ARC: TDTCB, Chapter 8

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ThoughtsOfThelli

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« on: May 28, 2018, 11:44:44 am »
It's Monday, let's put this show on the road!


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Kings never lie. They demand the world be mistaken.
--CONRIYAN PROVERB

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When we truly apprehend the Gods, the Nilnameshi sages say, we recognize them not as kings but thieves. This is among the wisest of blasphemies, for we always see the king who cheats us, never the thief.
--OLEKAROS, AVOWALS
"But youĺve simply made the discovery that Thelli madeŚonly without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasűrimbor Kayűtas (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)

MSJ

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« Reply #1 on: May 29, 2018, 02:12:58 am »
Chapter 8 thoughts.

First section, shows the Madness that has descended upon CnaŘir. What happened at Kiyuth, the betrayal of his kinsman, the route Conphas put on them and his having to lie in mud for days to stay alive has brought out the CnaŘir we will see only get worse from here. I know he does awful things, but still my favorite fantasy character....ever. Period.

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A section of a child’s finger . . . He held a child’s severed finger.
Oggie?

Just imagine finding your sons finger, then looking up to see the dread aspect of the Breaker of Horses and Men...

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Something, a cabbage, hit him in the chest. Uncharacteristic panic seized him.

Again, I could never imagine. And, just think whats going through this man's mind now. CnaŘir is savage.

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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, and it goes no further. I am your end, your utter obliteration!”

My favorite quote hands down from CnaŘir, just viscous.

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Not because they feared their lunatic chieftain, but because it was the way.

Might be the way.....but they was all shitting their pants.

Second section, first few pages, I love how Bakker shows the fanaticism of a Holy War and religion. This small quote from Calmemunis sums it up nicely.

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It’s a sad thing when the Shriah himself doubts.”

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The God is on their side and the men of the Holy War have no doubt. I Love this, because we see this all throughout history, even today. Its little things like this that make these books so great.

Prompted more by curiosity than malice, Conphas pressed the man to a brisk pace. He’d never seen anyone die of the clutch before. Remarkably, Skea÷s did not complain, and aside from swinging his arms like an old monkey, he showed no signs of strain.

Many had died of "the clutch" as Conphas called it, the hike to the Privy Chamber, and old, old Skeaos doesn't falter at all and keeps pace with Conphas. No shortness of breath, if you didnt think he was a SS before, he certainly is now.

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“So then tell me, dear old Skea÷s, why would my uncle think to exclude me—me!—from his negotiations with the Scarlet Spires?”

And, there it is. Conphas doesn't know Skeaos is a SS, but he see's that he is trying to sow dissension between himself and Xerius, exactly what SS's are meant to do.

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I rejoice at the life the gods have given me. I rejoice at the sweet fruits I’ve eaten, for the great men I’ve known. I even—and I know you’ll find this difficult to believe—exult because I’ve lived long enough to witness you grow into your glory! But this plan of your uncle’s—to deliver a Holy War to its destruction! A Holy War! I fear for my soul, Ikurei Conphas. My soul!”

Need i add more proof....? I dont think so.

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All love begins with one’s own skin’—or soul, as the case may be. But then, I’ve always thought the two interchangeable.”

The quote of quotes, from a Skin Spy.

Third section between Eleńzaras, and the Ikurei is just great. This quote hear shows Conphas's intellect and knack for seeing the situation as it is.

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Conphas thought this an unlikely story. Not even the Thousand Temples was wealthy enough to “hire” the Scarlet Spires. They were here for reasons that transcended gold and Shrial trade concessions—of that much he was certain.

Though, I have admitted that Xerius's plans are very sound military plans, to gain back the Empire. This section just truly shows how dumb he is to others knowing his plans and reasons. For those with any intellect, its easy to see whats afoot. And, Xerius is dumbfounded. What a tragic character.

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“What Cememketri said just now is true, you know. No matter what your deal with Maithanet, you’ve delivered your School to its greatest peril since the Scholastic Wars. And not just because of the Cishaurim. You’ll be a small enclave of profanity within a great tribe of fanatics. You’ll need every friend you can get.”

Conphas calls out Eli here and his fears. Another example of how shrewd he is. Xerius would be totally lost in this situation without Conphas. And when fear strikes, how does one react? With threats... of course.

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"We can make the world burn with our song, young Conphas. We need no one.”

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Maithanet. What game did he play? For that matter, who was he?

Indeed.

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For an instant, Conphas felt like a thief, the hidden author of a great loss. And the exhilaration he felt almost possessed a sexual intensity. He saw clearly now why he so loved this species of war. On the field of battle, his every act was open to the scrutiny of others. Here, however, he stood outside scrutiny, enacted destiny from a place that transcended judgement or recrimination. He lay hidden in the womb of events.
Like a God.

Another great quote as to why Conphas is immune to Kellhus. Just a massive ego, is the way I think of it. I mean, we know he was never favored by the Gods, just a military genius and political one, too.

Great chapter. Though, I love every chapter. I've read these books like 5 or 6 times. Its better every time. I took a different approach to posting this time. I usually read and make notes, then post. This time , I posted as I read. It felt a lot more organic, and I think I expressed more than previous posts. I think ill stick with it.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2018, 02:22:49 am by MSJ »
ôNo. 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 ĹYursalkaĺ 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 #2 on: May 30, 2018, 07:56:13 pm »
End of Part Two of Book One.

We see further exploration of belief/ faith/ emotion being exploited by reason/ rationality/ intellect, both in the 'unchanging' culture of the Scylvendi (this is the way we do things and always have and always will - I guess) who are catastrophically defeated by Conphas, and in the Vulgar Holy War which is used for political ends, and deceived into into its doom.

There is of course one significant survivor from Kiyuth - who will ultimately get his revenge on Conphas.

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"Some things broken," the voice grated from the darkness, "are never mended".
What a great line.

First section, shows the Madness that has descended upon CnaŘir. What happened at Kiyuth, the betrayal of his kinsman, the route Conphas put on them and his having to lie in mud for days to stay alive has brought out the CnaŘir we will see only get worse from here. I know he does awful things, but still my favorite fantasy character....ever. Period.
Probably my fave, too

More worldbuilding.  We learn there is a distinction between Norsirai 'barbarians' and the apparently more civilised Ketyai.  We learn that despite the fact that Xerius is an Emperor, he is actually less powerful than the ruler of High Ainon, whi is in fact (if not in title) is Eleazaras, the leader of the Scarlet Spires.

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The following day, thousands upon thousands congregated in the valley beneath Asgilioch's turrets.  A gentle rain washed over them.  Hundreds of sacrificial fires were lit; the carcasses of the victims were piled high.  Shakers covered their bodies in mud and howled their incomprehensible songs.  Women sang gentle hymns while there husbands sharpened whatever weapons - picks, scythes, old swords and maces - they'd been able to scavenge.  Children chased dogs through the crowds.  Many of the warriors among them - the Conriyans, Galeoth, and Ainoni who'd marched with the Great Names - watched with dismay as a band of lepers climbed into the mountain passes, intent on being the first to set foot on heathen soil.  The Unaras Mountains were not imposing, more a jumble of escarpments and bare stone slopes than a mountain range.  But beyond them, drums called dusky, leopard-eyed men to worship Fane.  For the faithful, the Unaras were the ends of the earth.
The rain stopped.  Lances of sunlight pierced the clouds.  Singing hymns, blinking tears of joy from their eyes, the first Men of the Tusk began filing into the mountains.  Holy Shimeh, it seemed to them, must lie just beyond the horizon.  Always just beyond.
Wow

Many had died of "the clutch" as Conphas called it, the hike to the Privy Chamber, and old, old Skeaos doesn't falter at all and keeps pace with Conphas. No shortness of breath, if you didnt think he was a SS before, he certainly is now.
It becomes obvious with hindsight, but on a first read we don't actually know anythign about the physical capabilities of Skin-spies yet.

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I fear for my soul, Ikurei Conphas. My soul!
  Ironic that he doesn't actually have one ;)

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"...What gives life depth is the future.  Without a future, without a horizon of promise or threat, our lives have no meaning.  Only the future is real, Conphas and unless I make amends to the gods, I've no future left
  Probably true for Skeaos, the only point of a skin-spy existing is to bring about the Second Apocalypse

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All love begins with oneĺs own skinĺŚor soul, as the case may be. But then, Iĺve always thought the two interchangeable.ö
It's Conphas who says this (in response to the previous quote from Skeaos) - he is wrong.  The skin-spies swap skin (or bodies) but have no soul, and later we see souls swapping bodies (although not necessarily of their own volition).

