Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy
Book 2: The Warrior Prophet
by R. Scott Bakker
The First March
Welcome to Chapter Four of my reread. Click here if you missed Chapter Three!
No decision is so fine as to bind us to its consequences. No consequence is so unexpected as to absolve us of our decisions. Not even death.
—XIUS, The TRUCIAN DRAMAS
It seems a strange thing to recall these events, like waking to find I had narrowly missed a fatal fall in the darkness. Whenever I think back, I’m filled with wonder that I still live, and with horror that I still travel by night.
—DRUSAS ACHAMIAN, THE COMPENDIUM OF THE FIRST HOLY WAR
The first quote is saying that when you can make bad decisions and do not personally pay for them, that still doesn’t absolve you of the consequences, even if they weren’t expected. We see Kellhus making a decision in this chapter, sending Saubon to seize Gedea despite Cnaiür saying this was a bad plan in one of the previous chapter. But Kellhus needs to grow his power. He has to take risks. And if it does go badly, Kellhus won’t be there to be affected by the consequences—Saubon and his men will.
But there are more decisions made in this chapter, and the series, that all spin off and have their own consequences that are rarely predicted by all. Even Kellhus misses a few things, as we see him having a lapse in this very chapter.
Achamian understands the events we are reading now in a way the present Achamian doesn’t (how Kellhus manipulates him). But that knowledge doesn’t keep him from being ignorant in the future that he writes this book.
Early Summer 4111 Year-of-the-Tusk, the fortress of Asgilioch
Achamian and Esmenet awake in each others arms, holding each other tight as the camp wakes up. Esmenet grows shy, demure, and Achamian realizes she’s afraid. Today, she would meet the powerful friends in his life.
“Don’t worry,” he said, catching her eyes as she fussed with her hasas. “I’m far more particular when it comes to my friends.”
A frown crowded out the terror in her eyes. “More particular than what?”
He winked. “Then when it comes to my women.”
She smiles, her spirits lifted. They leave the tent and, arm-in-arm, he introduces her to Xinemus. He only gives a curt greeting back and points to smoke. The Fanim had attacked a village called Tusam. Proyas wants to survey the aftermath. Xinemus then leaves, shouting orders. Achamian and Esmenet watch the horseman leave and she grows more nervous that she “would shame him.” But he can’t find a way to lift her spirit. Then Kellhus joins them, commenting that the fighting has started.
With something of a bashful air, Achamian introduced Esmenet. He inwardly winced at the coldness of her tone and expression—at the bruising still visible on her cheek. But Kellhus, if he noticed, seemed unconcerned
“Someone new,” he said, smiling warmly. “Neither bearded nor haggard.”
“Yet…” Achamian added.
“I don’t get haggard,” Esmenet said in mock protest.
They laughed, and afterward Esmenet’s hostility seemed to wane.
Serwë arrives, and she is cautious of Esmenet, especially after she notices Esmenet talking with the men. Achamian finds it troubling, but thinks the pair will become friends out of sheer necessity of escaping the “masculine clamor” of the camp. Achamian finds the camp oppressive, and suggest they see the Holy War form a distance. Kellhus agrees, saying, “Nothing is understood until glimpsed from the heights.” Serwë, which was unusual for her, is delighted to come along. Esmenet is also happy, holding Achamian’s hand.
They search for a while in the surrounding hills to find an advantage point while patrols warn them of dangers. But Kellhus uses his status to order them away, remarking that they have a Mandate Schoolman. Esmenet is nervous, reminded that the holy war is marching towards actual battle. She reflects on her life as a “long-walker,” a whore following an army, and how she had done so much walking, even when working on her back or knees. She had never pleasured so many men before. But despite that, she still would observe the land, learn what she could from swimming to phrases in foreign languages. And then it all changed last night when she heard Achamian’s voice.
She ran to him—What choice did she have? In all the world, he had only her—only her! The outrage she’d thought she would feel was nowhere to be found. Instead, his touch, his smell, had exacted an almost perilous vulnerability, a sense of submission unlike any she’d ever known—and it was good. Sweet Sejenus, it was good! Like the small circle of a child’s embrace, or the taste of peppered meat after a long hunger. It was like floating in cool, cleansing water.
