Earwa > The Almanac: PON Edition

TDTCB, Ch. 6

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What Came Before:

--- Quote from: Madness ---I'm probably going to be a write-off human tomorrow as I'm hitting up a concert tonight. But here's a thread for Ch. 6...

The Jiunati Steppe...
--- End quote ---

What Came Before:

--- Quote from: Tony P ---It is said, a man is born of his mother and is fed of his mother. Then he is fed of the land, and the land passes through him, taking and giving a pinch of dust each time, until man is no longer of his mother, but of the land.

…and in Old Sheyic, the language of the ruling and religious castes of the Nansurium, skilvenas means “catastrophe” or “apocalypse,” as though the Scylvendi have somehow transcended  the role of peoples in history and become a principle.

Early Summer,  4110 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Jiüniati Steppe

On to a favourite pov for many readers: Cnaiür urs Skiötha, Breaker of Horses and Men and the Most Violent of All Men, a barbarian Scylvendi with a slight inbalance in his psyche. Cnaiür is the chieftain of the Utemot, a tribe on the northern steppes. All the tribes have gathered to answer the invasion by Conphas; we are told this only happens once in a while. When the tribes gather for a large raid/warparty, they usually elect one of their chiefs as king of tribes. After the fighting’s done, life apparently returns to normal on the steppes. The last time the tribes gathered was to attack Kian; at the Battle of Zirkirta, eight years previous, Cnaiür was elected King of Tribes, and under his leadership the Scylvendi annihilated the Kianene. In the previous chapter Xerius taunted Skauras about that fact.

From the beginning it’s obvious that Cnaiür feels that something is wrong about the way the other Scylvendi treat him. He was not summoned to the meeting where the course of action was to be decided, and it rankles.

--- Quote ---Why would they disgrace me like this?
But he was not a child. He was the many-blooded chieftain of the Utemot, a seasoned Scylendi warrior of more than forty-five summers. He owned eight wives, twenty-three slaves, and more than three hundred cattle. He had fathered thirty-seven sons, nineteen of the pure blood. His arms were ribbed with the swazond, ritual trophy scars, of more than two-hundred dead foes. He was Cnaiür, breaker-of-horses-and-men.

--- End quote ---

Xunnurit, the elected King-of-Tribes, is planning an all-out attack on Conphas’ army along the River Kiyuth. Cnaiür barges in on the meeting, and argues that they should wait with their attack. Conphas’ horses require feed and can’t just graze (unlike the Scylvendi’s horses); though they’ve put up a somewhat defensible camp, the Nansur have to go out for supplies soon. After some wrangling Cnaiür realizes his fellow chieftains want to attack Conphas, because they want to get back to their harvest. Cnaiür is humiliated by the lack of respect he is shown, and furiously argues to wait until the Nansur have to expose themselves, but the other chieftains won’t hear of it. Cnaiür is exasperated: “measure is unceasing.” Yet Xunnurit can’t resist shaming Cnaiür once more:

--- Quote ---“Men call you Man-killing Cnaiür, speak of your prowess on the field, of your endless hunger for holy slaughter. But now”–he shook his head in a scolding manner–“where’s that hunger gone, Utemot? Should we now call you Time-killing Cnaiür?”
More heart-gouging laughter, deep-throated and coarse, at once honest in the way of a simple people and yet bruised by an unsavoury glee, the sound of lesser men reveling in the degredation of one greater. Cnaiür’s ears buzzed. Earth and sky shrank, until the hole world became laughing, yellow-toothed faces. He could feel it stir within him, his second soul, the one that blotted the sun and painted the earth with blood. Their laughter faltered before his menace. His glare struck even the smirk from their faces.

--- End quote ---

As it turns out, Conphas has tricked the Scylvendi into attacking him. He has used ruses (like disguising mediocre units of his army as his elite units) and dirty tricks (like raping the Scylvendi prisoners as an insult to all Scylvendi) and shrewdness (like gambling on the fact that the Scylvendi will want to make an end of him and return to their lands) to goad the Scylvendi into attacking him in exactly the way he wants. Cnaiür realizes they’re being goaded, but couldn’t sway the other chieftains, who want nothing more than to humiliate him. In the end, it turns out Conphas has taken the Imperial Saik with the him, the sorcerous school indentured to the Emperor. By wrongfooting the Scylvendi he’s managed to either destroy the Scylvendi chorae-bowmen or chase them from the field, and now, with the aid of his own sorcerers, Conphas proceeds to inflict a devastating defeat on the Scylvendi. As a further insult, Cnaiür is betrayed by his own tribesmen, chief amongst them his uncle Bannut and Yursalka. With the battle crashing around them, Bannut tells Cnaiür that he has “killed you! Killed the kin-slayer! The weeping faggot who’d be our chieftain!” Apparently, Bannut witnessed Cnaiür strangle his father, and thinks it’s because of the love Cnaiür bore someone else, another man. The phrase “weeping faggot” will come to haunt Cnaiür, but first he strangles Bannut. After that, sorcerous hell breaks loose and Yarsulka takes the Utemot from the field, leaving their chieftain to die betrayed.