Xerius is back to being portrayed as a little bit pathetic in this Chapter.  We only get Conphas' POV though.  Conphas also seems a little needy again - surprised and pleased that 'the Lion of Kiyuth' is known to Eleazaras (which to be honest he could have learnt five minutes ago), but does have enough wherewithal to realise what is going on
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...the Grandmaster woudl lick his ass as clean as a cats if given the opportunity

And back to the point made towards the end of part one by Akka
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Maithanet.  What game did he play?  For that matter, who was he?
Sez who?
Seswatha, that's who.

MSJ

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« Reply #3 on: May 30, 2018, 10:20:09 pm »
Thanks for correcting me on those two quotes The Ape. But, even though Conphas says it, there isn't a better quote in the whole book for a Skin Spy.
« Last Edit: May 30, 2018, 10:22:39 pm by MSJ »
ôNo. 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 ĹYursalkaĺ 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 #4 on: May 31, 2018, 01:21:28 am »
It's that time of the week again, overly long pseudo-analysis of a TSA chapter by yours truly! :)



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Yursalka of the Utemot awoke with a start.
A noise of some kind . . .

A few months after the Battle of Kiyuth (it was early summer, now it's autumn) Yursalka awakens to find himself in an actual horror movie. He just doesn't know it yet...


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Another flash of lightning.
For a moment, all he could do was blink away the brightness. Understanding rumbled in with the thunder.
A section of a child's finger . . . He held a child's severed finger.

And right there, we really understand (even more than during chapter 6) how dangerous and unstable CnaiŘr truly is. Yursalka chose to plot against this man (though I'm still convinced Bannut orchestrated that plot) and so he pays the price. But there's no simple, direct revenge, not when CnaiŘr is involved...


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This isn't happening.
Incandescent white cracked the sky, and for an instant, he saw the entire world: the desolate horizon, the sweep of distant pastures, the surrounding yaksh of his kinsmen, and the lone figure standing no more than a dozen yards away, watching . . .
"Murderer", Yursalka said numbly. "Murderer!"
He heard steps slosh through the mud.
"I found your son wandering the Steppe," the hated voice said. "So I've returned him to you."
Something, a cabbage, hit him in the chest. Uncharacteristic panic seized him.
"Y-you live," he sputtered. "I'm s-so relieved. All of us w-will be so relieved!"
More lightning, and Yursalka saw him, like a hulking wraith, as wild and as elemental as thunder of rain.
"Some things broken," the voice grated from the darkness, "are never mended."

This first part of the chapter is so horrifying, so disturbing, and yet fascinating. CnaiŘr is like a creature of nightmare (or vengeful, uncaring God?) come to life here. Bannut was already dying when he got to him, Xunnurit is out of his grasp (and his fate wasn't pleasant either), but Yursalka isn't so lucky.
I feel so sorry for poor Ogatha here, I hope at least he was killed quickly and didn't have much time to realize what was happening to him...but let's be real here, of course that didn't happen. This is CnaiŘr we're talking about.
I can't help but also notice that, while CnaiŘr is a more nuanced character with some redeeming characteristics in PON, this is very much not the case here. This CnaiŘr is much more similar to the one we find in TAE 20 years later.
As MSJ pointed out (I'll get to replies to other comments later), CnaiŘr's mental state has only deteriorated further (though not still to the extent it will later) during the months that passed since Kiyuth. And the more broken he is, the more dangerous and unpredictable he is...


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"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, and it goes no further. I am your end, your utter obliteration!"

This quote is chilling and amazing at the same time. (I can see why MSJ chose it for his signature.) Imagine being in Yursalka's place - this man will murder you and your entire family, and there's nothing you can do to stop him. It's probably the darkest moment we had in the series so far (even if we're only 8 chapters in).
Most terrifying of all - CnaiŘr accomplished this. Yursalka and his kin have been forgotten. Not only were they murdered, the memory of their existence was practically forcibly removed from the world by CnaiŘr. Even if some of the people who knew them were still around by the time CnaiŘr returned as Wrencűx, do you really think anyone dared mention their names ever again?


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"This man," CnaiŘr thundered, "has betrayed his kinsmen on the field of battle!"
"To free us!" Yursalka managed to cry. "To release the Utemot from your yoke, your depravity!"

CnaiŘr has a point. The thing is, so does Yursalka. Did they choose the wrong man to try and kill? Oh, so very much. But I can see why Bannut or Yursalka would have personal reasons to avenge Ski÷tha and remove the "dishonourable" and "depraved" CnaiŘr from his position as chieftain. It doesn't mean that I agree with their reasons, of course (already elaborated on this in the chapter 6 thread), but I see where they're coming from.
Something I've also wondered about...CnaiŘr was thought to be dead for months. Wasn't a new chieftain chosen to replace him? Was that Yursalka? That would make sense and explain a few things.


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Where was the justice in this? He'd betrayed his chieftain, yes, but for honour. CnaiŘr had betrayed his chieftain, his father, for the love of another man! For an outlander who could speak killing words! Where was the justice in this?

We all know CnaiŘr was manipulated by MoŰnghus, and that was the real issue at the core of everything here, but Yursalka does not know that (or care). CnaiŘr is guilty of many crimes, as the Scylvendi would see it. He not only had sex with another man, a man that wasn't even a Scylvendi at that (you know how they feel about that), he was also involved in the death of his own father because of the scheming of said lover. One man's shameful betrayal really can be another's honour.
There is also an interesting choice of words here: "an outlander who could speak killing words". Words (or songs) that can kill - a term often used when talking about sorcerers. Foreshadowing of MoŰnghus being one of the Cishaurim?


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Then a woman, the half-Norsirai mongrel CnaiŘr had taken wife, burst from the others and threw herself at him, weeping uncontrollably. She feebly beat at his chest, wailing something unintelligible. For a moment, CnaiŘr held her tight, then he sternly pressed her back.
"It's me, Anissi," he said with shameful tenderness. "I am whole."

More evidence of the general Scylvendi attitude towards anyone who isn't of "the pure blood".
CnaiŘr has his one and only emotional moment for this whole chapter. And note how the whole toxic masculinity is so deeply ingrained in this culture that Yursalka even takes the time to notice this "shameful tenderness" as he is dying. At the hands of the man showing said tenderness, no less. The Scylvendi have so many issues, it's no wonder CnaiŘr turned out the way he did.


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Only Omiri, the lame daughter of Xunnurit whom Yursalka had married the previous spring, remained, weeping and clawing at her husband. CnaiŘr seized her with his free hand, hoisted her by the back of the neck. Her mouth worked like a fish about a soundless shriek.
"Is this Xunnurit's misbegotten cunt?" he snarled.
"Yes," Yursalka gasped.
CnaiŘr cast her like a rag to the mud. "She lives to watch our sport. Then she suffers the sins of her father."

After slaughtering the rest of Yursalka's family (most of which were completely innocent - I figure some of the older male relatives, at least, were complicit in the whole plot to kill CnaiŘr, but this is still a horrible way to go), CnaiŘr saves Xunnurit's daughter for last.
And this scene is just so...visceral. I'm not going to lie, this was probably the most disturbing part of the chapter for me. Yes, more so than poor Ogatha's murder and dismemberment. I figure what happened to Omiri right after the POV switched to the next section was far worse and lasted far longer than what CnaiŘr did to Ogatha. Considering some scenes from later books, I'm just grateful Bakker chose to end this particular scene at the point he did.


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He glimpsed the callous eyes of his tribesmen, knew they would do nothing.
Not because they feared their lunatic chieftain, but because it was the way.

I think it's actually both. No matter how much they agreed with Yursalka's motives, they'd have to be suicidal to interfere after witnessing what happened to Yursalka and his entire family.


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Since Maithanet's declaration of Holy War a year and a half earlier, untold thousands had gathered about Momemn's walls.

Yursalka's POV was so dark and disturbing that what comes later is almost light-hearted by comparison.
If only it didn't start with what seems like a temporal inconsistency I hadn't noticed before, but such is life. (Don't worry, I'm not going to discuss this here, I'll add it to the relevant thread later.)


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Then there was the story of Nrezza Barisullas, the King of Cironj and perhaps the wealthiest man in the Three Seas. When several thousand Tydonni who'd contracted his ships defaulted on their payment, he sent them to the island of Pharixas, an old pirate stronghold of King Rauschang of Thunyerus, demanding they storm the island in lieu of monies owed. They did, and with abandon. Thousands of innocents perished. Inrithi innocents.
Maithanet, it was said, wept at the news. He immediately placed all of House Nrezza under Shrial Censure, which voided all obligations, commercial or otherwise, to Barisullas, his sons, and his agents. The Censure was quickly rescinded, however, once it became clear that the Holy War would take months longer to assemble without Cironji ships. Before the fiasco was concluded, Barisullas would actually win reparations in the form of Shrial trade concessions from the Thousand Temples. Rumour had it that the Nansur Emperor sent his personal congratulations to the canny Cironji King.