No burdens, only flashing sunlight and slow-waving limbs, the smell of green…
Now she was no longer peneditari; she was what the Galeoth called “im hustwarra,” a camp-wife. Now, at along last, she belonged to Drusas Achamian. At long last she was clean.
She did not speak about Sarcellus to Achamian, fearing ruining their relationship. She is happy and won’t let anything break them apart. And what she told him was mostly true. If he wasn’t different from Sumna, so desperate, she might have told him. She used to tease him about being a madman, but now she realizes he looks like one wit his hollow stare and terrifying words. She realizes he is going mad because of Kellhus. She thinks he is being a stubborn fool for not telling him.
According to Achamian, women had no instinct for principle. For them everything was embodied… How had he put it? Oh yes, that existence preceded essence for women. By nature, the tracks traveled by their souls ran parallel to those demanded by principle. The feminine soul was more yielding, more compassionate, more nurturing than the masculine. Consequently, principal was more difficult for them to see, like a staff in a thicket, which was why women were likely to confuse selfishness for propriety—which, apparently, was what she was doing.
But for men, whose inclinations ranged so far and so violently, principle was an ever-present burden, a yoke they either toiled under or cast off altogether. Unlike women, men could always see what they should do because it differed so drastically from what they wanted.
At first she believed him, until she realized the “principal that galled her, not some dim-witted feminine confusion of hope and piety.” She had given herself to him, given up her work as a prostitute finally, and she was asking for a similar thing in return. To give over a man Achamian had only for a few weeks. “A man, moreover, that according to his own principles, he should surrender.” She wanted to shout at him but she doesn’t. “If men must spare women the world, then women must spare men the truth—as though each forever remained alternate halves of the same defenseless child.” She has to show him the truth.
Serwë walked at her side, every so often casting nervous glances her way. Esmenet said nothing, though she knew the girl wanted to talk. She seemed harmless enough, given the circumstances. She was one of those rare women who could never be deflowered, never be despoiled. Had she been a fellow whore in Sumna, Esmenet would have secretly despised her. She would have resented her beauty, her youth, her blond hair, and her pale skin, but more than anything she would have resented her perpetual vulnerability.
“Akka has—” the girl blurted. She blushed, looking down to her feet. “Achamian’s been teaching Kellhus wondrous things—wondrous things!”
Even her endearing accent. Resentment was ever the secret liquor of harlots.
Esmenet considers if Achamian teaching Kellhus was what kept Achamian from betraying the man since she knows of his strong bond to his former students. Before she continue this idea, Serwë gushes for joy, spotting flowers. She rushes forward to stare at them while Achamian informs her that they are pemembis. Serwë has never heard of them, and Achamian, winking at Esmenet, talks about their legend while Esmenet stands in uncomfortable silence with Kellhus, examining him. Finally, unnerved by his grace, she breaks the silence, bringing up his time with the Scylvendi. She asks about their scars. He tells her about the Scylvendi philosophy on life, that man is “the smoke that moves.” They see life not as a thing that can be owned but a line. It can be braided into another, like his tribe, herded like a slave, or stopped. This action, ending a line, is most significant The swazond doesn’t celebrate it but merely marks where two competing lines intersected. “The fact Cnaiür, for instance, bears the scars of many means he walks with the momentum of many.” Swazond aren’t trophies but records.
Esmenet stared in wonder. “But I thought the Sclyvendi were uncouth…barbarians. Surely such beliefs are too subtle!”
Kellhus laughed “All beliefs are too subtle.” He held her with shining blue eyes. “And ‘barbarity,’ I fear, is simply a word for unfamiliarity that threatens.”
That unsettled her. She notices Achamian watching with a knowing smile as she begins to experience Kellhus. Abruptly, Kellhus says she was a whore. She gets defensive. He asks her what it was like to have sex with strangers. She gives a simple answer, nice sometimes other times a chore, but she had to eat. Kellhus, however, asked her what it was like. She looks away and gets jealous of Achamian by Serwë. She deflects Kellhus but he persists. She feels a surge of emotions and answers sometimes she felt like the ruts of wagon wheels. But she felt something else other times.