Yet thanks to his chorae, Cnaiür manages to survive the battle, and the slaughter. He is forced to hide amongst the corpses. He loses his consciousness and reawakens; as he reawakens, he realises he’s overhearing a discussion between Conhpas and Martemus (one of Conphas’ generals). Conphas is telling Martemus that he has studied the Scylvendi, and has learned that the Scylvendi, as a people, have remained unchanged for thousands of years, “A people without history” (quoting Ajencis). Conphas further lets slip that this great battle is only the first battle of the Holy War, and whether the Shriah or the Emperor controls it is at stake. Conphas is as overweening as they come, but Martemus takes the opportune moment to voice questions he wouldn’t otherwise dare vocalize:

--- Quote ---“At the very least you might explain to me–dullard that I am–how you could have known we’d win.”
“As I said, the Scylvendi are obsessed with custom. That means they repeat Martemus. They follow the same formula time and again. Do you see? They worship war, but they have no true understanding of what it truly is.”
“And what, then, is war truly?”
“Intellect, Martemus. War is intellect.”

--- End quote ---

Cnaiür further reflects that his father’s death was a moment that he doesn’t merely remember, but relive it. Twenty-nine years ago, the men of his tribe were drinking in the White Yaksh, the tent of the chieftain. Amongst the slaves is a blond Norsirai men, who suddenly addresses the chieftain in perfect Scylvendi. Cnaiürs father Skiötha, the chieftain, is dumbstruck, both because of the unprecedented outrage of a slave speaking to the men, and because the slave has transformed from a broken man to a man as august as a king. Only Cnaiür is not surprised. The slave challenges Skiötha and his strength. Skiötha replies that he has been measured before, to which the slave replies “but measure is unceasing.” The slave has Cnaiür for an ally, and together they force Skiötha’s hand. In the end, the slave, a Dûnyain named Moënghus, is free and Skiötha is dead.
--- End quote ---

What Came Before:

--- Quote from: Madness ---The Jiunati Steppe

It is said: a man is born of his mother and is fed of his mother. The he is fed of the land, and the land passes through him, taking and giving a pinch of dust each time, until man is no longer of his mother, but of the land.


… and in Old Sheyic, the language of the rulin and religious castes of the Nansurium, skilvenas means “catastrophe” or “apocalypse,” as though the Scylvendi have somehow transcended the role of peoples in history and become a principle.


Early Summer, 4110 Year-of-the-Tusk, the Jiunati Steppe[/b]

First off. CNAIUR!!! Also, this is a very cerebral passage. Cnaiur seems to do more introspection than any character thus far.

That said.

§6.1 – The War Council of the Dead-God

We're introduced to Cnaiur urs Skiotha as he meets the Scylvendi King-of-Tribes and the assembled chieftains overlooking the Kiyuth River beneath the Hethanta mountains.

He's either been summoned late or ignored so he arrives as the Council begins, reflecting on his torment at their hands.

Cnaiur “was the many-blooded chieftain of the Utemot, a seasoned Scylvendi warrior of more than forty-five summers. He owned eight wives, twenty-three slaves, and more than three hundred cattle. He had fathered thirty-seven sons, nineteen of the pure blood. His arms were ribbed with the swazond, ritual trophy scars, of more than two hundred dead foes. He was Cnaiur, breaker-of-horses-and-men” (p.173).

Cnaiur seems to be constantly posturing, sizing up both himself and those around him. As he thinks about these things, the narration follows the description of the assembled chieftains and the planning of the Scylvendi assault.

The Scylvendi clearly treat the battlefield like a clothing depot and much of their individual dress reflects their battle history and that of their ancestors. “Only their scarred arms, stone faces, and long black hair marked them as the People – as Scylvendi” (p173).

We find that the enemy they face is, of course, the army of Xerius' nephew Conphas. The Exalt-General has brought the Nansur to the Jiunati Steppe to fulfill some insidious arm of the Emperor's plan in wresting control of the Holy War from Maithanet.

