Reread of The Warrior Prophet: Chapter Three

Reread of Prince of Nothing Trilogy

Book 2: The Warrior Prophet

by R. Scott Bakker

Part 1
The First March
Chapter 3
Asgilioch

Welcome to Chapter Three of my reread. Click here if you missed Chapter Two!

The proposition “I am the centre” need never be uttered. It is the assumption upon which all certainty and all doubt turns.

AJENCIS, THE THIRD ANALYTIC OF MEN

See your enemies content and your lovers melancholy.

AINONI PROVERB

My Thoughts

Achamian is at the center of his dilemma. To him, the fate of the universe rests on whether or not he turns in Kellhus. And while it might, it is still an arrogant belief. We are all the centers of our own universe. Sometimes, it is hard to see beyond that. Certainty and doubt are opposites of each other and yet the both come from the same place of “I must be right” or “I must be wrong.”

The Ainoni won is harder to parse. Achamian does have a schadenfreude-esque moment with Esmenet, taking pleasure in the fact she was fearful of the end of the world because it meant she believed But I don’t think that’s what the proverb mean. And it does say lovers not spouse. A content enemy is easy. Contentment breeds complacency which make sit easier to exploit someone. Perhaps a sad lover is equally easy to exploit. You can make them happy, come to have them rely on you. It’s a destructive belief but says a lot about the Ainoni character. They pride themselves on Jnan, on playing politics and double speak to its utmost, even wearing masks to hide their faces and not betray emotion.

Late Spring 4111 Year-of-the-Tusk, the fortress of Asgilioch

An earthquake strikes the ground around Ruöm, the fortress of Asgilioch, and destroys it. For centuries, the fortress had guarded the Nansur Empire from the Fanim jihads. It’s destruction is heralded as a disaster. Coithus Saubon’s Galeoth horseman were the first Men of the Tusk to discover the catastrophe. Survivors of the fortress proclaim the Holy War’s Doom. The Great Names begin to gather before the ruins, though the Ainoni’s host is absent, slowed by the Scarlet Spire’s large baggage trains. As the Holy War waits, rumors and “premonitions of disaster” fly.

While waiting on the Ainoni, Proyas calls a council of the Great and Lesser Names in the ruins of the fortress. They argue, Saubon wanting to march immediately and seize the passes of the Southern Gates, calling the ruins an illusion of safety, a “shibboleth of the perfumed and the weak-hearted.” Conphas points out the need the Scarlet Spire before they can march since Skauras has a large host assembled and the Cishaurim might be among them. Proyas and Cnaiür agree with Conphas, but no argument sways Saubon’s group. The group seems deadlocked until Kellhus speaks, saying the loss of Ruöm is not an accident or a curse.

Saubon laughed, shouting, “Ruöm is a talisman against the heathen, is it not?”

“Yes,” the Prince of Atrithau replied. “So long as the citadel stood, we could turn back. But now… Don’t you see? Just beyond these mountains, men congregate in the tabernacles of the False Prophet. We stand upon the heathen’s shore. The heathen’s shore!”

He paused, looked at each Great Name in turn.

“Without Ruöm there’s not turning back… The God has Burned our ships.”

The Holy War agrees to wait for the Scarlet Spire.

Far from Asgilioch, the Grandmaster of the Scarlet Spire, Eleäzaras, is in his chair while slaves wash his feet, one of the few comforts he has on the march. So far, it’s been an easy journey which makes him feel ashamed at being so tired at the end of the day. But he realizes it’s not a physical weariness, he used to walk all the time on missions for the Scarlet Spire, but the fact he dreads reaching Shimeh, and he is relieved each evening they haven’t got there yet.

Great decisions, he [Eleäzaras] reflected, were measured by their finality as much as by their consequences. Sometimes he could feel it like a palpable thing: the path not taken, that fork in history where the Scarlet Spire repudiated Maithanet’s outrageous offer, and watched the Holy War from afar. It didn’t exist and yet it lingered, the way a night of passion might linger in the entreating look of a slave. He saw it everywhere: in the nervous silences, in exchanged glances, in Iyokus’s unrelenting cynicism, in General Setpanares’s scowl. And it seemed to mock him with promise—just as the path he now walked mocked with with threat.

