive! You've made our House immortal this day! I shall have him blinded, emasculated, and bound to the base of my throne, just like the ancient High Kings of Kyraneas."

Turns out that Xunnurit survived the battle, and is now a captive. This must be a fate worse than death to a Scylvendi (especially considering what Xerius has planned for him), no wonder his eyes look vacant and dead. He really should have listened to Cnaiür's advice.


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Conphas glanced to his right and finally saw his grandmother. (...) But there was something in her expression. She seemed different somehow.

Skin-spy alert!


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"Conphas . . ." she gasped, her eyes rounded by wonder. "You left us as heir to the Empire, and you've returned to us as a god!"

What game is not-Istriya playing here? I agree with Xerius' later assessment that she is trying to get rid of Conphas. She is being way too overt for that not to be the case. I suppose not having Conphas around would make things easier for the Consult later on? Xerius is far easier to control, after all.


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But she's right! Isn't she?

She's even playing to his own delusions, which might or might not be deliberate (I think it is).


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As though the matter were utterly closed, Xerius continued: "Is this the general you speak so highly of? Martemus, is it? I'm so very pleased he's here. I couldn't ferry enough of your men into the city to fill the Campus, so I was forced to use my Eothic Guard and several hundred of the City Watch."
Though stunned, Conphas replied without hesitation, "And dress them as my . . . as army regulars?"
"Of course. The ceremony is as much for them as for you, no?"
His heart thundering, Conphas knelt and kissed his uncle's knee.

Conphas realizes he was being played all along! What makes this moment even more satisfying is that it is the exact same kind of trap he used at Kiyuth with the fake Nasueret Column. He thought about how he shouldn't underestimate Xerius, yet he did it anyway. The plot to murder his uncle earlier wouldn't have gone nearly as well as he thought.


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"Whatever wisdom I possess, Grandmother, I owe to you."
Istriya nearly giggled. Flattery, especially from Conphas, had always been her favourite narcotic. "I was a rather harsh tutor, now that I recall."
"The harshest."

More confirmation of Istriya's very important role in shaping Conphas' character.
It does make me wonder exactly how long she has been a skin-spy, though. Surely she wasn't one during his formative years, but you never know... (And yes, I know some of you think she is still the real Istriya at this point. As you've noticed, I don't, and I'm working from the assumption that she isn't).


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Conphas was laughing. "I'm afraid I discovered the pleasures of women at an atrociously young age, Grandmother. I had other tutors to attend."
Istriya was sly--even flirtatious. The whorish crone. "Lessons drawn from the same book, I imagine."
"It all comes down to fucking, doesn't it?"

This was definitely not the sort of thing I'd want to dwell on, but I was curious. Did Istriya manipulate young Conphas sexually the way she did with young Xerius? I've seen people argue for both interpretations, and I used to believe that she hadn't, but this passage does make me wonder. Conphas could be talking about "metaphorical fucking" only when referring to the lessons he got from Istriya, but I don't think the other interpretation can be fully disproven either.


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What is she trying to do? Istriya had always goaded him, but never had she pressed her banter so close to sedition. She knew Conphas's victory over the Scylvendi had transformed him from a tool into a threat. Especially after the farce at the Forum the previous day. Xerius needed only to glimpse at his nephew's face to know that Skeaös had been right. There had been murder in Conphas's eyes. If not for the Holy War, Xerius would have ordered him cut down on the spot.
Istriya had been there. She knew all this, and yet she pushed further and further. Was she . . .
Was she trying to get Conphas killed?

Xerius was fully aware that Conphas had intended to kill him, being distracted by Xunnurit was no coincidence. Interestingly, Skeaös seems to have been the one who told him that. You'd think he'd been able to figure it out by himself, he has always distrusted his nephew, after all. More skin-spy manipulation?
Like I said before, I'm fully on board with Xerius' interpretation of Istriya's words. If both her and Skeaös were skin-spies at this point in time (which I think they were), it makes sense that they'd both be working against Conphas here. Istriya with her seditious talk, Skeaös with his warnings.


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"Come, Mother," he said, "let us retire from the sun. Some shade will flatter you."
Istriya scowled at the insult but seemed visibly relieved otherwise. The sun was high in the sky and hot for the season. She rose with stiff grace and reluctantly took her son's proffered hand.

But here's something that could be used as evidence by anyone in the "Istriya wasn't a skin-spy at this point" camp of thought.
Of course, it's entirely possible that she was and was just feigning discomfort from the heat and stiffness from old age. You know what I think.


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Xerius was heartened when his mother complimented his kitchen slaves. Praising his servants had always been her way of repenting earlier indiscretions--her apology. Perhaps, Xerius though, she would be indulgent with him today.

For me, this reads as not-Istriya realizing that she has to be careful (maybe both skin-spies had a talk following the previous day's episode?) and trying to behave more in-character to avoid suspicion.


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"And how is my half-sister?" Conphas asked him. Jnan had commenced.
"A satisfactory wife."
"And yet her womb remains closed," Istriya remarked.
"I have my heir," Xerius replied casually, knowing full well that the old crone celebrated his impotence. The strong seed forces the womb. She had called him weak.