Cnaiur barrels into the midst of the chieftains, demanding the reason for his absence. Xunnurit, King-of-Tribes, simply says "You were summoned like the rest, Utemot" (p174), before turning back to the war council. Cnaiur interrupts again, suggesting the Scylvendi shouldn't attack, which starts to sour the mood. However, “despite the rumours they had doubtless heard, Cnaiur’s flayed arms demanded a grudging deference” (p175).

Xunnurit and Cnaiur argue back and forth for a page and it becomes quickly clear that Xunnurit is simply ridiculing Cnaiur among a peer-group, in spite of even the visible intelligence Cnaiur displays in his tactical articulations. Xunnurit draws a comparison between the saying of the memorialists and the battle at hand, suggesting that they've "been violated, as surely as if Conphas had quickened our wives or cracked our hearthstone. Violated. Desecrated. Humiliated. We’re beyond measuring tactical advantages, Utemot” (p176).

Cnaiur cites the Battle of Zirkirta, in which the Scylvendi destroy the Kian expedition north. We know this is where Skauras' son Hasjinnet died and its revealed that Cnaiur himself took the Kian General's life. “At Zirkirta, we practiced patience. We waited, and by doing so, we utterly destroyed a powerful foe” (p176).

Xunnurit shifts his tact again, suggesting that “the question is one of how long we must wait” (p176).

Cnaiur spends some time ruminating on this as for the Scylvendi “an overlong absence possessed many perils. Neglected herds meant wolves, pestilence, even famine. If one added to this the threat of slave revolts, wayward wives, and for tribes on the Steppe’s northern frontier such as his own, Sranc, then the incentive for a hasty return became irresistible … Had Ikurei Conphas intended this? It would be easy enough, he supposed, to learn the different demands the seasons placed on the People. Had Conphas deliberately chosen the weeks before the summer drought? The thought dizzied Cnaiur with its implications. Suddenly, everything he had witnessed and heard since joining the horde possessed different meaning: the buggery of their Scylvendi captives, the mocking embassies, even the positioning of their privies – all calculated to gall the People into attacking” (p177).

Suddenly in considering the implications, Cnaiur considers that Conphas seeks to gall the People into attacking. “Their elite cavalry, their Norsirai auxiliaries, well nigh every column in the Imperial Army, even the Emperor’s own Eothic Guard! They’ve striped the Empire to assemble this expedition … This is an army of conquest” (p178).

But despite this, his objections are overturned by simple oratory, “always the same, no matter what his claim to arms or intellect. They’d measure him many years ago – and had found him wanting. But measure is unceasing…” (p179).

Cnaiur's wrath is invoked, which just seems to reek from his aspect. I especially like the internal perspective, “he could feel it stir within him, his second soul, the one that blotted the sun and painted the earth with blood” (p180).

“Tomorrow … we shall sacrifice an entire nation to the Dead-God” (p180).

§6.2 – Cnaiur urs Skiotha, Memorial to the Dead-God

We rejoin Cnaiur as the People move into battle lines, intent in engaging Conphas on a land of the Exalt-General's choosing. We are again exposed to this idea within the text that Cnaiur is different from our usual fantasy barbarian, as we're experience his, often, very logical breakdowns. “This penchant for feud and internecine warfare was the Empire’s greatest bulwark against their race, greater even than the sky-gutting Hethantas. By invading the Steppe, Conphas had welded the People together, and so had delivered the Empire to its greatest peril in a generation” (p181).

He carries on in his observations before finally succumbing a little to the madness he describes briefly on p181, “The absurd magnitude of his circumstances weighed against him like something palpable. How could such things happen? How could whole nations – He lowered his head …  rehearsing the litany of self-recriminations that always consummated such shameful thoughts. In his soul’s eye, he saw his father, Skiotha, his face blackening as he suffocated in the muck” (p182).

This is almost reminiscent of some OCD's, where individuals develop habitual rituals, which eventually must be performed or else they experience severe cognitive dissonance, among other sometimes very physical symptoms. But Cnaiur's memories, immediately move to a possible causative event, which surrounded the death of his Father, Skiotha.

However, Cnaiur regains control quite quickly: "When he looked up, his thoughts were as vacant as his expression. Conphas. Ikurei Conphas was the focus of what was about to unfold, not Cnaiur urs Skiotha" (p182).

His Uncle, Bannut, approaches him as Cnaiur finds himself among the Utemot contigent. They argue back and forth, as everyone seems to bear Cnaiur some grudge, nothing comes easy for the Utemot chieftain. As in the quote Tony cited, the barbarians don't seem to appreciate tactics, overly, or thinking things through, and attribute to Cnaiur their discomfort when he discusses these things.

