Citadel of the Autarch, chapter 23 to 26

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Severian is rescued from the battlefield by the Autarch. It seems the Autarch has chosen Severian as a possible heir. The Autarch's flyer is shot down and Severian is "rescued" by Agia and taken to Vodalus. Severian is then held prisoner.

Some theorising soon...

Comments

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    The Autarch is many people, in the same was that Severian is also Thecla. How many people? Is collecting people a pre-requisite to being the Autarch? Will Severian become the autarch only because the autarch absorbs him and he becomes dominant?

    This 'collecting' of people reminds me of the cult of Thanatar in the setting of Glorantha.

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    These chapters were seriously dense! I read them twice over to try and sort out all the many twists and turns, and also looked back at the Azure House episode in book 1. Re the latter, I can now see some clues that support the connection, but I can't see at all how any of us might have deduced it at the time!

    I found the theme which is emerging here of a repudiation of machines quite fascinating. It also makes sense of the "Napoleonic" battle last time... there's a bizarre juxtaposition of new and old, technological and visceral. I suppose you could look at this melange as being the equivalent in artefacts of the mixed up nature of language.

    @Apocryphal talked about "collecting people" possibly being a requirement to be Autarch. Maybe so, but the old medic guy implied that pretty much everyone of a particular level of society and intelligence would do this systematically as a matter of course. Is it, I wonder, more like the ancient practice of eating your vanquished prey in order to absorb their abilities, or like the modern practice of reading in order to absorb someone's ideas and ways of articulating them?

    So... is the Autarch really in charge, or is Vodalus? Perhaps we'll discover next week...
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    @Apocryphal said:
    The Autarch is many people, in the same was that Severian is also Thecla. How many people? Is collecting people a pre-requisite to being the Autarch? Will Severian become the autarch only because the autarch absorbs him and he becomes dominant?

    I got the impression it would be the other way around: Severian will become the autarch by absorbing all the personalities of the current one. With hindsight, it's an obvious extension of what we already know: what happens if you absorb the personality of someone who has already absorbed several personalities?

    The other thing that came out of these chapters was the idea that it's the system of government that's in charge, rather than the autarch himself.

    And finally, what do people make of the Ascians and the war with them? The autarch implies that the war is just the application of pressure by Erebus on the autarch and the country. But who really is Erebus, what does he (or they) want?

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    Erebus and Abaia are two of the leviathans often mentioned in the series. I'm thinking one is applying pressure on Nessus and the other on Ascia. Why, or what kind of pressure - who knows. I kind of picture them as tectonic plates moving against one another under the sea.

    @NeilNjae the your description of Severian absorbing the Autarch and all he is makes me think of how the alpha male will control a herd after killing the previous alpha male.

    I loved this passage in Chapter 26:

    Agia came once, and standing between two of Vodalus's armed women spat in my face as she described the torments she and Hethor had contrived for me when I was strong enough to endure them. When she finished, I told her quite truthfully that I had spent most of my life assisting at operations more terrible, and advised her to obtain trained assistance, at which she went away.

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    edited December 2019
    Theorising:

    (1) Nessus and the Ascians are proxies for the war between Abaia and Erebus. As @Apocryphal said.

    (2) The Autarch is the Autarch because he (or potentially she) carries the memories of previous Autarchs.

    (3) For the memories to take rather than fade needs someone with Severian's trick of memory. Maybe it's hereditary but the present Autarch seems to be androgynous or a eunuch going by descriptions. When the Autarch came across Severian and learned of his memory, he pegged him as a possible successor.
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    @dr_mitch said:
    (1) Nessus and the Ascians are proxies for the war between Abaia and Erebus. As @Apocryphal said.

    Yes, but who (or what) actually are the leviathans? What do they want? Why are they using Nessus and Ascians as tools in their struggles? I don't think the books have yet been clear on the matter.

    (2) The Autarch is the Autarch because he (or potentially she) carries the memories of previous Autarchs.

    Agreed. But as more than one person can eat the same corpse to get the memories, there's still the possibility of succession conflicts.