And here we learn that Conphas has a half-sister, who is also Xerius' wife. This character doesn't get a name either, and she is never mentioned again in the rest of the series. As you can imagine if you are already familiar with my specific interests, this drives me crazy. We don't even know if she is an Ikurei, and thus Xerius' niece as well as wife (which was not actually considered incest in several real-world cultures). (If, say, Conphas' also-unnamed mother had remarried after her husband's death, or had been married to someone else before Conphas' father, and Xerius' wife was born from this other marriage, she would still be Conphas' half-sister but not related to Istriya or Xerius.) I wonder what happened to this character after Xerius was murdered by not-Istriya. She could have been killed in that rampage as well, but we have no evidence either way. You'd think that if she was still alive by the time Kellhus became Aspect-Emperor, it'd be a good political move for him to make her one of his wives, to give an appearance of continuation of sorts of the old regime despite this being a new dynasty and empire (yes, I know Kellhus being Kellhus, he had no need for that, but it would have been a good option). My current headcanon (born from the frustrating lack of information) is that she became one of the concubines Esmenet mentions in TJE.
We don't know how long Xerius and Conphas' half-sister have been married, but he seems to be having trouble conceiving a heir with her as well (given Conphas' own age, it's not very likely she'd have been the mother of any of those sons mentioned before, but who knows). Again, I suspect Istriya's involvement (that assuming that she wasn't yet a skin-spy at the time Xerius and his wife were married).
This is also (yes, I really am taking this much from that short passage) the first time we are introduced to the idea that "The strong seed forces the womb". I'm still not convinced this is an actual thing in Eärwa if interpreted to mean that some men's "strong seed" is strong enough to make every single child they father look very much like them (even if it seems to defy the laws of genetics).


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After all the years she'd spent plotting against husbands and sons, her network of spies plumbed the Nansurium to the pith.

The fact that Istriya had an extensive spy network probably comes off as no surprise to anyone. What I do wonder is if not-Istriya has been taking advantage of it or has lost access to it because of lack of knowledge resulting from not being the real Istriya (and not learning enough before killing and replacing her). From what we've seen of her so far, I think the latter is more likely.


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Xerius stared at his mother and nephew, trying to smooth the sneer from his expression. This was where their knowledge ended, and where his genius began. Not even Conphas, the cunning snake, could anticipate him on this. "No," he said. "They march."

Xerius proves to have yet another decent plan. (Granted, a plan that eventually results in the death of hundreds, but if you're looking at it from the perspective of the Ikurei dynasty, it's a good plan.)


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Conphas studied him, his lips hooked in a mild smile. "I think I know, Grandmother. Could it be, Uncle, that the Padirajah has asked for a . . . gesture?"
Struck mute by astonishment, Xerius gaped at his nephew. How could he have known? Too much penetration, and certainly too much ease of manner. At some level, Xerius had always been terrified of Conphas.

What Xerius did not see coming was that Conphas would know about his masterplan. This really throws him off guard, and a reflection about Conphas ensues.


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There was something dead inside his nephew. No, more than dead--something smooth. With others, even with his mother--although she too had seemed so remote lately--there was always the exchange of unspoken expectations, of the small, human needs that crotched and braced all conversation, even silences. But with Conphas there were only sheer surfaces. His nephew was never moved by another. Conphas was moved by Conphas, even if at times in mimicry of being moved by others. He was a man for whom everything was a whim. A perfect man.

This is a fair assessment. And people still think Xerius is dumb...this reread has really given me a new perspective when it comes to him. It should also be noted that Xerius' description of Conphas sounds rather...Dûnyain.
Despite the fact that their personalities are nothing alike, I can't help but be reminded of this quote about Thelli:
Quote from: TJE, Chapter 3
Theliopa was a woman with an unearthly hollow where human sentiment should be.
Conphas is no Dûnyain, of course (unless there is some crackpot theory I am unaware of?), but it can't be denied that there are many similarities. Moënghus and Kellhus aren't moved by others either (Ajokli interference aside), even when it seems to others that they are. They do think of themselves as having reached a perfect state. And while Conphas' focus is Conphas, there is room for interpretation concerning the Thousandfold Thought and how self-serving Moënghus and Kellhus really are, to say the least.
Also, Xerius thinks that Istriya has seemed remote lately. Another skin-spy clue.


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"This is why I must know how you anticipated this."
Conphas was wary now. "Because it's what I would do. Skauras . . . nay, Kian needs to understand that we're not fanatics."
Skauras. Hawk-faced Skauras. There was an old name. The shrewd Kianene Sapatishah-Governor of Shigek and the first leathery obstacle to be overcome by the Holy War.
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"Who told you?" he asked with abrupt intensity. As a youth, Conphas had spent four years as a hostage of the Kianene. In Skauras' court no less!
Conphas looked at the floral mosaics beneath his sandalled feet. "Skauras himself," he finally said, looking directly at Xerius. There was a playfulness in his demeanour, but that of a game played by oneself. "I've never broken off communication with his court. But surely your spies have told you this."

Moënghus was the intermediary between Xerius and Skauras back in chapter 5...could he be behind this? It's entirely plausible it's just as Conphas says, of course, but I wonder.


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Those words! Tremors spilled into Xerius's hands. He clasped them together. Attempted to gather his thoughts. Looked away from their wolfish faces. All those years ago! Fumbling with a small black vial the size of a child's finger, pouring the poison into his father's ear. His father! And his mother's . . . no, Istriya's voice thundering in his thoughts: The dynasty, Xerius! The dynasty!
Her husband, she'd decided, had neither claw nor fang enough to keep the dynasty alive.