“Whores are mummers—you must understand that. We perform…” She hesitated, searched his eyes as though they held the proper words. “I know the Tusk says we degrade ourselves, that we abuse the divinity of our sex…and sometimes it feels that way. But not always… Often, very often, I have these men upon me, these men who gasp like fish, thinking they’ve mastered me, notched me, and I feel pity for them—for them,not me. I become more… more thief than whore. Fooling, duping, watching myself as though reflected across silver. It feels like… like…”
“Like being free,” Kellhus said,
She’s troubled by revealing something so intimacy yet relieved, like she had set aside a great weight. She asks how she knows that but are interrupted by Achamian asking what they learned. Kellhus answers, “What it’s like to be who we are?”
As Achamian leads them through the hills, he remembers Seswatha walking these same trails two thousand years ago, fleeing the No-God after the defeat at Mehsarunath. He has trouble separating Seswatha hopeless fear as he cowers in a nearby cave from reality. Esmenet notices, asking if he was all right. He lies but she knows and holds his hand to give comfort. He manages to shake the deja vu of Seswatha as they move away from the dead man’s path. But, because of that, Achamian has led them too far to return to the Holy War today. So they camp by ruins of an old Inrithi chapel. It is a beautiful ruin, not destroyed but abandoned, which Serwë finds sad. Achamian talks about how the Nansur abandoned these lands after the Fanim conquered Gedea.
The ruins belonged to a college of the Thousand Temples called the Marrucees, which was destroyed long ago. Kellhus asks about the Colleges, and Esmenet—since she had bedded many priests and was from Sumna—answered. Achamian wanders away to mope, reminded of her past as a whore, and Esmenet follows him out and they make love. Afterward, he asks her about Kellhus.
A flash of anger. “Is there nothing else you think about?”
His throat tightened. “How can I?”
She became remote and impenetrable. Serwë’s laughter chimed across the ruins, and he found himself wondering what Kellhus had said.
“He is remarkably,” Esmenet murmured, refusing to look at him.
So what should I do? Achamian wanted to cry.
He doesn’t, and she asks him if they do have each other, which he agrees to. And she asks what does anything else matter. But he grows angry, pointing out that Kellhus is the Harbinger. She wants to flee form everything, hide, just the two of them. He complains of the burden, which she shouts isn’t theirs. She begs him to flee.
“This is foolishness, Esmenet. There’s no hiding from the end of the world! Even if we could, I’d be a sorcerer without a school—a wizard, Esmi. Better to be a witch! They would hunt me. All of them, not just the Mandate. The Schools tolerate no wizards…” He laughed bitterly. “We wouldn’t even survive to be killed.”
“But this is the first time,” she said, her voice breaking. “The first time I’ve ever…”
Achamian wants to hold her, seeing the way her shoulders fall, but Serwë’s panic cry stops him. Riders approach with torches. Fanim might approach. They go and join Kellhus, who has put out their fire, and he points out the approaching torches.
Esmenet is afraid, fearing they are going to kill them. They are heading straight for us. Kellhus says they can’t hide. Their fire was spotted. Achamian casts a spell, summoning the Bar of Heaven, a bright pillar of light that illuminates the ground like a mini sun, startling the approaching riders. They turn out to be Galeoth led by Prince Saubon, men of the tusk. Esmenet grows fearful, spotting Sarcellus with them.
A resonant voice shouted across the darkness: “We search for the Prince of Atrithau! Anasûrimbor Kellhus!”
The many-colored tones were unknitted, combed into individual threads: sincerity, worry, outrage, and hope… And Kellhus knew there was no danger.
He’s come for my counsel.
Kellhus calls out a welcome, saying the “faithful are always welcome.” Another voice shouts about about sorcerers. Kellhus recognizes a Nansur nobleman but finds his accent is hard to place specifically. Saubon jokes away the Nansur’s outrage, saying he is in a bad mood because the light made him soil himself. Achamian asks Kellhus Saubon’s purpose and Kellhus lies, saying he knows not, though he speculates Saubon, being eager to take the fight to the Fanim, might be up to mischief since Proyas went to inspect the village. Saubon reaches them, saying, “We tracked you all afternoon.”
“And who is ‘we’?” Kellhus asked, peering at the man’s fellow riders.
Saubon made several introductions, starting with his grizzled groom, Kussalt, but Kellhus spared them little more than a cursory glance. The lone Shrial Knight, whom the Prince introduced as Cutias Sarcellus, dominated his attention…
Another one. Another Skeaös..