I might be in desperate need of some levity after the whole CnaiŘr thing, but even involving the massacre of thousands of innocents, this passage is somewhat entertaining. (I assure you I'm not usually a terrible person, it's just that it's quite different to see characters being brutally murdered on-page and being told "thousands of innocents were killed". It's only human - proximity, you know?)
You'd think whoever was in charge of those Tydonni would have thought about it for a moment before sacking Pharixas. But there isn't a whole lot of common sense going around in this chapter, as we'll see later on.
That rumour about Xerius is most likely exactly what happened, it's right in character for him to have done that.
I wonder what Maithanet actually thought when he first heard about this. I'm absolutely sure he knew what placing Barisullas under Shrial Censure would lead to, but he couldn't have foreseen he would send those Tydonni to Pharixas in the first place, could he? Welll, maybe, but it doesn't seem certain, there are many variables at play here.


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But without the luxury of sorcerers, Maithanet's entreaties, which extolled the virtues of patience and alluded darkly to the consequences of defiance, did not reach Momemn until Calmemunis, Tharschilka, Kumrezzer, and the vast mobs that followed them were days gone.

He fully intended them to go, but he had to be seen making a decent effort to stop them. All according to plan here.


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When Gotian, the Grandmaster of the Shrial Knights, intercepted him with north of Gielgath with Maithanet's summons, the Palatine of Kanampurea allegedly said, "It's a sad thing when the Shriah himself doubts."

The appearance of Gotian starts the PON bane of my existence, a trend of characters who are part of the Holy War, whose names start with G and who were practically impossible to tell apart on my first read (Gotian himself and Gothyelk being exceptions, I could always keep track of who those two were).
Fanaticism, overinflated sense of importance, need to prove himself and lack of common sense do not mix well. Calmemunis seems to believe he is living in a completely different kind of fantasy series.


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By sheer numbers alone, the Vulgar Holy War created mayhem along the coasts. Field-slaves would notice strange men filing through the fields, an innocuous handful soon to be followed by thousands. Entire crops would be trampled, orchards and groves stripped. But with the Emperor's food in their bellies, the Men of the Tusk were as disciplined as could be expected. The incidences of rape, murder and robbery were infrequent enough that the Great Names could still dispense justice--and more important, still pretend they led an army.

Things go well...sort of, for a while. These three can still maintain the illusion they are in charge, and that their faith alone will make them triumph over everything. Oh, where could this be going? ;)


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When Nansur units under General Martemus, who had been instructed to shadow the Vulgar Holy War, attempted to restrain the Men of the Tusk, several pitched battles broke out. At first it seemed like the General, even though he had only two columns at his disposal, might bring the situation under control. But the weight of numbers and the ferocity of Tharschilka's Galeoth forced him to retire north and ultimately to shelter within Gielgath's walls.

Much like Maithanet, Xerius is counting on the Vulgar Holy War's eventual destruction, but has to pretend he doesn't want this to happen. Reading this, I amused myself by imagining Martemus pleading with them to stop in a completely deadpan and disinterested tone (yes, I know how silly that sounds, and I don't care).
Everything is still going according to plan!


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Calmemunis issued a declaration blaming the Emperor, claiming Xerius III had issued edicts denying supplies to the Men of the Tusk, in direct contravention of his earlier oaths. In point of fact, however, the edicts had been issued by Maithanet, who had hoped this action might stall the horde's southward march and purchase enough time to convince them to return to Momemn.
With the Men of the Tusk slowed by the need to forage, Maithanet issued further edicts, one rescinding the Shrial Remission previously extended to all who took up the Tusk, another punishing Calmemunis, Tharschilka, and Kumrezzer with Shrial Censure, and a third threatening all those who continued under these Great Names with the same. This news, combined with the backlash against the bloodshed of the previous days, brought the Vulgar Holy War to a stop.

And this was the point where I actually started seeing this in a (dark) humorous light. (Look, I'm sorry, I know thousands of innocents get killed later on, it's not them I'm laughing at, but those three stubborn foolsGreat Names. They knew what they were getting into, and were warned. Multiple times.)
Maithanet is still "trying" to get them to stop. This time, surprisingly, it actually works! Well, that's unfortunate. Maithanet, Xerius and Conphas will have to adjust their plans-


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But then Calmemunis received news that an imperial supply train, apparently headed for the frontier fortress of Asgilioch, had miraculously fallen into the hands of his people.

-or not, because a convenient supply train appears! This is absolutely a miracle and the will of the God, and not suspicious in the slightest! Hurray! The Vulgar Holy War goes on!
(Seriously, it's like watching a trainwreck. I should claim this chapter for the "Let's Draw TDTCB" thread.)


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He reminded them that the Shriah was a man, who like all men made errors in judgement from time to time. "The ardour has been sapped from our blessed Shriah's heart," he said. "He's forgotten the sacred glory of what we do. But mark me, my brothers, when we storm the gates of Shimeh, when we deliver the Padirajah's head in a sack, he will remember! He will praise us for remaining resolute when his heart faltered!"

Sure, Calmemunis, I'm sure you know more than the Shriah and everyone else. Lack of religious fervour, that's probably it. The power of faith will certainly guide you to the very heart of Shimeh itself.
(Spoiler alert: This is not this kind of story.)


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Then Prophilas, the commander of the imperial garrison, extended a dinner invitation to the Great Names and other caste nobles. Calmemunis demanded hostages, and when he received them, he accepted the invitation. With Tharschilka, Kumrezzer, and several lesser nobles, he entered Asgilioch and was promptly taken captive. Prophilas produced a Shrial Warrant and respectfully informed them that they would be held indefinitely unless they commanded the Vulgar Holy War to disband and return to Momemn. When they refused, he tried reasoning with them, assuring them they had no hope of prevailing against the Kianene, who were, he insisted, as wily and as ruthless as the Scylvendi on the field of battle. "Even if you marched at the head of a true army," he told them, "I would not throw the number-sticks for you. As it stands, you lead a migration of women, children, and slavish men. I beg of you, relent!"

Prophilas appears and manages to become my favourite minor character for this chapter, continuing the grand tradition started with CnaiŘr's uncle Bannut in chapter 6. If I remember correctly, we never hear from him again, or do we? (Checked the wiki: apparently not.) What a shame.
Unsurprisingly, Calmemunis et al. fall for the not-at-all-obvious trap. ::) And Prophilas tries his best to convince them that what they're doing is madness, he really does. But there's no reasoning with this trio of fanatics...


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Calmemunis, however, replied with laughter. He admitted that sinew for sinew, weapon for weapon, the Vulgar Holy War was likely no match for the Padirajah's armies. But this, he claimed, was of no consequence, for surely the Latter Prophet had shown that frailty, when suffused with righteousness, was unconquerable. "We have left Sumna and the Shriah behind us," he said. "With every step we draw nearer Holy Shimeh. With every step we draw closer to Paradise! Proceed with care, Prophilas, for as Inri Sejenus himself says, 'Woe to he who obstructs the Way!'"
Prophilas released Calmemunis and the other Great Names before sunset.

...so Prophilas just does the equivalent of shrugging and saying "Well, I tried" and lets them go. I give him credit for the best attempt at convincingly trying to stop the terrible trio (even if it's not really heartfelt; but I have the feeling that, while this was engineered by Maithanet or Xerius, Prophilas might actually have meant what he said).
Calmemunis still thinks he's in the kind of story where the faithful always win at the end.


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Hundreds of sacrificial fires were lit; the carcasses of the victims were piled high.

More human sacrifice? (Following the mention in chapter 5.) I think so, the word "victims" wouldn't be used if it they were just sacrificing animals here...


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When the news of the Vulgar Holy War's passage into heathen lands reached Sumna, Maithanet dismissed his court and retired to his chambers. His servants turned all petitioners away, informing them that the Holy Shriah prayed and fasted, and would do so until he learned the fate of the first wayward half of his Holy War.

Yet another passage that makes me wish we had a Maithanet POV. I think he might have informed MoŰnghus they could proceed with the next phase of the grand plan during the time he spent "praying and fasting"?