After Bannut and another, Yursalka, Xunnurit's son by marriage, leave to get instruction from Xunnurit, Cnaiur finds himself alone among his people. “Always they spoke to one another and never to him; it was as though he were a dead man in their midst. He thought of all those he’d killed the first few years after his father’s death, all those Utemot who’d sought to wrest the chieftain’s White Yaksh from the dishonor of his name. Seven cousins, one uncle, and two brothers ... He would murder all and any, foe and kinsmen alike, before he would yield” (p184).

“Will I kill you today, Exalt-General? I think so” (p184).

Cnaiur keeps pondering the impending battle and goes through the motions of leading his Utemot to the lines. Bannut and Yursalka return, though Yursalka refuses to speak, simply looking through Cnaiur. Bannut extends Xunnurit's instruction as “we’re to take the southernmost of the fords, then position ourselves opposite the Nasueret Column, on the enemy’s left. If Conphas advances before we’ve reformed, we’re to withdraw to the south and harass his flanks … He found the standard of the Nasueret Column quickly: the Black Sun of Nansur halved by an eagle’s wing, with the Sheyic symbol for nine embroidered in gold below … ‘The Ninth Column’ … traditionally stationed on the Empire’s Kianene frontier, the men of the Nasueret were rumoured to be among the Imperial Army’s finest” (p185).

Cnaiur, of course, considers this a suicide post courtesy of Xunnurit. “They all want me dead” (p185).

Literally as they are about to charge, Uncle Bannut pulls astride Cnaiur and fixes the chieftain with some kind of honest appraisal, which Cnaiur is unused to, and jabs “You … shall be measured this day, Cnaiur urs Skiotha. Measure is unceasing” (p187). Cnaiur "gaped at the man, overcome by fury and astonishment" (p187).

They take off, leading a number of horsemen across the river Kiyuth, and working slowly to the charge across the distance to the line of the Nansur.

“War and worship!” (p188).

The Utemot fall easily and I want to make a note of the specific fallibility of perspectives. Cnaiur describes the charge with sentences like "his tribe rode with him, outstretched like two great arms" (p188). Yet he realizes very quickly after the charge breaks, that the second line hadn't followed and there are a token few Utemot actually attacking.

Suspecting treachery, Cnaiur finds Bannut near-death, who admits before Cnaiur says anything. “Killed you! Killed the kin-slayer! The weeping-faggot who’d be our chieftain! … I saw the truth of what … what happened those thirty years past. I told all that truth! Now the Utemot will be delivered from the oppression of your disgrace! … I know all! I saw the way you looked at him. I know he was your lover!” (p189)

Despite the obvious allusions to omitted memories, Cnaiur considers this for a second before we realize that its probably more complicated than him simply being a gay crier. “No! … I am Cnaiur urs Skiotha, breaker-of-horses-and-men … None have murdered so many! None bear as many holy scars! I’m the measure of disgrace and honour. Your measure!” (p190) Fittingly, he strangles Bannut, leaving his uncle dead on the field before rejoining those Utemot sacrificed, like himself, to treachery.

Cnaiur basically just picks a spot to stand, to which some tribesmen simply gather to him. We're given a couple damn good paragraphs where Cnaiur earns a little respect from the reader. I especially like “Cnaiur could see the terror in his eyes, the realization that the hulking Scylvendi before him was something more than human” (p191). "I am the reaver ... The measure of all men!" (p192).

Another wave of the Utemot, probably seeing that they can't delay longer without suspicion, crash into the Nansur lines and the Nansur before Cnaiur seem overcome. He climbs a knoll and looking down into the valley. He realizes quickly that the field is confused, that something is very wrong. He meets with an Utemot he actually gets along with, raps with him about the state of the battle. “Conphas had withdrawn his Kidruhil at the battle’s onset to throw them against the Scylvendi centre. And he’d given his Columns false standards in order to deceive them into thinking he’d deployed his main strength across his flanks. The Exalt-General wanted the centre" (p194). Then Cnaiur has a revelation. "'We must flee … The Chorae Bowmen – Conphas knows we position them behind the centre. Either they’re destroyed or he’s chased them from the field. Either way we – ‘ Then he glimpsed the first flashes of unholy light … ‘A School, Bala! Conphas has brought a School!’” (p195).

This is our first introduction to the "algebra of war" as Achamian as described and sorcery is the deterrent in Bakker's world. It is devastating to those unfortunate enough, which is most, to not own Chorae, which luckily, Cnaiur inherited from his Father.

