The False Sun
Beasts only show the white of their eye in terror. Men show it always.
–Gottagga, The Book of Chalk
For I have seen the virtuous in Hell and the wicked in Heaven. And I swear to you, brother, the scream you hear in the one and the sigh you hear in the other sound the same.
1119, Year-of-the-Tusk, the North Shore of the Neleöst Sea.
Like many great and dangerous Men, Shaeönanra was despised for many things, his penchant for mongering spies not the least of them. The rules that bound the Norsirai were unforgiving in those days. Trysë, the Holy Mother of Cities, was little more than a village huddling behind ruined walls of stone. The God-Kings of Imperial Umerau stared blindly from overthrown stone, moss-covered and almost forgotten. The Cond ruled the cities of the River Aumris, an empire they called the Great All, and few people were so proud or so headstrong. They divided the Ground between the Feal and the Wirg–the weak and the glorious. They adhered to a simplicity that was at once a fanaticism. And they judged the way all Men were prone to judge in those Far Antique days, without patience or mercy.
Shaeönanra, for his part, celebrated the Cond hatred of spying. What did it matter if they declared him Feal, so long as he knew their secrets? He knew what stout the All-King drank, and what slave decanted it for him. He knew what was bellowed in counsel and whispered across pillows.
Most importantly, he knew what was plotted.
So he stood waiting before the gate of his cyclopean tower, Nogaral, staring southward across the heaving leagues of the Neleöst Sea, knowing that soon–very soon–a light would stride across the moonlit waters.
To the west lay the River Sursa, whose rusty waters bloomed far into the Sea during day. Beyond it, the wastes of Agongorea plaited the horizon, chapped and cracked like untanned leather. Low mountains knotted the north and east, domes of bald granite rising from forested slopes: the hunchbacked Urokkas.
Nogaral stood upon the westernmost summit, Iros, a mountain that was a mass grave. Little more than ramp of blunt granite, it climbed from the River toward the Sea, where it ended in scarped confusion. Ruins made gums and teeth of its heights, structures obliterated in an age that Men could not recollect for ignorance and savagery. Nogaral was both squat and rotund, resembling a monstrous byre more than a proper tower. Only the grand, central chamber could boast any architectural splendour. Otherwise it was cramped and labyrinthine, the lower levels pillared as densely as a forest, the upper levels celled like a hive.
The construction of the tower had caused an uproar in Sauglish two centuries previous. The Sohonc, in particular, had objected, seeing in it the designs of their old rival, Cet’ingira. Even then they had suspected. But suspicions were not enough to sway an All-King who had grown to prize the Mangaecca and their disdain of scruple.
Nogaral, they named it, the ‘High Round.’
“They are called the Barricades,” the Nonman says. “The Artisan himself fashioned them.”
The Man gazes in wonder at the configurations of nimil and light. “So that none might enter…” he murmurs.
Cet’ingira lowers his porcelain face in assent. “So that none might enter.”
Shaeönanra almost stumbles, so dazzling is the sunlight across the immense curvatures of gold, so deep is the pitch of the surrounding fall. The Nonman steadies him with a firm hand.
“This was what my master sought? To tear down the Barricades?”
“And his masters before him,” the Nonman replies. “For more than two hundred years.”
He studies the mad Nonmen. “And what lies within?”
The black eyes did not waver. “The truth my brothers could not bear.”
At last he glimpsed it, a point like a failing star.
Shaeönanra stood immobile. The Wind came from the north, answering the Sea’s long inhalation. It made lunacy of his hair and braids, slapped his robes with a snared thrush’s fury. The distant light blinked through it, a white glitter from across the black back of the Sea, vanishing and reappearing as faraway rollers plucked the nocturnal line of the horizon.
The Wind howled about the tower, made moaning flutes of the surrounding ruin. And it comforted Shaeönanra even as its violence forced him to lean against his toes: always at his back, always rushing south, across the Sea and over the Painted Cities, into the eyes of his witless enemies.
The distant spark became more constant, gathered both luminosity and portent as it crept above the blind line of the Neleost. Clouds like scrapes formed a skein across the starry vault. The star the Nonmen called Imburil cast his shadow over the cobble before him, and Shaeönanra considered the wildness of his windblown outline. The Wind and the Nail, Shaeönanra thought in elation. Both would be at his back.
This had been an old habit of his, identifying and assessing omens, born of days when he still walked paths that the Gods could reckon. Had he not known who was about to darken his threshold, he would have cursed himself for a fool for indulging it.
The light gathered brightness all out of proportion to its approach, and despite the Stain, Shaeönanra found himself wondering at its brilliance. Then finally he saw him… Little more than a region of blackness at first, a shadowy glimpse behind the luminous corona. Then more substantial… more human.
The Sohonc Archideme walked the low sky, holding high the Diurnal, the famed Day Lantern, a fan of mirrors that reflected the Sun even in the deepest night. The glare climbed as he neared, and Shaeönanra watched the great oblong of illumination–impossible daylight–slip across the stony expanses, reaching out toward Nogaral. It seemed miraculous, the weightlessness of light, the way whole fields of detail and swinging shadows could be dandled in the thin-fingered hands of a man. The Day Lantern scrolled over the rising slopes, then at last caught Nogaral’s western curve, where it paused as though fixed. And from night, Shaeönanra found himself staring into day–the pitch and scrawl of ruin, the black mortices sketching the stones of the tower’s ponderous wall, the knots of scrub and hanging weed. For the first time he saw how shadows were simply pieces of night.
And even though he knew as profoundly–as fanatically–as only a member of the Holy Consult could know, he found himself wondering how it had come to this…
Shaeönanra could not but marvel. The Sun! The Sun itself raised in the hands of a Man.
Squinting, he could see him, Titirga, his outline gilded in the manner of those peering into a bright outside from the recesses of a dark room. The great Hero-Mage come to deliver his ultimatum. The legendary Archidemu Sohoncu, the Glorious Pupil, perhaps the most powerful sorcerer the Ground had ever known.
At last Titirga saw him below, and the Diurnal answered his sudden attention. Shaeönanra could no more look at the man than he could look into the sun. He raised his arms like a slave in summer fields, and for the first time he witnessed the magic of the Diurnal from the inside. Blue skies had been pulled across the void of night. His skin pricked with the promise of sunburn. It was a sight so miraculous as to almost blot the Stain, the premonition of deceit that marred all things sorcerous.
He watched the false sun set in the false sky, then stop, low and bloody as sunset, throwing shadows outward along lines the Nonmen could describe in arithmetic. Titirga had set the Day Lantern down, he realized. The Hero-Mage would deny the advantages that night bestows upon cunning…
The shadow of the walking Archideme reached Shaeönanra long before the man.
“The Diurnal,” Titirga called, still a silhouette in the sun’s cauldron. “Emilidis gave it to me.”
“Archideme,” Shaeönanra said in numb greeting.
“Shaeönanra,” Titirga replied, coming to a stop mere paces from him. He was tall, broad of shoulder. He wore a Pircondi cloak over his black woolen robes, two wolfskins sewn together, so that the tailings of the face fluttered side-by-side below his groin. His hair was white spun with the odd memory of gold. It matched his physique, holding something of its cascading form even in the Wind. But it was his high blunt face that commanded attention: shallow of nose, thick of brow and cheek.
And of course the bronzed skull of an infant child braided into his beard–his famed totem.
“Archideme,” Shaeönanra repeated, offering the ritual repetition, at once a rebuke and reprieve: to refer to equals by name before formal greetings was an affront among the Umeri. Had the Archidemu Sohoncu at last adopted the crude ways of the Cond?
“You look pale” Titirga said. “It is good that I bring sunlight.”
“You Mangaecca,” the Hero-Mage continued, “always thinking the Wisdom is a mushroom. The Ground is so broad, and yet you and your brothers insist on digging deep.”
A sour look.
“Nogaral greets you… Archideme.”
Titirga walked about him as if pacing the high corner of a circle. He carried himself as only a master of the Sohonc, the Learned School, could: erect in the manner of nimble, sound-sleeping men, relaxed in the way of high clan-nobility. He gestured to the marmoreal wreckage about them, the stumps of pillars struck in arrested daylight.
“The ruins of Viri.”
“The very same,” Shaeönanra replied.
“A lesson,” Titirga said, “to those who would dig too deep.”
Shaeönanra sighed conspicuously. “To what do I owe the honour of this visit?” he asked, gesturing for Titirga to enter his vast abode.
“Whispers,” Titirga responded, drawing his gaze about him before stepping into the shadow of Nogaral’s gate. He was making an inventory, Shaeönanra knew, of all the Wards coiled within the stonework about him.
Nothing that could threaten him–certainly.
Casting a final glance at the impossible dusk, Shaeönanra strode forward, baring his back the way the laws of hospitality demanded. He fairly cracked his teeth for apprehension.
He passed beneath the enormous lintel, into the warmth of plastered walls. The Wind’s roar was pinched into a chalky whistle. A step ahead of the Hero-Mage, Shaeönanra walked on a bolt of sunlight so bright that, for the first several paces, the braziers were filled with wavering invisibility for fire.
“Whispers brought you here?”
“Aye,” the man said from behind. “They say that you have found something.”
Had he not known Titirga, Shaeönanra would have thought him a rank fool, coming here like this, alone. But he knew Titirga’s might, and more importantly, he knew the way the man used hectoring boldness to magnify that might. To come here like this was to say he could arrive at any time…
And that he possessed no fear.
Shaeönanra paused and turned, regarded his old rival. The man had a warrior’s face, chipped from fearless bone, everything blunt in the way of shields. “What does it matter what we find?” he said. “The Ark is a riddle without solution.”
The first hard moment passed between them.
“Who,” the Archidemu Sohoncu replied, “can say which riddles can or cannot be solved beforehand?”
He gazes past the mad Nonman, to the second Horn, vast and golden, its phallic curve canted over the mountainous ruin of the Occlusion.
“None possessed my cunning.”
Cet’ingira lowers his chin to his chest.
“We shall see.”
“Come,” Shaeönanra said. “Loose your gaze. See. You will understand what I mean.”
He resumed leading Titirga down the main reception hall, ‘winding the small,’ as the Nonmen put it, affecting careless questions about the affairs of the All. “Do they still riot in Sauglish?”
“The Library is secure,” the Sohonc Insinger said in clipped dismissal. “And yet, I see Nogaral is all but abandoned…” he added in an airy, peering-around-corners tone. “Just as they say.”
The Archideme of the Mangaecca resisted looking back, knowing the Hero-Mage smiled.
At last they outran the final vestiges of the Day Lantern. Their shadows now jumped in counterpoint, sweeping like spiders’ legs as they approached and passed each of the corridor’s flaming braziers.
“Your spies, Shaeönanra.”
The Archidemu Mangaeccu managed to stifle his laughter. They walked the remainder of the corridor in silence. Despite his worry, Shaeönanra had occasion to feel shame for the mean and brutish nature of his abode, for in spite everything, he had been raised an Umeri of the Long-bones, the same as Titirga. He knew the askance judgements, the summary ease of the man’s condemnation: Only dogs dwelt in kennels.
But what did it matter, this false home, when their true abode would drop any mortal to his knees? The Ark. They could stack a hundred Libraries within it… A thousand!
At last they entered the broad circle of the Asinna, the expansive hub of Nogaral. A great rug woven of brushed white grasses softened both the floor and the gloom. Bronze tripods glowered golden, casting yellow petals across the weave. Tablet racks fashioned of black ash loomed about the chamber’s circumference. Shaeönanra stifled a grin of duping glee, knowing that a stylus had never touched any of them.
He walked toward the lone attendant–a near-naked Scintian slave–who awaited them with refreshment near the centre. He paused and turned when he realized that Titirga had failed to follow him.
“There is someone beneath me,” the Hero-Mage said scowling. “Someone deeply Stained.”
Shaeönanra paused… nodded. “A precaution, nothing more. It is of no consequence.”
Wrath flashed in Titirga’s eyes. “Nevertheless, there remains someone beneath me. Someone hooded in our shared sin.”
They gazed at each other with the flat hostility of lizards. Shaeönanra found himself shirking first, if only to hasten the pantomime–or so he reassured himself. Even still, he could feel the prickle of stink beneath his robes. The ache of expectation in his throat.
“Must I take precautions of my own?” Titirga asked, his voice as mild as blades in water.
The Archidemu Mangaeccu made as if his throat required clearing. “I apologize. He will withdraw.”
This earned a heartbeat of avid scrutiny.
“No. I would like to hold him in my eye.”
Again, Shaeönanra found himself wilting before the Hero-Mage’s glare, exactly (it seemed to him) as he would have in the old days. Paramount among the many worries that had plagued this mad gambit was the fear that he could no longer be the Feal that Titirga would expect him to be, now that death had become his sole horror…
Now that he had seen.
“Very well,” Shaeönanra conceded, bowing in the shallow, cursive way of the Umeri. He turned to the attendant. “Summon our…” He paused as if at the humour of the word Onkhis had delivered to him. “Our guest.”
His terror plain, the young slave scampered into the gloom of the nearest hallway. Shaeönanra resumed suffering Titirga’s onerous regard…
And contempt, as it turned out.
“They speak of you often in Umerau and Sauglish,” Titirga said, his manner sinister for being so bland. “They say you have the eyes of a serpent…”
Shaeönanra smiled. Vanity had been a well-known flaw of his, yes. He had preened in the days before…
“No. Just a dog. No different than other Men.”
What a child he had been.
They call it the Threshold, a narrow phalange of iron set high upon the Upright Horn, the hanging porch of the Barricades, which the Ishroi of old had raised about the uppermost sanctum of their wicked foe. You can see the Nonman there as much as not, sitting on the edge, where the air is too thin for fat men to breathe, waiting for souls more ordered than his own to tear down the Barricades.
“What the Artisan has wrought…” Shaeönanra says to him.
“Does not seem possible.”
The Archidemu Mangaeccu nods.
“Yes… But only if you look at it as something to be forced.”
Tears well in the Nonman’s eyes. “What are you saying?”
“Some doors need not be broken.”
The attendant reappeared, pale, eyes anxious unto rolling. A raggish shadow lurched beyond the threshold behind him, a movement that would have been limping were it not balanced leg for leg. At the last instant Shaeönanra turned to watch the mighty Titirga’s face…
He saw the famed eyes slacken, dull–even weary in the manner of wise men grasping the inevitability of horrific futures. How many years of concerned watching? How many months of labourious council, fretting this very possibility…
An odour of sweat and fish insinuated the chamber.
They stood thus, motionless. Something fluid had entered the breathing silence of the room. A fluttering of mucous and membrane.
Even though nothing was said, Shaeönanra could see it plain in the Hero-Mage’s look.
True. The dread rumours were true.