A blink-and-you'll-miss-it mention of wolves here.
And now, it's time to talk a bit more about Istriya.
I have looked through old threads about TSA and Bakker's work on westeros.org. I remember people saying that Istriya was a flat character that fell too much into the "evil queen/empress" archetype with the incest added on for shock value. I can see where these people are coming from. But passages like this show there's more to her than that (though never the level of detail I would have liked). It's also possible I may be reading too much in every bit of information we get about a potentially interesting female character, sure.
What I get from what we learn about Istriya is this: This was a woman that was married off at a very young age to an emperor (or the heir of an emperor, at least - timelines are...fuzzy and a bit inconsistent). This was, of course, an extremely advantageous match, and young, ambitious, Istriya knew it, and took her chance to yield power from the earliest possible opportunity. From the comment about the burning of the Imperial Harem in chapter 5, we can guess that she either already had some considerable influence on her husband before the marriage, or that she charmed him enough to have him make that (very symbolic) gesture. The couple had two sons (no other children are mentioned, I'm assuming there weren't others), and the husband eventually became emperor, if he wasn't so already when they married. By this point, Istriya knew her husband well enough to know that he wouldn't really prove to be a strong emperor (as Xerius thinks) and/or wanted him to be succeeded by someone she could control more easily. (Maybe her influence on him was starting to diminish by that point, who knows.) So she got rid of him by seducing their oldest son and getting him to do her bidding. Now, why did Istriya feel like she needed to control Xerius via sex? Well, we just don't know. Maybe she though that the influence she could have on him as a mother would never be enough to allow her to yield the kind of power she wanted. Whatever the reasons, she seduced him at an early age (it's never stated how old Xerius was at this time, but I'd say early teens if I had to guess) and from then on kept shaping him into her tool. We don't know if the dynasty really was the top priority for Istriya or if that was just what she told Xerius (it's possible her main focus was herself, much like in the case of her grandson). She had her network of spies (again, no evidence either way, but I think this was something that predated her husband's death) and control over her son and his decisions. Once again, however, she found herself disappointed by the kind of emperor her current path to power was becoming and sought a replacement. It turned out that her younger son had a very promising son of his own, if only that son wasn't around to keep her from going through with her plans... And so, ruthless Istriya had her younger son executed (or at least had a hand in it) and started grooming young Conphas for rulership. The rest we know. A very morally dubious character? Absolutely. A one-note incestuous evil empress? I don't think so.
(An aside which you can feel free to ignore: over the course of this reread, real Istriya has started to remind me of a character from The Stone Dance of the Chameleon, Ykoriana, who is also a villainous empress whose character is more complex than it seems at first. She is also a fascinating character and I even have one of her quotes in my signature.)


Quote
But for as long as he could remember, she had been the totem, the sacred fetish that held the mad machinery of power in place. The old, insatiable Empress alone was indispensable. Those times, in his youth, when she had awakened him in the heart of night, stroking his cock, tormenting him with pleasure, cooing into his tongue-wet ear: "Emperor Xerius . . . Can you feel it, my lovely, godlike, son?" She had been so beautiful then.

Of course, we can't discuss Istriya without acknowledging the effect her manipulation had on Xerius' own character. He seems to have been quite young at the time the seduction started taking place. This (alongside her non-sexual control of him) had quite an impact on his personality. His feelings towards her are still very conflicted, as we can see from his POVs. He still loves her to an extent, remembers when she was beautiful, remembers when she first came to him and stopped being his mother and started being just "Istriya". Part of him despises her and wants to break free of her control, and hates the way she now favours Conphas. No doubt she was responsible for Xerius' insecure personality (which I won't discuss here as I've already done so in my main chapter 5 comment). You can actually draw some parallels between Istriya and Xerius and Moënghus and Cnaiür. Both Istriya and Moënghus were adults manipulating a teenager via both psychological and sexual means for their own gain. Both Xerius and Cnaiür have deep psychological scars from said manipulation, and are still in denial about aspects of it even as middle-aged men. (There are still many differences between the two cases, of course, I just felt it was worth mentioning.)


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He turned to his mother and nephew, then glanced at Skeaös, who was wooden in the way of accidental interlopers.

Or maybe Skeaös was "wooden" because he was already a skin-spy and not because of any awkwardness.


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"You see reason in this?" Istriya hissed.
Conphas shot Xerius an appraising look. "Think, Grandmother. Far more men are set to arrive than those who've gathered so far--true Great Names such as Saubon, Proyas, even Chepheramunni, King-Regent of High Ainon! But more important, it would seem the vulgar masses have been the first to answer Maithanet's call, those ill-prepared, stirred by sentiment more than the sober spirit of war. To lose this rabble would be to our advantage in innumerable ways: fewer stomachs to feed, a more cohesive army in the field . . ." He paused and turned to Xerius with what could only be described as wonder in his eyes--or something near to it. "And it would teach the Shriah, and those who follow, to fear the Fanim. Their dependence upon us, upon those who already respect the heathen, will grow with the measure of their fear."

Conphas approves of Xerius' plan, and knows exactly how the whole thing is supposed to go.
Also, Proyas is name-dropped, and so are Saubon (whom we haven't met yet at this point) and Chepheramunni (likewise; he's also most likely a skin-spy by this point).


Quote
Xerius could not help smiling. Such a plan! Even the great Ikurei Conphas was in awe! And Maithanet . . . The thought made Xerius want to chortle like an imbecile.

Xerius kind of ruins the initial reaction to his plan here by being too pleased with himself. An evil laugh, or maybe even an evil chuckle, would have been more appropriate. ;)
Maithanet will not be fooled in the slightest, but it's not like Xerius or Conphas could know.


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"Splendid!" Conphas cried. "Why didn't I see it? Thrash them with one hand in order to soothe them with the other. Brilliant, Uncle! The Holy War will be ours. The Empire will be restored!"

Conphas is acting here, sure, but I'm certain he feels at least some grudging admiration for the plan. It's also a good idea for him to appease Xerius after the incident with the Eothic Guard and the aborted assassination plan earlier.