He dwells on the issues besetting them, the irony of a School mixing with a Holy War, the Nansur Empire plotting with the Fanim, the Mandate playing a game, their spies in Sumna all executed, the Shriah working “some dark angle.” He tells himself that regret is “the opiate of fools” as he relaxes, enjoying his new slave girl, a daring wench. He is about to enjoy her when a servant entered announcing a petitioner from the Mysunsai School named Skaleteas wants to speak to him. The man has ridden from Momemn and will speak only to Eleäzaras

Eleäzaras is not happy to be interrupted by the “whore.” The Mysunsai School are mercenaries, selling their talents Eleäzaras is not happy and lets Skaleteas know his displeasure at the breaking of protocols. Skaleteas rushes ahead with his news, explaining his the Auditor of the Imperial Family. He then asks about negotiating a fee. Eleäzaras finds that very low class. He doesn’t answer, and Skaleteas grows nervous and then adds it is about a new Cishaurim spy.

This gets Eleäzaras’s attention. Instead of negotiating a price, he speaks sorcery, scaring Skaleteas into speaking. He tells about Skeaös being a skin spy and what happened in the dungeon in Momemn at the end of The Darkness That Comes Before. Eleäzaras is shocked to learn the news. Eleäzaras grows interested when Achamian enters the story. Eleäzaras latches onto Achamian and the skin spy speaking in a tongue and the fact the skin spy recognized Achamian. Then it broke free and killed it over Achamian’s objection. He then describes the face coming apart and how the spy was “a mimic without the Mark!” Skaleteas insists it is Cishaurim work, part of their Psûkhe.

Numbness spilled like water from Eleäzaras’s chest to his limbs. I’ve wagered my School.

“But their Art is too crude…”

Skaleteas looked curiously heartened. “Nevertheless, it’s the only explanation. They’ve found some way of creating perfect spies… Think! How long have they owned the Emperor’s ear? The Emperor! Who knows how many…” He paused, apparently wary of speaking too close to the heart of the matter. “But this is why I rode so hard to find you. To warn you.”

Eleäzaras deals with his shock, then tells Skaleteas he will have to stay here to be interviewed Skaleteas objects since he has a contract, which Eleäzaras declares dissolved. Skaleteas, apologetically, says that is not possible. He just wants his money.

“Ah yes, your fee.” Eleäzaras stared hard at the Mysunsai, smiled with deceptive mildness. Poor fool. To think he’d underestimated the value of his information. This was worth far more than gold. Far more.

The Mysunsai’s face had gone blank. “I supposed I could delay my departure”

“You suppose—”

At that point, Eleäzaras almost died. The man had started his Cant the instant of Eleäzaras’s reply, purchasing a heartbeat’s advantage—almost enough.

Skaleteas’s lightning hits Eleäzaras’s wards. The pair trade attacks and use their wards for protection. Eleäzaras easily defeats Skaleteas before the Javreh bodyguards and Iyokus can enter. He’s shocked, demanding to know what is happening seeing Skaleteas in pain but alive. Eleäzaras hands over Skaleteas to Iyokus for interrogation and demands to know where Achamian is.

“Drusas Achamian must be brought to me,” Eleäzaras snapped, turning to Iyokus. “Brought to me or killed.”

Iyokus’s expression darkened.

“Something like that requires time… planning… He’s a Mandate Schoolman, Eli! Not to mention the risk of reprisals… What do we war against both the Cishaurim and the Mandate? Either way, nothing will be done until I know what is going on. It is my right!”

Before Eleäzaras can answer, he insists on feeling Iyokus’s face. He does and feels “proper bones” beneath his fingers.