The Archidemu Mangaeccu turned to the newcomer as much to conceal his smile as to bask in the glory of his foul image. For he had literally wept upon finding him and his brother, wept for joy, knowing that the two could decipher the horror of what they had seen.
The creature stood naked, as was his want, his wings folded into wicked hooks about either side of his great skull, which would have been cumbersome, had it not curved into a crest, narrow and deep, like an oyster set on end. A proportionate face hung from the fore, loutish with the absence of expression, nostrils drawn into shining gashes, sockets plugged with lobes of bare white meat. A second face filled the mouth, sheathing a second skull fused within the crocodilian jaws of the greater. Second eyes regarded the Hero-Mage with leering expectation. Second lips grinned about teeth like nails…
The light cast by the tripods slicked the creature in lines of luminous white, yellow and crimson, but otherwise, the intestinal translucence of its skin rendered it devoid of colour–the pallor of things drawn from the depths. Though he stood no more than half again as tall as man, he seemed enormous: for the wings, for the fiendish stoop, for the webbing of stone-dense muscle…
And Shaeönanra could feel the tugging glamour, the promise of surrender within irresistible limbs. He could feel his own ardour rise, an answering will to be taken… ravished!
Aurang… a fabled Inchoroi… A creature out of legend and childhood terror.
“He bears the Stain as deeply as any Quya…” Shaeönanra heard Titirga say from behind him. The Mangaeccan Archideme turned from his infatuation to face his hated foe.
“Is this why you await me thus?” the Hero-Mage said. He bent his head in a curious, almost Cunuroi way, as if some rage to kill bent him from within. “Do you think that combined you could rival me?”
And Shaeönanra knew that this was no ploy, that Titirga would, without a breath of hesitation, deliver his impossible fury to his tower. He had heard the tales–the whole Ground had heard the tales. Titirga Mithalara, they called him–the Giver of Mercy!–ironic renown for his ruthless extermination of his foes. He was certainly the most powerful Insinger ever born. And if what Cet’ingira said was true, the most powerful, period. No living Quya had the purity of his Recitations. Even his Stain was different, somehow muted, as if he could cut the Inward without scarring it. Even now, simply regarding him, his distinction literally glared from his image, a strange, sideways rinsing of the Stain.
The vital difference. The threat.
They said he had been blind as a child, that Noshainrau himself had found him begging in the streets. They said he went mad while Canting. They said his words seized things that should not be seized.
Shaeönanra gestured to the attendant to dispense the sere. The fool almost fumbled the vessels for terror.
“Rival you?” he replied under cover of this trivial distraction. “The Ground is at peace. The Scintya are pacified. The All-King watches from Umerau.” He turned with a bronze vessel that Titirga waved away.
“Aurang is my guest,” he said, sipping the burning liquor.
The Hero-Mage did not shout or rave. He did not need to, so grating was the resolve of his voice.
“It is Inchoroi.”
The man spat the name with its clipped, Nonman inflection, the hatred of his teachers cracking his voice. Inchoroi. For the first time, he let slip his Umeri face–the one that would claim all judgment for itself, such was the gulf that divided the Feal from the Wirg–and beseeched his rival Archideme.
Think. No word was so raw with ancient assumption.
The Archidemu Mangaeccu simply regarded his Sohonc counterpart, the way one might regard a fool brother who has yet again spoken foolishly. Something scarcely perceptible hardened the man’s stance and manner.
“I will not implore you a second time, old friend.”
Finally. A genuine threat. Shaeönanra pursed his lips against the tickle of his thin mustache, sighed as if in profound resignation. He glanced at the black coin of sere swinging in the bottom of his appropriated cup, downed it with a gasp.
How could the man know? Even with his rumoured Grace. There was no going back, no undoing what had been done, no unseeing. Shaeönanra had committed unspeakable… nay, unthinkable… acts. They all had. Debaucheries. Desecrations of self and other. Shrieks for cries of passion. Blood for grease. Mere recollection set his skin afire, such was the orgiastic ecstasy. He had exalted in the trackless void, the hole where good and evil had once been.
And he had resolved. Resolved most of all, for he had seen.
He watches the true sun rise above the horizon’s crown, low and bloody as sunset, throwing shadows outward along lines the Nonmen could describe in arithmetic. He can sense Cet’ingira’s desperation, so he prolongs the reverie, pretending to wonder at the fragments of darkness scoring the broken landscape below.
Then he turns to the Barricades, examines its fractal complexities.
He begins to sing…
His voice slips the point of vocalization, drops outward in every direction, until all of Creation sings with him. Between his hands, a needle of raw incandescence twists into existence, shines with a brilliance undimmed by the glare of dawn.
Shaeönanra turns to the great Nonman Quya. “Do you see, old friend?”
Cet’ingira stands gazing, parsed by the sun into silken light and dolphin shadow. A vulture rides a great arc in the blue emptiness behind him, ragged and black. More and more, the scavengers have taken to circling the Horns.
“The Barricades,” he continues. “They fold… intervals. Somehow Emilidis found a way to pinch emptiness into angles. This was why no dispensation of sheer force could batter them down… In a sense, everything you and my predecessors threw at it simply… missed.”
The black eyes pierce him. “And what is this?”
“A Mathesis Pin… A derivative of an ancient Entelechy Theorem. It whittles force down to an arithmetical point–pricks where all else bludgeons…”
Wonder dawns in the ancient gaze. “A force that does not occupy space… cannot be redirected in space.”
“Yes,” Shaeönanra says. “My gift to you.”
He could feel it all the time, what he had seen, feel it like worms in his bones, rotting him, making him less substantial than what he was, a tingling fog, a meaty flex. Horror now thumbed the edges of his every sensation.
The image of his Damnation.
“Who are you to condemn?” Shaeönanra cried in the mock way of too-learned Men. “The Schools have no stake in Nonman wars.”
This much was true. The Siqu were loathe to speak of the War–even Cet’ingira, who had led the Mangaecca to the Ark and the revelation of the Xir’kirimakra. Their feud with the Inchoroi was theirs and theirs alone, so much so they denied their Mannish pupils all but the most elliptical knowledge of it.
But Titirga frowned as if at a tiresome juvenile. “Who are you to decide our stake?”
Shaeönanra stood blinking, cursing. “How?” he cried, holding an arm out to the hoary majesty of Aurang. “How can you fools not see how small this makes us?”
“Plainly,” Titirga replied, frowning at the creature’s groin.
“Fool! The stakes of everything have been rewritten! Everything!”
At long last fury clenched Titirga’s brow.
“What was sane before we knew of the Ark remains sane now! Shaeönanra! This thing is… is obscene!”
Why could they not see? They were every bit as damned as he–damned! What overriding reason could there be? What possible logic could annul Eternity?
“The sky, Titirga! Think! The sky is an endless void. Each star is another Sun, like our own, and Grounds spin about them–whole Grounds hanging like motes in the Great Void!”
He was not simply offering them salvation, he was showing them sanity!
“Other Grounds?” Titirga cried with a derisive bark, and why not? when the Ground was by definition the basis of everything. It was just as Aurax had said. Truth becomes ignorance when Men make gods of Deceit.
“I know how this sounds,” Shaeönanra said. “But what of the Ark? The Inchoroi? They prove the existence of other Grounds, do they not? Grounds like our own!”
“Noooo…” the glistening Inchoroi rasped, speaking an archaic intonation of Ihrimsu, his inhuman voice falling like a flake of ice upon sweaty skin. He had stepped into Shaeönanra’s blind flank and now loomed over him, his frame a sleek motley, like fish skinned and sutured together. “Not like your own.”
The Hero-Mage fairly gaped at the creature.
“It speaks to me.”
“This Ground …” Aurang continued, oblivious to his transgression. “This Ground is the one Promised. Salvation lies within your grasp. Salvation in this life…”
“Other Voices must commend yours before you speak,” Shaeönanra said to the creature, trusting the savagery of his backward glance to serve as warning.
But Aurang continued his shining scrutiny of Titirga. A transgression that Shaeönanra found unnerving.
“Do you not fear damnation?”
A careful look from the Hero-Mage.
“The Nonmen…” he said evenly. “They have taught us how to hide our Voices. How to bypass the Outside, find Oblivion.”
Eyes like bladders of ink, each reflecting the tripods across their shining curve. The fluting of gill-tissues along the neck. “You worship the spaces between the Gods…”
A rasp like the screams of faraway children tangled in the wind. Inchoroi laughter. “You are already damned. All of you are already damned.”
“So say you.”
A deep chested rumble. Popping mucous. “So says the Inverse Fire.”
A flush of horror. Shaeönanra tensed against the sudden loosening in his bowel, not quite believing that the Inchoroi had dared name it aloud. Xir’kirimakra. The Inverse Fire. For a heartbeat he found his Voice divided between mere fear and what mattered. What? Did Aurang seek to seduce the Sohonc Archideme? Could he not see that Titirga was not one to suffer rivals, that Shaeönanra himself would be doomed were he to embrace their Holy Consult?
But these were vain questions. They fell away as quickly as Onkhis offered them up, so flimsy were the concerns that moved them. All that mattered, the Ground’s only consequential thing, was what he had seen…
Experience shredded into a thousand strings, each clawed and burned and burned, sucked like bottomless bones. Agony. Anguish. Horror. Lament. Shame… Shrieking-thrashing-screaming through the throat of his every memory, innumerable and one, groaning-choking-vomiting, his every particle a unique agony, a bereavement, a weeping-howling-scratching out eyes that grew and grew to witness anew, while burning-blistering-breaking–
It defeated the tongue, the intellect, what he had seen. Nevertheless it was in him, every moment in him, if not at the centre of his care then beneath, a hole that endlessly gnawed at his gut…
A terror, so profound, so abiding–and, yes, pure–that all other fears guttered into nothingness for lack of air. A terror that was a gift… such was the peace and certainty that followed upon it.
They had conjectured, the Mangaecca. They had experimented. They had taken captives and inflicted every possible agony simultaneously all in the name of some flimsy purchase, some scant knowledge of Hell. Drawing toenails, while crushing genitals, while setting afire, while murdering children, raping wives, strangling mothers, blinding fathers… They had visited lunatic misery on innocents, and they had found themselves utterly impervious, immune to the least remorse. Some of them had even laughed.
What was earthly anguish compared what awaited them? Singular. Ephemeral. Little more than a bauble laid upon the monumental steps of the wretchedness to come. They were deluded fools, the Schoolmen of the Sohonc. Every one of them lived making belief–even more, making witless and numb–when it came to their Voices. It was sorcery they coveted, the lure of the power–such potency! The Voice had a way of walling off the future when power was at hand.
All Men wailed. All Men burned all the time. They need only die to realize it.
“So that is the source of your madness,” Titirga said. “The Inverse Fire.”
Shaeönanra closed his eyes against a shudder. “So you know of it…” he said on a long intake of breath.
“Nil’giccas told me. Yes.”
“He told you of the Three? The Three who entered the Golden Court of Sil during the Scourging of the Ark.”
“Upon the Upright Horn… Yes.”
“So you know what happened.”
A draft whisked through the chamber, the kind that washes over a floor of cloistered air in a flood. The golden infant skull braided into the Hero-Mage’s beard seemed to laugh for the to and fro sway of the fires potted upon the bronze tripods. It struck Shaeönanra that Titirga had stood absolutely motionless ever since setting foot in the Asinna. He seemed hewn of heavy oak as it was, but standing as he did, glaring from Man to Inchoroi to Man again, he almost seemed a thing of stone. Indestructible.
“Min-Uroikas had fallen,” the Hero-Mage replied. “The Ishroi laboured in vain to destroy the Ark, as did the Quya. They knew of the Golden Court, the Inver–”
“From Nin-janjin,” Shaeönanra found himself interrupting. Why? Why did they insist on repeating its name? A thing need not be named to be spoken of…
“Yes… From Nin-janjin,” Titirga repeated, something not quite identifiable sparking in his eyes. “And because they knew, Nil’giccas chose the Three to enter it. Two Ishroi, renowned for their valour–Misariccas and Runidil–and one Quya…” He paused as though to set his teeth against his hatred. “Cet’ingira.”
Shaeönanra found himself turning to the Inchoroi, cackling, crying, “He knows!” in a voice too maniacal to be his own. “He knows!”
“I know only what Nil’giccas told me. That Misariccas and Runidil returned shrieking–”
Yes. Shaeönanra had also shrieked… for a time. And wept.
“–and that Cet’ingira counselled his King to have them killed.”
A barking laugh. “And did he tell you why?”
A moment of fierce scrutiny.
“Because they could not be trusted. Because they had been ensorceled… Possessed.”
“No!” Shaeönanra heard himself cry. “No!” Could this be him, wagging his head like a fly-maddened ox, gesticulating like an old hag at funeral? “Because they had seen the Truth!”
Titirga gazed with undisguised distaste. “Such is the form of all possession. You know as mu–”
“Nooo!” Shaeönanra cried. “Nil’giccas lied to you! What else could he do? Think! Think of the war they had just won–think of the toll! The Nonmen had sacrificed everything, their wives, their daughters, to triumph over the Inchoroi. And now they discover that all along the Truth belonged to their foe?”
The Archidemu Mangaeccu began berating himself even before he finished, such was the unmanly violence of his expression. He had to recollect himself… Recall! He had to own what happened here, not for the sake of Men–for none would ever know–but for the sake of his immortal Voice.
“Nil’giccas lied to his Ishroi,” he continued, speaking on a long drawn breath, “just as he deceived you. He lied because he had to!”
Titirga stood watching him, his fulsome lips hanging open in hesitation. And Shaeönanra rejoiced, knowing even the mighty Hero-Mage had his doubts. That the Mangaecca could be seduced was no surprise, for they had always placed knowledge before honour. But Cet’ingira? The most famed of the Siqu? For that matter, how could any Nonman enter into pact with Inchoroi?
Shaeönanra cackled, feeling a new deliberation sop the wildness from his bones.
“Horrifying, isn’t it? Titirga. Hero of Umerau. Disciple of Noshainrau. To think that everything you have believed, you have believed for naught. A whole life expended, toiling, condemning, murdering, all in the name of misapprehension!”
The gaze of an old and undefeated chieftain.
“What has become of you, old friend.”
Shaeönanra had expected many things from this visit, but never that it would become so quaint.
“Yes,” he said on a sigh. “You did know me before. You knew many of us. You knew how fractious we were, how given to mercenary pursuits, all the Mannish flaws that you Sohonc used to evidence your superiority. You remember when gold was all that you needed to induce treason…”
He raised a hectoring fist, one Royal Umeri to another. “And now you hear the whispers… the rumours…” He drew his hand out to embellish the sarcasm. “Your torturers shake, so deep they must reach!”
He had stepped forward as he spoke, coming to a halt directly before the Hero-Mage and his legendary wrath. Something in the man’s height and proportion made him think of the Nonmen heros, and how they never ceased growing.