“At last,” Sarcellus said. His large eyes glittered through the fingers of his fraudulent face. “The renowned Prince of Atrithau.”
He bowed lower than his rank demanded.
What does this mean, Father?
Kellhus has many variables to consider as he meets with Saubon, his attention on Sarcellus as they pointless talk. He notes that Achamian hates Sarcellus and deduces that something happened between them in Sumna involving Inrau. But Achamian has no idea Sarcellus is a skin-spy He also notes that Esmenet had been Sarcellus’s lover and she’s afraid that he’s here to take her from Achamian. Achamian asks how they were found, and Saubon points to Sarcellus, saying “he has an uncanny ability to track.” Then asks the skin-spy where he learned it.
“As a youth,” Sarcellus lied, “on my father’s western estates”—he pursed his lusty lips, as though restraining a smile—“tracking Sclyvendi…”
“Tracking Scylvendi,” Saubon repeated, as though to say, Only in the Nansurium.. “I was ready to turn back at dusk, but he insisted you were near.” Saubon opened his hands and shrugged.
Achamian looks to Kellhus to say something and banish the awkwardness, and normally he would, but he is too deep in his thoughts to give anything but “rote responses.” He mirrors the others expression since “self had vanished into place, a place of opening, where permutation after permutation was hunted to its merciless conclusion.” Kellhus recognizes there is great danger and he had to understand what was going on. Sarcellus jokes about tracking by scent, but Kellhus realizes it is truth. Kellhus has no idea of all their capabilities and must be cautious. He wonders if his father knows of them.
Everything had transformed since he’d taken Drusas Achamian as his teacher. The ground of this world, he now knew, had concealed many, many secrets from his brethren. The Logos remained true, but its ways were far more devious, and far more spectacular, than the Dûnyain had ever conceived And the Absolute… The End of Ends was more distant than they’d ever imagined. So many obstacles So many forks in the path…
Despite his initial skepticism, Kellhus had come to believe much of what Achamian had claimed over the course of their discussions. He believed the stories of the First Apocalypse. He believed the faceless thing before him was an artifact of the Consult. But the Celmomian Prophecy? The coming of a Second Apocalypse? Such things were absurd. B definition, the future couldn’t anticipate the present. What came after couldn’t come before…
Kellhus needs to understand his circumstances. His ignorance had already caused problems simply by studying Skeaös and arousing the Emperor’s suspicious, which unmakes Skeaös, and then convinced Achamian Kellhus was the Harbinger. Kellhus is in great peril. He needs to keep his secret of seeing skin-spies from Achamian, which would tip the man into telling his school. Kellhus was on his own.
Kellhus begins to think the Consult knows he unmasked Skeaös. He had noticed Imperial Spies watching him. Which would mean Sarcellus would be a probe. They have to know if it was an accident or if Kellhus had recognized Skeaös. Unless Sarcellus was here for Achamian, since he had direct contact with the man and indirect via seducing Esmenet. He could be sounding out Esmenet capacity for “deceit and treachery.” She had not told Achamian about her relationship with Sarcellus.
The study is so deep, Father
A thousand possibilities, galloping across the trackless steppe of what was to come. A hundred flashing through his soul, some branching and branching, terminally deflected form his objectives, others flaring out in disaster…
Kellhus considers unveiling Sarcellus before the great names. But he discards that as too dangerous since it would get the Mandate involved. And he couldn’t have that “until they could be dominated.” He considers indirect actions, a secret spy war, killing Sarcellus. Also not good, revealing to the Consult that their spies were unmask. It would lead to the same result as direct action. He considers inaction, to force the enemy to second guess themselves, to wonder, to question and worry if he has unmasked them or not. He realizes the Consult would want to understand him before destroying him. It would buy him time.
He was one of the Condition, Dûnyain Circumstances would yield. The mission must—
“Kellhus,” Serwë was saying. “The Prince has asked you a question.”
Kellhus blinked, smiled as though at his own foolishness. Without expectation, everyone about the fire stared at him, some concerned, some puzzled.
“I’m-I’m sorry,” he stammered. “I…” He glanced nervously from watcher to watcher, exhaled, as though reconciling himself to his principles, no matter how embarrassing “Sometimes I… I see things..”
“Me too,” Sarcellus said scathingly. “Though usually when my eyes are open.”