Achamian is alone for the first night since they left on the march because of the meeting of the Great Names. Everyone but “the sorcerer and the slaves” were invited. So he is getting drunk. In the two weeks since telling Kellhus his dilemma had changed everything It was a rash act and did not ease his burden like expected. Now he sees anguish in Kellhus, doubling his burden. Kellhus asks what the Mandate would do to him.

“Take you to Atyersus. Confine you. Interrogate you… Now that they know the Consult runs amok, they’ll do anything to exercise the semblance of control. For that reason alone, they’d never let you go.”

“Then you mustn’t tell them, Akka!” There had been an anger and an anxiousness to these words, a cross desperation that reminded him of Inrau.

“And the Second Apocalypse. What about that?”

“But are you sure? Sure enough to wager an entire life”

A life for the world. Or the world for a life.

“You don’t understand! The stakes, Kellhus. Think of what’s at stake!”

“How,” Kellhus had replied, “can I think of anything else?”

Achamian reflects on a story a Yatwar Cultic priestess had told him about how they used two sacrificial animals, one to watch the other day so there is a nonrecognition of the sacrifice. Otherwise, it’s just pointless slaughter. They even had calculated the value “One lamb for ten bulls.” Achamian understands now what she meant. Achamian is now overwhelmed by his dilemma Which is why he is drinking.

Out of desperation, Achamian begins teaching Kellhus algebra, calculus, and logic, rational disciplines to “impose clarity” on his soul. Of course, Kellhus masters it all, even explaining that the famed philosopher Ajencis based his work on a “more basic logic, one which used relations between entire sentences rather than the subjects and predicates. Two thousand years of comprehension and insight overturned by the strokes of a stick across the dust.” Achamian demands to know how. “This is simply what I see,” Kellhus answers with a shrug.

He’s here, Achamian had thought absurdly, but he doesn’t stand beside me… If all men saw from where they stood, then Kellhus stood somewhere else—that much was undeniable. But did he stand beyond the pale of Drusas Achamian’s judgment?

Ah ,the question. More drink was required.

Achamian pulls out his satchel and his map he made of all the players in the game, looking at the names and how they were connected. Only Anasûrimbor Kellhus remained alone, isolated. “Like arithmetic or logic it all came down to relations.” Achamian had inked relations between the Consult ant the Emperor, between Maithanet and Inrau. On and on. But he has no idea where Kellhus fit.

Achamian suddenly cackled, resisted the urge to throw the parchment into the fire. Smoke. Wasn’t that what relations were in truth? Not ink, but smoke. Hard to see and impossible to grasp. And wasn’t that the problem? The problem with everything?

He decides against it, knowing he’s too drunk to make the decision, and instead decides to go smoke hashish. “Why not? The world was about to end.”

Achamian searches for the camp followers as he searches the camp. He thought he would trust Anagkë, Goddess of Fate, since she is known as the Whore. But she led him astray. After jocking about being well-endowed, Achamian gets directions to the camp followers. He moves through rutting couples, looking for something to distract him. Achamian notices how young men of the Men of the Tusk are, as they vomit from too much drink. He sees girls as young as ten selling their bodies and boys smeared in cosmetics. There are also craftsmen selling their goods, smithies repairing equipment, and cultic priests. There were also beggars

He finds a prostitute in the shadows but when passing torch light shows ulcerated lips, he drops a copper coin and flees. He then finds a group of prostitutes dancing around a flame together, trying to attract clients but staying together for mutual protection. He notices a Norsirai girl that attracts his attention He ignores the others and chooses her. She leads him to her blanket and he’s eager. They haggle over the price.

In this particular language, the man was forced to deride his own prowess in order to strike a fair bargain. If he was poor, he complained of being old, infirm, and so on. Arrogant men, Esmenet had told him once, usually fared poorly in these negotiations—which, of course, was the point. Harlots hated nothing more than men who arrived already believing the flattering lies they would tell. Esmi called them the simustarapari, or “those-who-spit-twice.”