“Possessed, you tell yourselves. Possessed! We are different because we are no longer ourselves. You counsel the All-King to crack our Seal, destroy us and all we have toiled to achieve. Our Voices are polluted, unclean!” He threw his back in Feal laughter, cackled with spite and glee. “So tell me , if we are possessed, who is our new owner?”
“The Tekne,” the Archidemu Sohoncu said with grim confidence. “The Mangaecca have been enslaved. You have been enslaved.”
Shaeönanra blinked. Of course the fool was unmoved. Of course he had his reasons. No matter. This was indulgence, arguing like this, availing reason.
He warred with his expression–something between a grimace and a grin.”Yes… But who is our new master?”
A peculiar weariness haunted Titirga as he shook his maned head: one not so much of as for.
Feal, something whispered from his gaze.
“A lunatic God… perhaps. The Hells that you think you see. Something… Something adulterate, foul. Something that craves feasting, that hungers with an intensity that can bend the very Ground.”
Aurang had stood silent during this time, gazing down at the two bickering men. After the intimacies they had shared, it seemed Shaeönanra could sense the pulse of his passion. Lust in the lazy tumescence of his member. Impatience in the incline of his shield-long head. Hatred in the flicker of membranes…
“Does that not trouble you?” the Hero-Mage pressed. “That you have but one eye!”
Tedious. Tedious. Tedious.
“Why, Titirga?” Shaeönanra implored. “Why have you come here?” He shook his head, arguing with the floor. “Did you hope to show me my folly?” And it all seemed a pantomime, this incontinence of voice and expression. For beneath, he knew exactly what he needed to do. He could feel it, the certainty of snakes coiled in the darkness, the confidence of things that neither run nor sleep.”There’s no folly in what I do, I assure you. I know. I have seen!” He jerked his face back, squinting and scowling. “What are your reasons compared to this? Your guesses? Your rumours of a dead age?”
“But what, Shaeönanra? What is it you have seen? Your damnation or your goad?”
“Did you hope to strike a bargain?” Shaeönanra exclaimed, spinning to face the Hero-Mage. “Or did you come here to cow me, to strut and boast and discourse, thinking that the throat of my design might choke on the bone of your glorious presence?”
The Hero-Mage had stalked him in a curious, distanced way, careful to move at tangents that would keep him facing both of his antagonists, Mannish and Inchoroi. His manner, which had seemed lazy with arrogance but moment earlier, had become wary, expectant.
“Titirga… Did you come here to kill?”
For the first time the man surprised him.
“Of course I did.”
Six days Cet’ingira, the most-famed of the Siqu, the Most-feared-and-hated, stands upon the High Threshold, the arcane bass of his voice climbing from the pores of all that could be seen, his arms outstretched, a myriad of Mathesis Pins drawn into a circle of sparking white before him, a disc of needles, endlessly pricking the fractal intricacies of the Barricades.
And Shaeönanra, the Balancer’s son who had risen to become Archidemu Mangaeccu, Master of the Cunning School, felt a different fear hiss through the anxious hum of his schemes. He retreated as if in disgust, took four steps, stealing himself against the impulse to cringe–because at any instant, any heartbeat he could find himself cut or bludgeoned or blasted from this world and–
“Kill me?” he heard himself say, his tone far from manly.
The Hero-Mage laughed his famed laugh, the one that had inspired so many lays. With his beard and wolf-skin cloak, he looked both savage and indomitable, every bit as elemental as the legends painted him. With his Stain, drawn and tinctured in a manner no Man or Nonman had ever seen, he seemed outrageous with power.
“No, my friend,” he said, letting his gaze stray to the Inchoroi, hulking and inhuman. “I have come to kill this… obscenity.”
A new Age was dawning. Since the First Father, Men had always spoken to command the Ground. Since the Shamans, they had called and Reality had answered, a brother, a deceiver, an assassin. But there was another way, one without the treacherous hooks of meaning, one built up out of the granules of existence, the way termites raise their multiform wattle. A power that could be crafted and shaped, that could be applied to its own proliferation, and so accelerate, radiating out across the span of need and desire. A power that could uproot cities and hurl them across the Void.
Mechanism. Only mechanism could save their Voices.
“Perhaps it is fitting,” Titirga said to the glistening Inchoroi, advancing a step. “Perhaps this is your Doom, to die here on the grave of Viri.”
“Shaeönanra,” Aurang finally said. “I tire of this.”
“Patience, my brother,” the Mangaeccan Archideme replied, drawing the Inchoroi back by the forearm, pressing him to the perimeter of the grand room.
It would happen soon.
“Brother?” the Hero-Mage cried, his voice cracked with what seemed genuine dismay, pained incredulity. “You call this monstrosity brother?”
Only now was it dawning on the fool, the intimacy of their pact, the truth of their Holy Consult. Only now, Shaeönanra realized, could he see how profoundly Damnation had conjoined them.
Man. Nonman. Inchoroi.
Six days. Until his voice dwindled to a rasp. Until blood fell from his nose, tracing the branches of his grimace. Six days singing.
Titirga strode toward him, to the centre of the Asinna, the point where all the glittering fires overlapped. Shaeönanra resisted the urge to raise his arms in warding. He understood why the bards called him the Bull in their songs. The way he lowered his face to glare through his brows. How he puffed out his chest, huffed fury through his flared nose. How he trembled for rage…
Titirga was the very embodiment of the Wirg, a true Long-boned Son of Umerau. He used all the tools the Gods had bequeathed him, including his famed stature. He always came close… eventually… always loomed, carrying the stink of the garlic they so prized in Sauglish.
Vanity. Nothing makes Men more predictable.
“You will answer for this, Shaeönanra!”
The Archidemu Mangaeccu turned his back on the Hero-Mage for a third and final time. He glanced at Aurang, who fairly hunched over his famished loins–an Inchoroi battle stance.
“You! Will! Face! Me! Feal!”
He nodded to the black shining eyes.
“Face me!” Titirga thundered, his voice booming so raw that spiders seemed to scuttle across Shaeönanra’s spine and back. “Need I show you the fact of your Damnation!”
A sorcerous word sizzled across the corners of everything. Aurang’s eyes flared crimson.
“Face me or di–!”
A crack of wood and stone, beam and joist. Shaeönanra whirled just in time to see it happen: the floor dropping, the brushed rug sucked down, folding into ravines about the falling Hero-Mage, the tripods tipping outward, fires bursting into sparks, the whole slipping into the plummet, a great white iris dropping into deeper stages of gloom–
Shaeönanra finds the Nonman thus, sprawled unconscious before the Barricades–or what remains of them. He kneels at his side, lays fingers on his cheek. Warm. He looks to the shattered portal, to the hanging plates, the mangle of the Stain. His immobility shocks him as much as his terror shames. He has always been proud with power, Shaeönanra, knowing that even the Quya wonder at his subtlety. But now he is simply a Man, a lowly mortal, and he can smell his own stink taint the aura of burning.
The true sun is rising behind him.
The shadow of the Threshold arcs across the soaring cylinder of gold. He sees his frail silhouette hunched atop it. And he watches it descend, as inexorable as the rising dawn, sinking into the maw of the broken Barricades.
He shivers uncontrollably.
Only when the sun has drawn even to his height, when the first light draws his outline into the blackness within, does he stand upon the spine of his own shadow.
How? How could mere knowledge command such horror?
He will see for himself.
The whole centre of the chamber, gone.
It was not for nothing the Mangaecca had come here. It was not for nothing they had raised Nogaral upon the ruins of ancient Viri. Intent on plundering the dead Mansion, they took the vast pit they had discovered–the Viritic Well–as the axle of their construction. And so unknowingly created the one trap that could destroy the famed Titirga.
A great dank rose from the blackness, the stench of a mountain rotted with hollows. In ancient times the Well had sounded Viri, a city as magisterial as Ishterebinth, and deep, struck to the Ground’s very root. Shaeönanra teetered for a moment, his senses unbalanced by the cavernous absence before and below. He steadied himself, then leaned to better cast his spit after his foe.
“Tikhhus pir yelmor graum nihal!” he cried, the ancient curse of his forefathers.
He glimpsed a white twinkle sparking far below, a tube of surrounding stone. A sorcerous mutter climbed from the bottomless reek…
He blinked in disbelief.
“Quickly,” the nude Inchoroi cried, a noise like a dog’s cough.
He walks into the golden gloom, squinting, staring. Dust puffs about his feet, particles blooming in the intrusive brilliance of the sun, then vanishing into the flanking darkness. He peers… notices a different luminance wavering across the interior, more fluid and sultry, webbed as though refracted through waters…
Cants of Concussion. So the Man and the Inchoroi began, blasting the circular lip, striking great fractures into the grain of the rock, so that the Well’s mouth sloughed into its throat, a rumbling, clacking torrent. They pulled down the rooves of the Asinna, baring the deceit that was high blue sky. They stepped into the sunlight…
The Inchoroi beat his great scabbed wings, rising high upon the relentless Wind, spiralling like a vulture about a failing beast; the Man stood upon the earth’s phantom, hanging. Their skulls were as chalices of arcane light. Their disparate voices seemed thrown from the horizon’s farthest corners, the mutter of petulant Gods. And the light of the Diurnal bathed them, so they seemed to glow in the way of things held high in the sun’s declining light. Their own shadows halved them, so that from certain angles they seemed naught but the rims of who they once were.
Quyan sorceries inscribed the empty spaces. Structure collapsed into the after-image of searing geometries. Aurang husked the tower from without as he sailed in broad circles, slowing into a climb when turning to the Wind, then swooping about in a descending arc. The Diurnal’s arcane sun warmed cloth, pinched skin. Shaeönanra gouged the tower from within, hanging above the cratered Asinna, his hair and garment lashed into fins and ribbons. Sections of wall pitched into blackness, roared against the throat of the Well. Furnishings glittered like tossed torches, scraped and skidded, trailing clouds of orange sparks before blackness encompassed them.
Together they pulled down Nogaral, the High Round, raised it into a heap over the mouth of the Well.
He hears it, a faraway wind, the groan of impossible multitudes–the collective shriek. His lungs become as stone. Horror makes pins of his skin. And he feels it, the burning vaults above, the smoldering glimpses...
Shaeönanra raises his eyes.
At last they paused to regard their labour, the Inchoroi alighting upon the same spectral floor that bore Shaeönanra. Crimson sunlight bathed the southern ramps, inking the numberless crevices across the wrack and ruin. And they rejoiced, Man and Inchoroi…
They had no inkling of the greater violence their sorcery had unleashed.
The sky cracked. Iros shuddered. The impossible sun tipped and stumbled. Plumes of ejecta exploded from points along the mountain’s perimeter, scarcely visible for the Diurnal’s encompassing glare. The mound that had been Nogaral shrugged then slumped into its contradiction. It was as if a dome of cloth had been pressed into a dimple. Summit became basin. Illumination became shadow. The mountain had been rotten with Viri, its innumerable ways fractured by the cataclysmic impact of the Ark thousands of years before. The underworld mansion imploded, collapsed inward and downward, tier upon tier, hall upon hall, undone by this final indignity. This last outrage.
The Man and the Inchoroi toppled with it. Though suspended, they remained bound to the earth, and as with all drastic changes of circumstance, the meaning of their sorcery ceased to be. Only Aurang’s wings saved them. The Inchoroi seized the Man from kicking emptiness, bore him up beyond the Diurnal blue into the truth that was cold and night.
They set foot upon the depression’s edge. The Day Lantern painted a dishevelled landscape, drawing their shadows into the darkness of the great concavity below. The earth still shivered, resounded with hidden percussions, knocking dust into smoky halos about the debris.
Shaeönanra laughed in the crazed, marvelling way of children who find their destruction multiplied beyond belief. Once again, he succumbed to the sacrilege of Fate, he who walked ways invisible to the Gods. He exulted at this Sign, rejoiced that his hated foe would have a pit and not a barrow to memorialize his fall. And as the echos trailed into cavernous thunder, he began singing, as a true Long-boned Son of Umerau should,
Your pride lies shattered with your shield,
Your wrath curls bleeding upon the field,
Now you linger in my shade weeping,
Mourning an honour that is my keeping,
Praying for children who are mine to enslave,
Beseeching lovers who are mine to deprave.
So the Archidemu Mangaeccu intoned: a paean for his vanquished enemy, a lament that was at once a psalm to his own glory–and the might of their Holy Consult.
For nothing mattered apart from what they had seen. Nothing.
They coupled on the smoking slopes, Man and Inchoroi, their silhouettes entangled, arching against a skewed, perpetually setting sun. They grunted for wonder, wheezed with ecstasy. They gazed in delirium, cried out across the great bowl of ruin, over flames arrayed in descending echelons, like teeth growing out a shark’s throat.
And daylight Stained everything, a false pocket of sun in the night.
The infinite night.
1 – As the Norsirai called them. The Nonmen called them the Vir’holotoi, the “Wards-of-Viri.”
2 – The Blessed Falling, when the Flesh-Angels first descended from the Void.
3 – ‘The Newborn.’ The star that Men call the Nail of Heaven.
4 – The Artisan. The Siqu founder of the School of Contrivers, the Mihtrulic.
5 – Founded by Gin’yursis, Holy Siqu, in the time of Nincama-Telesser (574-668).
6 – This was a tumultuous time in the history of the Cond Empire, when Scintya depredations forced the All-King, the much maligned Aulyanau Cawa-Imvullar (c.1091-1124), to levy punitive taxes upon the All.
7 – Derived from the Ancient Umeri term for ‘sorcerer,’ derived in turn from ancient shamanistic Hulwa Ilruga, ‘the Bottomless Inward.’
8 – A kind of whiskey smoked in peat.
9 – Untrue, insofar as Aulyanau Cawa-Imvullar (c.1091-1124) was forced to pay the White Norsirai tribes of the Scintya tribute, the amount of which was never disclosed, but apparently substantial enough to cripple Cond Umerau over time.
10 – The Sohonc, which was by far the largest of the Tutelage Schools, could boast only some fifty sorcerers of rank. The Mangaecca, it could be assumed, possessed no more than thirty.
11 – Treasurer.
12 – An indirect reference to the fact that Viri was destroyed by the falling of the Ark, which is to say, by the Inchoroi.
13 – “So death denies you your lesson.”
That was pretty awesome. I do like that the most powerful mage in the history of the world falls to the classic ‘rocks fall, everyone dies’ approach.
I think i hear it said somewhere, that you where finding it hard making a living from writing?.
You should charge for these tip bits. If someone said i could read a story about the Consults beginning for a pound? (Dollar?, ok I’d pay a lot more, but let’s assume you don’t want to upset your core fans).
I’d be firing up Pay Pal as we speak.
Seriously, you should be paid for your creativity.
Yes, I don’t understand why you’re not charging a couple bucks for these.
It’ll find its way into a collection sooner or later. Paypal just makes me feel dirty.