“At least two dozen black-robed figures slowly climbed over the field and into the sky. Schoolmen. The sorcerers of the Imperial Saik … Those remaining already sang their unearthly song, scorching earth and Scylvendi with shimmering flame” (p195). “Balait and the other Utemot still burned, sizzling like swine on the spit. The air smelt of ash and pork. All dead … he saw a bloodied tide of Nansur infantrymen rushing toward him across the slopes. A stranger’s voice whispered, “Measure is unceasing …” (p196)

Cnaiur flees, coming among the panicked People clogging the river. Conphas, obviously, engaged the Scylvendi on his side of the river, so that he might squish them against it with his Imperial Saik, which is a stroke of some genius. The chieftain sees his Utemot lead by Yursalka, who in hearing and seeing Cnaiur alive, rides harder.

Finally, Cnaiur "fell to his knees. The rutted ground struck his face … So like my father, he thought, then darkness came swirling down” (p197).

§6.3 – Glitter & Glory

Looters rang the battlefield and I'm not sure of the necessity of this passage. I've never known Bakker to write without intention. That in mind, the few things I can suggest is that it invokes more of Cnaiur's brutal intensity. He wakes on the battlefield and simply fights all his urges to hold still, even while being poked and prodded by the looters who are drawn to his swazond. This is itself probably something to draw from §6.3, that Cnaiur again, is actually the most violent of all men. None who encounter his swazond even consider that they might have killed more.

Thirdly, "need I remind you ... that these here are what you call dead Scylvendi. Pretty hard to desecrate what's accursed in the first --" (p198) [place]?

The Inrithi Gods clearly have no love for the Scylvendi according to the common belief.

§6.4 – Martemus & the Exalt General

“For some reason, the first clear thought to arise from his misery was of his Chorae … Mine. My prize” (p200)

Coming to consciousness again, Cnaiur drags himself across the battlefield to a dead horse.  "He felt as though he crawled across one of those dizzying stone reliefs that paneled the temples of Nansur, where struggling men were frozen in unholy representation" (p200). "For a long time he felt nothing. He remembered those mornings in his youth when, for whatever reason, he would awaken before dawn. He would creep from the yaksh and steal through the camp, searching for the higher ground where he could watch the sun embrace the land. The wind would hiss through the grasses. The squatting sun would rise, climb. And he would think, I am the last. I am the only one. Like now" (p201).

He considers that the People, a horde that "plumbed the horizon with its numbers, had shaken the Vault of Heaven with the thunder of its advance and now it was gone, routed, dead" (p201). He cannot believe that they were beaten by the "mongrel race, a kind of human vermin" (p201), that are the Nansur to the Scylvendi.

He loses himself for some moments as his past is rewritten by the memory of Bannut's words: "I saw the way you looked at him! I know you were lovers" (p202). Some of his people had shared some knowledge of what had happened to him.

"The face from thirty years ago floated before his soul's eye, possessed of a demonic calm" (p202).

He stops his obsessive thoughts at the sound of Sheyic voices on the wind. More Nansur. Cnaiur admonishes himself to get up and die, to lie with the People.

The voices approach.

One, speaking to a man named Martemus, is describing the Scylvendi as "a people without history" (p203), at some length. "The description made Cnaiur's heart itch" (p204).

Then finally, Martemus addresses the man directly: "I apologize, Lord Exalt-General" (p204).

 "It was as though a great stone had been dropped upon Cnaiur's chest. He could not breathe. It was him. Him! Ikurei Conphas!" (p204)

While the two men continue talking about the Exalt-General's historic victory, Cnaiur wrestles with rushing the two men in vengeance. Much of the meat of §6.4 lies with the conversation between Conphas and Martemus, specifically, when the Exalt-General answers a pointed question by his subordinate.

"What if I told you the battle we've just fought, the glorious victory we've just won, is nothing more than the first engagement of the Holy War?" (p205).

The narrative focuses on the immensity of these words and the conversation directly, until Conphas departs Martemus, leaving with an Ikurei original: "War is intellect." (p206)

The two men ride away from Cnaiur after a tense moment, ending with "This afternoon ... we start collecting Scylvendi heads. I'm going to build a road of trophies, Martemus, from here to our great diseased capital of Momemn. Think of our glory!" (p206).

Cnaiur is alone, once again, completely it seems.

"He had fled his childhood and had crawled into the honour of his father's name, Skiotha, chieftain of the Utemot. With his father's shameful death, he'd fled and crawled into the name of his people, the Scylvendi, who were the wrath of Lokung, more vengeance than bone or flesh. Now they too had died shamefully. There was no ground left to him. He lay nowhere, among the dead" (p207).