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"It's mine, Mother," Xerius snapped, irked by her assumption. "The wretch has spent tedious weeks trying to talk me out of it." Even as he gave breath to these words, he knew he'd blundered.

Xerius screws up again, this time not just in his interior monologue.
We learn that Skeaös was against the Vulgar Holy War plan from the start. It does seem to have worked better for the Consult this way, though...reverse psychology? Am I missing something?


Quote
The grand Empress stared at him for a long while, her face disconcertingly blank beneath its skin of cosmetics.
"Shimeh," she said at last in a dead voice. "The Holy War is to perish before Shimeh."

Istriya finally realizes what is the ultimate goal of the grand plan. Again, it wasn't a bad plan. Sure, it had flaws, but without Dûnyain interference, an Ikurei victory wouldn't have been impossible.
There is another "skin-spy alert" here, with her face being described as "disconcertingly blank".


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His thoughts leaped. I will be immortal . . .

Kind of sad in retrospective, since 20 years after his death barely anyone remembers him in-universe...


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"Like an immense sarcophagus," his mother said. Always, the asp of truth.

Foreshadowing? Did not-Istriya already plan on eventually killing Xerius at this point in time, or did she just do it as a last resort because she was discovered?


And to finish the chapter discussion, since I'm taking over this now:
Chapter Seven Body Count: One named character (Erathius), but his death happened before the events of the chapter (thought still during the events of this book), so I'm not sure if it counts.



Again, apologies for the overly long comment, I just wanted to get this posted as early as possible this week. I do spend too much time overthinking some aspects of this fictional world...
« Last Edit: May 19, 2018, 11:54:28 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)

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« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2018, 02:43:08 am »
A very interesting chapter.

1. Istryia is a SS, no doubt in my mind. Thelli has already quoted the passes. But, you can tell she favors the Holy War and going after Shimeh. After all, thats where all of the SS's are disappearing. That's the Consult's objective.

2. Here we find out that Skeaos has been trying to talk Xerius out of the Vulgar Holy War. Id say at this point he is a SS. Even in prior chapters, there has been references to the coarseness of his skin, etc, etc.

3. Conphas knows how to play Xerius. I live the passage where Xerius says that there is something dead inside Conphas, something smooth. I think this is what makes him immune to Kellhus. He believes he's a god, wholeheartedly. Its his greatest strength and ultimate downfall.

ETA: I almost forgot. Xerius is no fool either. These are sound military plans to get what he wants...The Empire back. If not for a Dûnyain and a lonely, crazed Scylvendi.
« Last Edit: May 21, 2018, 02:46:13 am 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,

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« Reply #3 on: May 22, 2018, 10:37:53 pm »
1. Istryia is a SS, no doubt in my mind. Thelli has already quoted the passes. But, you can tell she favors the Holy War and going after Shimeh. After all, thats where all of the SS's are disappearing. That's the Consult's objective.

2. Here we find out that Skeaos has been trying to talk Xerius out of the Vulgar Holy War. Id say at this point he is a SS. Even in prior chapters, there has been references to the coarseness of his skin, etc, etc.

It all becomes so clear on a reread, there are tons of hints in the Xerius and Conphas POVs if you pay attention. And we still get at least that one about Conphas being surprised at Skeaös' agility before he is even confirmed as a skin-spy.


3. Conphas knows how to play Xerius. I live the passage where Xerius says that there is something dead inside Conphas, something smooth. I think this is what makes him immune to Kellhus. He believes he's a god, wholeheartedly. Its his greatest strength and ultimate downfall.

Oh, he sure does. That is a great passage, and something I definitely did not notice during my first read. I think you're right. Like I speculated in my comment, he's very Dûnyain-like, and he thinks very highly of himself and does not care about anyone else. That does help him resist Kellhus' manipulation. (I'm really looking forward to that epic speech Kellhus gives to Conphas when he dismisses him from the Holy War that basically sums him up perfectly. Sure, it's hypocritical coming from Kellhus of all people, but still great.)


ETA: I almost forgot. Xerius is no fool either. These are sound military plans to get what he wants...The Empire back. If not for a Dûnyain and a lonely, crazed Scylvendi.

He isn't, he is just very unlucky at who he gets as adversaries. Even the best plans come to ruin when Dûnyain are involved... And, of course, the wild card that was Cnaiür.
"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)

TheCulminatingApe

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« Reply #4 on: May 23, 2018, 07:24:11 pm »
Parallels between the Anasurimbor and the Ikurei, and the Great Ordeal and the Holy War

Conphas had "known - known with a certainty that had made his bones feel like iron. I own this place.  I am more...  The feeling had been akin to rapture or religious ecstasy.  It had been, he later realized, a moment of divine insight into the immeasurable might of his hand".

With hindsight, this might well be a Kellhus POV.

The HOly War will fail at Shimeh (but actually doesn't) - the Ordeal will fail at Golgotterath (but seemingly not by design, as far as we know).

Xerius and Conphas = Moenghus and Kellhus?  There are obvious similarities between Conphas and Kellhus - the two can be contrasted throughout PON - Conphas does come across almost as a worldborn Dunyain, but of course is no match for the real deal.  In TAE, Kellhus is perhaps what Conphas thinks he is/ should be, but he ends up failing just like Conphas does.
I'm not sure if Xerius = Moenghus stacks up, but both are web weavers, who act from behind the scenes rather than get directly involved in the fighting.

We even get the No-God popping up at the end - Xerius' big black 'sarcophagus'.  A lot more could probably be read into this Chapter with a bit more time and thought.

