Earwa > The Almanac: PON Edition

TDTCB, Ch. 8

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What Came Before:

--- Quote from: Tony P ---We seem to have fallen behind on the re-read of TDTCB. I guess the first book suffers more than the others from being a set-up book. Those who have finished the Prince of Nothing trilogy might be tempted to skip certain parts, even though there are still important nuggets in here. Though it must be said, most have only a narrative bearing on the rest of the series, instead of a philosophical one.

Anyway, here goes.


Kings never lie. They demand the world be mistaken.

 When we truly apprehend the Gods, the Nilnameshi sages say, we recognize  them not as kings but as thieves. This is among the wisest of blasphemies, for we always see the king who cheats us, never the thief.

Autumn, 4110 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Northern Jiüniati Steppe

Yursalka of the Utemot is woken up by a patting against the hide of his yaksh. Going outside, he realizes someone has been throwing parts of a child’s fingers against it.

--- Quote ---“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 [Yursalka] in the chest.

“Who am I?” the blackness [Cnaiür] asked.
“Nnn-Cnaiür,” he gasped. “Man-killer … M-most v-violent of all men…”
A slap, open-handed as though he were a slave.
“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!”
--- End quote ---

Cnaiür is not amused at being left for dead, even if it is for the honor of the Utemot. He exacts a terrible revenge on Yursalka and his family, and resumes his role as the chieftain of the Utemot.

Late Autumn, 4111 Year-of-the-Tusk, Momemn

This part of the chapter eight opens with the immediate effects of the Holy War on the Three Seas. All over people are getting worked up in fervor, and some take advantage of these circumstances to enrich themselves. Others go overboard in zealotry and eagerness to reach Shimeh. The biggest upheaval, however, is caused by the men of the Vulgar Holy War, who have decided to march against Maithanet’s orders. Maithanet not amused, but can’t do anything more than order Calmemumis, Tharshilka and Kumrezzer to return. They decide to ignore the Shriah, and cross into Fanim lands.

Back in Momemn Xerius is expecting a delegation from High Ainon. The Ainoni were a Ketyai people, old and mercantile (three for three like the Nansur), and civilized, despite their archaic devotion to their beards. Xerius hopes for better luck with the Ainoni than he had with the Thunyeri (under Prince Skayelt) and Tydonni (under Gothyelk “the bellicose Earl of Agansanor” – both these names will feature in further volumes), who reacted quite vehemently to Xerius  request they sign his Indenture. Old Gothyelk even kicked it down and called Xerius a “gelded heathen” or “depraved faggot”. This is a reflection by Conphas, who is summoned for the meeting by Skeaös.
Skeaös walks with Conphas. Since they have to walk a lot of stairs, Conphas amuses himself by trying to get the old man to have a heart-attack by increasing the tempo on the stairs. When it doesn’t seem to affect Skeaös, Conphas gets bored with the game.
While refusing to get winded, Skeaös informs Conphas about Eleäzaras, the Grandmaster of the Scarlet Spires (the de facto rulers of Hign Ainon): “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.”

Conphas and Skeaös banter a bit, until Conphas gets Skeaös to reveal that he is afraid for his soul because of the Ikurei’s tampering with the Holy War. Conphas is dumbstruck, but sees it as a plot between Skeaös and Istriya: he thinks that by setting Xerius and Conphas at odds, Istriya tries to save the Holy War from Xerius.

A few moments later, Eleäzaras and his lapdog (Chepheramunni, King-Regent and titular head of High Ainon) are brought before the emperor, Conphas, Cememketri (the head of the Imperial Saik, the School indentured to the emperor of Nansur) and Skeaös. Eleäzaras is disdainful of Cememketri, and focuses on Conphas, but Xerius wastes no time in getting back on top of things and asks Eleäzaras why they have joined the Holy War. The simple answer is that the Scarlet Spires were “purchased”, but Eleäzaras is unwilling to reveal more. He does, however, want something from Xerius. Xerius seems at a loss, but Eleäzaras and Conphas agree that power is at stake. Eleäzaras realizes that Xerius set the Vulgar Holy War up for failure, as a means of getting control of the real Holy War. Conphas realizes Xerius is unaware that Eleäzaras is playing him for a fool. Yet he has a warning for Xerius as well:
“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, 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.”

Yet Conphas is not fooled. He realizes that the Scarlet Spires have joined the Holy War in order to use it, the same as the Ikurei have. They have an older enmity with the Cishaurim, and mean to use the Holy War as a means of getting revenge on them. Yet he can’t help but wonder how much of this Maithanet realizes, and what game he might be playing.