Even your ‘spoilers’ are riddles…
So, Nonmen avoid damnation by moving in the spaces between the Gods after they die, and so reach Oblivion. Men can be taught to do this. The Inchoroi convinced the Mangaecca that damnation is true, and worse than anything else conceivable. Whether this is ‘true’ or ‘deceit’ is hard to determine from this, but deceit is possible because the Inchoroi have the Tekne with which to deceive the minds of men as they see fit.
The Inchoroi come from different “Ground”. I interpret this in two ways: they come from a different planet, and they come with a different metaphysical underpinning. Their philosophy and morality is completely alien and unintelligible. For some reason (still unexplained, as far as I can tell) they are still subject to Judgment based on the terms of Earwa’s God.
Personally, as disgusting as the Consult is… they might have the right of it. I mean, even if they are deceived, the “good guy” in this story has a child’s skull braided into his beard. It’s like Evil vs. Deeper Evil.
Anyone else have a completely different interpretation?
Moreover, does this give us any more hints as to what Kellhus ultimately intends?
This totally destroyed my productivity today. It seems well-polished, and I don’t expect it to need revision. This is an amazing way to end the week. If you ever sell a compilation of Atrocity Tales (on PDF or paper), I’ll buy.
I meant “start the week”, not end it. (Wishful thinking)
Well, Nonmen say they avoid damnation by going to oblivion; Shae and the Consult believe otherwise, it appears. They believe that it doesn’t solve anything – or at least that they’re pretty convinced otherwise. I would argue that the Consult aren’t playing at that; they genuinely believe, because if they didn’t why would they fight so hard to destroy the Outside? They have forever believed in their damnation.
I don’t think they’re subject to judgment of Earwa’s god; they are subject to damnation because that’s the way the universe works in Bakkerverse. Earwa is special because it could be actually closed off to the Outside and not allow the passage of souls, but otherwise the rules are pretty simple: if you have a soul, you are subject to damnation. And your soul can be damned for doing all of these horrible things. That’s not a God judging any more than gravity judges you for falling off a building if you choose to jump off of it; it is an integral part of the universe. The Inchoroi are damned because they exist in this universe, simple as that.
What’s really interesting to me is that the Consult here say that the Nonmen are actually damned for thinking they’ll be safe to go through the cracks between – but Titirga believes otherwise. The implication is that the nonmen at the time also believe this as well. But when we see Kellhus talking to the nonmen of Ish later, both Kellhus and the nonmen state that they are damned for this. Which to me implies a couple things – that the nonmen are very firmly in the Consult’s camp (and have seen the truth of the world, that there is no escaping damnation like they thought there was) and that Kellhus also knows this – both that they are Consult now and that this is what the actual truth of the universe is.
It almost implies to me that Kellhus is for the Consult, but at the very least it implies to me that Kellhus is aware of the Consult’s views and that these nonmen are part and parcel of them.
There’s something subversive, something almost depraved about depicting Mages and other protagonists in a story using the same idioms and language used to depict Biblical Prophets. Its like tapping into the unconscious conditioning that Western Society has for Bibilical characters and using that regard to heighten the Eerie within the story. I really dig it. I don’t know it occurred to you first or maybe you encountered the technique somewhere else, but you can make a story feel really earthy and foul if you start dressing it up like Scripture.
Elsewhere in the comments, people have suggested that you charge for this. On the one level, that leaves me feeling sad, why do we equate worth with payment, its a kneejerk I can do without. On the other hand, I think the sentiment of ‘charging money’ for this is shorthand for ‘this is something of worth and not to to be dismissed treated casually’ With that in mind, I wholeheartedly agree.
This is one of the reasons I’m so curious as to how this tactic strikes the ear of someone not brought up in the same atmosphere of Christian hypocrisy as I was.
Kalon, are you Kalbear from Westeros forum?
if you have a soul, you are subject to damnation. And your soul can be damned for doing all of these horrible things. That’s not a God judging any more than gravity judges you for falling off a building if you choose to jump off of it; it is an integral part of the universe.
I don’t know how you integrate an interpersonal word like ‘damnation’ into a mechanism? If I built a machine that when you walk up to it, a mechanism waves a hand that you can shake, if you shake its hand are you friends with my machine? Okay, so if I build a machine that tortures you automatically, are you damned by my machine?
Yes, Callan, I am.
‘I don’t know how you integrate an interpersonal word like ‘damnation’ into a mechanism? ‘
Easily? If you like choose some other concept such as ‘force’ or entropic decay for mechanism. Damnation is used as a word by Bakker because of the connotations, but it doesn’t mean that it implies judgment by a specific kind of person. I realize you disagree and we’ve had this conversation billions of times over on Westeros, so I’d ask you not to bring up the same bizarre arguments about phallic machinery and whatnot you did there.
Phallic machinery? I wish I could lay claim to that, but I don’t recall using such an example? But hey, it’s flattery, so why do I resist?
but it doesn’t mean that it implies judgment by a specific kind of person.
As when a lover cries out someone elses name, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are refering to them.
I think so many lines of enquiry can apparently be neatly resolved by just saying what this or that word doesn’t have to mean.
If Bakker’s record, thus far, is anything to go by, I am not at all sure that there is a “God” in this universe; at least not one that lines up, to any degree, with concepts that we know in our world.
It should be obvious to anyone, by now, that even though concepts such as “Hell” are operative in Bakker’s PON series, those concepts are not identical to how they are elsewhere.
I have a theory… and we will see if it bears fruit.
When I first read the extant books, last year, I kept coming back to the scene of the awakening of the No-God, that occured in the First Apocalypse. I am basing my projection here on the fact that Bakker uses the characters and concepts of the Fantasy Epic, to enact, and explore a great number of philosophical concepts. Since all that we ever see, of the No-God, is that one scene, where he is awakened, but seems to be unable to see himself…I.e. conceptualize himself, I am wondering if he is going to take a serious look at one of the most recurrent themes in the Fantasy Epic. Time and again, ever since Tolkien, we have the “Dark Lord” character; a being of great power, who nonetheless seems to be lacking in substance. I don’s just mean that they are badly written, but rather… Well, in Lord of the Rings, Sauron is, in essence, just a very powerful ghost, his physical body haven been slain in the first wars of the rings. And, again, in The Sword of Shannara, we have Brona, the Warlock Lord, who is only still around because he refuses to believe in his own death.
I think that the No-God is going to take this little thread, and explore it further. The idea of god-like being, that is somehow not fully conscious, i.e. self-reflective.
And, to sum up, I think that Bakker is going to somehow tie him in with the ostensible “supreme God” that Inri Sejanus was the prophet of. Not necessarily that he will make them identical, but I think there will be a connection there.
“Somehow, his mere existence is antithetical to human life: during the entirety of the Apocalypse, not one infant drew breath — all were stillborn. He is apparently immune to sorcery (according to legend, eleven Chorae are embedded in the Carapace). The Heron Spear is the only known weapon that can harm him.
“It seems that he is also antithetical to gods, in the way that through the history, the No-God is always asking questions (apparently in the heads of men), and not answering them, as a god is expected to do. He is insecurity, he is doubt, he is fear.”
The above quote kind of comes close to what I am aiming at. Through out the history of the “one God” so beloved of Christians, Muslims, et alia, there has been this contradiction. A supreme God that supposedly embodies all goodness, all virtue; who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omni-present. But, who nonethelss behaves like a spoiled, psychotic, and who created a universe so flawed that the dreams of a hard-core sadist do not even approach it, in terms of the sheer suffering entailed in it.
Philosophers ranging from Plato, thru Nietzsche and Kierkegaard grappled with this dichtomy. At the heart of this debate is what I would have to refer to as the Shadow of the Idea of a Supreme Being. We cannot reconcile this concept of a perfect benevolence with the depictions of the God in the various world religions.
I think that the nature of the No-God is somehow bound up with this contradiction. (Is there something significant in the fact that the Carapace bears 11 of the “Tears of God..?”)
But, I guess we will just have to wait and see…
If the question of who to believe was resolved, Jorge, then I wouldn’t have posted it! But this piece shows, in a clear and concentrated manner, I think, the Metaphysical Whodunnit that underwrites the whole.
I think that the strength of the PON story is that Bakker takes every Fantasy Epic trope, and, well, warps it. At the beginning, when an organization or character is introduced, you think, “Okay; I know this…” And, then, as the story deepens, so does the depiction, and the quandry…
I think that there is, underlying the Consult, a series of profound, and tragic insights, that made them what they are. It is clear that there are not any real “good guys” in this story; Bakker just has too much depth for the story to run that simply.
I also think that we are in for some surprises about the No-God, too.
For the record, I actually quite dislike Kellhus, and the Dunyain. This opinion was not something that was immeditate for me; it came about gradually, as I watched him dancing everyone on his strings…
This is a matter of personal aesthetics, nothing more. But, I really despise the whole “for the Greater Good”, or “Greater Design”, that seems to be the cornerstone of programs of tyranny, and that is what Kellhus has evolved into. I would rather endure in a world of chaos and anguish, than suffer even one of the hypocritical edicts that prophets like Kellhus enforce.
Just my preference, but there it is.
“That’s not a God judging any more than gravity judges you for falling off a building if you choose to jump off of it; it is an integral part of the universe.”
It’s strange though, because it’s also implied that there’s a Final Morality Scale: that it’s possible to escape damnation if you are favored in the eyes of the God(s). That is, if you are good enough, you go to heaven instead (Gravity pulls you up instead of down, to use your metaphor). The Consult want to shut the Outside because they are irredeemably stained by their sorcery.
Also, no matter how you interpret this, the question of why Earwa is special remains.
The inchies were irredeemably stained before sorcery – they grafted that onto themselves later, after all. They were stained because of what they were – these pleasure lovers who use rape as a means of nonverbal communication and communion.
Something that is interesting is that there are a number of people out there who think that they can be saved, but the only real evidence we have is of damnation. The implication from Psatma is that godlings can ‘save’ true believers from damnation and instead of being a plaything to random ciphrang, you’re now a plaything to a godling that can use you as buttfloss and hopefully you’ll thank them for it. Or there are ancestors that can somewhat protect you if they can find you. But that’s not exactly being ‘saved’ – it’s just being in slightly less shit than what you were going to be in.
The angelic ciphrang mentioned before implies a heaven of sorts, but my feeling is not that you do so many good deeds and you get rewarded; it’s that you don’t do so many bad deeds (which stain the soul – notice the verbiage in this story of staining) and thus are somewhat clean.
Earwa being special is a real question, I admit.
I’m honestly not sure that there’s a reason that Bakker will give as to specifically why Earwa is “special” in the eyes of the Outside, other than that it’s part of his whole “meaningful universe” theme where the World is special and important in the Cosmos (instead of an insignificant speck of rock as in real life).
Maybe it has something to do with the way that the No-God can interpose itself between the Outside and the World. On most planets (as mentioned in WLW), that’s presumably impossible – the Cycle of Souls can’t be interrupted.
Actually, on second thought, didn’t the Inchoroi actually know nothing about sorcery before they arrived in Earwa? They knew about damnation, but not about sorcery – maybe sorcery (the ability to re-write the world through thought and words) is unique to this particular Ground.
I’m still not convinced that damnation is real in Earwa or really just a product of the mind, despite the fantasy setting. And I just don’t see how Earwa is special, given Bakker’s predilection to harp on our cognitive failures in thinking that anyone could have hit on the ‘magical belief lottery’.
Perhaps the great twist will be that this is all for ‘nothing’. That Kellhus is the ‘Prince of Nothing’ because he drives humanity to fight, only for the chance that we have a future where we can realise that all our wars, petty cruelties, etc. is for nothing (as opposed to the Consult’s ‘my way or the highway’ approach)
Of course I’m probably wrong in my guess but that’s why I keep reading – to see what Bakker is trying to really say.
Reading the passage in WLW, page 364 US Hard Cover, Nin’sarricas notes that he is damned as a “False Man” – which seems to me that he is more noting the falseness of the Tusk than a revelation that the path to Oblivion cannot be tread.
I like the better understanding of the Gnosis here, as mathematical approximations to the workings of the God. Confirms the idea that, IMO, that it is the flaws in the curve fitting, so to speak, that lead to stains. That and repeated use of those same algorithms/equations aka Cants
What I find interesting is that Mekeritrig is too insane to puzzle out the riddle of the Barricades, but Titirga’s madness allows him to reach further with sorcery, to circumscribe more of the World’s details.
Is Titirga’s madness akin to Cantor’s, in that it allows him to grasp more of the infinite and thus dilute his own Mark? Yet what separates this pure meaning, akin to that of the Cish, from the analogies? Can poetry ever strike deeper and cleaner than mathematics…I feel like there is a circle where analogy, the weakest brand of true sorcery, circles back to the God.
As for Titirga being evil, I think the bronzed infant skull makes him more honest than today’s politicians. He lived a warrior age that did not dress up its imperialism or the requirements of sustaining an empire in pretense.
Someone else pointed out that Titirga’s description (was blind as a child, seizes cants that should not be seized, randomly chanted out cants as a kid, has an odd mark) is a lot closer to Fanimry than it is the mathematical models.
Hmmm, good point. I was going to say his Cish-like intuition lets him craft better models of reality (think LISP vs. Java if you’re a programmer) but this would suggest the Mark of those practicing the Gnosis would be diluted compared to those utilizing the Agnosis.
That doesn’t seem to be the case. Yet the dilution of Titirga’s Mark suggests that better apprehension of the continuous, God created world does lighten the stain.
First, to express my gratitude for this story. Great to see Shae get some screen time at last.
Editorially, a couple of very minor things stick out – “The creature stood naked, as was his want” should be “as was his wont” and I noticed a singular used in the place of a plural later.
It seems confusing as to what Titingra does with the Diurnal when he alights… did he really just leave it on the ground somewhere, or does it fall into the pit with him? It also is unclear whether it is simply used to announce Titingra’s arrival or if it is some method of propulsion to speed skywalking.
I feel the phrase “the Inverse Flame” (as used in the original trilogy) is stronger than “the Inverse Fire” – it resonates better for me in a mythic sense for several, almost subliminal, reasons. Foremost, it suggests a singular and personal revelation or point of veneration.
Speculatively, there are some great refinments to the Consult’s motivation. The way this story intimates their version of Truth and Shae’s perspective presents a convincing stand from which it might be veiwed as objective is neatly done, offset by the reader’s probable understanding of how compulsion and possesion work in Bakkerworld which allows doubts to remain is neatly done. Perfectly encapsulated in this exchange, where Shae posits his version of truth whilst wondering at the passions that move him:
” “Because they could not be trusted. Because they had been ensorceled… Possessed.”