The idea that the Fanim would be happy to agree to let the Holy War get all the way to Shimeh doesn't really make sense.  And if they were, why spend all that time and effort fighting it before it gets there?  There's shades of the Ordeal going to Golgotterath here as well.
« Last Edit: May 23, 2018, 07:51:05 pm by TheCulminatingApe »
Sez who?
Seswatha, that's who.

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« Reply #5 on: May 23, 2018, 08:26:59 pm »
Quote from:  Theculminatingape
The idea that the Fanim would be happy to agree to let the Holy War get all the way to Shimeh doesn't really make sense.

Why not? I think its explained rather well in the chapter and the meeting with Moe/Mallahet. The Fanim know that they will be outnumbered and going up against fanatics that believe their doing Gods work. It works for both the Nansur and the Fanim. The Fanim keep Holy Shimeh, and the Nansur restore their empire. Plus, the Nansur switch sides in this plan. All the Fanim have to do is fall back and let the Holy War die in the desert, because they have no water. Fairly bloodless, and both (Fanim, Nansur) can live with the outcome. Again, a pretty damn smart move by Xerius, if not for a Dûnyain.
“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,

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« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2018, 07:56:50 pm »
Quote from:  Theculminatingape
The idea that the Fanim would be happy to agree to let the Holy War get all the way to Shimeh doesn't really make sense.
a pretty damn smart move by Xerius.

Is it smart?  On the assumption that the Holy War suffers a terrible defeat at Shimeh, there are two likely outcomes.  Either the Nansur have been holding back, and then attack and defeat the Fanim, taking Shimeh - to me it is inconceivable that Conphas would not do this. Or, the Fanim destroy the Nansur armies as well, and steamroll all the way to Sumna.  In any case, why would the Fanim give up Shigek and Caraskand to their arch enemies, the infidel Nansur?


The Fanim keep Holy Shimeh
Which they already have, and will be far better able to defend at distance further to the north

and the Nansur restore their empire.
Which the Fanim will just let happen? No way

All the Fanim have to do is fall back and let the Holy War die in the desert, because they have no water.
This does make sense, but then the Holy War will not perish at Shimeh as stated in the Chapter

Again, a pretty damn smart move by Xerius, if not for a Dûnyain.

There's a Dunyain in the room when the deal is done.  It could be inferred that the whole scheme has actually been instigated by Moenghus, so that Kellhus has a better chance of getting to Shimeh.

Also the entire Holy War is a Dunyain plot.  No Dunyain - the whole thing doesn't happen.
Sez who?
Seswatha, that's who.

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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2018, 08:29:43 pm »
Quote
I've wrought what no man has wrought. Doesn't that make me more than a man?
Conphas could no longer count how many times this breathless thought had beset him, and though he was loath to admit it, he yearned to hear it echoed by others--especially Martemus.

Last chapter we had only a small inkling of Conphas' opinion of his own divinity as seen from Cnaiür's POV. This chapter, we're not even 2 paragraphs in and we get the whole delusion spelled out for us in all its glory.
Though I wonder why someone with such a high opinion of himself and self-confidence would be "loath to admit it". Maybe some small part of him still realizes believing himself to be a god is delusional - or blasphemous?

He just doesn't want to admit to himself that he needs the good opinions of other people.  The insecurity of arrogance, if you like.

Conphas makes his first mistake this chapter and underestimates Xerius. As we talked about in the chapter 5 discussion, Xerius really isn't as incompetent as most people in and out of universe tend to believe. And we'll see more evidence of his in a while.
Also, Skeaös is established as someone who is behind all the "brilliant ploys" in Xerius' court (at least in Conphas' opinion). Doesn't really seem to be the case anymore, but then again, he is probably a skin-spy by this point.

Xerius comes across as lot more in this Chapter, and puts Conphas back in his box a few times.


Quote
Never in his life had Conphas felt anything approaching the elation he'd experienced at the Battle of Kiyuth. Surrounded by his half-panicked staff, he had looked across the undecided battlefield and somehow, unaccountably, had known--known with a certainty that had made his bones feel like iron. I own this place. I am more . . . The feeling had been akin to rapture or religious ecstasy. It had been, he later realized, a revelation, a moment of divine insight into the immeasurable might of his hand.

This is an interesting passage, as it could of course be read as Conphas' usual sense of self-importance and recognition of his own brilliance...but could it be something more? He does mention that he'd never felt anything like that before. Intervention from Gilgaöl (or Ajokli?) perhaps? (Might be too much of a stretch, I know.)

With hindsight, this could be a kind of surrogate Kellhus POV.  Telling what happens when Kellhus 'goes mad', but also pointing out that this is delusional.  There are a lot of correspondences between Conphas' and Kellhus' arcs across the both series IMHO.

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And now, the great triumph he'd so anticipated, the all-important recognition of what he'd wrought, had been overshadowed by greater events. The Holy War had dimmed his glory, had dwarfed even the destruction of the Scylvendi. Men would celebrate him, yes, but the way they celebrated religious festivals in times of famine: listlessly, too preoccupied by the press of events to truly understand what or whom they celebrated.
How could he not hate the Holy War?

Defeating the Scylvendi was an unprecedented accomplishment, to be sure. The timing just didn't work out so well. And you know Conphas just hates it when he's not the centre of attention. (Still, I kind of feel for him. Just a little bit.)
You'd think he would have realised why he had been sent north in the first place.  Whilst Conphas is a brilliant individual, he does seem very self-absorbed and not necessarily good at picking up what's going on around him.