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Bowing as low as jnan dictated, Skea÷s said, "The Emperor has asked that I brief you on the way to the Privy Chamber, Lord Exalt-General. The Ainoni have arrived."
Conphas looked up from his handwriting, dropped his quill in his inkhorn. "Already? They said tomorrow."
"An old trick, my Lord. The Scarlet Spires is not above old tricks."

As it turns out, Ikurei Conphas, the man, the myth, the legend, still falls for one of the oldest tricks in the book. The ignorance of arrogance and all that (paraphrasing a bit from what TheCulminatingApe said in the chapter 7 thread).


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Conphas had always possessed a connoisseur's appreciation of life's larger inconsistencies. Absurdities such as this were like delicacies to him.

I think Conphas and I have very different tastes when it comes to inconsistencies. ;)


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Since the departure of the Vulgar Holy War weeks earlier, more than ten thousand Thunyeri under Prince Skaiyelt, the son of the infamous King Rauschang, and at least four times as many Tydonni under Gothyelk, the bellicose Earl of Agansanor, had arrived. Unfortunately, both men had proven immune to his uncle's charms--violently so. When presented with the Indenture, Prince Skaiyelt had ransacked the imperial court with those unnerving blue eyes of his, then wordlessly marched from the palace. Old Gothyelk had kicked over the lectern, and called his uncle either a "gelded heathen" or a "depraved faggot"--depending on which translator one asked. The arrogance of barbarians, particularly Norsirai barbarians, was unfathomable.

More of the Great Names - some that will actually be around for quite a while this time - have arrived at Momemn. And we have some more amusing moments, with them not being impressed by Xerius and his Indenture in the slightest. Skaiyelt does his best CnaiŘr impression there (nowhere near as effective as the real deal, but it was a good try) and Gothyelk just goes and insults the Emperor to his face (and I love the detail that there was some debate between translators on what he actually called Xerius).
Conphas has more in common with his foes, the Scylvendi, that he would care to admit. He does not seem to care much for people of other ethnicities either (why is it always the Norsirai?). And it's wonderfully hypocritical to see him call anyone else "arrogant".


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The Ainoni were civilized, despite their archaic devotion to their beards.

I like to think that the Nansur's issue with beards started when one of the emperors realized he couldn't grow a proper beard, then decreed beards were just not a thing for civilized men. (Of course, I know the actual in-universe explanation is probably much more complex, but let me have my stupid headcanon.)


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"You think they do this intentionally? To catch us off balance?"
(...)
"It's what I would do," Skea÷s replied frankly. "If one hoards enough petty advantages . . ."

Come on, Conphas, you're smarter than this. Even the skin-spy saw it coming.


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In the absence of his uncle, they shared a peculiar understanding, as though, like the competitive sons of an abusive father, they could from time to time set aside their rivalry and acknowledge their shared lot with simple talk.

I really like this bit, it tells us so much about the Conphas' relationship with (the real) Skea÷s in just one sentence.
This becomes somewhat more complicated if you are in the "Skea÷s was a skin-spy from the very beginning" camp. For the record, I'm not. I think he has been a skin-spy since before the events of TDTCB, but not for the past 30 years.


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He stood and looked down on the wizened man. "Lead on, old father."

"Old father". I see what you did there, Bakker. :P


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According to his grandmother, past emperors had actually used the climb to dispose of aging and quarrelsome functionaries, giving them messages allegedly too important to be trusted to slaves, then demanding their immediate return. The Andiamine Heights was no friend of soft hearts--literally or otherwise.

I can just imagine Istriya telling little Conphas these tales as other grandmothers would tell their grandchildren bedtime stories. The Ikurei are so dysfunctional, yet all the more fascinating for it.
You'd think that these unfortunate functionaries would have caught on at some point, but it's not like they could say no to whichever emperor happened to be in power, anyway...


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Remarkably, Skea÷s did not complain, and aside from swinging his arms like an old monkey, he showed no signs of strain. With easy wind, he began briefing Conphas on the specifics of the treaty struck between the Scarlet Spires and the Thousand Temples--as far as they were known. When it seemed clear that Skea÷s had not just the appearance but the stamina of an old monkey, Conphas grew bored.

This should be the ultimate "skin-spy alert". People that think Skea÷s wasn't a skin-spy by this point (if there are any around?), how do you explain this? Did he just happen to have a fantastic exercise regimen going on that Conphas didn't know about? Was he a secret (half-)Dűnyain the whole time? There just isn't a good explanation besides "skin-spy" here, I'm afraid.
Also, Ikurei Conphas grows bored after the old man fails to die from a heart attack. That is just...classic Conphas.


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As always, Conphas glanced at the spot where Ikurei Anphairas, his great-great-grandfather, had been assassinated more than a century before. The Andiamine Heights were filled with hundreds of such grottoes, places where long-dead potentates had committed or suffered this or that scandalous act. His uncle, Conphas knew, did his best to avoid such places--unless very drunk. For Xerius the palace fairly hummed with memory of dead emperors.

I love how all of this murderous family history is thought about/mentioned in a super casual tone, just like when Conphas told Martemus about that time Xerius almost had him killed when he was eight. (Such a shame this moment is ruined by the Ikurei inconsistencies - ikureistencies? - concerning Anphairas.)
Xerius' reaction seems to me the most sensible one, even if he is a very damaged individual himself. Conphas being Conphas, he doesn't care about all those dead people.
This may be verging on crackpot, but could the Andiamine Heights be approaching topos level by the end of TAE? Not enough death and suffering yet? What do you all think?
(And all this brought to mind a sad thought - is Thelli one of the "ghosts" whose memory haunts the ruins of the Andiamine Heights now?)


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But for Conphas the Andiamine Heights was more a stage than a mausoleum.

This is one of those sentences that just encapsulates Conphas' character perfectly.


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"Our agents in Carythusal say his formidable reputation scarcely does him justice. He was little more than a Subdidact when his teacher, Sasheoka, died of unknown causes some ten years ago. Within two years, he was Grandmaster of the greatest School in the Three Seas. That speaks of daunting intelligence and ability. You must--"
"And hunger," Conphas interrupted. "No man achieves so much in so little time without hunger."

We get some exposition about Eleńzaras. Apparently, he rose very quickly through the ranks in just a few years, which may have struck a chord with young Conphas here...
(I can't see the word "hunger" in these books without thinking "Ciphrang". But that's probably not the case in any way, shape or form here. Right? I'm not sure Conphas - or Eleńzaras for that matter - qualified for "Ciphrang-level" damnation at the time of death...)


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"I suppose you would know."
Conphas cackled. "Now that's the Skea÷s I know and love! Surly. Seething with illicit pride. You had me worried, old man."

Not-Skea÷s becomes my favourite skin-spy with this snappy comeback. Even Conphas himself is amused.
This also shows that not-Skea÷s is clearly better at his job than not-Istriya, he at least tries to stay in character.


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"My uncle what?" Even when bored, Conphas possessed a keen ear for slights.
"Excluded you. He feared the Grandmaster would exploit your inexperience in these matters--"
"Exclude? Me?" Conphas looked askance at the old man, for some reason reluctant to believe him. Was he playing some kind of game? Fanning the fires of resentment?

He tries to take advantage of the moment, but it doesn't work out very well for him...


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"So I am the linchpin of my uncle's plans, am I not?"
"Y-yes, Lord Exalt-General."
"So then tell me, dear old Skea÷s, why would my uncle think to exclude me--me!--from his negotiations with the Scarlet Spires?"
The Prime Counsel's pace slackened. He looked to the florid whorls stitched across the rugs at their feet. Rather than speak, he wrung his hands.
Conphas grinned wolfishly. "You lied just now, didn't you, Skea÷s? The question of whether I should attend his meeting with Eleńzaras never even arose, did it?"
When the man failed to respond, Conphas seized him by the shoulders, glared at him. "Need I ask my uncle?"
Skea÷s matched his eyes for moment, then glanced down. "No," he said. "There's no need."

...because Conphas is not fooled for one moment. If anything can get Conphas to start paying attention, it is people insulting him, or overtly trying to manipulate him.
I almost feel sorry for not-Skea÷s here, his plan immediately backfired. No luck.
(There's also a mention of wolves here, we hadn't had one for a while.)


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"What kind of game are you playing, Skea÷s? Did you think that by wounding my vanity, you could provoke me to act against my uncle? Against my Emperor? Are you trying to incite me to sedition?"
The man looked positively panicked. "No. No! I'm an old fool, I know, but my days on this earth are numbered. I rejoice at the life the gods have given me. I rejoice at the sweet fruits I've eaten, for the great men I've known. I even--and I know you'll find this difficult to believe--exult because I've lived long enough to witness you grow into your glory! But this plan of your uncle's--to deliver a Holy War to its destruction! A Holy War! I fear for my soul, Ikurei Conphas. My soul!"