They settle on a price, two silver talents, and she’s triumphant over the high price. Achamian finds her, despite her lush figure, girlish and guileless. Her youth excites him. He half-expects her mother to burst in an berate him. Then he wonders if her girlishness is an act. He realizes the front of her tent is open, but she doesn’t care if they are watched. He’s just about to take her when he spots Esmenet outside.

Achamian chases after Esmenet, crying her name. He sees her with a Thunyeri warrior and doesn’t understand why she ignores him. He debates using sorcery to stop her, but feels Chorae in the surrounding crowd. The Thunyeri takes her down an alley and he suddenly wonders how she could be here. He thinks its a trap.

If the Consult could fashion a Skeaös, couldn’t they fashion an Esmenet as well? If they knew about Inrau, then they almost certainly knew about her… What better way to gull a heartsick Schoolman than to…

A skin-spy? Do I chase a skin-spy?

In his soul’s eye, he saw Geshruuni’s corpse pulled from the River Sayut. Murdered. Desecrated.

Sweet Sejenus, they took his face. Could the same have happened…

In a panic, he rushes after and reaches them. It turns out not to be Esmenet, just someone who looks familiar. The Thunyeri isn’t happy, thinking Achamian is trying to take his whore, and beats Achamian. He is thrown to the ground, convulsing, sobbing, crying out Esmenet’s name.

Then he felt the touch. Heard the voice.

“Still fetching sticks, I see… Tired old dog.”

The real Esmenet has found him. She helps him walk. He’s stunned that’s her. Then he notices the bruise on her face. She’s been punched, too, though she jokes that is nothing compared to Achamian’s face. He weeps when he really realizes, through his daze, that t is her and they cry together.

Afterward, they head into her tent. He is still stunned, asking why she left Sumna. She was afraid. They kiss and then have sex. During it, Achamian says “Never again.” He promises that nothing, not even his school, will take her away from him.

For a time, they seemed one being, dancing about the same delirious burn, swaying from the same breathless centre. For a time, they felt no fear.

They enjoy each other for a while, “apologies offered for things already forgiven.” Finally, Achamian asks after her belongings. She doesn’t have much. He wants her to stay with him and she agrees. They leave, strolling like lovers. As they walk, her realizes something must have driven her from Sumna to the Holy War and then something had kept her from seeking him out. But he doesn’t want to ask these questions, so drunk on meeting her again. He doesn’t want to lose that. Achamian finds himself studying Esmenet as they watch a performance. She seems so new to him, noticing new details about her appearance

I must always see her like this. As the stranger I love…

As time passes, Esmenet notices that Achamian has a burden. He always used to pretend to be alright, even when Inrau died. But not now. He begins explaining about the Mandate Schoolman suffer and she realizes that he’s learned something more. She wants to know, but Achamian can’t. Then she asks if he wants to know why she left. He doesn’t. She gets angry and talks about her custom, the men she’s been with, acting different. Achamian grows angry with her for throwing the custom in her face, all the men she’s bedded. He wants to ask the question why she left Sumna. Why she hid from him. Before he can, she heads to a group of harlots.

The harlots are her friends. She introduces Achamian and they know him. One harlot, Yasellas, is very bawdy and makes jokes about her work which brings laughter from the other prostitute which reminds Achamian of men laughing at dirty jokes. Esmenet goes to her tent for her belongings. In her tent, he asks her why she told him that.

“Because I had to know,” she replied, looking down at her hands.

“Know what?” What makes my hands shake? What makes my eyes dart in terror?”

Her shoulders hitched in the gloom; Achamian realized she was sobbing.

“You pretended that I wasn’t there,” she whispered.

That confuses Achamian. She explains about the last night at Momemn, at the end of the last book, when Achamian walked by her in a daze. How happy she was to see him and then how he ignored her. He’s even more confused. She grows angry, demanding why he ignored her. “Was I too polluted, too defiled? Too much a filthy whore?” He tries to speak to her, but she’s on an angry tirade. He grows angry and she flinches, like she expects him to hit her. That cuts through his anger as she starts crying. They’re both beaten, both outcasts.