Quote
The Battle of Kiyuth had been but the first step in a larger scheme to wrest the Holy War from Maithanet, and the Holy War was key to his uncle's dream of a Restored Empire. If Kian could be crushed, and if all the old provinces could be reconquered, then Ikurei Xerius III would be remembered not as a warrior-emperor like Xatantius or Triamus but as a great statesman-emperor such as Caphrianas the Younger. This was his dream.

As we learned from his POV in chapter 5, Xerius is quite aware of his strengths and weaknesses when compared to previous emperors (to an extent, anyway). It really wasn't a bad scheme, not at all. Xerius and Conphas really got unlucky with the Dûnyain involvement.
Not really, the Holy War itself is a Dunyain scheme.  Moenghus and Maithanet are playing the Nansur.

To be fair, if Conphas as a child was anything like Kelmomas (I have the feeling he was)
This has got me wondering if Conphas could potentially be an Insertant.  He is of course no God, despite his opinions to the contrary.

Quote
"Whatever wisdom I possess, Grandmother, I owe to you."
Istriya nearly giggled. Flattery, especially from Conphas, had always been her favourite narcotic. "I was a rather harsh tutor, now that I recall."
"The harshest."

More confirmation of Istriya's very important role in shaping Conphas' character.
It does make me wonder exactly how long she has been a skin-spy, though. Surely she wasn't one during his formative years, but you never know... (And yes, I know some of you think she is still the real Istriya at this point. As you've noticed, I don't, and I'm working from the assumption that she isn't).

Quote
Conphas was laughing. "I'm afraid I discovered the pleasures of women at an atrociously young age, Grandmother. I had other tutors to attend."
Istriya was sly--even flirtatious. The whorish crone. "Lessons drawn from the same book, I imagine."
"It all comes down to fucking, doesn't it?"

This was definitely not the sort of thing I'd want to dwell on, but I was curious. Did Istriya manipulate young Conphas sexually the way she did with young Xerius? I've seen people argue for both interpretations, and I used to believe that she hadn't, but this passage does make me wonder. Conphas could be talking about "metaphorical fucking" only when referring to the lessons he got from Istriya, but I don't think the other interpretation can be fully disproven either.

Manipulation via perversion of sexual desire does seem a very Consult thing to do. I'm not saying Istriya has or hasn't been a skin-spy for any long duration - just pointing it out.


Quote
There was something dead inside his nephew. No, more than dead--something smooth. With others, even with his mother--although she too had seemed so remote lately--there was always the exchange of unspoken expectations, of the small, human needs that crotched and braced all conversation, even silences. But with Conphas there were only sheer surfaces. His nephew was never moved by another. Conphas was moved by Conphas, even if at times in mimicry of being moved by others. He was a man for whom everything was a whim. A perfect man.

This is a fair assessment. And people still think Xerius is dumb...this reread has really given me a new perspective when it comes to him. It should also be noted that Xerius' description of Conphas sounds rather...Dûnyain.
Despite the fact that their personalities are nothing alike, I can't help but be reminded of this quote about Thelli:
Quote from: TJE, Chapter 3
Theliopa was a woman with an unearthly hollow where human sentiment should be.
Conphas is no Dûnyain, of course (unless there is some crackpot theory I am unaware of?), but it can't be denied that there are many similarities. Moënghus and Kellhus aren't moved by others either (Ajokli interference aside), even when it seems to others that they are. They do think of themselves as having reached a perfect state. And while Conphas' focus is Conphas, there is room for interpretation concerning the Thousandfold Thought and how self-serving Moënghus and Kellhus really are, to say the least.

Indeed, more similarities between Conphas and Kellhus.

Moënghus was the intermediary between Xerius and Skauras back in chapter 5...could he be behind this? It's entirely plausible it's just as Conphas says, of course, but I wonder.

It certainly shouldn't be ruled out, should it? ;)  Also, Moenghus must surely know that Skeaos is a skin-spy, and therefore that the Consult are involved with Nansur decision making at the highest levels.

You can actually draw some parallels between Istriya and Xerius and Moënghus and Cnaiür. Both Istriya and Moënghus were adults manipulating a teenager via both psychological and sexual means for their own gain. Both Xerius and Cnaiür have deep psychological scars from said manipulation, and are still in denial about aspects of it even as middle-aged men. (There are still many differences between the two cases, of course, I just felt it was worth mentioning.)

Good call :D

Quote
"Like an immense sarcophagus," his mother said. Always, the asp of truth.

Foreshadowing?
The No-God.
Sez who?
Seswatha, that's who.

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« Reply #8 on: May 28, 2018, 06:23:18 pm »
Parallels between the Anasurimbor and the Ikurei, and the Great Ordeal and the Holy War

Conphas had "known - known with a certainty that had made his bones feel like iron. I own this place.  I am more...  The feeling had been akin to rapture or religious ecstasy.  It had been, he later realized, a moment of divine insight into the immeasurable might of his hand".

With hindsight, this might well be a Kellhus POV.

The HOly War will fail at Shimeh (but actually doesn't) - the Ordeal will fail at Golgotterath (but seemingly not by design, as far as we know).
With hindsight, this could be a kind of surrogate Kellhus POV.  Telling what happens when Kellhus 'goes mad', but also pointing out that this is delusional.  There are a lot of correspondences between Conphas' and Kellhus' arcs across the both series IMHO.

There are many similarities between the two from the first time we read the series, and even more on a reread, especially post-TUC as you said. Conphas was not infallible. He was very popular and was able to inspire intense loyalty from his men, but ultimately failed at his goal of turning the Holy War into his own instrument and becoming the next Triamis the Great. This really should have served as a warning sign after we saw Kellhus ultimately become even more powerful than Triamis, also inspiring intense loyalty and setting his sights on defeating the Consult...only to discover he was not infallible either. Such great parallels.