But he tries to salvage what he can! And cements his place as my favourite skin-spy by just coming up with a plausible justification which manages to be very sneaky at the same time (for those of us in the know).
  • "The life the gods have given me" - Created to help bring about the Second Apocalypse, so more like the life the No-God has given him.
  • "the sweet fruits I've eaten" - Yeah...knowing skin-spies, probably people he raped and murdered.
  • "the great men I've known" - Could be referring to people he impersonated before, or even interesting historical people he knew in his "past lives".
  • "I've lived long enough to witness you grow into your glory" - Maybe just some extra flattery here? Or he could genuinely be entertained by Conphas...
  • "I fear for my soul" - He obviously doesn't have one, but still, great acting there. Still possible he means something like "I fear that the Consult's plans will fail" and changes it to something Conphas would believe. (Might be overreaching here, I know.)


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"(...) You're young. You wouldn't understand my motives. The young can never see life for what it is: a knife's edge, as thin as the breaths that measure it. What gives it depth isn't memory. I've memories enough for ten men, and yet my days are as thin and as shadowy as the greased linen the poor stretch over their windows. No, what gives life depth is the future. Without a future, without a horizon of promise or threat, our lives have no meaning. Only the future is real, Conphas, and unless I make amends to the gods, I've no future left."

  • "You're young" - He is a skin-spy, he has probably lived for centuries if not more. Conphas seems even younger to him than he would to an actual elderly human!
  • "I've memories enough for ten men" - Might even be literal, he could certainly have been around long enough to have impersonated ten different people (or more).
  • "what gives life depth is the future" - The wonderful apocalyptic future where all children are stillborn and the surviving humans are dying like flies.
  • "Without a future (...) our lives have no meaning" - If skin-spies fail at managing to bring about Resumption, then yes, not much of a meaning to those lives.
  • "unless I make amends to the gods" - Unless he helps ressurect the No-God.
  • "I've no future left" - See above, he would have failed at his one goal.
All in all, a great speech, managed to convince Conphas while sneaking a second layer of meaning in there as well. A round of applause for not-Skea÷s!


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"But I understand all too well, Skea÷s. You've spoken like a true Ikurei. How does the poet Girgalla put it? 'All love begins with one's own skin'--or soul, as the case may be. But then, I've always thought the two interchangeable."

No wonder not-Skea÷s (possibly) finds Conphas interesting. He's almost like a soulless kindred spirit... This also doubles as another "encapsulates Conphas' personality perfectly" moment.
I'm also aware of the wordplay here, "skin", skin-spies, etc.,...but TheCulminatingApe has already covered that, and I don't have anything to add for now.


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His grandmother. Skea÷s conspired with his grandmother. He could even hear her voice: "You must bait both of them, Skea÷s. Poison them against one another. Conphas' infatuation with my son's madness will wane soon enough. Just you wait and see. He'll come running to us, and together we'll force Xerius to abandon his mad plan!"
He wondered whether the old drab had taken Skea÷s as a lover. Likely, he concluded, and winced at the accompanying image. Like a prune fucking a twig, he thought.

Thank you for the "lovely" mental image, Conphas. ::)
But he's not wrong...they are certainly conspiring together, even if one of them is much better at their job than the other.


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No matter how much he despised his uncle, Conphas had to admit that provisioning Calmemunis and the rabble that followed him was a move as brilliant as any he himself had made on the field of battle. The Vulgar Holy War would be annihilated by the heathen, and in a single stroke the Empire would cow this Shriah, perhaps compel him to demand that the remaining Men of the Tusk sign the Imperial Indenture and demonstrate to the Fanim that House Ikurei bargained in good faith. The Indenture would ensure the legality of any military action the Empire might take against the Men of the Tusk to retrieve her lost provinces, and the deal with the heathen would ensure that such military action would meet with little resistance--when the time came.

I believe I might have mentioned that Conphas had this exact opinion about the plan in my (original) chapter 7 comment. Glad to have some confirmation.
Also, MSJ and TheCulminatingApe - I think this passage is also relevant for our discussion on the Nansur plan to take over the Holy War and the likelihood of its success.


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"The Empire? Restored?" he said coldly. "I should think your soul a bargain, Skea÷s."

The dark parallel to Inrau's soul being worth the price of not letting information fall into the Consult's hands...
(The joke's clearly on Conphas here, as not-Skea÷s has no soul to speak of.)


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"Snaring him is out of the question. One must know more than one's opponent to trap him, and as it stands we know nothing. We know nothing of his deal with Maithanet. We don't even know why he would condescend to make such a deal--and to take such a risk! A School of its own volition joining a holy war . . . A holy war! In all honesty, Uncle, I'm not sure that securing his support for the Indenture should even be our priority at this point."

Conphas, fully recovered from his terminal case of boredom, makes some good points. They know there's definitely something suspicious about this deal, but they have no clue what is going on behind the scenes yet. (Us, the readers, on the other hand...)


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"From what Skea÷s says," he said smoothly, "I think we should simply bargain in good faith--as much as we can, anyway. We know too little to snare him." Stepping to the brink then stepping back by pretending no such step had been taken--this had always been his family's way, at least until his grandmother's recent antics.

We are even treated to a "skin-spy alert" for Istriya, and she's not even in this chapter. Just more evidence to what I have been saying, too. Not-Skea÷s knows when he's gone too far. Not-Istriya really doesn't.


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Chepheramunni, King-Regent and titular head of High Ainon, was announced first, but when the small Ainoni entourage filled into the chamber, he followed Eleńzaras like a dog. The Grandmaster's entrance was brisk and, Conphas thought, anti-climactic. His demeanour was more that of a banker than a sorcerer: impatient of spectacle, hungry for the ledgers. He bowed to Xerius, but no lower than would the Shriah. A slave drew his chair back for him, and he sat effortlessly, despite his trailing crimson gowns. With rouged cheeks and reeking of perfume, Chepheramunni sat at his side, a chalky look of fear and resentment in his face.

First appearance of both Chepheramunni and Eleńzaras! It's clear who's in charge here from the very start.
Is Chepheramunni a skin-spy at this point? I know many people think so because of that comment about the one corpse without a face found years before from TWP(?). I can't spot any obvious clues in this chapter, though, unlike in the cases of Skea÷s and Istriya.
Eleńzaras just doesn't care about grand entrances (which loses him some points with Conphas), he just wants to get this meeting over with.


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"At long last," he said in fluent Sheyic, "I meet the famed Ikurei Conphas."

And it's time for some more flattery! Though I feel there might be some genuine curiosity here as well.


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Though Conphas could not be certain, Eleńzaras seemed to wink at him before turning to his uncle, as though to say, "We must suffer these fools patiently, mustn't we?"

Okay, I brought this up in the Quorum today, and I'm sorry if it sounds ridiculous, but this sentence just gave me the distinct impression Eleńzaras is flirting with Conphas here (deliberate flattery aside).
I swear this is not coming out of nowhere. We had this quote from earlier in the book:
Quote from: TDTCB, Chapter 4
Eleńzaras--Sasheoka's pupil--is Grandmaster now. He was rumoured to be close to Sasheoka, close in the manner of Ainoni men . . .
And there's also this TWP quote from Conphas' POV:
Quote from: TWP, Chapter 20
A drowsy blink, which made Conphas certain--absurdly--that Sarcellus had beautiful sisters.
So yes, slight evidence for attraction to men in both cases, open to interpretation, but I don't think I'm completely making this up...


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Eleńzaras studied his unpainted fingernails. "Quite simple, really. We were purchased."
"Purchased?"
"Indeed."
"A most extraordinary transaction! What are the details of your arrangement?"
The Grandmaster smiled. "Alas, I fear that secrecy is itself part of the arrangement. Unfortunately, I'm not able to divulge any of the details."
Conphas thought this an unlikely story. Not even the Thousand Temples was wealthy enough to "hire" the Scarlet Spires. They were here for reasons that transcended gold and Shrial trade concessions--of that much he was certain.

The plot thickens!
I know some people probably won't like this, but I'm going to compare Conphas' last sentence to an ASOIAF quote (yes, I'm doing this again):
Quote from: A Dance with Dragons, Tyrion II
Liar, thought Tyrion. There is something in this venture worth more to you than coin or castles.
I think it's a nice comparison, even if no one ends up agreeing with me. Anyway, Conphas is, as we know, right.