§6.5 - The Dunyain, Anasurimbor Moenghus

"Some events are not remembered - they are relived. The death of Cnaiur's father, Skiotha, was such an event" (p207).

Young Cnaiur sits in his father's yaksh. It is a scene that has played out for millenia, if we are to believe Conphas' account of the People.

"This time, one of the slaves, a Norsirai man, abandons the shadows and steps into the firelight. He lifts his face and addresses the astonished tribesmen in perfect Scylvendi" (p207).

All the men are struck mute by the slave's dramatic change in appearence, in manner. Also, they are clearly shocked by the historical breach. Such a thing is novel, it has never happened. Cnaiur's father tells the slave his wager has been made. "But I would wager my life with you, Skiotha.' A slave speaking a name. How it overturns the ancient ways, upends the fundamental order" (p208).

The slave is uncowed by Skiotha's attempts to return custom, normalcy to the circumstances. "But measure ... is not something accomplished and then forgotten, Skiotha. Old measure is merely grounds for new. Measure is unceasing" (p208), the slave says.

Then the slave looks to Cnaiur himself, as "Cnaiur has been given a script for this moment. 'Are you afraid, Father?'" (p208)

Having been challenged by one of their own, Skiotha is must address this wager or look weak or fearful. "And Cnaiur is gripped by the terror that he might die. Fear that the slave, Anasurimbor Moenghus, might die!" (p209).

And with something of a bomb, immediately, Bakker has tied the prologue to the narrative. It seems this can only be a tale of the Dunyain monk, Anasurimbor Kellhus' father.

"At last, Moenghus, the one who had called himself Dunyain, was free" (p209).

"And it meant nothing. Some events mark us so deeply" (p209).

§6.6 - Cnaiur flees the battlefield

"With his own feet, the dead chased him" (p209).
--- End quote ---

What Came Before:

--- Quote from: sologdin ---so we meet RSB’s Scythians, who, according to the opening epigraphs, believe themselves “of the land” and are believed to have transcended the role of a people and become the principle of apocalypse. (I.6 at 159).

we meet mr. cnaiur, best character of the thoughtful barbarian type ever.  he, like job, has many properties (compare cnaiur’s inventory, I.6 at 160 with the properties in job 1),  he is described as “breaker-of-horses-and-men” (id.)--which reminds us of homer’s epithet “breaker of horses,” a term applied to hektor, agamemnon, and diomedes (positive, negative, and neutral associations) as well as the trojans in general (also positive); it also reminds us of the homeric epithet “breaking through men,” reserved for achilles (horribly negative association) and “man-killing,” reserved for hektor (unequivocally positive).  some commentary in the chapter on his swazond (id.)--we’ll take that up in a later chapter if, incidentally, anything interesting beyond “trophy scars” is mentioned.

a few interesting things here and there, but mostly it’s a battle scene.  cnaiur reads the battle:

--- Quote ---And beneath its beauty something unfathomable, as though the field itself had become a living sign, a pictogram like those the outlanders used to freeze breath onto stone and parchment.
--- End quote ---
(I.6 at 179).  a pre-literate understanding of literacy as well as the battle as a form of writing.  probably should loop this back through some of the derrida bits that I’ve quoted for previous chapters--maybe later.

I note the appearance of “darkness came swirling down” (I.6 at 182).

the key consideration, given the epigraphs:

--- Quote ---”Since the days of Kyraneas, the Scylvendi have been here,” the more refined voice was saying, “as relentless and as patient as the ocean.  And unchanged!  Peoples rise and fall, whole races and nations are blotted out, yet the Scylvendi remain.  And I’ve studied them, Martemus! I’ve plodded through every report of them I could find, ancient and recent.  […]efery account of the Scylvendi I read, no matter how ancient, could have been written yesterday.  […] Take away their stirrups and their iron, and they would be indistinguishable from those who destroyed Mehtsonc two thousand years ago or those who sacked Cenei a thousand years later!  The Scylvendi are just as the philosopher Ajencis claimed: a people without a history. […] Even illiterate peoples change over the centuries, Martemus.  They migrate.  They forget old gods and discover new ones  Even their tongues change.  But not the Scylvendi.  They’re obsessed with custom.  Where we raise vast edifices of stone to conquer the passage of years, they make monuments of their actions, temples of their wars.”
--- End quote ---
(I.6 at 187-88).

for now, I refer my kindly interlocutors to relevant passages from various writers regarding nomads in general and the scythii in particular.

oldest first--the father of history/lies informs us that:

--- Quote ---The Scythians blind their slaves, a practice in some way connected with the milk which they prepare for drinking in the following way: they insert a tube made of bone and shaped like a flute into the mare’s anus, and blow; and while one blows, another milks.  According to them, the object of this is to inflate the mare’s veins with air and so cause the udder to be forced down.  They make the blind men stand round in a circle, and then pour the milk into wooden casks and stir it; the part that rises to the top is skimmed off, and considered the best; what remains is not supposed to be so good.  The reason why they blind their prisoners of war is connected with the fact that the Scythians are not an agricultural people, but nomadic.
--- End quote ---
(herodotus, the histories, IV, at 2).