    (3) For the memories to take rather than fade needs someone with Severian's trick of memory. Maybe it's hereditary but the present Autarch seems to be androgynous or a eunuch going by descriptions. When the Autarch came across Severian and learned of his memory, he pegged him as a possible successor.

    Maybe. We've already had comments that some people go mad after eating an alzabo meal (from one of the Pelerines' medics?). But others don't, and Vodalus's medic implies that consuming memories is commonplace. So I think that Severian's memory trick may make him a better autarch, I don't think it's required.

    And @Apocryphal , I also loved the "sick burn" of that comment in Ch 26!

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    > @NeilNjae said:
    > (Quote)
    > Yes, but who (or what) actually are the leviathans? What do they want? Why are they using Nessus and Ascians as tools in their struggles? I don't think the books have yet been clear on the matter.
    >

    I wonder if the human conflict is just a surface reflection of the real leviathan one, or conversely if the leviathans are symbols or totems of the human groups? We also discovered that the war has been going on a very long time, and that at one stage the battle lines were way further south. So presumably neither human nor leviathan is in a hurry to conclude the action?

    > And @Apocryphal , I also loved the "sick burn" of that comment in Ch 26!

    Yes! "You're being an amateur about this, go find a real professional to help you"
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    So, Severian is injured again, and things happen to him, will he nil he. Seems like that's been his condition for most of this book.

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    Oh, the sick burn was great. One of the few times Severian actually comes across as, dare I say it, cool.

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    LEXICON

    I heard a rustling in the grass, and a little phenocod, striped like a melon, bounded out, terrified by something I still could not see. It shied at the sight of me and in a moment was gone.
    I have said that Erblon's graisle was silenced. Another blew now, a deeper, longer, wilder note than I had ever heard. The outline of a bent orphicleide showed against the dusky sky. When its music was ended it fell, and in a moment more I saw the head of the player blotting out the brightening moon at three times the height of a mounted trooper's helmet - a domed head with shaggy hair.
    The orphicleide sounded once more, deep as a waterfall, and this time I saw it rise, and the white, curling tusks that guarded it on each side, and I knew I lay in the path of the very symbol of dominion, the beast called Mammoth. p322

    Phenocod: Lexicon Urthus says this is an animal that skulks around battlefields, however it's derived from a Phenacodus, which is a paleocene animal that lived long before battlefields were a thing.

    Orphicleide: a musical wind instrument, a development of the old wooden serpent, consisting of a conical metal tube bent double.


    The first thing I saw was the muzzle of a trilhoen with a dark, bulging lens the size of a dinner plate. It was fitted with a seat for the operator, but no one sat there. The gunner had come down and stood upon the mammoth's neck as a sailor might upon the deck of a ship, with one hand on the barrel for balance. p.322

    Trilhoen: Lexicon Urthus says this is a swivel gun, mounted on the side of a howdah (from German).


    All about me shimmered an orb of color - purple and cyan, ruby and azure, with the orpiment of the sun piercing these enchanted tints like a sword to fall upon my eyes. p.326

    Orpiment: A yellow mineral of Arsenic Sulfide, used as both a pigment and a poison because it is quite toxic.


    The autarch was to my left, hanging limp between two evzones who had slung their long-barreled jezails aslant their backs. p.338

    Jezail: Afghan long gun, often hand-made, and used by the British in India.
    Evzones: A kilted Greek soldier - the term is first attested to in the Ilian, but modern honour guards still bear the title.


    She slapped me with an open hand - there was a pull at my cheek, tearing pain, then the warm rush of blood.
    I have since learned that the weapon is called a lucivee, and that Agia had it because Vodalus had forbidden any but his own bodyguard to carry arms in his presence. p.340

    Lucivee: I suspect this is a fighting claw. The word refers to the Canadian Lynx, in French called a loup-cervier (wolf that hunts deer). I don't see a clear definition online, and it's not in the Lexicon Urthus.


    Because the prehistoric cultures endured for so many chiliads, they have shaped our heritage in such a way as to cause us to behave as if their conditions obtained today. p.343

    Chiliad: A group of a thousand things. In this case, a group of 1000 years - a millenium.

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