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"But," Eleńzaras continued, "there are several conditions we would see met first."
Conphas had predicted this. Civilized men haggle.
Xerius protested. "Conditions? But for centuries the lands from here to Nenciphon have been--"
"I've heard all the arguments," Eleńzaras interrupted. "Dross. Pure dross. You and I both know what is truly at stake here, Emperor . . . Don't we?"
Xerius stared at him in dumb astonishment. He wasn't accustomed to interruptions, but then, he wasn't accustomed to parlaying with men who were more than his equals. High Ainon was a wealthy, densely populated nation. Of all the rulers and despots across the Three Seas, only the Padirajah of Kian possessed more commercial and military power than the Grandmaster of the Scarlet Spires.

Poor Xerius is back to being the "dumb one" in the room. (Well, him and Chepheramunni.) He has even worse luck than not-Skea÷s in this chapter. (I think AnagkŰ got tired of Akka and found her way back to her second favourite toy.)


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Conphas thought it obvious. "Power," he said with a shrug. A strange fellowship, he realized, now existed between him and this sorcerer. From the outset, the Grandmaster had accorded him the status of kindred intellect.
Even the foreigners know you're a fool, Uncle.

Eleńzaras did seem to establish a connection with Conphas here (even if my previous suspicions are completely unfounded).
And Xerius is indeed back to being the fool. So much for his one clever plan...


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"Unlikely," Eleńzaras snapped. "I rather think that you provisioned the Vulgar Holy War in order to destroy it."
There was an uncomfortable pause.
"But this is madness," Xerius finally replied. "Damnation aside, what would we have to gain?"
"Gain?" Eleńzaras replied with a wry grin. "Why the Holy War, of course . . . Our deal with Maithanet stripped you of what leverage you possessed with the Imperial Saik, so you needed something else to barter. If the Vulgar Holy War is destroyed, then it will be far easier for you to convince Maithanet that the Holy War needs you--or should I say, the now legendary military acumen of your nephew, here. Your Indenture will be his price, and the Indenture effectively cedes to you all the proceeds of the Holy War . . . I must admit, it's a splendid plan."
This small flattery was Xerius' undoing. For a brief instant his eyes flashed with jubilant conceit.

...because it doesn't fool Eleńzaras for even one second. He goes in for the kill with even more flattery, which, as we know, is deeply insecure Xerius' weakness (one of them, anyway). He is just ripe to manipulation after that.


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He plays you, Uncle, and you cannot even see.
The Grandmaster leaned forward as though aware of the discomfort generated by his proximity. Eleńzaras, Conphas realized, was a master practitioner of jnan.
"As of yet," he said coldly, "we don't know the specifics of the game you play, Emperor. But let me assure you of this: if it involves the betrayal of the Holy War, then it involves the betrayal of the Scarlet Spires. Do you know what this means? What it entails? If you betray us, Ikurei, then no one"--he glanced darkly at Cememketri--"not even your Imperial Saik, will be able to preserve you from our wrath. We are the Scarlet Spires, Emperor . . . Think on that."
"You threaten me?" Xerius fairly gasped.
"Assurances, Emperor. All arrangements require assurances."

Conphas is dismayed at Xerius falling for that so easily, but has to appreciate Eleńzaras' manipulation skills too.
These threats"assurances" are bad news for the Grand Ikurei Restoration Plan...but not to worry, Conphas probably has a Plan B. Or C. He'll figure something out.


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"My archivists tell me you're the first to defeat the Scylvendi in pitched battle. My spies, on the other hand, tell me your soldiers worship you as a god. Is this so?"
Conphas smiled, deciding the Grandmaster would lick his ass as clean as a cat's if given the opportunity. For all his penetration, Eleńzaras had misjudged him.

I think you are the one who's doing the misjudging here, Conphas.
Eleńzaras is doing the exact same thing he did with Xerius, only with more flattery (the amount of flattery in this chapter is inversely proportional to that of common sense). Which, of course, leads the supremely arrogant Conphas to assume he's overdoing it, causing him to lower his guard. (That, or writing this comment at a late hour is messing with my head and I'm reading too much into this scene.)


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For the first time something like real anger surfaced in Eleńzaras's eyes, like a glimpse of coals through a smoky fire. "We can make the world burn with our song, young Conphas. We need no one."

After some "well-meaning" advice from Conphas, Eleńzaras shows some real emotion. But we know he is almost as arrogant as "young Conphas", which will also be his undoing down the line.


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Over the course of their haggling, it became obvious that the heart of Eleńzaras's concern lay with the Cishaurim. In exchange for Chepheramunni's signature on the Indenture, he demanded that Cememketri and the Imperial Saik surrender all intelligence they'd amassed on the Fanim sorcerer-priests over centuries of warring against them. Of course, this was to be expected: the Scarlet Spires had gambled its very existence on its ability to overcome the Cishaurim. But there was an undeniable intensity in the way the Grandmaster uttered their name. Eleńzaras said "Cishaurim" in the same manner a Nansur would say "Scylvendi"--the way one names an old and hated foe.
For Conphas, this could mean only one thing: the Scarlet Spires had been at war with the Cishaurim long before Maithanet had declared the Holy War. Like House Ikurei, the Scarlet Spires had embroiled itself in the Holy War in order to use it. For the Scarlet Spires the Holy War was an instrument of revenge.

Conphas puts his detective skills to work and discovers the truth. There are now two factions trying to take control of the Holy War for their own reasons.
What Conphas doesn't know is that both factions are being played by Maithanet, who is working for MoŰnghus, who orchestrated the whole thing for Kellhus to take over later on. (And I don't know if I forgot anyone in the summary of the web of manipulation and deceit there. Like I said, it's late.)


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When Conphas mentioned his suspicions, his uncle sneered--initially at least. Eleńzaras, he insisted, was too mercantile to risk so much for a trifle like vengeance. When Cememketri and Skea÷s also endorsed the theory, however, the Emperor realized he'd harboured the same suspicions all along. It was official: the Scarlet Spires had joined the Holy War to bring some pre-existing war with the Cishaurim to conclusion.

Remember, conspiracy theories only make sense when backed up by someone who isn't Conphas! Sound life advice from Ikurei Xerius III.
But yes, everyone knows what is going on now. Which is probably useful information for not-Skea÷s...


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Maithanet. What game did he play? For that matter, who was he?

That's a very good question, Conphas, but not one that you'll ever know the answer to, sadly.
Did any of you figure out who Maithanet actually was on your first read by this point, or during this book? No? I certainly didn't, I'm just curious to know if someone outdid Conphas here and put all the pieces of the puzzle together early on.


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The news arrived days afterward. The Vulgar Holy War had been annihilated.

Surprising absolutely no one. Sad, but only for those who didn't know what they were getting into...


Quote
Shortly afterward, two couriers arrived from Kian, the one bearing the severed heads of Calmemunis, Tharschilka, and a man who may or may not have been Kumrezzer, the other bearing a secret message from Skauras himself, and delivered, as per the Sapatishah's instructions, to his former hostage and ward, Ikurei Conphas. It simply read:

We cannot count the carcasses of your idolatrous kin, so many have been felled by the fury of our righteous hand. Praise be the Solitary God. Know that House Ikurei has been heard.

They can now move to the next step in their plan, as the Padirajah has had his "gesture". I can't wait to see Skauras appear in the story in person (and not through MoŰnghus), he's such a great character.
Also, Kumrezzer's head is apparently not clearly identifiable as his. Strange, given that the other two's heads are, and they were probably all killed at the same time. I wonder if this sparked any conspiracy theories in or out of universe...


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Even though he was only twenty-seven years of age, Ikurei Conphas had seen the carnage of many fields of war--enough that he could almost see the masses of Inrithi sprawled and tangled across the Plains of Mengedda, their dead-fish eyes staring into earth or across endless sky. But it wasn't guilt that moved his soul to ponder--and perhaps in a strange way even to grieve--it was the sheer scale of this first accomplished act. It was as though until now, the dimensions of his uncle's plan had been too abstract for him to truly comprehend. Ikurei Conphas was in awe of what he and his uncle had done.
. . . House Ikurei has been heard.
The sacrifice of an entire army of men. Only the Gods dared such acts.

It didn't even register before, but I am the same age as Conphas now. It's kind of depressing (or at least annoying) to see how this fictional character has accomplished so much more in the same amount of years. But then again, I still have my head, so I'm not doing too badly here. ;)
Conphas is awed by his own divinity again, and mistakenly thinks only Gods would dare to sacrifice entire armies of men just like that. No, Conphas, that's very much not the case.