In the end, a courier from Skauras arrives, bearing word of the utter destruction of the Vulgar Holy War at the Plains of Mengedda. Skauras mentions that the carcasses of their idolatrous kin are too many to be counted. He revels in the sacrifice of so many men to their political goals, a sacrifice only Gods would dare.
--- End quote ---

What Came Before:

--- Quote from: Church ---Been meaning to post something about this chapter for a while, but it does feel difficult to raise too much enthusiasm for this set-up material! All I would say about this is that the opening scene with Cnaiur is the first really explicit bit of violence we see in the series - explicit in terms of being explicitly described and dwelt upon to quite a high degree. Fantasy seems to pretty much always use violence to get the reader's attention and draw them into the narrative, but I think the way this violence is described is intended to make us feel a bit more uneasy about the voyeuristic bit of us that wants to read more and more of this kind of material. Starting with the murder of a child then numerous other innocents, and I also wondered on the re-read if a parallel is being drawn between Cnaiur and the Sranc - the section ends with Cnaiur pulling out Yursalka's innards, and somewhere further on in the series it says that the Sranc's favourite way of killing people is to strangle them with their intestines.
--- End quote ---

What Came Before:

--- Quote from: Tony P ---I've read TDTCB several times now, and though I like reading it (especially on lunch-break; there's nothing that agrees with cucumber sandwich like a bird with a human head, pendulous phalli and rapist dog-men), it's so very much a set-up book (how can it not be?), it is indeed hard to muster much enthusiams for discussion. Even on a re-read, I only look forward to the important bits and consider the rest simply a retreading of an old track (the steppe is not infinite here). The meaty bits, with the revelations about the Consult, the Dûnyain etc. are interesting for the larger discussion about Earwa, but this book is in general a stage-setter.

--- Quote from: Church ---...and I also wondered on the re-read if a parallel is being drawn between Cnaiur and the Sranc - the section ends with Cnaiur pulling out Yursalka's innards, and somewhere further on in the series it says that the Sranc's favourite way of killing people is to strangle them with their intestines.
--- End quote ---

Good catch, but I think it might be a red herring. If anything, Cnaiür's cruelty and violence establishes his insanity. There's a direct quote that the other Utemot don't stand up to him, bot because he's insane, but because it's their way that a chieftain has the right to punish treason. Meaning, he's clearly insane. The first Cnaiür chapters in general focus on his introspection and the "unceasing measure", and what it's done to Cnaiür.
--- End quote ---

What Came Before:

--- Quote from: Madness ---I appreciate you starting the new topic, Tony. I'll participate as I can - as I advocate others do as well. We've got a good base building towards the Almanac and first looks are pleasing :).

--- End quote ---

What Came Before:

--- Quote from: lockesnow ---Is it a coincidence that all interest in the reread precipitiously fell off when the book gets boring and follows the three most boring characters in the book for several hundred pages? (click to show/hide)I'm beginning to remember why I always failed in the slog of a reread.  it's like Bakker thinks if he introduces a really compelling character, like Kellhus in the prolouge, or Cnaiur in Chapter 6, that he must then bury that character, or at the very least subvert the audience's expectations of following someone so active and fascinating.  Following Kellhus, Bakker tries to make us forget him for 300 or 400 pages, and following Cnaiur, Bakker tries to make us forget him for several hundred pages as well.  IIRC, after the wonderful section 8.1, Cnaiur is gone while the readers have to further endure unceasing exposition and self loathing and self congratulation with Esme, Akka and Conphas and Xerius--what a fucking drag.

The Cnaiur bit is very awesome, are we seeing the gods here, Gilgaol riding Cnaiur?  Note that Bakker is carefully avoiding showing us Cnaiur's perspective here.  If Cnaiur is being ridden by Gilgaol here, using Yursalka's perspective rather than the already established Cnaiur perspective is a good way to hide from the audience the crucial information of the Gods' active participation in the world--but note that there was at least one explicit hint  in Cnaiur's chapter six perspective that suggested that that Gilgaol takes over Cnaiur in the heat of battle. 

There's some bullshit with Bakker putting in hints that Skeos is a skin spy and that grandmother is a skin spy.  whatever.  There's more bullshit with the Scarlet Spires which is basically the first major sin of Bakkerepetition in the series as the same material hashed over by various characters is hashed over yet again ad nauseum here.  Note that Conphas is as smart as Esmenet and figures out the same anomaly of Maithanet being aware of the Cishaurim secret war and how immensely troubling this is.  Whatever, for devoting a dozen pages to the drama of Maithanet being clever, it's all just a big fucking Maguffin meant to get the Spires to join the war instead of the Saik, it really doesn't matter other than for authorial narrative convenience.

There is an invocation of "trifles" which reminds me that the term "trinkets" has extra-special meaning in this world.  I was going to post it, because I remembered noting that, but on reflection I realized it's not a flag and Bakker didn't use trinkets, I made a mistake confusing trifle for trinket.

Eventually the chapter ends, thank goodness, and we get an incredible end quote to end things on, I'd love to see what Sologdin makes of the contradiction of being 'outside' and 'transcendent' yet also simultaneously being 'inside' 'hidden' a womb.

--- 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.
--- End quote ---

Just how much metaphysics are packed into that paragraph?  Are the final two sentences an explicit authorial reveal of what a God is?
--- End quote ---


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