Kellhus is troubled that he had closed his eyes and doesn’t remember it. It’s a lapse. Saubon admonishes Sarcellus for being rude. Kellhus makes a joke to soothe ruffled feathers while he struggles to understand what Sarcellus wants. He then asks why a Shrial Knight would come to a sorcerer’s fire. Sarcellus says it is Saubon that has brought him but before he can say why, Saubon wants to speak to Kellhus privately
Kellhus wanders what his father wants of him as he considers possibilities. He follows Saubon away from the others and Saubon asks if he really does see things. Dream things. Kellhus realizes Saubon fears him. Saubon is impatient with Proyas’s caution and wants to strike into the heathen lands. He would have already if it wasn’t for Kellhus’s interpretation of Ruöm’s destruction
“Then why come to me now?”
Because what you said…about the God burning our ships… It had the ring of truth.”
He [Saubon] was a watcher of men, Kellhus realized, someone who continually measured. His whole life he’d thought himself a shred judge of character, prided himself on his honesty, his ability to punish flattery and reward criticism But with Kellhus… He had no yardstick, no carpenter’s string. He’s told himself I’m a seer of some kind. But he fears I’m more…
“And that’s what you seek? The truth?”
Saubon saw faith as something to be bargained with. He fears making a mistake and thinks Fate has given him a chance. Saubon begs to know what Kellhus has seen. He is an experienced general, believing he can avoid Fanim trap. Kellhus reminds him of Cnaiür’s words at the council, how they will use horses to trap them. Saubon is dismissive, his nephew scouts Gedea and as seen nothing. There’s no host. He says the skirmishers Proyas chases are a distraction, that the enemy has retreated to Shigek to await reinforcements Gedea is available to be taken by someone courages. Kellhus sees Saubon believes his words and Kellhus knows that Saubon has even fought Conphas to a standstill.
Cataracts of possibility. There was opportunity here… And perhaps Sarcellus need not be confronted to be destroyed. But still.
I know so little of war. Too little…
Saubon is desperate for validation of his plan, that he can seize Gedea. He demands to know the truth. Kellhus says he rarely sees the future, instead seeing into the hearts of men. Saubon asks what Kellhus’s sees in his own heart.
Expose him. Strip him of every lie, every pretense. When the shame passes…
Kellhus held the man’s eyes for a forlorn instant.
…he will think it proper to stand naked before me.
Kellhus says he sees a man and a child. The man wants to be a king by his own hand, greedy for people to see him. The child cringes form his father, a child who is alone, unloved. Kellhus considers possibilities on how to proceed next and realizes “with the variables were so many, everything was risk.” Kellhus asks if Saubon heard something. He pretend to swoon and Saubon catches him.
“March,” Kellhus gasped, close enough to kiss. “The Whore will be kind to you… But you must make certain the Shrial Knights are…” He opened his eyes in stunned wonder—as though to say, This couldn’t be their message!
Some destinations couldn’t be grasped in advance. Some paths had to be walked to be known. Risked.
“You must make certain the Shrial Knights are punished.”
Esmenet is silent in Kellhus and Saubon’s absence, cursing Sarcellus presence. Right now, Sarcellus chats with Serwë about Kellhus, who is more than happy to talk about him. Fear grips Esmenet. She knows Achamian’ll find out she was Sarcellus’s lover and their new relationship will die. She flees the fire, settling in the darkness, watching the group. She notices Achamian talking to Serwë now and that Sarcellus is gone. Sarcellus comes at her from behind, mocking her for being a whore. She feigns ignorance. He goads her into slapping him. He catches her wrist and begins touching her. She begs, not wanting Achamian seeing this. He can’t because he’s by the fire, blinded by the bright light while she’s hidden in the darkness. She resists, telling Sarcellus she’ll never do it even as she feels his heat.
And then Kellhus interrupts them, asking if there’s a problem. Sarcellus releases her and Esmenet says nothing, she was just startled. Esmenet fears Kellhus had heard them. Sarcellus retreats after a moment. Esmenet is relieved and whispers thanks to Kellhus.
“You loved him, didn’t you?”
Her ears burned. For some reason, saying no never occurred to her. One just didn’t lie to Prince Anasûrimbor Kellhus. Instead, she said, “Please don’t tell Akka.”