Xerius and Conphas = Moenghus and Kellhus?  There are obvious similarities between Conphas and Kellhus - the two can be contrasted throughout PON - Conphas does come across almost as a worldborn Dunyain, but of course is no match for the real deal.  In TAE, Kellhus is perhaps what Conphas thinks he is/ should be, but he ends up failing just like Conphas does.
I'm not sure if Xerius = Moenghus stacks up, but both are web weavers, who act from behind the scenes rather than get directly involved in the fighting.

Conphas' POV would definitely not feel out of character coming from a more stable half-Dûnyain in the mold of Maithanet, Kayûtas or Serwa.
I already commented on the Conphas/Kellhus parallel above. Xerius/Moënghus...hmm, I can see some similarities there, but not striking parallels, really (of course, the fact that we don't have Moënghus' POV doesn't help). Yes, both prefer to manipulate rather than directly act, but I don't see much more in common (just my opinion, though, maybe you or someone else can add something more that I overlooked).


The idea that the Fanim would be happy to agree to let the Holy War get all the way to Shimeh doesn't really make sense.  And if they were, why spend all that time and effort fighting it before it gets there?  There's shades of the Ordeal going to Golgotterath here as well.
Is it smart?  On the assumption that the Holy War suffers a terrible defeat at Shimeh, there are two likely outcomes.  Either the Nansur have been holding back, and then attack and defeat the Fanim, taking Shimeh - to me it is inconceivable that Conphas would not do this. Or, the Fanim destroy the Nansur armies as well, and steamroll all the way to Sumna.  In any case, why would the Fanim give up Shigek and Caraskand to their arch enemies, the infidel Nansur?
Which the Fanim will just let happen? No way
This does make sense, but then the Holy War will not perish at Shimeh as stated in the Chapter

"I am only a young girl and know little of the ways of war" (by which I mean, military strategy is really not my thing - I'm sorry, I just couldn't resist quoting Daenerys Targaryen here), but I recall that quote by Xerius about the Fanim and the Nansur being old, honourable enemies, who understand each other. I think they were counting on that, act as allies initially (the Padirajah "asking for a gesture", etc.) and then take advantage of the damage inflicted on the Fanim armies by the Holy War. (The Holy War perishing at Shimeh anyway.) I could see this being at least Conphas' plan from the start, if not Xerius'. Of course, things might have gone very badly for Conphas regardless, but it doesn't seem that farfetched that he could do this.


There's a Dunyain in the room when the deal is done.  It could be inferred that the whole scheme has actually been instigated by Moenghus, so that Kellhus has a better chance of getting to Shimeh.
It certainly shouldn't be ruled out, should it? ;)  Also, Moenghus must surely know that Skeaos is a skin-spy, and therefore that the Consult are involved with Nansur decision making at the highest levels.

In retrospect, it does seem like this was indeed the case...


Also the entire Holy War is a Dunyain plot.  No Dunyain - the whole thing doesn't happen.
Not really, the Holy War itself is a Dunyain scheme.  Moenghus and Maithanet are playing the Nansur.

The Holy War was orchestrated by Moënghus with Maithanet as his main piece in the game, but imagine, say, that Kellhus dies before ever getting to the Holy War. Things were already put in motion, the Holy War still marches. Conphas and Xerius have no serious opponent among the Lords of the Holy War. You could make the argument that they die during the crossing of the Carathay, which is a fair argument, but the thing is, we can't know for sure what would have happened. It's also very possible that losing Kellhus drives Moënghus to orchestrate the complete annihilation of the Holy War, as he doesn't need it anymore. I still don't think it's impossible for Conphas' plan to succeed in this situation, but then again, "what-ifs" are subjective.


He just doesn't want to admit to himself that he needs the good opinions of other people.  The insecurity of arrogance, if you like.

Makes sense. This was also one of his mistakes.


You'd think he would have realised why he had been sent north in the first place.  Whilst Conphas is a brilliant individual, he does seem very self-absorbed and not necessarily good at picking up what's going on around him.

Conphas' sense of self-importance really is his greatest weakness. No matter how intelligent he might be, he will make mistakes. Just because he does not care for the people around him, it definitely doesn't mean he shouldn't try to understand their motivations. One of the reasons Kellhus ultimately succeeded against him later on. Dûnyain-like Conphas might be, but he's still no Dûnyain...


This has got me wondering if Conphas could potentially be an Insertant.  He is of course no God, despite his opinions to the contrary.

This is an interesting theory, I had never thought about that possibility. I'd say it's plausible, in the very least. Just because no one was successfully Inserted in between Nau-Cayûti and Kelmomas, it doesn't mean that there weren't potential Insertants around that the Consult never got to (after all, 1977 years passed between the end of the First Apocalypse and the beginning of the Second, that's a fairly long time).


Manipulation via perversion of sexual desire does seem a very Consult thing to do. I'm not saying Istriya has or hasn't been a skin-spy for any long duration - just pointing it out.

It would be right in character for a skin-spy, but if there was an actual sexual relationship there not-Istriya would have been found out, as we saw in TTT with Xerius. Though sexual manipulation without actual sex between the two (Istriya choosing sexual partners for Conphas as she did for Xerius?) is not out of the question.


Good call :D

Thanks! It's surprising, what you can suddenly notice on a reread...I'd never even thought about Moënghus and Istriya's similarities before rereading this chapter.


The No-God.