“No!” Shaeönanra heard himself cry. “No!” Could this be him, wagging his head like a fly-maddened ox, gesticulating like an old hag at funeral? “Because they had seen the Truth!“ ”
Very interesting tidbit that perhaps links the gnosis and the psukhe with Titingra’s Stain/Mark and the rumour that he was born blind (perhaps the skull in his beard has some analogous relation to the snakes the cish wear?).
And then a possible relation between the Tekne and the Psukhe:
“Since the First Father, Men had always spoken to command the Ground. Since the Shamans, they had called and Reality had answered, a brother, a deceiver, an assassin. But there was another way, one without the treacherous hooks of meaning, one built up out of the granules of existence, the way termites raise their multiform wattle. A power that could be crafted and shaped, that could be applied to its own proliferation, and so accelerate, radiating out across the span of need and desire. A power that could uproot cities and hurl them across the Void.”
The Tekne is here described as a form of sorcery that does not rely on spoken meaning, instead relying on rational understanding of implied physical relationships – the Psukhe has been previously described as being based on intuitive understanding of metaphysical relations, but both systems seem to proliferate based on some form of fractal dimesion propogation where only the seed must be placed.
Anyway, there’s my five cents after a first read. 🙂
Thanks again Scott, you’ve outdone GRRM’s advance chapter with this treat for your readers imho! Would it be too much to ask for an update on how TUC is proceeding? I can’t wait to get my hooks into it.
I think “sorcery” was just a turn of phrase to describe the Tekne – it’s basically modern science and technology as Bakker sees it, hence the reference to “mechanism” and the fact that it’s devoid of any normative value (a point that Bakker has made repeatedly in blog posts about the “Semantic Apocalypse” and the end of meaning).
Of course the Tekne functions via mechanism. Doesn’t mean that it can’t include sorcery.
Do you really think that modern science and technology would be the same if people could manifest laser beams and telepathy via meaning and intuition?
You wouldn’t need to map the genome if you could grow a starship by muttering incantations over a unicorn fetus now, would you?
They could integrate sorcery into technology, but the Tekne as written clearly sounds like modern Science, and it actually pre-dates the Ark’s Fall to Earwa (i.e., it predates the Inchoroi’s discovery of sorcery).
Also keep in mind that the Inchies had no inkling of the other kinds of sorcery. So that also kind of rules out the Tekne as an analog to the Cish.
AND, they are unaffected by the aporetics (or were before they were grafted sorcery traits).
Thanks for the crits, Curethan. I actually plan to do a substantial revision at some point.
I’m happy that people are getting the sheer dimension of the ambiguities involved.
I figured this isn’t the final draft; just pointing out the spellcheck resistant things I noticed.
Re. the Tekne/Psukhe anology speculation – my point was that they both function to produce a result via a cascading effect.
Science in Bakkerverse still has to deal with sorcery within its physical laws.
Aporetic and gnostic sorcery hinges on meaning, the Tekne hinges on being and the Psukhe seems to focus on feeling, which is somewhere between the two forms.
I would love to know if the themes of “ground” and the heavens or the “void” purposefully reference the philosophical differences between Plato’s theory of Forms and Aristotles empiricism.
So this is 3 years before Shaeonanra discovers whatever method immortality turns him into Shauriatus, cool.
From what I can tell, Titirga possesses something equivalent to the Cishaurim’s Third Eye/blindsight. He can see the world much clearer than his Gnostic compatriots, but he remains a Gnostic sorcerer not some proto-Cishaurim.
Only nitpick I found was where Shaeonanra “stifles” himself twice within a few paragraphs. Nothing major. Other than that, a tasty little treat as we wait for TUC.
As for payment, RSB’s mentioned that once he hits 100k with these short stories, it’s off to the printers. I imagine he’ll save a few exclusive pieces for that compilation.
Oh, and I definately prefer “inverse flame” to “inverse fire” — more of a mythic ring to it
“From what I can tell, Titirga possesses something equivalent to the Cishaurim’s Third Eye/blindsight. He can see the world much clearer than his Gnostic compatriots, but he remains a Gnostic sorcerer not some proto-Cishaurim.”
I was thinking about this some more. Gnosis provides a better underlying system to describe reality, which is why it shreds through the Agnosis, but it still describes a world seen with limited sight. Titirga then describes, using the Gnosis, a truer picture of the world and this is what dilutes his damnation.
Er, maybe I am just rewording what you already said…
Also, how do Aurang and Shae have sex? I’m having a hard (lol) time imagining an Inchoroi’s giant penis penetrating a human without damage.
some questions are better off unanswered
..(I admit to wondering as well, just not wondering too deeply … 🙂
i suspect a lot of tallow-as-lube is involved.
With ingenuity and vigour – in that order.
Why do you assume that Aurang’s cock is involved or that the only sexual organ that Aurang has is a cock? This is a creature with multiple skulls and wings, after all, and if it’s truly built for pleasure having just one cock is pretty pedestrian.
We can rebuild him. We have the tekne.
I think it’s probably like a swiss army knife of penises, one for every occasion! There’s even one for removing a stone from a horses hoof…if your into that sort of thing…
Again, why do you assume cock?
The notion that a race devoted to pleasure would only have a penis (or even multiple ones) seems so very insane when you know anything about women’s physiology.
I think when I mention a swiss army penis, I’m probably not really trying to figure out what he’s got?
Besides, unless its selective reading on my part the descriptions only seem to mention phaluses? I’m not sure why they’d stop there – heck, I’ve wondered whether Aurang was originally a male or not (heck, maybe even Aurang can’t remember).
Very interesting read. My read of the passage from an anthropological point of view is thus:
1) “Since the First Father, Men had always spoken to command the Ground. Since the Shamans, they had called and Reality had answered, a brother, a deceiver, an assassin” – – Man has always used words and language (e.g. myths, religion) as a means of power
2) “But there was another way, one without the treacherous hooks of meaning, one built up out of the granules of existence, the way termites raise their multiform wattle” – Now there is another approach i.e. Science
Approach (1) leads to damnation. Shae and Inchoroi believe approach (2) will save them. However, I think the passage has hinted that in the end, both approaches will not save them from ‘damnation’.
Whatever ‘damnation’ is – perhaps an allegory to our foolishness and stupidity? Or perhaps there is no true damnation, except that we invent it to damn ourselves. Perhaps Kellhus (or perhaps not) has figured that out.
I think the only reason to fight the Inchoroi is that they act to impose their version on everyone while everyone should be free to find their own damnation (or otherwise).
It all comes down to justification.
With who being the arbiter of that justice?
How come Titirga doesn’t just walk-on-air back out of the pit? A quick cant of protection, a stroll back topside, and he can get back to kicking ass… Unless I’m missing something.
Shoolmen walk on the memory of the ground, they don’t fly. Thus, a stonking great hole makes a good (and unexpected) trap.
Shae and Aurang obviously don’t think it’s enough still, so they drop the tower in after him. Game over.
A nitpick: It was Inverse Flame not Inverse FIre in TTT. Was it a mistake or are both forms allowed?
I actually prefer Inverse Fire… but note that the names for many things are different in this story.
While unique, the whole thing reminds me more than a little of Saruman vs. Gandalf in FoTR. Wizard fight, “evil guy’s” home base, good guy loses (or does he?????), an accusation of madness, etc.
Good trope to exploit, that’s for sure.
That connection never even dawned on me. But then, when you’ve lived in the Old Man’s shade as long as I have, you tend to forget who is keeping you cool.
I noticed there’s also the “don’t dig too deep” trope from LOTR. 🙂
Personally, I like “Inverse Fire” more myself.
No judgment on flame vs. fire in particular, but I like the changed words and names *a lot*. I mean, these guys lived a couple of millenia before the books, in countries that don’t even have people anymore during Kelhus’ time, they’re *supposed* to use different metaphors and such to describe some things, *especially* stuff that isn’t common knowledge.
Phrasing for everyday things like agriculture and war and some religions might be conserved, but the esoterics are *supposed* to be different, since (other than the Consult, the Mandate, and non-humans) each group that does magic should be forced to pretty much re-invent stuff due to secrecy and schisms. The cishaurim would only be the latest example.
It seems natural that the translation convention (i.e., why we read in English) should reflect these changes. (Sort of how ancient leaders are called variously but consistently princes, kings, emperors or war-lords, despite the fact that the distinctions are kind of blurry, and the modern words themselves are much more recent than the people they describe. For instance, I had a similar “sensation” when finding out the word “imperator” had a very different sense in the original Latin than one might deduce from the modern sense of “emperor”.)
One thing I love about this story is that the greatest display of sorcery is not a violent one but a simulation of genuine daylight.
Yet the story follows with a simple solution to the problem of the greatest living sorcerer – destroy the Ground he walks on. I like the metaphorical connection to the No God and the bending of the very Ground.
(And as Happy Ent and others noted on Westeros, Shae’s genius lies in his indirect solutions to problems as opposed to direct applications of force.)
I had a lot of fun playing on the ‘elemental’ – it’s tricky, when you begin from an ancient context, to write something more ancient still. You need to shrink the list of available concepts, and make them more concrete, to get that feel you get when reading something like Gilgamesh or the Egyptian Book of the Dead. It’s like putting the same devious kids in a room with fewer, more basic toys.
Read this, made me think of your comment above Scott:
“The West tends to relegate the spiritual and magical to the past. Many people will believe that miracles could happen in Biblical times, but if one happened right in front of them, they’d write it off as fake.”
-Our Sentence is Up: Seeing Grant Morrison’s The Invisibles
Do you have any plans to write more stories set in ancient periods? Nin’janjin’s desperate letter to Cû’jara-Cinmoi and all the craziness that followed really struck me as a story that deserved to be told in more detail.
I actually have three on the go, picking away here and there as inspiration arrives.
The Sun as ‘good’ is a recurrent theme in the books, one of the few invariant morality anchors. Off the top of my head: Inrau extolling the sun to Achamian (TDTCB), and Achamian enjoying the sun’s light from his Wizard’s tower (TJE).
Loved the story, really interesting to get a bit more clarity, but does make me want the next book now! Also, I was reading ‘On Evil’ by Terry Eagleton recently and couldn’t help but notice a lot of crossover with the description of the Inchoroi. There were a couple of lines, describing the character of evil, which seemed to me to sum up the Inchoroi’s character:
“For evil […] finite things are an obstacle to the infinity of will or desire, so must be eliminated.” and “The more abstracted reason becomes, the less men and women are able to live a meaningful creaturely life. So the more they must resort to mindless sensation to prove to themselves that they still exist.”
Just seemed interesting to me how much this tallies with the books, will be good to see how these themes are developed…
It’s probability not a coincidence: I’m sure Adorno is at least as much an influence on him as me.
I love that we finally get a word, “inward” that is the opposite of The Outside. Wonderful.
Possible continuity error? Shae seems to know almost nothing about the Cuno Inchoroi wars, yet Sauglish has had five umeri translations of the Isuphyris for more than 500 years at this point. Surely some of that material would have matriculated out to the culture at this point? Or did the wider (non academic) culture only gain knowledge of the CI wars when Seswatha escaped south with a copy of the Isuphyris?
The Sohonc are jealous of their Library. Think about the parade of assumptions that go through S’s thoughts, and how Titirga always seems to know more (and therefore he less) than he credits.
I figured as much would be the case. Regarding ‘present day’ Earwa, is the larger culture now aware of the Cuno Inchoroi wars, or are they as ignorant of them as the larger culture was in Shaeonanra’s day? That is to say, is the knowledge of the isuphyris something only the Mandate know because Seswatha was the only one with a copy?
You know the policy, Adam. If I started answering World questions I would be at it all day!
Of course, I say this, after spending 3 hours answering nonWorld questions…
Well shit! Here I was furiously working on my own world thinking that what I was crafting would dwarf all creations, then I could smugly make a show of my humility. Then I read this and I am again floored, this was only a short story and all day I was thinking about the Consult and its goals. Now I am not so sure why all sorcerors are not with the Consult, including the Mandati. Now my world does not seem so awesome in comparison, now the depths that I must go to equal this leaves me slightly depressed.
It says that the Sohonc considered Cet’ingira to be an old rival, but I thought that he was a Siqu, a teacher of men. Or was it that he simply taught other Schools instead of them. And if he stole the Heron Spear nearly four hundred years prior was he not already outlawed by the other Nonmen? Had the erraticsm already started or is he too fighting to end Damnation instead of simply for the sake of memory. And it would be awesome if those two Nonmen–Misariccas and Runidil– who went into the Ark with Cet’ingira ended up with Consult for the same fear of Damnation.
I was under the impression that all Nonmen were simply just better than humans at just about everything possible, but a human seems the best sorceror living. So maybe the Nonmen are usually the 99th percentile, but still basicallly on the human scale of reference. Titirga mentions a lunatic God, does this mean that the existence of the No-God is rumored even at this time and was not in fact a complete suprise, Seswatha was given warning of its coming by the Quya so they must have had hint of it.
Could it be that there is a gigantic Topos within the Ark and that is what Shae saw that convinced him that Damnation awaited him. Maybe that Topos became part of the Ark while they still traveled the Void or there home world, and not something they discovered on Earwa, this is why they knew they were still damned even after they had scoured a world. I wonder what the previous masters of the Mangaecca felt like as they spent their lives trying to bypass the Barricades, to be so close to the Inchorio and yet so far. They died knowing what awaited them and knowing that if only they had solved the Barricades that they might have been spared that fate. The motivations of the Consult make sense, which makes me feel uneasy.
Now a couple of questions. Will we see in this volume or the appendix the Cunuroi kingdoms and there names at the time of the Fall? Will the history of the Cuno-Inchoroi war be told, or will that have to be put in another volume? Are all of the surviving Nonmen Ishroi or Quya, or are there still a peasant class since they would be most numerous and least likely to die in the many wars fought. Of what race were the Emwama, or were they like Neandterthals. And finally how big do you expect this book to be? Is it a 1000 pages or more?
RSB, how are you feeling about TUC at this point? I remember you proudly calling TWLW ‘a beast’, and somewhere way back revealing that the third book of the second trilogy would be the longest. Is that still the case? I assume it will radically change perspectives the way The Thousandfold Thought did. (on my re-reads, that book has really moved up the ranking list, to second place…)
The holidays completely derailed me the way they always do. I’m busily crawling back into the beast…
Hah. The Consult. Shaeonanra Consulting for the Inchoroi to help them achieve their corporate goals, quite the contract they must have worked up.
And sealed the agreement over inter-species sodomy.
Probably not that much different than corporate America.
“How can you fools not see how small this makes us?”
“Plainly,” Titirga replied, frowning at the creature’s groin.
Best cock joke ever? I assume it’s actually read dead pan, Titirga isn’t even trying to make a joke? It’s all said in the dead seriousness of scriptural writings?
I thought it was obvious Titirga is both telling a joke in dead-pan manner. It’s probably the funniest line in The Second Apocalypse so far.