Kellhus smiled, though his eyes seemed profoundly sad. He reached out, as though to touch her cheek, then he dropped his hand.
“Come,” he said. “Night waxes.”
Esmenet and Achamian search for a place to sleep. She realizes there is no hiding from the world. She feels a fool for being a whore at Achamian’s level. He was a Mandate Schoolman. She was sure Achamian loved her, but “Seswatha loved the dead.”
She tells Achamian her mother read the stars, which was illegal in the Empire for caste-menials. Her mother never taught her, telling her it was better to be a whore than to know astrology. She asks Akka if it is real. He says no because the Nonmen believed the sky was a great void and stars are faraway suns.
Esmenet wanted to laugh, but then, as though suddenly seeing through her reflection across waters, she saw the plate of heaven dissolve into impossible depths, emptiness heaped upon emptiness, hollow upon hallow, with stars—no suns!—hanging like points of dust in a shaft of light. She caught her breath. Somehow the sky had become a vast, yawning pit. Without thinking, she clenched the grasses, as though she stood upon a ledge rather than lay across the ground.
“How could they believe such a thing?” she asked. “The sun moves in circles about the world. The stars move in circles about the Nail.” The thought struck her that the Nail of Heaven itself might be another world, one with a thousand thousand suns. Such a sky that would be!
The Nonmen learned this from the Inchoroi. They sailed here from the starts. She asks him that even though astrology isn’t real, he still believes “the future is written.” That Kellhus is the harbinger. Achamian does. She says he is more and Achamian cries, saying she finally understand why “he torments me.” She remembers Kellhus asking her about being a whore.
She no longer wanted to run.
The Mandate cannot know, Akka… We must bear this burden alone.”
Achamian pursed trembling lips. Swallowed. “We?”
Esmenet looked back to the stars. One more language she could not read.
I love Achamian and Esmenet together. They know each other so well, they know what to say to ease each other’s burdens. To give comfort.
When Kellhus arrives in the morning, he noticed Esmenet’s tone and the bruise. Then he says just the right thing to engage both their wits, providing a bonding moment over laughter. Just the thing to soothe Esmenet’s coolness. She is still protective of Achamian, hating the pain Kellhus has caused him. And it is overcome so easily.
Then Serwë recognized Esmenet’s beauty. Worse, she notices how she talks with the men, with Kellhus, like an equal. A little jealous is stirring in Serwë.
Esmenet is always absorbing the world, learning, seeking knowledge even as nothing more than a camp follower. And then it all changed for her when she found Achamian. The simple joy she felt at his reunion is so beautiful She can’t even be angry at him yet. She was just so happy to find him. And by finding him, she is removed from the life that had soiled her, a life that she had adopted simply to survive and was condemned for it.
Esmenet’s quite right to be offended by Achamian’s words about women not understanding principal. It’s insulting to be told that she just can’t understand the things he does. She does understand and it’s easy to see why he should turn Kellhus in. Of course, she hasn’t been affected by Kellhus so can’t understand just the quandary Achamian is in. She hasn’t been exposed to the way Kellhus uses words to make you love.
“If men must spare women the world, then women must spare men the truth—as though each forever remained alternate halves of the same defenseless child.” This is a deep insight in the difference between how men and women act in relationships. Women always joke about protecting “men’s fragile ego” while men are prone to sacrificing their bodies to care and protect their families whether through hard labor or war, etc.
No, Esmenet, anyone can drink resentment’s liquor. It can fester in all of us but it’s so hard to see when you’re on the outside and think it is only you and your kind that do it.
It is easy for us to dismisses those we see as lesser, to call them barbarians or primitives and not think that they have any deep thoughts. We forget that they are humans just like we are.
And Kellhus begins his seduction of Esmenet, getting her to reveal “intimate details,” making her feel better by sharing them which in turn causes her to reconsider Kellhus.
Achamian can’t help but be the teacher everywhere he goes, including old ruins. He has to share his knowledge.
Achamian is still a little sore about Esmenet being a whore, getting a little angered at the source of her knowledge on the Thousand Temple. It’s why he walks away to think.
Achamian, you really should have listened to Esmenet. Flee, just the two of you. But there are always so many reasons to stay, so many fears of taking a chance, dreading what he means. And they are legitimate fears. Of course, what Esmenet wants to do is to hide, and that’s never going to work forever. But you can’t blame her for wanting to protect their relationship. For the first time in her life, she has let herself love a man, surrendering herself to him. That’s a scary thing for any person to do.