“That night you’re talking about… Sweet Sejenus, Esmi, if I didn’t see you, it wasn’t because I was ashamed of you! How could I be? How could anyone—let alone a sorcerer!—be ashamed of a woman such as you?”

He explains that he found the Consult that night. He talks about remembering nothing of his walk back. He told her everything except Kellhus. She asks him questions, like she always did, pressed against him. She realizes he’s been avoiding talking to the Mandate and he tries to change the subject. But she wont’ let him. He then talks about how he met an Anasûrimbor Esmenet knows the significance of the name because he told her about the prophecy She grows scared.

She feared, Achamian realized, because she believed… He gasped, blinked hot tears. Tears of joy.

She really believes… All along she’s believed!

“No, Akka!” Esmenet cried, clutching his chest. “This can’t be happening!”

How could life be so perverse? That a Mandate Schoolman could celebrate the world’s end.

He explains his reasons for suspecting Kellhus as the harbinger. She begs that Achamian surrender Kellhus to the mandate. He doesn’t want them to destroy Kellhus. She still urges him with no hesitation “only cold eyes and remorseless judgment. For women, it seemed, the scales of threat and love brooked no counterweights.” She has made her decision. One life is worth it. He tries to explain how Kellhus is one man worth risking the Apocalypse to save. But he has trouble explaining it the first time and tries a different analogy.

“There’s many… many grounds between men. Some are mutual, and some are not. When you and I speak of the Consult, for instance, you stand upon my ground, just as I stand upon your ground when you discuss your… your life. But with Kellhus, it makes no difference what you discuss or where you stand; somehow the ground beneath your feet belongs to him. I’m always his guest—always! Even when I teach him, Esmi!”

She’s shocked that he teaches Kellhus, which makes Achamian feel like a betrayer, and he quickly assures her that he’s not teaching her sorcery, which he is grateful for. He explains that the man’s intelligence would make him into something powerful. Stronger even than Seswatha. Esmenet likes that even less and urges him to tell the Mandate. Esmenet realizes it is guilt over Inrau’s death is the reason Achamian protects him. Because Achamian thinks he killed Inrau.

“And what if I do? Does that mean I should relent a second time? Let those fools in Atyersus doom another man that I—”

“No, Achamian. It means you’re not doing this—any of this!—to save this Anasûrimbor Kellhus. You’re doing it to punish yourself.

He stared, dumbstruck. Was that what she thought?

“You say this,” Achamian breathed, “because you know me so well…” He reached out, traced the pale edge of her breast with a finger. “And Kellhus so little.”

“No man is that remarkable… I’m a whore, remember?”

“We’ll see,” he said, tugging her down. They kissed, long and deep.

We,” she repeated, laughing as though both hurt and astounded “It really is ‘we’ now, isn’t it?”

He tells her he feels hollow without her. “Isn’t that ‘we’” She agrees, recognizing the feeling. They have sex again, but Esmenet doesn’t act like the harlot “hoping to abbreviate her labor, but with the clumsy selfishness of a lover seeking surcease—a lover or a wife.” Achamian realizes that this is as much as any whore can give.

A skin-spy listens to them wearing a harlot’s face. It reflects on how it is immune to the needs of the flesh. They smell like animals to the skin-spy. But it understood their desire, because it had similar ones, only for killing, as the architects intends Those hungers give it direction.

There was ecstasy in a face. Rapture in deceit. Climax in the kill…

And certainty in the dark.

My Thoughts

The most careful laid plans can be undone by nature. The first test of the Holy War comes at the hands of an earthquake. Bakker is always good about showing random chance’s effect on events. This entire passage is the times when Bakker shifts gears from his limited 3rd Person POV to a omniscient narrators voice, sketching out historical events without the narrative colored by any one character’s thoughts.