It’s even funnier if you think he isn’t telling a joke. I mean, the story grasps at primal thinking, with references to ‘the Ground’ and binary honour structures like feal and wirg. If you read him as not telling a joke, suddenly you get a completely different sense of psychology going on.
Mind you, I might be reading a depth to it which actually isn’t there (which is of course the counterpart to assuming one has read to the full depth when one has not), and hey, Titirga is making a great dick joke after all. 🙂
Definitely the best cock joke ever.
Another bit of ambiguity I’ve been mulling:
Are Nonmen and human biologically related?
There are quite a few mentions in the book about the ‘otherness’ of Nonmen, but if some Savannah ape-like ancestors evolved to live below ground, we might find them pretty strange too. Furthermore, there are hints that some Nonmen managed to cross-breed with humans at some point (after the womb plague?)
“Special Creation” does not seem to be the case on Earwa, since Kellhus seems to understand/use the rudimentary mechanics of selective breeding, if not Neo-Darwininan natural selection (part of his Dunyain training included noticing how the forest is full of ‘struggle’… I think this was mentioned early in TDTCB).
How do others think Nonmen are related? Semi-divine beings ala Tolkein? Underground offshoot of a common ancestor with humans? Beings from another Ground themselves?
I kind of think of nonmen as created from the very semantic fabric of Earwa itself, much like the demons are, except not strictly intended. Raw meaning clashed together and coalesced, much like a sun forming. Basically all the meaning to do with awesomeness! heh! And indeed looking at this idea, if they came from raw meaning unintentionally, then they were born from the spaces between gods as well. I can’t help think that they are essentially so awesome that they practically willed themselves into existance from the primal ether. If nonmen ‘compel’ your imagination, that’s essentially how they came to first exist (then they just have babies as usual after that).
Uh, where are you getting that from the text?
Oh, I thought we were going for feel? Just a feeling. Where does it hint non men cross breed with humans? I thought you were just describing a feel from reading as well?
I was under the impression that in Bakkerworld, normal scientific processes work unless their is “Outside interferance” the Nonman and humanity being off-shoots of each other is the stance that makes the most sense.
They’ve been able to produce fertile offspring so you could technically classify them as subspecies of one species but that’s such a rare event that classifying them as two species in one genus is probably best, they seem about as related as a tiger and a lion is for example (and able to produce the equivalent of ligers under the right conditions).
Thus the Nonman could be called something like Homo troglodytes (cave-dwelling man) or Homo non (not man).
Incidently Homo troglodytes should be the actual scientific name of the common chimpanzee, which is so closely related to Humans that they should be in the same genus. But human-centrism seems to require more distance be placed between us and them that actually biologically justifiable.
From the entry on the Cuno-Inchoroi Wars pg. 433 in the Overlook edition:
“Apparently Sirwitta had seduced the wife of a high-ranking Ishroi and conceived by her a daughter named Cimoira. The Judges of the Ishroi were perplexed: such a thing had never happened before. The truth of Cimoira was suppressed, and despite her mannish blood she was accepted as Cûnuroi. Sirwitta himself was banished to the Second Watch.”
So, Sirwitta is Halaroi (human) while all Ishroi are Nonmen. So cross-breeding can happen, but only under rare circumstances (or perhaps via the intervention of those who understand reductionist biological principles…)
Most of the things I speculate on I try and buttress with the text, but you’re right that some things are just ‘feelings’.
Well, buttressed you are! 🙂 I’d have to say they are related? Perhaps humans are some deformed mutation of nonmen from way in the past?
““You! Will! Face! Me! Feal!””
This feels like a strange stuttering rather than a booming declaration to me. I keep tripping on it and curious how others feel.
I think of it as him saying it in his best William Shatner Captain Kirk parody voice.
Looks like I found this a little late to add any original thoughts that haven’t already been covered, but I’d like to add another voice to the “LOVED IT” column. Also to the “would have GLADLY paid for it” column. To the person who thought it was unnecessarily venal to mention wanting to pay for this, I would counter that life costs some [personally variable amount of] money to live well and I’d rather RSB be rewarded enough for his labor that he can afford to spend MORE time writing for us and less time grading Freshman Eng101 papers in order to make ends meet.
Now, off to the westeros forum to read everyone’s take on this over there.
Yes. I would definitely prefer writing to grading freshman papers. Yes. Yes. Yes.
It’s a few days after reading it, so this didn’t exactly jump out at me in the moment of reading.
They adhered to a simplicity that was at once a fanaticism. And they judged the way all Men were prone to judge in those Far Antique days, without patience or mercy.
The conversation overall…it kind of seems to contain patience and small measure of mercy? It seems more reasonable, giving leeway. I mean “It speaks to me…but hey, that’s cool for now, I’ll just let it slide”. They seem a little…contemporary, still? Unless that’s a comment on the contemporary, in which case, ouch, okay.
On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine a conversation with real conflict in it with that lack of patience or mercy, that lasts more than a couple of sentences, granted.
I’m not sure if I am misinterpreting it or making a connection that isn’t there, but did anyone else get the impression that in the passage:
“They had conjectured, the Mangaecca. They had experimented. They had taken captives and inflicted every possible agony simultaneously all in the name of some flimsy purchase, some scant knowledge of Hell. Drawing toenails, while crushing genitals, while setting afire, while murdering children, raping wives, strangling mothers, blinding fathers… They had visited lunatic misery on innocents, and they had found themselves utterly impervious, immune to the least remorse. Some of them had even laughed.”
…that the Mangaecca had done those things to their own children, wives, mothers and fathers? I see “they had taken captives” which would lend itself to interpreting them as unfortunate strangers, but it seems like it would be so much worse (I appreciate that it is *bad enough* as is) if they had visited those horrors on their own relations. I remember from the books that The Mandate were prohibited taking wives, etc., but I don’t recall if the other schools had those same rules in place (or if so, how recent those rules had been adopted). Anyway, it just seemed kind of cool to me to think of them resorting to using people they once cared for in an attempt to find something to compare to the horror of their damnation.
I gotta be honest, I’m a little confused why they went all 120 Days of Sodom after finding out they were damned. It was one part of the story I disliked, at least partially took me out of the whole thing.
Isn’t that kind of like their religion now? The deadly serious business of killing enough people to close off the world from the outside seems like it requires more than just viewing the task as a grim but necessary chore. Unlike the Inchoroi, the Mangaecca began as humans (who knows what they are now…), so they didn’t start off with the benefit of being able to view men as vermin. Once they received their epiphany and converted to Inchoroi-ism, they embraced the ways of their new saviours with a fervour and liberty that only makes sense to the newly converted (of any religion). This isn’t just a fraternity or a bowling league, these guys had to make absolutely sure that there would never be any chance of any of them ever turning back. They *had* to de-humanize themselves, they *had* to retool their internal systems of reward to relish in depravity, they *had* to make sure the conversion to baby-Inchy was complete. And like with all well laid out plans, they had to test. Personally, I’m surprised that *more* of them didn’t laugh during the festivities. If I were an Inchoroi looking for any signs of vestigial humanity in my flock, I’d view *not* thoroughly enjoying the party to be a potential warning sign.
Awesome point, Andrew.
I don’t really buy that. For any who have seen, there is no turning back. If they can only show so many, maybe using dehumanising rites to turn others to the cause. But to me, this story seemed to hinge on “I have seen!”. The whole damnation thing has already dehumanised them, it has already assured that there is no going back.
Man I couldn’t care less about flames versus fires.
“I was thinking about this some more. Gnosis provides a better underlying system to describe reality, which is why it shreds through the Agnosis, but it still describes a world seen with limited sight. Titirga then describes, using the Gnosis, a truer picture of the world and this is what dilutes his damnation.”
Reminds me of something “someone” told me once. “I am the author – why are you trying to tell me the message?” I guess they never read anything about the death of the author 😉
“Approach (1) leads to damnation. Shae and Inchoroi believe approach (2) will save them. However, I think the passage has hinted that in the end, both approaches will not save them from ‘damnation’.”
Well, our sciences have lead us to increasing life spans. While effective – short term or long term – age treatments and the like might turn out to be impossible in our world, I could see Bakker using something like this for the consult to avoid death. Certainly it seems like the inchoroi are, like nonmen, immortal to death that doesn’t involve physical trauma. The mangaecca sorcerer in the story does indicate that “now all he fears is death” or something like that, implying that his pursuit of the tekne will be to avoid death at all costs. That may keep him kicking for a long time. And then there’s the no god. That sealed the wombs of women while it was present, pretty overwhelming power right there, it might have other ramifications for the dead as well.
“The conversation overall…it kind of seems to contain patience and small measure of mercy? It seems more reasonable, giving leeway. I mean “It speaks to me…but hey, that’s cool for now, I’ll just let it slide”. They seem a little…contemporary, still? Unless that’s a comment on the contemporary, in which case, ouch, okay.
On the other hand, it’s hard to imagine a conversation with real conflict in it with that lack of patience or mercy, that lasts more than a couple of sentences, granted.”
Well, I’m not sure it really contained patience so much as not-so-idle curiosity about the progress of the Mangaecca, since Titirga seemed to have his judgment put together for Aurang before he even got there:
““Kill me?” he heard himself say, his tone far from manly…
“No, my friend,” he said, letting his gaze stray to the Inchoroi, hulking and inhuman. “I have come to kill this… obscenity.””
Because of his rivalry/esteem for whatshisname, it seems like he was going to spare him, but as soon as he found out they were “brothers” I bet he would have killed whatshisname too, had he half the chance.
Just remarkable. Scott you have got to put these short stories together in one book and sell them. Christ I would buy multiple copies and give them out as gifts. The sheer scope of what you are doing here is mind boggling. How in the hell do you keep all of it together? A criticism I have of Martin is that he simply let his story get so large that it got out of hand and he lost the plot. Absolutely not the case with The Second Apocalypse. The story just keeps building and these short stories provide fascinating insight into Earwa’s history.
With your short stories I find that I spend little time analyzing how they relate to the larger story of The Second Apocalypse because they are simply so interesting that they stand on their own.
Thanks, 3rdI. Like I’ve said before, a part of me has been living in this world and story since I was a punk – so it seems ‘just all there.’ But I still get caught out on inconsistencies all the time!
@ Callan S., maybe you are right. My comments made sense to me (or seemed to fit) when I wrote them, and they still do now, but I certainly don’t claim to have any deep insight into this–or any other–aspect of Bakkerworld. Thinking about what you said, however, got me thinking about the possibility of self-sacrifice. Once the Mangaecca had seen their damnation, they were of course properly motivated to find a way to avoid it (cue tekne life-extension and get busy genociding), but if they still viewed men as Men and not as vermin then doesn’t there exist the possibility that one of them could have eventually said to himself, “no more of this madness, my soul’s comfort is NOT worth the price of killing all these people, these human beings!” ?
Think whatever we want to about Achamian, he was still a Mandate and therefore properly motivated (the nightmares, the *certainty* of what happens if the consult succeeds) to prosecute his own school’s interests. Although he was as immune to physical torture and the cants as every other Mandate, he was still vulnerable to doubt when his personal relationships conflicted with the mission of the Mandate. Sure, we might say that comparing the motivations of the Mandate and the Holy Consult are like comparing apples to oranges, but I would counter that they are both fanatical in their respective causes. The difference, the edge as I see it, goes to the ones that can eliminate as much weakness as possible. The Mandate attempts this by prohibiting relationships that could cause a conflict of interest, the Holy Consult does this by making such relationships impossible. Who would sacrifice (or even doubt themselves) over a rat, especially when you cream your underoos whenever you can kill one (the more depraved manner the better)?
So, my argument is that I don’t agree that seeing a glimpse of their damnation automatically de-humanized the members of the Holy Consult. I think it ultra-incentivized them to find a way to avoid it, but some “personal growth” work (depraved, shrieking orgies; raping corpses [of family members?!] after torturing them to death; developing a fetish for getting raped by aliens that stink of rancid sweat and rotten fish) was still necessary to sever any remaining ties to humanity–and to ensure no new ties would ever form.
I’d just like to add that I’m not married to this, and am totally open to being persuaded otherwise (or just simply proven otherwise). Right now, for the question of “why did they go all 120 Days of Sodom,” my explanation still works pretty well for me. I’ve been very impressed with the attention to detail and the level of insight (many of which would never have occurred to me on my own) both here and at westeros, so if anyone has a better explanation for the meaning of that passage then I’m all ears.
You get groups who mutilate and murder others in order to reinforce the identity of the group (as in, where are not them). I’d can’t deny that’s there. But it almost seems a garnish in the face of the described damnation situation.
Why would they go all 120 days of Sodom? Do you feel there’s some sort of barrier blocking them doing that, so there must be a further reason thats used to summount that implied barrier?
I think part of the challenge is both Why 120 days of Sodom as well as Why aren’t all the Few being recruited via Inverse Fire showings?
Did Seswatha see the Inverse Fire? Did he understand, while he clawed dragons from the sky, that he was in effect fighting for his own damnation? If so, then how is it that touching his heart ensures loyalty rather than the more likely betrayal?
And once you know about damnation, aren’t you helping those you kill so long as they have the protection of a god? Aren’t you an agent of deliverance?
What happened to those who died when the No-God walked the world? Did their souls come to Oblivion? Likely not, as then the Nonmen who knew they were damned could have committed suicide and been done with it.
With every answer, more questions. Has there ever been a fantasy series with such delicious, ever turning stakes?
Well, the consult, if they reduce the population, basically intend to make Earwa their Harem.
Maybe Seswatha actually plans for a similar reduction? Just not a rape harem in the end? Though maybe everyone has to fondle his beef jerky in it…
All good questions, which I doubt my poor guesses will shed any light on. In response to Callan, I’d just have to re-state that don’t think the Mangaecca’s humanity vanished the moment they met the Inchoroi (and saw the Inverse Fire), I think they became really, really aware of the need to avoid damnation at that point and therefore began the process. In my imagination, the difference is like between a smoker of 20 years who “knows” smoking is bad for them but hasn’t really “got it” yet, and one who gets to see an x-ray of his lungs and a picture of what his lung tissue actually looks like (it *really* sinks in). Once their damnation became “real” to them, they knew that had to do whatever it took to forestall it, and in order to to *that* they had to fully become as much like the Inchoroi as “humanly” possible (heh…). There was no barrier, they just needed to do the work (like me, there is nothing stopping me from getting up an hour earlier and driving to the gym, I just need to do it).
In response to Sajaan, I think Shaeonanra’s announcement that they had found a way to avoid damnation *was* their attempt to recruit the rest of the few. With the death of Titirga–whom I saw as an anomaly in both sheer power and certainty of damnation (as in: not so certain due to his mark)–Shaeonanra was peer in both power and rank of any of the schools. Maybe that was just a miscalculation on their part that a demonstration of their power (the murder of Titirga) coupled with the offer to avoid damnation for the few would be enough recruit more sorcerers. As infernally clever as the Inchoroi are, it wouldn’t be the first time they had misjudged the sensibilities of the races in Earwa. I think I recall something from the appendix of TTT that when the Inchoroi took to the field in one of the early Nonmen-Inchoroi wars that they had horrified their Nonmen allies by wearing human (or nonman, whatever) skins.