--- Quote ---The Scythians, however, though in most respects I do not admire them, have managed one thing, and that the most important in human affairs, better than anyone else on the face of the earth: I mean their own preservation.  For such is their manner of life that no one who invades their country can escape destruction, and if they wish to avoid engaging with an enemy, that enemy cannot by any possibility come to grips with them.
--- End quote ---
(herodotus, IV, at 46).

--- Quote --- As regards war, the Scythian custom is for every man to drink the blood of the first man he kills.  The heads of all enemies killed in battle are taken to the king if he brings a head, a soldier is admitted to his share of the loot; no heads, no loot.  He strips the skin off the head by making a circular cut round the ears and shaking out the skull; he then scrapes the flesh off the skin with the rib of the ox, and when it is clean works it in his fingers until it is supple, and fit to be used as a sort of handkerchief.  He hangs these handkerchiefs on the bridle of his horse, and is very proud of them.
--- End quote ---
(herodotus, IV, at 65).

--- Quote ---Like the Egyptians, the Scythians are dead-set against foreign ways, especially against Greek ways.
--- End quote ---
(herodotus, IV, at 77).

--- Quote ---Now the Greek custom of indulging in Dionysiac orgies is, in Scythian eyes, a shameful thing; and no Scythian can see sense in imagining a god who drives people out of their wits.
--- End quote ---
(herodotus, IV, at 80).

next, emperor maurice advises in the 7th century:

--- Quote ---The Scythian nations are one, so to speak, in their mode of life and in their organization, which is primitive and includes many people
--- End quote ---
(the strategikon, XI, at 116).

--- Quote ---These nations have a monarchical form of government, and their rulers subject them to cruel punishments for their mistakes.  Governed not by love but by fear, they steadfastly bear labors and hardships.  The yendure heat and cold, and the want of many necessities, since they are nomadic peoples.  They are very superstitious, treacherous, foul, faithless, possessed by an insatiate desire for riches
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---They prefer to prevail over their enemies not so much by force a by deceit, surprise attacks, and cutting off supplies.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---They are armed with mail, swords, bows, and lances.  In combat most are doubly armed; lances slung over shoulders and holding bows in their hands.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---In combat they do not, as do the Romans and Persians, form their battle line in three parts, but in several units of irregular size, all joined closely together to give the appearance of one long battle line.  Separate from their main formation, they have an additional force which they can send out to ambush a careless adversary or hold in reserve to aid a hard-pressed section.
--- End quote ---
(the strategikon, XI, at 117).

--- Quote ---They prefer battles fought at long range, ambushes, encircling their adversaries, simulated retreats and sudden returns, and wedge-shaped formations, that is, in scattered groups.  When they make their enemies take flight, they put everything else aside, and are not content, as the Persians, the Romans, and other peoples, with pursuing them a reasonable distance and plundering their goods, but they do not let up at all until they have achieved the complete destruction of their enemies, and they employ every means to this end.
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---Also in the event of battle, when opposed by an infantry force in close formation, they stay on their horses and do not dismount, for they do not last long fighting on foot.  They have been brought up on horseback
--- End quote ---

--- Quote ---Level, unobstructed ground should be chosen, and a cavalry force should advance against them in dense, unbroken mass to engage them in hand-to-hand fighting.  Night attacks are also effective, with part of our force maintaining its formation while the other lies in ambush.  They are seriously hurt by defections and desertions.  They are very fickle, avaricious, and, composed of so many tribes as they are, they have no sense of kinship or unity with one another.
--- End quote ---
(the strategikon, XI, at 118).

regarding the scythians specifically, a 20th century historian opines:

--- Quote ---Though the Scythians were probably of mixed origin, people of Iranian stock formed the core of their society, and they spoke a common Indo-European language.  A dominant group known as the Royal Scyths claimed to exercise rulership over all their tribes.  They were big, fully bearded men, and were said to be prone to obesity and an exaggerated sense of humour.  They dressed in long coats drawn in round the waist by a belt, trousers tucked into boots, and tall pointed caps.  Golden ornaments and belts were common.  Gold plates were sewn to their garments like huge sequins.  Gold gleamed from their weapons.  Drinking cups cut from the skulls of enemy chieftains killed in war were often set in gold mountings.  A profusion of golden offerings was customarily deposited in the great burial-mounds of the Scythian kings in the bend of the Dnieper river.  This gold undoubtedly came from the rich fields in the Altai district; and its quantities indicate a regular trade in it between the tribes remaining in that region and those in the newer western settlements.
--- End quote ---
(legg, s., the barbarians of asia (1970), 3.63). 