Shibboleth is a new word for me. It means, according to the New Oxford American Dictionary, “a custom, principle, or belief distinguishing a particular class or group of people, esp. a long-standing one regarded as outmoded or no longer important.” It sounds like a name out of Lovecraft for some dark, primordial entity lurking in the cosmos.

Again, Kellhus earns more respect of the Great Names by being listened to and further his agenda of positioning himself as a prophet, interpreting the will of God for them even if he makes no overt claim of prophethood.

Eleäzaras is stressed. He has wagered his entire school and now has the slow march towards Shimeh to dwell on the “what if” questions. Which are some of the most insidious questions our minds can ask of us, leaching in, driving us wild. Has he destroyed his school for vengeance?

And just when he’s relaxing, the mercenary Skaleteas arrives wanting to speak with him. Isn’t that just the worse, you kick back, relax after a long day and someone wants to talk to you and just want to relax with your body slave or the TV. The TV is probably more relatable.

A White-Sash Peralogue of the Mysunsai Order is about all we ever learn about this school in the books beyond that their mercenaries. Who knows what the title signifies. Is that a high ranking? Probably from how Skaleteas says it.

Skaleteas took the same interpretation of the skin spy as the Emperor. The Cishaurim He’s a very sniveling individual, always groveling and haggling, even wanting to know why Eleäzaras knew Achamian’s name and what interest the Scarlet Spier could have with the Mandate. And then, just when Eleäzaras is confident he can capture and make the man disappear, Skaleteas almost kills Eleäzaras Almost.

We get our first look at a proper sorcerous duel between two Angogic Schoolmen. Using Wards to hide behind, attacking with fiery birds and lightning bolts. Eleäzaras sees overcoming Skaleteas as a riddle. He has to find the right answer to solve him and kill him. Which he does.

Bakker reintroduces a number of plots with the Eleäzaras section, including how strong the Mandate are. Eleäzaras has no issue taking a Mysunsai sorcerer captured, even one who works for the Imperial Palace, but capturing Achamian, a field agent, is something that makes his spy master object to and demand answers. It is a dangerous risk.

Why does Eleäzaras want Achamian so badly? Last book, he believed the Mandate were mutilating people for dark reasons. A member of the Javreh, the bodyguard of the Scarlet Spire, was found with his face cut off after meeting with Achamian (in actuality, a skin spy killed him and planned on replacing the man but then Achamian left the city). Now with the fact that Achamian spoke with the spy in a foreign tongue and tried to keep it alive (to be interrogated, but Eleäzaras doesn’t know that) he sees Achamian as holding answers about a spy that can’t be seen. If it is a Cishaurim spy, what does that mean for his school.

Humans always have a preference for the semblance of control, to pretend like our lives aren’t controlled by random chance. We would prefer to stick our fingers in the dike and pretend no problem caused it to leak in the first place.

Notice how Achamian thinks of Kellhus and Inrau a lot. This is not accidental. Kellhus has figured out that Achamian responds to his students and mimics what Achamian most enjoys about his students, about Inrau in particular, his favorite. Then Kellhus exploits it to keep Achamian from telling the Mandate about him. Being captured by the Mandate would ruin all of Kellhus’s plans.

One life sacrificed for the world or the world sacrificed for one life. That is a philosophical question. The greater good could be one answer, the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. But that’s a dangerous philosophy. Much evil can be done in the name of that philosophy Of course, if the world will end, wouldn’t you have to sacrifice anything to save it, including Kellhus. But Achamian is a skeptic. He always has doubts. And that holds him back.

The Inrithi face is a mix of their old paganism worshiping the Hundred Gods, and then Inrithi coming along and saying the Hundred were all aspects of a single God. So you have two castes of priests, the cultic priests, like the Yatwarian priestess, who follow the old ways, and then an shrial priest who follows the teachings of Inri Sejenus, cobbling together the old with the new. Also, Yatwar’s first mention. Her followers play a big role in the second series.