I don’t think Seswatha had ever seen the Inverse Fire, but that is just pure, unsupported speculation on my part. I’m a little unclear on the timeline (and too lazy to look it up) about when he and that nonman prince stole in to Golgotterath to retrieve the Heron Spear, or when Seswatha had spent time chained to the decomposing flesh-wall (can’t recall the name), but my guess is that he–and the rest of the world that was warring against the consult–had seen too much at that point to be a willing convert. That’s not to say that given a few years of alien rape that he couldn’t have developed a taste for the scenes he witnessed when he stole the spear, but your guess is as good as mine to why that didn’t happen. I totally agree that the most ideal plan, from the Inchoroi point of view, is that having failed to close off the world during their ancient wars against the nonmen, the next best bet would have been to recruit as many of the Few as possible. I won’t even bother venturing a guess as to why that didn’t happen.
Regarding the No-God, I really can’t speculate too much. I’m still confused by just what it is, what is going on with that whole, “who am I / what do you see” stuff. I thought I recalled that one of the names for it was the Angel of Endless Hunger (fricken awesome name, btw!) so maybe it consumes the souls of whoever dies within a horizon or two distance from it? Wasn’t there some passage somewhere saying that a soul that encounters the No-God travels no further, or something like that? I dunno, man, it’s all great stuff to think about and keep me salivating until I can get my greedy hands on a (hardcover!) copy of TUC.
A fun thought I had. Shae’s description of damnation as revealed by the inverse fire shares some similarities with Akka’s description of the second apocalypse as revealed by the seswatha homonculus that controls his dreams. The consult has referred a few times to “chigra” and specifically to how Chigra _BURNS_ within Akka (or is noticeably NOT present within Inrau who never grasped the heart).
Perhaps there is a connection between the Inverse Fire and Chigra Burns?
Maybe what Ses stole from the Ark wasn’t anything tangible, but was the knowledge, or something of the nature of the Inverse Fire? Certainly there seems to be a very _Deliberate_ thematic parallel in the two abstract-outside forces that motivate the Consult and the Mandate. And it’s an interesting play on the Theft of Fire from the Gods, eating from the tree of knowledge mythic tropes.
Also, I didn’t get from this story that Mek took the Heron Spear into the Ark, just that he tried to use it to attack/penetrate the glamours, and it failed. Perhaps Ses (or someone else) found the Spear elsewhere, in the vicinity of the Ark, but not on the Ark itself.
Also, noted that the Nail of Heaven, the star that is so thoroughly and prominently mentioned throughout the five books is in this story given some background that seems to imply it is very intimately connected to the Ark itself. Westeros forum is speculating the Ark is a drop ship and the Nail is the mothership in orbit above it (gives new meaning to the prophets that have ascended to the Nail of Heaven, heh), or that the Nail is wormhole left by the Ark’s interstellar travel.
I think the appendix of the TTT is clear that Mekeritrig did take the heron spear to the ark in the year 750 of the second age, some 27 years before he and Shaeonanra managed to break the seal. How he effected the transfer to the Inchoroi when he couldn’t open their front door is unclear to me. Maybe they had a slot for incoming mail and he just… slid it through?
Also from the timeline, the year 2140 of the first apocalypse is when Seswatha and the human prince Nau-Cayutl (my mistake in an earlier post for saying it was a nonman prince) stole into the ark ostensibly to recover one of Nau-Cayutl’s bitches and the Heron Spear. It is certain they left with the spear, but there was some debate whether they actually recovered Aulisi. They may have found her, but she might not have been salvageable by that point. Imagine if your high school sweetheart had been kidnapped and forced into a 2-gram-a-day heroin habit while being forced work in a brothel for migrant workers by day and to perform in a donkey show by night (but 100x worse) for a few years. She’s not really the same person any more, and certainly nothing you can bring home to momma.
I’m actually glad I reviewed the timeline in order to write this, because it had totally escaped me that the Inchoroi had seduced a group of sorcerers *before* the Mangaecca. The nonman school of Aporos had gone over to them from almost the beginning, which resulted in the chorae being created to allow the Inchoroi to resist the sorcerers in the C-I wars. Cool stuff.
ahh it’s not certain, I believe the appendix says that Mek ‘delivered’ the Heron Spear to the Ark. It sounds from this story as though he used it to attack the barriers/glamours. If he couldn’t get in or through then the Spear wouldn’t get in or through. Seswatha apparently had the Heron Spear after his and NC’s jaunt through the ark, but that doesn’t mean he found it in the ark. He probably did, but wouldn’t it be funny if he stumbled upon it accidently, on the plains outside the ark where Mek had long ago discarded the weapon, useless against the barriers. :-p otoh, weapons are individual on Earwa, but the inchoroi probably had mass produced weapons, so maybe they just liberated one heron spear of many from a cache.
Also, the diurnal sounds like a really good weapon to use against the ark, long term. like a magnifying glass over an ant farm, park it for a few thousand years and come back when it’s melted the whole damn thing to a big puddle. :-p
Maybe you are right about the spear. That would be kind of hilarious if Seswatha had just kind of found it in the weeds, no worse for wear after having been gently used as a sranc dildo before being discarded in favor of livelier sport. I guess we can’t really know one way or the other (or some other alternative none of us have dreamed). I’d love to read an Atrocity Tale dealing with the Ses&NC ark adventure, but I suspect it would be difficult to write without it being accused as some sort of “torture porn” (as one Amazon reviewer remarked about Neuropath). In my opinion, viva la torture porn!
Regarding the Diurnal as a weapon against the ark, I’m not so sure. Granted, I’m no physicist–in fact, I’m going to try to fill my Uni science requirements *without* taking physics–I still suspect that a spaceship built for interstellar travel is probably equipped to withstand radiation exposure in space and therefore impervious to the relatively low levels that exposure to the Diurnal would subject it to. That’s not to say that their… shield systems(?) or Rad-a-way hull paint weren’t damaged in the crash, so I suppose anything is possible.
One minor thing…Titirga’s totem goes from bronze to gold in the two references to it. Yours, pedantically…
This kind of pedantry, I could use more of! Thanks tonymacaroni.
Long Time Caller, First Time Listener…
Senor Bakker – I love and have recommended your books to everyone who will listen, short of my mother and my wife, who’s quotient of shit-giving nears the negatives. But I digress. Well done, sir, and I can’t wait for the new novel.
That said – and anyone who’s dissected this more than I, feel free to punch me in the groin on this one – something struck me as I read this through the first time and it’s nagging the shit out me:
What if, just if, the idea of damnation is concocted. A ruse. An aberration of faith that is used by the Inchoroi to further some greater diabolical – or even carnally simplistic – goal.
If the Tekne is a physical manifestation of that path, why would the illusion of damnation not be equally as cunning, especially effecting the balance of power between the minority Few and the far larger, brutish quantity of warlike men?
Another thought: Kellhus’ motives, in my mind, are still nebulous. But if he understands that damnation is a lie – which provides the impetus to squarely declare a New Covenant without fear of spiritual recompense – why would he not risk everything to stamp out he revelation of that truth?
I’ll paraphrase a morsel from the last book: If Kellhus succeeds, he prevents the Second Apocalypse and therefore saves the world. If Kellhus fails, he’s united men against the Consult and therefore saves the world. Win/Win, baby.
I argue this: if Kellhus succeeds, the truth of the lie dies with the Consult. If Kellhus fails, the truth of the lie dies with him.
Does that mean that every instance of the vision of Damnation is concocted? Yes. How? Unknown. Does that mean there are far greater – or conversely and simplistically pathological – issues at stake? Definitely. Does that mean our perception of motive is remedial at best?
We get caught up in the faith within this universe, but if Faith is part of the Deception, then what remains?
But those details are for the later books, I’d assume.
Just the .02 from my linty pocket.
Thanks Josh. Damnation is indeed the million dollar question.
Finally got a few free minutes to read this.
Thought provoking to say the least. Honestly it makes me wounder if maybe the consult are correct. Maybe the nonmen were in the wrong and the inchoroi in the right. I don’t know.
I was pretty confused with the description of Aurang. It didn’t paint a clear picture of what the creature actually looked like, aside from being pale.
For example, which way does one place an oyster so that it can be described as set on end? Its pretty much an ellipse. At its wider base, its narrower top, its flatter sides, or its edges?
Or which way does the face open, and is the outer face just a shell like an oyster or is it flesh.
Are the wings literally folded into some kind of hook onto the side of its head, or are they folded into a hook like shape?
A mussel set on its end is probably what I should have said, with the hinge at the neck. I just don’t like that word ‘mussel.’
With the last short story, I admit to being lost within the ruminations of an erratics mind. This time around I clearly get whats happening, yes there are a lot of questions that need answering, but I’m sure that will come in TUC or any other books Scott may write.
Remember folks there is a fine line between good and evil, it all comes down to justification, how the protagonists justify their actions to themselves, what one group see’s as right the other see’s as wrong, ‘ Evil is just a point of view, Anakin…’
Anyhow thank you again Scott really enjoyed that.
P.S. THAT WAS THE BEST COCK JOKE EVER!
This may or may not have been speculated before, but I have always wondered at what the Nail of Heaven is. The fact that it is called ‘the Newborn’ in this story implies that it is a new star, something the Nonmen have not seen. I wonder if it is the mothership of the Inchoroi in geostationary orbit over Earwa?
Just want to congratulate you on another excellant piece of writing Scott. Over the last ten years or so I had really grown away from the genre, was pretty frustrated with the quality of writing overall. I have been so impressed with your books and feel “White Luck Warrior” set the bar on a whole new level. For my money it was the best fantasy book of 2011 by a fair margin. I thought I may have outgrown fantasy for the most part but you have hooked me right back in. The depth, detail and scope of this world are astonishing. Well done sir.
Awesome. You are my target audience to be sure, Suttree! If prose is your bag, you really should check out Cathrynne Valente. She’s die hard fantasy, and makes Jennifer Egan look like a putz.
Some theories.. 😛
Can it be that the current incartation of hundred gods are the unholy consult or at least a creation of theirs?
A collection of souls into singular entities in the outside, capturing souls of those that just died?
Also, in reality the entirety of the Hundred is the No-God? One cannot see one’s self without a mirror metaphorical or otherwise.
Also, esmenet’s womb. Has it been corrupted after the Aurang spilled black semen into her?
Hence her failed offsprings ate monstrosities and the surviving ones are Dunyain bodies with Inchoroi-like souls?
Can this be the truth of the womb-plague the non-men women had suffered?
Also the solitary god is in actual fact the Entirety of the Outside while the dwelling of the Hundred gods a sub-domain of it, ie the Black Heavens?
Damn, that was a great read. I just finished my reread of the first trilogy and was hankering for some more, so this really hit the spot. Neat to see Aurang again, it’s been a while since he popped up.
Do you intend to publish more of these short stories here before The Unholy Consult comes out next year?
Lucky hit while looking for info on releases. Great piece, reminds me why I love the series, can’t wait for the new book.
Excellent appetizer here! Makes it difficult to wait for more Consult revelations!
I read most of the Prince of Nothing trilogy while in college, while having completed the first two of the Aspect-Emperor books a few months ago. Now I have my fiancee hooked on Earwa and, via my voice, she has made it to the WLW just a couple days ago.
In my opinion, in terms of vocal resonance, the WLW is written more smoothly than the TJE. Words tend to roll off my tongue a bit better, and the character’s emotions are expressed a bit more clearer. But I do realize TJE was more of a set-up book.
But getting on the subject of damnation. Excellent insight there. I personally like Scott’s Earwa because it very much mirrors our own world. Religion, politics, mystery, chaos, madness. Damnation? Death? Uncertainty? His narrative makes me reflect on thousands of years of human evolution and devolution in our own world.
I like this passage, because for me, it reveals some important insight, not just the motives of the Consult, but Life in Earwa – as it corresponds with our own.
For me, having been raised a Christian, I have just now come out of its hypocrisy. And, having read this fantasy, seriously enables me to reflect on the nature of the Universe, even as it is reflected in Earwa.
Damnation. I view it as something subjective to the individual, but objective in a collective Unity. The “Outside” changes, is impermanent (as our Universe) based upon creature intent. But intent is based upon individual truth – what is best for the individual at the time he wills his/her intent to be actualized. In a sense, yes, every character and creature in Earwa have the “spark” of the God within. Everyone is a god according to the constant of change. That’s the paradox: the constant of the Universe is Change.
To embrace Uncertainty. Mimara, Achamian and the Skin Eaters have experienced Uncertainty. Terror. Fear. And revelation as a result.
Anasurimbor Kellhus and his Believers must have some fear of Uncertainty. Fear of Death. Damnation. Only as long as Men are conditioned to embrace Certainty they will fear. Life cannot Be without Death. Death is but a phase of Life. No one really dies to be no more. But that can bring up the murky reincarnation principle which I cannot ascertain with any Probability. Herein lies my Certainty of Uncertainty.
Interestingly, I view Mimara as holding a wisdom of Uncertainty. This makes Dunyain Certainty powerless. In my opinion of Uncertainty, one always succumbs to wield power according to Certainty. To possess Wisdom is to hold Power inert.
I only hope (ironically) that Mimara learns to cultivate her perception of Damnation as something not of Absolutes, but of Impermanence.
My view of some of the major characters:
Anasurimbor Kellhus: A psychopath, which is now even more evident from his offspring. It seems he deceives even himself to assume he is beyond Certainty while he himself operates through it. That quote from Bakker rings correct in my view: Doubt begets knowledge. It is conviction (certainty) that kills. There is no way for either a physical body OR an spirit of energy to remain Absolutely Unchanging in Form. (Unless Bakker is operating under different Universal principles in Earwa). Therefore, Kellhus, as he has indeed progressed in character throughout the narrative gives away easily the false impression of his Absolute, Certain Form. If he is indeed a psychopath, then he is being true to his deceptive self. But if he is not, then he is truly mad, as Moenghus asserts. As an aside, psychopaths are very expressive with their egos. I can imagine Kellhus as being the No-God very well. As a metaphor, this is exactly what the Ego is: a Whirlwind of “Reason.” Rationality seems to go hand in hand with the Certainty principle of Survival. The reason of the neo-cortex divides, discriminates, defends, and, at times, destroys. The ego, as a process, sucks everything up into it’s Vortex of Certainty and excludes a World of Changing Truth; because Impermanence does not discriminate to create. It accepts Everything, Everyone, and No-Thing. “Things” always exclude, because, as a definition, you cannot define without limiting, setting boundaries on it.