Quote
He saw clearly now why he so loved this species of war. On the field of battle, his every act was open to the scrutiny of others. Here, however, he stood outside scrutiny, enacted destiny from a place that transcended judgement or recrimination. He lay hidden in the womb of events.
Like a God.

This sounds...familiar...
Quote from: TJE, Interlude
Unseen rulers never slumbered, not truly.
Hmmm. Interesting. And a comparison I made in last week's thread, too. Could there be anything to it?



And to close the chapter discussion (for today, at least):
Chapter Eight Body Count: Six named characters (Ogatha urs Yursalka, Yursalka, Omiri, Nersei Calmemunis, Heńnar Tharschilka, Akori Kumrezzer). Thousands of unnamed ones (the rest of Yursalka's family, the people massacred because of Barisullas' machinations, and everyone else who was part of the Vulgar Holy War).
« Last Edit: May 31, 2018, 01:23:59 am by ThoughtsOfThelli »
"But youĺve simply made the discovery that Thelli madeŚonly without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasűrimbor Kayűtas (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)

Francis Buck

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« Reply #5 on: May 31, 2018, 03:16:15 am »
Just wanted to pop in and say I'm enjoying ya'll's thoughts on the re-reads here, and especially this chapter as it has what is probably the first serious character defining scene for Cnaiur in the series. We knew he was crazy and evil before, but the stuff with Yusalka is, as Thelli said, like something out of a horror movie (as it should be). It also aptly displays the "criminality" of the Scylvendi culture as we see it described much later in TGO when Mimara is observing them with the Judging Eye.

It makes me wonder how the original Scylvendi were recruited by the Consult, back in the First Apocalypse. Since their culture is one that basically results in their being people born into Damnation, I wonder if one of the Chieftains (Uthgai?) was shown the Inverse Fire? Were they seduced by more conventional means? More importantly, what did the Scylvendi worship BEFORE the No-God/Lokung? Their god could only have been "dead" once the First Apocalypse was over with, after all. Unless they already had some kind of "dead god" religion that happened to be easily modulated to fit the Consult's agenda? It's all a bit fishy to me, but then everything is a bit fishy to me in this series.

One last side note: it's symbolically interesting that the Scylvendi not only have the aforementioned "criminal" culture and lifestyle, but that they also happen to live in a region that is utterly exposed to the Starving Skies -- especially if the Gods really do use birds as their primary method of observing events in Earwa.

Seriously last side note this time: I've wondered before if the Scylvendi actually formed the bulk of the survivors from previous Apocalypse(s?), and whether or not their way of life (and geographic location) allowed them to better persist through the various calamities that occur with the No-God/Apocalypse. Aside from being a "mongrel race", they are also shown to be considerably more suited to dealing with problems like, for example, transporting a massive army (and their numbers really should be massive, given the size of the Steppe and the fact that every single male is a warrior) all the way to Golgotterath without having to resort to crazy shit like eating Sranc, or, you know, each other. Cnaiur's even chowing down on some amicut right beside the Ark in TUC. Makes you wonder how much the whole Sranc-eating-devolving-into-gay-cannibalism was actually a NECESSITY for getting the Great Ordeal to Golgotterath, or if it was primarily part of Kellhus's "men must be reshaped in order to succeed" regime and thus 100% planned from the beginning.

Sorry for derail, I just love the damn Scylvendi.

ThoughtsOfThelli

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« Reply #6 on: May 31, 2018, 04:41:21 pm »
First section, shows the Madness that has descended upon CnaŘir. What happened at Kiyuth, the betrayal of his kinsman, the route Conphas put on them and his having to lie in mud for days to stay alive has brought out the CnaŘir we will see only get worse from here. I know he does awful things, but still my favorite fantasy character....ever. Period.

While I can understand where you and TheCulminatingApe are coming from here, I still can't bring myself to like CnaiŘr as a (fictional) person. As a character, sure, I love to read about him, his headspace is horrifyingly fascinating. It's just not enough to place him among my favourites. Maybe I'm too squeamish, for lack of a better word (which I don't think I am, or I wouldn't be reading this series), maybe it's just because this is such a subjective thing.


My favorite quote hands down from CnaŘir, just viscous.

Absolutely chilling (imagine being on the receiving end of this!), but impressive nonetheless. I can see why you'd pick it for your signature!


Might be the way.....but they was all shitting their pants.

Oh, for sure. Conveniently for them, it was also "the way", but you'd definitely have to be suicidal to confront CnaiŘr after witnessing his...um, handiwork, up close.


Second section, first few pages, I love how Bakker shows the fanaticism of a Holy War and religion. This small quote from Calmemunis sums it up nicely.

Yes, those three guys are just the worst kind of fanatics, aren't they? Some people love to go on about how Proyas is such a zealot and whatnot, but at least he can see reason every once in a while, is actually intelligent, and has a measure of common sense. The same can't be said for his cousin (or said cousin's two partners in crime).


The God is on their side and the men of the Holy War have no doubt. I Love this, because we see this all throughout history, even today. Its little things like this that make these books so great.

Realistic, yes, still very delusional. Even after Prophilas explained to them in detail why they should wait for the rest of the Holy War and be reasonable, they refused to listen. I do feel sorry for all the people that went along with them and got killed. For the three leaders themselves, not so much.


Many had died of "the clutch" as Conphas called it, the hike to the Privy Chamber, and old, old Skeaos doesn't falter at all and keeps pace with Conphas. No shortness of breath, if you didnt think he was a SS before, he certainly is now.

Exactly my point. It just doesn't make sense that this old man (whose actual supposed age is actually never given, but still) with an apparently sedentary lifestyle would not even be winded after this. If Conphas didn't care so little for other people, maybe he would have thought about it a bit more and realized this was quite suspicious.


And, there it is. Conphas doesn't know Skeaos is a SS, but he see's that he is trying to sow dissension between himself and Xerius, exactly what SS's are meant to do.

This little plan did not go very well for not-Skea÷s at all. Thankfully for him, it's not too far off from what real Skea÷s might have done, or he would have been at risk of being discovered.


Third section between Eleńzaras, and the Ikurei is just great. This quote hear shows Conphas's intellect and knack for seeing the situation as it is.

Conphas is great at analyzing situations and people - when he cares enough to put his mind to it. The fact that other people and their motives can easily bore him does not work to his favour at all.


Though, I have admitted that Xerius's plans are very sound military plans, to gain back the Empire. This section just truly shows how dumb he is to others knowing his plans and reasons. For those with any intellect, its easy to see whats afoot. And, Xerius is dumbfounded. What a tragic character.

I felt so sorry for poor Xerius, back to being "the fool" again. He just can't win. Though to be fair to him, it's not hard to be the dumbest person in the room when you're dealing with the likes of Conphas and Eleńzaras, proven skilled manipulators.


Conphas calls out Eli here and his fears. Another example of how shrewd he is. Xerius would be totally lost in this situation without Conphas. And when fear strikes, how does one react? With threats... of course.

This situation would have been an absolute disaster without Conphas, something that not-Skea÷s should have thought of before trying to sow discord between uncle and nephew there.
I think you mean "assurances", MSJ. ;)


Another great quote as to why Conphas is immune to Kellhus. Just a massive ego, is the way I think of it. I mean, we know he was never favored by the Gods, just a military genius and political one, too.

Conphas' ego protects him...but is also his major weakness in the end. Just another thing that makes for a very compelling story.
I wonder if you could make a case for Conphas being influenced by Ajokli too in retrospect, but that's probably going into full-crackpot territory. (Unless we stumble into any potential evidence later in the reread.)


Great chapter. Though, I love every chapter. I've read these books like 5 or 6 times. Its better every time. I took a different approach to posting this time. I usually read and make notes, then post. This time , I posted as I read. It felt a lot more organic, and I think I expressed more than previous posts. I think ill stick with it.

I'm such a "sweet summer child" compared to you and most people on this forum, this is just my first (proper) reread!
I think what you're doing now is working well, so I'd say you should stick with this method. :)


We see further exploration of belief/ faith/ emotion being exploited by reason/ rationality/ intellect, both in the 'unchanging' culture of the Scylvendi (this is the way we do things and always have and always will - I guess) who are catastrophically defeated by Conphas, and in the Vulgar Holy War which is used for political ends, and deceived into into its doom.

There is of course one significant survivor from Kiyuth - who will ultimately get his revenge on Conphas.