--- Quote ---Among these Scythian tribes the mode of life that was subsequently to characterize nomadic peoples all along the grass belt of the Heartland was already recognizable in outline.  [...] They ate horseflesh, drank koumiss, passed much of their waking lives mounted.  Yet, though they had elaborate bitted bridles, the stirrup was not known to them and they rode on saddle-cloths, relying on grip and balance.  Even so, they were formidable horsemen in battle.  They collected the scalps of those they had killed, attached them to their bridles like rosettes at a show, and wore them like medals about their clothing.  An outstanding warrior might possess a robe of scalps.  They fought with axes, spears, and short dagger-like swords.  But they were secondary.  Their main weapon was the bow, in the hands of the mounted archer.
--- End quote ---
(legg at 63-64).

more theoretically, marxist anderson's theses sweep up non-fictional scythii and fictional scylvendi:

--- Quote ---For nomadic pastoralism represents a distinct mode of production, with its own dynamic, limits, and contradictions, that should not be confused with those of either tribal or feudal agriculture.


In fact, the particular paradox of nomadic pastoralism was that it represented in certain respects a more highly specialized and skilled exploitation of the natural world than pre-feudal agriculture, yet one whose inherent limits were also narrower.


Nomadic social formations were defined by the mobile character of their basic means of production: herds, not land, always constituted the fundamental wealth of transhumant pastoralism, and articulated the nature of its property system.


To take the most obvious example:  the nomad’s mastery of horsemanship probably embodied a higher level of work-skill than any single labour technique in medieval peasant agriculture.


But they had one avenue of expansion to which they typically had spectacular recourse: tribute and conquest.  For the horsemanship which was the best economic skill of nomadic pastoralists also equipped them permanently for warfare.


The structural characteristic of nomad social formations thus tended to generate a typical cycle of predatory expansion and contraction, in which steppe clans could suddenly spiral up into huge empires, and then as quickly subside again into dusty obscurity.


Nomadic rulers either ceased to be nomads or to rule.  Transhumant pastoralism could and did exist in a precarious symbiosis with sedentary agriculture in the arid steppe-zones themselves, each preserving its own separate character and terrain and depending on the other for a limited exchange of products.  But it could never form a synthesis with it, when pastoralist clans established a predator state over settled agrarian populations in their own territory.  No new social or economic formations ever emerged.  The nomadic mode of production remained a historical dead-end.
--- End quote ---
(p. anderson, passages from antiquity to feudalism at 218-26).  we note as an incidental the key thesis might be that there is a structural contradiction in nomadic pastoralism that drives the nomad to aggressive conquest, which conquest then destroys nomadism.  the custom of the People causes War; the fruits of War degenerate the customs of the People?

regarding the nomadic war machine, deleuze & guattari suggest a series of axioms:

--- Quote ---The war machine is exterior to the State apparatus.
--- End quote ---
(D&G, a thousand plateaus at 351).

--- Quote ---The war machine is the invention of the nomads insofar as it is exterior to the State apparatus and distinct from the military institution). As such, the war machine has three aspects, a spatiogeographic aspect, an arithmetic or algebraic aspect, and an affective aspect.
--- End quote ---
(D&G, a thousand plateaus at 380).

--- Quote ---The nomad war machine is the form of expression, of which itinerant metallurgy is the correlative form of content.
--- End quote ---
(D&G, a thousand plateaus at 415).

more to be said about D&G, perhaps, later.  we might also have occasion to review mr. gibbon's commentaries about scythia, perhaps later, as an incidental.
--- End quote ---

What Came Before:

--- Quote from: Madness ---Cheers, sologdin. Good post.

I'd also like to note that Cnaiur seems to be entirely constructed of the Homeric heroes or "Great Names" in that introductory paragraph, as sologdin named pretty every major hero from the Iliad and how Bakker incorporated them. The style reflects that of Homer (or the Homeric poets). Pretty epic.
--- End quote ---


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