I seem to remember the Principle of Via Negativa. In our own world, we have ancient Gnostic and Apocryphal texts philosophizing in this way.
Drusas Achamian: A Gnostic of Earwa, who seems to mirror very much the Gnostics of yore in our own history. Sometimes I speculate if Mr. Bakker has researched a bit into the Gnostic Nag Hammadi Library material. The Archons, in texts such as the Hypostasis of the Archons, has some similarity to the Inchoroi in Earwa.
As an interesting aside, I feel that the original Christians were Gnostics who were supressed in an Imperial, colonial co-optation process. These were the Pagans, the indigenous, Mother Earth inhabitants who were very learned in the Mysteries of the Great Mother, much as Yatwer is described in Earwa. I am a bit confused about Yatwer, because some of her devotees, such as Psatma Nannaferi seem just as dogmatic in the dangerous beliefs to which the Believers adhere. Yatwer scriptures? Hatred for believers? Another belief in the Wheel of Samsara.
Researching our own world’s history of war, imperialism, et al, I want to say I am very pleased to see how Bakker handles the Aspect-Emperor’s New Empire co-optation process in a fantasy world such as Earwa. Kellhus reminds me very much of Roman emperors who routinely went into foreign indigenous lands to spy and intentionally create division within various tribes. Rouse the masses to fight against one another under the illusory premise of some kind of external Savior, who offer Absolute Truth in the form of Salvation. One good external savior myth is the historical Jesus Christ. It’s obvious Kellhus fits the bill, especially when he is hoisted on the Circumfix.
Conversely, Achamian, Mimara and co. represent the Gnosis, which, in our own world at least offers a liberation for Man in the form of the Logos, which is not Reason, but Experience. Trust not in a rational Absolute God, but a Changing “God” who you can experience as a Process of Impermanence. Furthermore, Logos was conceptualized as a “spark” of divinity within all creatures in and of Mother Earth. Who, in the Eastern traditions couples, metaphorically, with Christos, an archetype of male energy to produce a “Child,” the child of “God,” who enters the “Kingdom” of his/her own accord. Not some external, historical, flesh and blood god-man. Just “Know Thyself,” as the ancient Gnostic saying goes.
It is very interesting, therefore, that I find an emphasis on “qirri” in the narrative. There is evidence in Eastern spirituality and even a bit in the ancient Western, Gnostic Mystery cults of the pre-eminence of “entheogenic” plant substances, whether magic mushrooms, cannabis, or ayahuasca. To the Shamans of old (of which Scott curiously mentions a couple times in the narrarive), the Nature Spirits, of whom reside in the ether, or the”Outside, they imbibe their users with either extra-sensory, “god-like” vitality, OR they completely immerse yourself in a dimension that utterly dissolves your sense of Reason – Aha! Thus, what they say of “ego death.” The ancient Mother Earth rites of embracing Uncertainty.
It would be nice to learn of some of these Nonmen Mystery rites. Seems to me like Nil’giccas was an initiate.
Finally, on topic with this article, from the brief meeting with Titirga, Shaeonanra and Aurang, I do not know what to think of them yet. I tend to sympathise with Titirga. One who seems to understand that his “damnation” does not truly rest upon Certainty, but the embracing of BOTH the Light and the Darkness. I could be wrong with Bakker’s intent of this character. This ideal could also be Shaeonanra’s. But to KNOW of both Light and Darkness like Aurang, and then STILL desire to manipulate those who are conditioned to resist (e.g. Men), THAT is error in itself. Why keep the veil closed to Men? Why refuse to reveal true Chaos to them? Why keep Men and “Non”men under the Illusion of Evil? Absolute Duality, Diurnal is an illusion. The morality of Men and of Nonmen is an invention. Absolute Damnation is an invention. Each creature in Earwa ought to experience their own versions of damnation according to the degrees of their own conditioning. And conversely, their own “Judging Eyes” opening unto degrees of enlightenment, according to the degrees of their own “topos.”
I could foresee Achamian finally learning to be content with Uncertainty, and recognizing that, despite his long journey to find the “Truth,” he will have had returned to a place already seen and experienced. To rediscover his “Consciousness.”
I see Kellhus feigning enlightenment, even feigning any revelation via meditation.
And, could Seswatha having defeated the “No-God” be a metaphor for the sorcerer attaining some kind of enlightening revelation? To many Men, as in this world, interpret too many thing wholly literal. Men can’t help it. Being concrete means a degree of Certainty. Archetypes, Ideals, seem to evolve into Uncertainty. Kellhus is an Ideal which seems to be incongruent with his corporeal form. So, the “glue” that Kellhus knows holds together his status rests, ironically, in keeping Men in the Unknown of his “Absolute god-hood.” But this “god-hood” can only seem to manifest to Men in his corporeal form, according to the dimensional senses of Men. This limits him, so the Impermanent Truths of the Universe become known via his manifestation in corporeal form. Except, as soon as anyone claims Impermanent Truths in Absolute, corporeal terms, it binds Impermanence to an illusory Static form, a corruption. This incongruency ought to be obvious, because Kellhus IS exposed to Death, is he not? This whole facade Kellhus operates upon is consistent with “closing the veil from the Outside.”
Well, this is my opinion, of which I can never be Certain about! Awesome writing, Mr. Bakker. Props to you.
I was reconsidering my speculations.
I’m not sure as to what degree both factions in this piece do or do not act upon determinist principles.
It seems as if Titirga conflates his Being with the Ground of Being and Shaeonanra cunningly takes out his whole Ground in the battle. As if to reason that Shaeonanra unites with the “Darkness” that is the Inchoroi, Aurang. “The Darkness that comes Before” comes into play again here, in that possibly Shaeonanra has alighted upon the revelation, the “apocalypse.”
But the problem is that in the narrative, it is “assumed” that the Consult are working to “close the veil” from the Outside. How is that even possible, now, that if a Man (correct?) such as Shaeonanra unites with the Inchoroi, that Men can be closed from the Outside? To have a Man pass through the veil with an “alien,” defeats the purpose of there being a “real” Outside. It must be an illusion. Conflating this Ground of Being (the Universe and it’s Laws) with ourselves, we therefore separate the other Grounds (dimensions) by rational thought, which is an illusion in and of itself because we identify with it.
This brings to mind the supposed “Gift” of immortality brought to the Nonmen by the Inchoroi. It seems the Nonmen are in error. They confused the Ground of Being (thought, free will, intent, manifestations of this dimension) with the Being-Not-Of-Any-Ground. This error then seems to propagate among Men. “Being” seems to “Be” synonymous with “Becoming,” the concept advocated by Nil’giccas. That seems to be an illusion. Impermanence exists, only inasmuch as there is Ground that is Being or Becoming. So something “Beyond” determines what is, but I can’t even use this terminology succinctly, because it really comes down to “No-Thing” which is Uncertainty.
So, I have to reassess my vision of the No-God. Because even the Process or Ground is an illusion. I would then sympathise with Shaeonanra and Aurang in the attempt to access the No-God, if indeed Mog Pharau is “No-Thing.” This would then be archetypal “coupling” with the “apocalypse.” The acceptance of the Uncertainty Principle.
I speculated that a cabal of the Nonmen were Maengecca. I speculate that many Nonmen are in grievous error by possibly being the cause of misinterpreting and manifesting the Tekne by way of skin-spies, Sranc, etc. I speculate that Shaeonanra’s motives and actions here in this piece are incongruent with the the supposed “science” of the Tekne and the nature of the “No-God.”
Maybe I’m just mad.
Just now reading this. Incredible story. Rather than put together a rational post, I’m just going to list a series of random thoughts
 Titirga – A master of both the Gnosis and Pshuke. Interesting. He may the only instance of this to exist in Earwa.
 “They had no inkling of the greater violence their sorcery had unleashed.”
A “greater violence”? What does this mean? The only greater violence I can think of is the No God. Is this the birth of the No God? Is Titirga somehow related to the No God?
 ” ‘Does that not trouble you?’ the Hero-Mage pressed. ‘That you have but one eye!’ ”
Again, the recurring theme of blindness opening a new eye. I’m reminded of this line from the Priest of Ajokli (the “fool”) from TWLW:
“The blindness of the sighted”.
This implies the god Ajokli is blind.
WHAT exactly do the blind (Titirga, Ajokli, Cish, etc) see that the sighted miss? Is this somehow tied to the No God asking “What do you see”? Is he asking for the sight of the “blinded”? (or vice versa?)
Perhaps the Inchoroi suffer also from “the blindness of the sighted”? Perhaps, like the TWLW, they see one thing that APPEARS to be something else.
 Why is Shaeönanra so hesitant to speak of the “Inverse Fire” aloud? Is this somehow related to his old custom of looking to omens and signs? Or is it something else?
 ”Yes… But who is our new master?”
“A lunatic God… perhaps. The Hells that you think you see. Something… Something adulterate, foul. Something that craves feasting, that hungers with an intensity that can bend the very Ground.”
The possibility of something deceiving the Consult into believing a “Truth” that’s false. Perhaps the consult believe they “Know”, when in fact they’ve been the ones deceived all this time. Very interesting.
Tons of food for thought here.
the inverse fire is a skype call back to the inchoroi’s ruined home planet dude
I enjoyed “The False Sun” and the chancee to see from Shaeonanra’s POV. His rationale for the Mangaecca’s actions leaves plenty of room for thought.
Noting that the setting was the ruined Mansion of Viri, will subsquent books provide greater geographic detail in the maps attached as appendices? For example, the maps up to the White-Luck Warrior don’t display Kelmeol, Viri, or any number of other ruined cities/realms (particularly in the North). Recognizing that you undoubtedly have reasons for including what you have, do you have plans for this (even if it’s only released on TPB)?
Will the personage referred to as “Emilidis/The Artisan” be explored in subsequent books or Atrocity Novels? It is implied in the story that Emilidis/The Artisan survives at least near enough to 1119 that he could give Titirga the Diurnal. Did he become an Erratic, die, or join the Consult?
Why does this School, alone, have no diluted version in the time of the NE? It would seem that the efficacy of sorcerous creations would spark some interest continuing something of their work (apart from the Scarlet Spires torture device). Were they utterly wiped out by the Apocalypse or were they subsumed into other things (such as the Consult)?
I’m glad you enjoyed, JDilk! I’m afraid I have a moratorium on “World o’ Earwa” questions, though, simply because once I started, I would never be finished!
Understood! I hope the moratorium isn’t permanent though I imagine it’s being lifted will probably coincide with The Unholy Consult being released.
It appears as though Shaeonanra and Aurang lose the ability to use sorcery after their acts were deemed “outrages” by whatever force judges them, either referring to their destruction of the Nonman mansion, the murder of Titirga, or both. This is something that is unprecedented in the series, although we are not entirely sure whether this prohibition is permanent.
As goes without saying, the Consult have committed a vast number of atrocities (as have several sorcerers and schoolman throughout the course of the series). Not once have readers seen one of the Few being stripped of their abilities. This could imply that there is more significance to specific location than has been revealed before. We have encountered places that are imbibed with a dark power (such as the Plains of Mengedda or Cil Aujus). If sheer atrocity cuts off a sorcerer’s power, then we would have seen multiple cases of this circumstance. The key must be in the desecration of the specific location (and possibly the murder of Titirga, but what would he represent in this case?).
Correct me if I misinterpreted the end of the story.
In January I decided to wait until The Unholy Consult was released before reading this, but after I read the first chapter excerpt on the forum I could wait no longer!
Overall I enjoyed the story, but If I am to give my (not required) opinion I think there is room for improving it here and there, especially the dialogues between the three characters.
The sentence “Aurang is my guest” said by Shae sounds a little bit out of place to me.
The implications of having the Inchoroi freed are enormous: the glamour over Min-Uroikas is “broken” and Shae seems like trying to minimize what he has done with those words.
Anyay, if I’m not wrong from TTT, Aurang did not get his most famous name until the Apocalypse breaks. So maybe using a different name could be more appropriate even if I understand the reason why you have opted for Aurang.
So wonderful. I can hardily wait for the book to come out. It seems I have been waiting for a long time. but I know that this is the great work and then however long it takes will be worth it. thank you R Scot Bakker
Thanks, Gamin. I hope so. The yardstick stretcheth, I fear, with every passing month.
We will be the Inchoroi, I gather. (Obviously they have read Tolkien…)
I like the idea of filling the gaps between books with short stories that actually provide real context for the series – instead of something set in the “world” but has almost nothing to do with the major plot threads. It’s giving back to the people who buy your books in a very real way with the added bonus of keeping them on the hook i guess – especially when they are as meaty as this one was. Fans as surrogate editors is useful and fun too – despite the fact everyone wants to extrapolate on the characters and plot – i can only imagine it feels like doing a concert and dangling the mic in the front row instead of singing.
I’ll do my bit of speculating just for fun. Inchoroi from “ground” where sorcery doesn’t exist – possibly see Earwax as the place of destiny or whatever because sorcery is possible there (and maybe nowhere else in the universe ? nice to see some reference to stars as other suns and a conventional approach to the astronomy). All their weapons sounded technology based (lasers), the tekne (genetic modification). Interesting to see they can learn sorcery, though i’m not sure of the timeline and who taught them the gnosis – Nin”janjin wasn’t a mage from memory, maybe not until mekertrig. I wonder if the inchoroi are/were all “the few” or just a random sample of them. So few left doesn’t matter, because they are twins i guess both the 2 left are capable.
The no god certainly can’t be a god and has to be a consult creation – i thought originally pure tekne, but now something with sorcery added into the mix. Presumably “no gods” just take a long time to “make” and the next one is about cooked. I like how you make him ask who and what he is – smacks of frankensteins monster which fits well with the tekne/genetic engineering thing.
Don’t really get the obsession with escaping eternal damnation in the afterlife given they have some secret of eternal life which pretty much precludes them ever having to face an afterlife if they play their cards right – i guess that plays into everyone eventually wanting an option for “nothing ever after” when they’ve had enough of consciosness – Even Camus would admit there are only so many cups of coffee you can drink
Oh and Chorae.- aporos (blessing something ?) , and that city where you can’t do any sorcery – i hope that doesn’t become something pivotal, because i hate a twist without a decent amount of foreshadowing – and we know almost nothing about it.
I found the judging eye stuff confusing, like there is an absolute morality you can tap into – i can only guess the morality is “gods”. So when you are seeing with gods eyes, the chorae are holy. I wonder if chorae re-assert gods control over reality rather than the control sorcerers have, because they are little blessed tears. if Kellhus is so sure he has an answer for damnation, lets see the bastard swallow a chorae.
On the logos and the white luck warrior – this is the pre-ordination, causality bit where it’s a race for Kellhus to become a self moving soul, before mr pre-ordination white luck catches him ? I like that bit, though i have no clue about the Yatwer link.
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