Saubon’s simple call is enough for Kellhus to understand the man’s purpose and deduce he’s not a threat. This is why Kellhus is so terrifying. He’s like a robot in human flesh. He strives to reduce emotion. He is the übermench of Nietzsche, willing to do anything for his goal.
Kellhus can’t quite place Sarcellus’s accent. Maybe the skin-spies can’t mimic voices as well as a Dûnyain can dissect them. And, of course, Sarcellus is eager to meet the man who unveiled Skeaös (which the Consult learned about from the skin-spy masquerading as the Empress in a previous chapter).
Damn, Kellhus is good. He notes that Achamian winces in memory of being struck and figures out Inrau was involved with what happened between Sarcellus and Achamian. Back in book 1, Achamian pretends to Inrau’s uncle and goads Sarcellus into hitting him to keep the man from being suspicious Which galls Achamian because with his sorcery, he could have killed the man.
It is disturbing how Kellhus’s self vanishes when he is deep in his thoughts. He becomes a place, like he was trained to do as a child sitting on the mountaintop, meditating. If a man has no real self, is he still a man?
Kellhus is realizing that his people did not know half of what they thought. Perhaps those first Dûnyain shouldn’t have deliberately forgotten so much when they first set up in Ishuäl Now he’s even questioning cause and effect. Something he would say is ridiculous, and yet there is so much he is learning that violates the natural world, like sorcerery.
We see Kellhus working through his thought process like a chess master. Of course, real life has even more variables than chest (which does have quite a lot). It is always fascinating to see how his thoughts works, how he considers things, cold, methodical. Fascinating and disturbing.
Kellhus gets too deep into his thoughts that he loses the conversation and has to cover for himself. It’s a lapse that the probably hasn’t had since childhood. He’s stretching himself to his limits trying to figure out all these different probabilities. And this is why his father summoned him. Of course, as Dûnyain, he uses his lapse to his advantage, forwarding his prophet plan
Kellhus has to start gambling now. There are too many variables for him to master. He has to make decisions or be paralyzed by inaction, overwhelmed by the possibilities. It’s a trap that he avoids by realizing he has to take risks. So Kellhus makes his first prophecy. If it works out right, he’ll be acclaimed. If he gets it wrong, it’ll be disaster. Plus, he hopes to get Sarcellus killed in the process.
Sarcellus chatting to Serwë on the outside looks like a handsome man flirting with a woman, but he’s really interrogating her. Bakker is skilled at this, putting this into the background, something very off-hand and even innocent.
What would have happened if Kellhus didn’t interrupt her and Sarcellus? She wanted to resist, but she was feeling desire for the man. And she didn’t want Achamian finding out. If she cried out and struggled, questions might be asked. Poor woman. This is why secrets are bad. But we always find reasons to convince ourselves why they’re so important to keep.
When Achamian and Esmenet go off to find a place to sleep, they hold hands with “palm-to-palm urgency of young lovers.” But when they lie down, they groan like an old man and woman. Nice contrast between how they feel and how they are.
Astrology is forbidden to the poor because only the rich can know the future. Shows the rich fear the poor. They have to. They are vastly outnumbered. When the poor get restless, the rich die.
What is the Nail of Heaven? At first blush, the pole star, but it is far too bright for that. It illuminates like moonlight. And it’s not a moon. It’s fixed. Finally, in The Great Ordeal, Bakker dropped a line that the Nail of Heaven appeared not long before the Inchoroi crashed on this world. Maybe a satellite they put into a geosynchronous polar orbit or something. Though it is impossible to have a geosynchronous orbit over the poles. They have to be at the equator. So curious to learn what this is.
Achamian finally has someone with him, someone who understands about Kellhus and we he can’t share it. They can’t run from this like she wants. They would be found. After all, Sarcellus found them in the middle of nowhere today.
This part of the Warrior Prophet might be my favorite section of the whole series. I really enjoy Achamian and Esmenet’s relationship. And though as Bakker comes closer to bringing the second of the three series to a close (the Unholy Consult should be out in a 2017), I still hope they can be reunited. But this is Grimdark Fantasy we’re reading. I doubt we’ll get a happy ending.