Indeed! This bit of foreshadowing does seem to get lost among everything else that goes on. If I remember correctly, the No-God proper (and not in the form of the Dead-God/Lokung) is only mentioned in more detail quite a bit later in the series.
"But you’ve simply made the discovery that Thelli made—only without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
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"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)

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« Reply #9 on: May 28, 2018, 10:52:34 pm »
There are alot of similarities between Kellhus and Conphas, but only on the surface, imho. Kellhus, at this point, soes not consider himself a God. Conphas does, or that he is heavily favoured by the Gods. Kellhus knows nothing of the Gods. He is a Dunyain who uses his extreme education and otherworldly physical attributes, to seem a God. Kellhus is a lying liar who lies. Well, Conphas my manipulate he is not near the same level as Kellhus.
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« Reply #10 on: May 31, 2018, 10:51:52 am »
What struck my interest in the chapter is the question of which, of Skeaös and Istriya, has already been replaced, if either of them already has.  Although, from Istriya's calling out of Skeaös, it certainly seems that the answer is most probably not both.  When Istriya nearly pleads to know Xerius' plans, it certainly seems plausible that she is doing so on the Consult's behalf, but it is just as plausible that she does it in the interest of preserving the dynasty.  We do learn though that Skeaös has also tried to discourage Xerius' plan though, so Skeaös working on the Consult's behalf seems highly plausible.

My hunch would be that Skeaös was a skin spy first, since it's a higher leverage position, but that doesn't mean opportunity didn't present itself differently in availability to "replace" certain people.
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« Reply #11 on: May 31, 2018, 03:08:56 pm »
There are alot of similarities between Kellhus and Conphas, but only on the surface, imho. Kellhus, at this point, soes not consider himself a God. Conphas does, or that he is heavily favoured by the Gods. Kellhus knows nothing of the Gods. He is a Dunyain who uses his extreme education and otherworldly physical attributes, to seem a God. Kellhus is a lying liar who lies. Well, Conphas my manipulate he is not near the same level as Kellhus.

Yes, when analyzing both characters they are not that similar, but there are similarities nonetheless (especially if you only consider Conphas in comparison to PON Kellhus, and not TAE Kellhus). Conphas is still rather Dûnyain-like in some aspects, but yes, he's no Kellhus. His personality, like I said before, wouldn't be out of place in a half-Dûnyain.
Conphas can also be a fairly good liar when he wants to. His men chose him over an apparent prophet. Conphas does not care for other people in the slightest, but he can still play them enough to manage to inspire strong loyalty.



What struck my interest in the chapter is the question of which, of Skeaös and Istriya, has already been replaced, if either of them already has.  Although, from Istriya's calling out of Skeaös, it certainly seems that the answer is most probably not both.  When Istriya nearly pleads to know Xerius' plans, it certainly seems plausible that she is doing so on the Consult's behalf, but it is just as plausible that she does it in the interest of preserving the dynasty.  We do learn though that Skeaös has also tried to discourage Xerius' plan though, so Skeaös working on the Consult's behalf seems highly plausible.

My hunch would be that Skeaös was a skin spy first, since it's a higher leverage position, but that doesn't mean opportunity didn't present itself differently in availability to "replace" certain people.

If I had to guess who was replaced first, I'd say Skeaös. As I said in the chapter 8 thread, he comes off as much more competent than Istriya (of course, not all skin-spies are the same, some are better at keeping their cover than others, not-Istriya could have been there first). While he has some "out of character" moments, it doesn't seem to happen as often as with Istriya, and he can get back in character much faster/more effectively. Compare the reactions of Conphas to both of them, they go along the lines of "ah, Skeaös is just scheming again" and "my grandmother has been acting really strange lately".
This is a subjective matter, while I think that Istriya has been replaced by this point, I'll admit there's a fair possibility that she hasn't. Could be real Istriya vs. not-Skeaös, could be two skin-spies not working very well together (and getting a bit more "in sync" later on, as we see in chapter 8).

How long do you think Skeaös has been a skin-spy for? Potentially decades? Or less? The only person whose date of replacement we know for sure is Sarcellus (dead since 4099), so maybe not-Skeaös replaced the real one around this time as well?
"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)

TLEILAXU

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« Reply #12 on: July 31, 2018, 03:43:45 pm »
Quote
As though the matter were utterly closed, Xerius continued: "Is this the general you speak so highly of? Martemus, is it? I'm so very pleased he's here. I couldn't ferry enough of your men into the city to fill the Campus, so I was forced to use my Eothic Guard and several hundred of the City Watch."
Though stunned, Conphas replied without hesitation, "And dress them as my . . . as army regulars?"
"Of course. The ceremony is as much for them as for you, no?"
His heart thundering, Conphas knelt and kissed his uncle's knee.
Xerius! Kind of an underrated character, even if Skeaos for sure had a hand in this.
« Last Edit: July 31, 2018, 03:47:05 pm by TLEILAXU »

Wilshire

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« Reply #13 on: August 10, 2018, 12:38:15 pm »
Quote
His heart thundering, Conphas knelt and kissed his uncle's knee.
Xerius! Kind of an underrated character, even if Skeaos for sure had a hand in this.
Yeah this family probably really would have been the next Aspect Emperors if not for Kellhus. I think they might have even beaten Moenghus and Maithanet, handicapped the way they were.

Thinking on it, it might have actually been Xerius and Conphas that forced Moenghus to call Kellhus. Without Kellhus, the pair was literally unbeatable.

That's a substantial admission from a dunyain that's been in the world for 30 years with a half-breed lackey controlling one of the most powerful institutions in the Three Seas.
« Last Edit: August 10, 2018, 12:40:06 pm by Wilshire »
One of the other conditions of possibility.