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AMRT Chapter 34: Frustrated States

 
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PostPosted: Thu Sep 02, 2004 8:45 pm    Post subject: AMRT Chapter 34: Frustrated States Reply with quote

Terisa and Geraden, having fought the ravages of Eremis’s Imagery and watching both Houseldon’s destruction and the saving of its people, ride off at the end of the last chapter to meet Mordant’s Need.

Here, at the beginning of “Frustrated States,” we go back in time a bit, to the first day of the siege of Orison. Master Quillon has delivered his ultimatums (ultimatii?) to Prince Kragen; Havelock has sent his little puff of smoke to drop boulders on the Alend catapults. Castellan Lebbick has all but snapped, and attempted to either rape Terisa or get the truth out of her (he’s not certain which of the two is more important to him). Eremis has revealed to Terisa his general strategy, and attempted once more to seduce her into joining him. And Terisa has escaped Orison’s dungeons, Quillon has been murdered, Havelock has been undone by his exertions, and Master Gilbur with his own eyes has seen the manifestation of her peculiar talent for Imagery.

Prince Kragen and the Princess Elega of Mordant know nothing about any of this—except that the Alend army’s siege engines are in serious danger of decimation-by-little-poofy-cloud. That fact galls the Alend Contender no end. In spite of Elega’s advice—“Attack. Attack and attack.”—Kragen chooses not to risk his precious catapults, which were appropriated from the Armigite (who makes Kragen want to spit, and small blame to him). Kragen instead makes an attempt on the curtain-wall covering the hole blasted by the Congery’s Champion. The attempt fails, and half his squadron dies, caught between flaming oil and Mordant arrows. And Kragen decides to stop for a while and see if anything interesting happens.

The point of view here switches to Elega, who is stymied amidst her lover’s inaction, even while she understands his reasons for it. (Emphasis in bold is mine.)

Quote:
Nevertheless his passivity drove her to distraction. At times, she couldn’t face him under the eyes of his troops; at times, she could hardly bring herself to be civil to him in bed. She wanted action—wanted the wall down, the battle joined; she wanted King Joyse deposed, and Prince Kragen in his place.

She wanted the fact that she had betrayed her own father to mean something. While the Alend forces spent their time in training or leisure—enjoying the suddenly beautiful spring—instead of bringing Orison to its knees, everything she had done was pointless.


This is one of Elega’s most sympathetic moments—the quick, decisive, power-hungry young woman who is so sure of herself and her understanding of what is right and what must be done, has finally learned to doubt. That lesson is driven home almost a week later, when her sister Myste marches out of the wilderness, announces herself to one of Kragen’s guards, and is ushered into Elega’s tent. We’re given the best description of the two sisters here, in their first and only meeting alone together in either book.

Quote:
Physically, Elega was in her element. She was wrapped in a gauzy robe the Prince liked. Lamps and candlelight brought out the luster of her short, blond hair, the beauty of her pale skin, the vividness of her violet eyes. In contrast, Myste needed sunshine to look her best. Indoors, by the light of fires, she tended to appear sullen or dreamy, and her gaze had a faraway quality that gave the impression she was immersed in her own thoughts—less interested in events around her than Elega was; therefore less important. Her thick cloak had seen hard use.

Yet Myste had changed—Elega saw that at once. Her carriage had become straighter; the set of her shoulders and the lift of her chin made her look like a woman who had lost her doubts. A scar that might have been a healed burn ran from her cheekbone to her ear on the right side; instead of marring her beauty, however, it had the effect of increasing her air of conviction. She had earned whatever certainty she felt. For the first time in their lives, Myste’s simple presence caused Elega to fell smaller in some way, less sure of herself.

A quick intuition told her that Myste had done something that would make her own efforts to shape Mordant’s fate appear trivial by comparison.


So the sisters are reunited, and we see Myste for the first time since she swore Terisa to secrecy and snuck into the secret passage in the peacock rooms in search of the Congery’s Champion.

The reunion is joyful—Elega had though Myste long dead—but it quickly becomes clear that whatever differences lay between the sisters before the twin crises of the Alend Contender’s humiliation in the Hall of Audiences and the translation of the Champion, the division is even deeper now. It’s not longer just a matter of difference in personality or opinion, but differences of loyalty, intent, and action. In the conversation that follows, we learn a little more about the roles they played as children, and see how those roles are now in many ways reversed. Where Elega was always brash and determined, she’s now more reserved and uncertain. Where Myste was vague and dreamy, she is now focused and resolved.

Yet their essential natures remain unchanged. All of Elega’s questions are pointing at gaining specific information, so that she can add the knowledge to her calculations for and against success; and Myste’s are aimed more at discovering Elega’s intent and her place in the siege in order to make a moral decision about which side to take. Myste has come to Elega for information that will help her “make [her] decisions with some that this will lead to good rather than ill. Elega decides to take a risk and answer them—honestly. She explains her double betrayal: how she successfully persuaded Prince Kragen to try to force Joyse from his throne, how she poisoned the reservoir—and how she failed at the latter. Elega also explains why Kragen has done nothing since the first day of the siege—Cadwal is not marching on Orison at all, but into the Care of Tor, and this information has come to them via the injured and dying men the Perdon has been sending (as he swore to do) to Orison.