See, TheCulminatingApe, after I spent like half of my post making fun of Calmemunis and co., I read your analysis and immediately felt like Xerius during that meeting. ;)
Joking aside, you make some great points here. This will all be taken to further extremes as Kellhus comes back into the picture and we get more exposition on the Dűnyain, of course.
I feel Conphas' greatest strengths are also his weaknesses. His ego and intellect ensure his army's undying loyalty, and make him immune to Kellhus' manipulations. On the other hand, he cares so little about other humans (not helped by the whole god complex) that he misses crucial details in many occasions. CnaiŘr is like the personification of Conphas' mistakes coming back to help set his ultimate defeat in place.


More worldbuilding.  We learn there is a distinction between Norsirai 'barbarians' and the apparently more civilised Ketyai.  We learn that despite the fact that Xerius is an Emperor, he is actually less powerful than the ruler of High Ainon, whi is in fact (if not in title) is Eleazaras, the leader of the Scarlet Spires.

Key word being "apparently", as some of those "barbarians" might have one thing or two to teach Conphas. And, of course, "civilized men" aren't always so. Fitting that it is a "Norsirai barbarian" that ultimately kills Conphas.
Eleńzaras is established as being in control from his very first appearance here, but much like Conphas, there is much that he doesn't know. He is himself being played by several factions, and his "puppet king" is actually a skin-spy, and has likely been so for some time.


It becomes obvious with hindsight, but on a first read we don't actually know anythign about the physical capabilities of Skin-spies yet.

True, but it is at the very least suspicious that this apparently frail old man would show remarkable physical agility.


Ironic that he doesn't actually have one ;)

Very much so. :P


Probably true for Skeaos, the only point of a skin-spy existing is to bring about the Second Apocalypse

Agree 100%, also mentioned that in my own post, as part of an attempt to try to read more into Skea÷s' little speech to Conphas.


It's Conphas who says this (in response to the previous quote from Skeaos) - he is wrong.

He is, but I still think this is something that tells us much about Conphas' own character.


The skin-spies swap skin (or bodies) but have no soul, and later we see souls swapping bodies (although not necessarily of their own volition).

Except for one notable individual who we've met a few chapters back, that is. ;)
The whole transfer of souls is a very interesting topic, which I'm sure we'll get back to several times. For now, I don't have much to add, I'll just say I liked your brief reflection here.


Xerius is back to being portrayed as a little bit pathetic in this Chapter.  We only get Conphas' POV though.  Conphas also seems a little needy again - surprised and pleased that 'the Lion of Kiyuth' is known to Eleazaras (which to be honest he could have learnt five minutes ago), but does have enough wherewithal to realise what is going on

Xerius is having a(nother) bad day, poor unfortunate man. Not that Conphas is so above it all, like you said. He fails to notice that Eleńzaras is also using flattery on him here for a deliberate reason (or so I think, at least), and not just overdoing it. Anyway, he's just as susceptible to flattery as his uncle, just for different reasons.


And back to the point made towards the end of part one by Akka

"Who is Maithanet?" the prelude to a very important and iconic question we'll see later on.
Maithanet has been effectively established as someone we, the readers, should be very suspicious of.


Just wanted to pop in and say I'm enjoying ya'll's thoughts on the re-reads here, and especially this chapter as it has what is probably the first serious character defining scene for Cnaiur in the series. We knew he was crazy and evil before, but the stuff with Yusalka is, as Thelli said, like something out of a horror movie (as it should be). It also aptly displays the "criminality" of the Scylvendi culture as we see it described much later in TGO when Mimara is observing them with the Judging Eye.

Still not the best horror movie that could come out of TSA (I think that would be the Cil-Aujas sequence), but besides the importance this section has for CnaiŘr as a character (which I've already elaborated on in my own post and in my reply to MSJ above), it makes me wish there was a fan-made film of this scene (or something of the sort)...
Yes, it's no wonder CnaiŘr has reached "Ciphrang-level" after 20 more years of atrocities in the same vein as this. He refers to himself as "a demon" in TTT - and he is ultimately right.


It makes me wonder how the original Scylvendi were recruited by the Consult, back in the First Apocalypse. Since their culture is one that basically results in their being people born into Damnation, I wonder if one of the Chieftains (Uthgai?) was shown the Inverse Fire? Were they seduced by more conventional means? More importantly, what did the Scylvendi worship BEFORE the No-God/Lokung? Their god could only have been "dead" once the First Apocalypse was over with, after all. Unless they already had some kind of "dead god" religion that happened to be easily modulated to fit the Consult's agenda? It's all a bit fishy to me, but then everything is a bit fishy to me in this series.

Good question, I think your Uthgai theory seems plausible enough. I like to imagine Uthgai as a proto-CnaiŘr of sorts, more intelligent and insightful than most of his fellow Scylvendi, and willing to consider potential alliances and strategies that would be rejected by more "traditionally-minded" Scylvendi.
We just don't have enough information to figure that out, sadly. Maybe they initially worshipped a god that they came to believe was the No-God, and thus he became the "Dead-God" once the First Apocalypse ended. Uthgai himself might have had an important role in shaping their beliefs following the end of the Apocalypse - after all, according to the wiki/glossary, he lived for 15 more years after that. I wonder if the Consult created a scenario along the lines of the Missionaria Protectiva from Dune, with the purpose of getting the Scylvendi to join them.


One last side note: it's symbolically interesting that the Scylvendi not only have the aforementioned "criminal" culture and lifestyle, but that they also happen to live in a region that is utterly exposed to the Starving Skies -- especially if the Gods really do use birds as their primary method of observing events in Earwa.

Great observation there, that had never occurred to me before, but it sure is something to think about...


Seriously last side note this time: I've wondered before if the Scylvendi actually formed the bulk of the survivors from previous Apocalypse(s?), and whether or not their way of life (and geographic location) allowed them to better persist through the various calamities that occur with the No-God/Apocalypse. Aside from being a "mongrel race", they are also shown to be considerably more suited to dealing with problems like, for example, transporting a massive army (and their numbers really should be massive, given the size of the Steppe and the fact that every single male is a warrior) all the way to Golgotterath without having to resort to crazy shit like eating Sranc, or, you know, each other. Cnaiur's even chowing down on some amicut right beside the Ark in TUC. Makes you wonder how much the whole Sranc-eating-devolving-into-gay-cannibalism was actually a NECESSITY for getting the Great Ordeal to Golgotterath, or if it was primarily part of Kellhus's "men must be reshaped in order to succeed" regime and thus 100% planned from the beginning.

Sorry for derail, I just love the damn Scylvendi.

It's very possible. They do seem to be more resilient than a people with "no history" would have any right to be. There could be something there that we don't know (and that has presumably been lost to history in-universe).
On the Great Ordeal and the infamous "rape and cannibalism holocaust", I think it's the latter case. Surely they could have taken measures to be more self-sufficient taking the Scylvendi as an example. Of course the other cultures would naturally be resistant to this, but Kellhus was in charge, he could have convinced them to do practically anything. And it's not like he wouldn't have known this was a possibility.

I see I am very much in the minority here - I can't bring myself to actually like them, but they sure are interesting to read/think about. We'll see if my opinion still stands when we see them in TNG after MoŰnghus has been in charge for some time.
"But youĺve simply made the discovery that Thelli madeŚonly without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasűrimbor Kayűtas (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 #7 on: August 01, 2018, 03:42:29 am »
Quote
For an instant, Conphas felt like a thief, the hidden author of a great loss. And the exhilaration he felt almost possessed a sexual intensity. He saw clearly now why he so loved this species of war. On the field of battle, his every act was open to the scrutiny of others. Here, however, he stood outside scrutiny, enacted destiny from a place that transcended judgment or recrimination. He lay hidden in the womb of events.

Like a God.
The more I re-read these Conphas chapters, the more I feel he's Ciphrang material.

ThoughtsOfThelli

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« Reply #8 on: August 02, 2018, 03:57:19 pm »
Quote
For an instant, Conphas felt like a thief, the hidden author of a great loss. And the exhilaration he felt almost possessed a sexual intensity. He saw clearly now why he so loved this species of war. On the field of battle, his every act was open to the scrutiny of others. Here, however, he stood outside scrutiny, enacted destiny from a place that transcended judgment or recrimination. He lay hidden in the womb of events.

Like a God.
The more I re-read these Conphas chapters, the more I feel he's Ciphrang material.

It's possible, I wouldn't put him as high in the "Ciphrang potential scale" as CnaiŘr but I wouldn't rule the possibility out either. I know it's unlikely to happen, but I would still like to see some of the dead characters as Ciphrang in TNG...
"But youĺve simply made the discovery that Thelli madeŚonly without the benefit of her unerring sense of fashion."
-Anasűrimbor Kayűtas (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)