Claw of the Conciliator, chapters 7 to 9

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Emerging from the cave, Severian is attacked by Agia- who else?- and some hired assassins. He realised this deep down all along. Severian defeats the assassins and decides not to kill Agia when she is at his mercy. Moral growth or more folly? I hope for the first, though I'm sure we're far from done with Agia.

Severian and Jonas are captured and taken to Vodalus. Severian reminds Vodalus that years ago, he saved his life. He swears to serve Vodalus, ahead of any other oaths.

Comments

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    Yes, not a huge surprise about Agia being behind the note.

    A couple of things of note. One is that for someone with basically no combat training, Severian is very handy in a fight. He does a good job of fighting off the man-apes in the cave, takes care of several of Agia's thugs, and wipes out the hired men sent to take him to Vodalus. Yes, Terminus Est helps, but is he really that good in a fight?

    It was nice to see the downside of Severian's total recall, and first actual confirmation of a sexual relationship between him and Thecla.

    Finally, the compact between Severian and Vodalus. When Severian asks if he'll be expected to betray the Torturers' guild again, Vodalus replies "No-one will ever know" (or words to that effect). So Severian isn't that interested in the vow for its own sake, but for the appearance of being a faithful member of the guild.

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    edited June 13

    Once again, Severian proves himself fickle and self-centered. One might argue that he gave himself to Vodalus first, but then one would be quibbling. :D

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    Another observation about the worldbuilding. When Severian is lost in his memories, he mentions recalling being "leather-winged steed," but the rest of the paragraph makes little sense. I'm not sure if the destrier he rode to the cave actually had wings, or he's getting confused with the birds, or it's some reference to the Great Balrog Wing Controversy.

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    edited June 15
    I took winged steed to be a reference to its speed, but leathery to be literal.
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    Another great set of chapters for getting us into the deep mythology of Urth... "I who had been blind before understood why it was that Abaia had sent me this dream, and had sought to enlist me in the great and final war of Urth".
    But also, what a provocative chapter implicitly comparing cowardice and moral choice... both might result in the same choice. Presumably Severian hopes he is developing morality, but fears he is just a coward.
    And I suppose we are now to assume that he really did have sex with Thecla, providing that his account is actual memory rather than active imagination.
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    In his dream, he rode a mitred, leather-winged steed. A mitre or miter is a tall, conical hat of the sort worn by bishops. Thus, it seems reasonable to suppose that he is riding on something like a pteranodon.
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    @Bill_White said:
    In his dream, he rode a mitred, leather-winged steed. A mitre or miter is a tall, conical hat of the sort worn by bishops. Thus, it seems reasonable to suppose that he is riding on something like a pteranodon.

    That was my assumption, but you know what they they say about assuming! :smiley:

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    Oh, and something's clicked about Severian and his memories, and why he skirts over some things of importance, leaving gaps, not mentioning important things (eg: his relationship with Thecla) until much later on...he's not just remembering things as he writes them down, he's reliving them. Some things he would rather not relive.

    If there's something he was ashamed of at the time, he's just as ashamed at the time of writing his memoirs as he was at the time of the experience. So some things- even thinking of the Guild of Torturers fondly, for example- is something he felt at the time rather than something he feels objectively in his "now" when the memoirs are written.

    I think this explains some of the distance and gaps. As for his emotional immaturity (for he is incredibly shallow), part of that might be the way he interacts with memory, but the bulk of it down to his upbringing- were the torturers really going to successfully bring up a well-adjusted individual? Normal levels of human empathy aren't remotely desirable in the profession,

    And Severian doesn't recognise these feelings. He experiences them, but views them as weakness, and doesn't recognise them or know what to do with them.

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    @dr_mitch said:
    Oh, and something's clicked about Severian and his memories, and why he skirts over some things of importance, leaving gaps, not mentioning important things (eg: his relationship with Thecla) until much later on...he's not just remembering things as he writes them down, he's reliving them. Some things he would rather not relive.

    Yes, totally agree. It is more (I think) a form of active recapitulation than memory in the ordinary sense. As happened just before he was seized by Vodalus's men, he can easily become lost in the reliving and then find it hard to reorient back in the real world. To that extent, you could probably see it as a hazardous thing to do, rather like Ged in Wizard of Earthsea becoming trapped in the hawk form and needing Ogion to recognise him and call him back to himself again.

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    edited June 16

    Noted that Agia yet lives, and will presumably be back. Jonas has a steel hand.

    And what do you make of Abaia and Erebus, aquatic leviathans so large they could not leave the oceans lest their bodies collapse?

    Erebus was one of the primordial deities in Greek mythology, born out of the primeval void, Chaos. It was the personification of the deep darkness and shadows. Erebus was the brother of Gaea (earth), Tartarus (underworld), Eros (love), and Nyx (night). From the union of Erebus and Nyx, various children were produced, including Aether, Hemera (day), Hypnos (sleep), the Moirai (the Fates), Geras (old age) and Thanatos (death). The word Erebus was also used to indicate a region of the Underworld where the dead would go immediately after dying.

    According to Melanesian mythology the Abaia is a type of large eel which dwells at the bottom of freshwater lakes in the Fiji, Solomon and Vanuatu Islands. The Abaia is said to consider all creatures in the lake its children and protects them furiously against anyone who would harm or disturb them. It is said that those who are foolish enough to try to catch the fish from a lake containing the Abaia are immediately overwhelmed by a large wave caused by the thrashing of the Abaia’s powerful tail. Another version of the legend states that if someone were to harm a creature living in the Abaia’s home, the Abaia would cause a great rain storm flooding the land and drowning those who had caused the harm.

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    Interesting... I wonder what they suggest, Abaia in particular. And the Abaia is new to me, though I knew about Erebus, primordial darkness (and a link to the fulegin of the torturers, or is that reading too much into it?).
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    LEXICON

    Agia was quicker, making a cut at my neck with an athame... p.254

    Athame: A narrow-bladed ceremonial dagger, used in Wiccan rituals.


    Cultellarii (Title of chapter VIII) p.257

    Cultellarii: Irregular soldiers whose principle weapon is a dagger or short sword.


    ...we were led out into the innyard, where a huge baluchither shifted from foot to foot under a plain howdah of iron and horn. The man who held my left arm reached up and struck the beast at the hollow of the knee with the shaft of a goad to make him kneel, and we were driven onto his back. p.263

    Baluchither: Extinct megafaunal ancestor of the rhinoceros. Named after Baluchistan.

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