Poor Achamian. How can you condemn a man who so thoroughly shines above you? Who might stand beyond mere mortals. Achamian is seeing all that Kellhus can give humanity, insights that are beyond even Ajencis, the greatest philosopher, this worlds Socrates or Plato. Works that the foundations of modern thought are built upon. Poor Achamian. Can’t blame the man for drinking with such impossible decisions before him.

Fate is a Whore in Bakker’s world. She’s capricious, promiscuous you one thing but gives you another. You can never trust her to lead you right. But it is also an entity you try to bargain with. You do good acts hoping something positive will come to you. Like the concept of Karma. It’s no coincidence in this chapter we have actual whores, a mercenary called a whore, and Fate. You bargain with all three.

Camp followers might seem anachronistic to modern armies, but in fact, they’re just in uniform. The support personal, mechanics, logistic officers, chaplains, the supply driers, supporting the actual men who fight on the front lines. But ancient armies also marched with families, merchants, and, of course, the prostitutes. Any soldier’s wife who loses her husband may very well find herself turning to that option to feed her and her children.

Interesting that Achamian chooses a Norsirai girl over the other Ketyai prostitutes Serwë is Norsirai and Kellhus definitely has an attraction for her.

Standard haggling behavior, belittle yourself, your wares, your ability to pay to drive down the price. Love how arrogant men do badly in negotiating with prostitutes

The skin-spies are so insidious. They have to make you paranoid over everything if you let them. Anyone could be a skin-spy but yourself. It could make a same man crippled by paranoia if he dwelt on it.

As happy as I am for Achamian and Esmenet to find each other, to get the next few months of happiness together, it still irks me at how fast they did get back together. Bakker has them almost together at the end of the last book but chose to have Achamian be in such a daze from the revelation he didn’t even see her and to have Esmenet so shaken by that she doesn’t even try to get his attention. And then, in chapter 3, they’re back with no real obstacle. Achamian just…stumbles on her by chance. Bakker is usually better about how his characters move about, maybe he had plans that didn’t work out and he had to changes things.

Achamian just wants one night to enjoy his reunion with Esmenet before reality comes knocking and he has to ask her the questions dancing in his mind. No one wants the good times to end before they have to.

Esmenet’s tirade about her custom is interesting on how the Ketyai (brown-skinned) men like the Norsirai (white-skinned) girls. While the Norsirai like the Ketyai girls. People like what’s different, what’s exotic.

The whole discussion between Esmenet and Achamian, their anger, their crying, their opening up and telling each other what has happened is so well written. I love their scenes. They make a great couple. She believes him. She always has. And he finally has found that person he can share his burdens with.

It is easy for Esmenet to condemn Kellhus because she hasn’t met him yet. She didn’t get to know him before having to make the decision.

We see Esmenet’s intelligence when she realizes Inrau is the reason he protects Kellhus. Like Kellhus, Esmenet sees the vulnerability he has for his dead student and the guilt that his death is the Mandate’s, is Achamian’s, fault.

Esmenet giving herself to Achamian, taking her pleasure from him instead of giving up her body for his pleasure, is a loving act. Achamian is right. That’s not how she acts with her clients. How she’s ever really acted with him. Right there, she’s changed. She’s accepted he won’t leave her like she had always feared before, why she always took her custom when he was with her.

And then the skin-spy watching him. Probably the same skin-spy that killed Geshruuni in book one and who Achamian spotted following him in the Angora later on in the same book. Give some insight into what the Consult likes in their servant. They are aroused by fear and death, their appetites for lust channeled into something even darker by “the architects.”

Bakker plants seeds for the future plots of this chapter here. Achamian is in a lot of danger and doesn’t even know it. And Esmenet just falls back into the story. She’s what Achamian needs. He’s been so lost since the end of Book 1. Bakker does a good job on having the Scarlet Spire interpret events in a way that makes sense for their world view while being so wrong. And, of course, raise the stakes around Achamian.

Click here to continue onto Chapter 4!

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