Myste, having the information she apparently needs, gets up to go without answering a single question herself.

Quote:
For an instant, Elega was stuck, caught between contradictory reactions. She was full of outrage; she wanted to make scathing demands which would rip Myste’s reticence aside. At the same time, the thought that her sister was about to leave her—without trusting her, without trusting her—went into her heart like a spike.

She was about to shout for a soldier when a new though flashed through her, a bolt of illumination.

Before her sister reached the tentflap, she said, “Father sent me a message, Myste.”

Myste stopped immediately; she turned, came back toward Elega. As if involuntarily, she asked, “What was it?”

Too absorbed in Myste’s importance to be self-conscious, Elega answered, “Castellan Lebbick brought it. According to him, Father said, ‘I am sure that my daughter Elega has acted for the best reasons. She carries my pride with her wherever she goes. For her sake, as well as for my own, I hope that the best reasons will produce the best results.’”


Myste sits back down, and lets Elega ask her own questions. When Elega hears the answers, she is dumbfounded.

For of course, Myste finally followed through on her “romantic notions” when she went in search of the Congery’s Champion. Dressed for the weather & laden with supplies, she snuck out of Orison with Terisa’s help on the night the Champion escaped, and followed the trail he’d left behind him in the hope of offering him aid.

Quote:
“Eventually,” Myste continued, “I caught up with him. He was hurt, not able to move quickly. In fact, he was down in the snow, bleeding his life into his armor.

“I startled him—he though he was being attacked again. Myste’s tone remained mild and firm. “He fired at me.” She touched her cheek. “Fortunately, he did little harm. Then he saw that I was a woman, and dropped his weapon. I was able to approach him.”


Elega, astonished, asks Myste to explain why, and Myste tells her that the inherent dishonesty of the translation compelled her—that had the Masters been honest, they would have reasoned for themselves the consequences of translating a man who was already fighting for his life out of the world he knew and into utterly strange surroundings. It’s here that we really get a sense of how the characters outside Terisa, Geraden, and Eremis’s immediate influence view events in Orison—here that we get an outside perspective that shows not only how intelligent Myste and even Elega are, but how the situation might seem to people not immediately caught up in Eremis’s deceptions.

[It’s also interesting to note that for all the people Eremis manipulates—generally to their dooms—he hasn't really bothered with Myste and Elega and Torrent. (King Joyse does that.) Mordant’s princesses don’t have Terisa’s power…and maybe trying to use them could be too obvious. What would a Master of the Congery have to do with King’s daughters? And more importantly, what could they do for him? Not much—Elega would have been the first to admit it. So he disregards them, and they make alliances with Alend and alien powers and Spoiler:
help save the life of the Queen,
among other things. Is ignoring them one of his big mistakes, or was it just not that crucial in the long run?]

So Myste succeeded in pacifying the Champion, and learned his name is Darsint. She tended his wounds, his weapon made fire, and she had the food brought from Orison. And since the Alend army laid siege to the castle, Myste and Darsint have been watching it, trying to decide whether to aid the Alends as Elega wishes, or aid Orison against them. They have held off because of Kragen’s inaction, and because of uncertainty of the consequences of declaring themselves: Darsint’s weapon cannot be “recharged” in the world where Mordant exists, and has only so much power left.

At Myste’s refusal to help her, Elega is understandably miffed. What about their father’s madness? Elega is convinced that the only way to save Mordant from Cadwal and evil Imagery is to depose Joyse and put a sane, strong ruler—a ruler like Prince Kragen of Alend—on the throne. Will Myste actually aid their father in producing Mordant’s ruin? Can she still trust him so much? Myste responds:

Quote:
“It is hard to say that I trust his decline. But I have come to trust the fact that he allowed the Congery to work this translation. I have even come to think that he did it for me—in the same way that he insulted Prince Kragen for you. Do you not see how he has made us powerful? I can guide Darsint’s choices. I can ask his help. And you are in a place to affect the actions of Alend’s entire army.”

I am sure that my daughter Elega has acted for the best reasons. For her sake, as well as for my own, I hope that the best reasons will also produce the best results.

“Elega, we are doing what he intended us to do. He has plans for us. Perhaps his decline itself is only a goad to make us do what we can.”


Elega is not convinced.

Quote:
King Joyse had driven his own wife away rather than make the effort to defend his kingdom. Or to explain himself. Piece by piece, he had chipped the hope and trust out of Elega’s heart.


This is a great moment for understanding Elega. She still might be obnoxious, but imagine keeping that much personal grief all bottled up alongside restlessness, anxiety, and determination. She had to do what she did, or she might have exploded…And again, Myste has an answer for her:

Quote:
“Elega, do you never ask yourself what kind of man he must be, to place his trust in the people he has most hurt? Between us, we have the might to destroy him. Darsint’s weapons and the Prince’s army could accomplish that. And our father has pushed us into this position.

“Either his lunacy is complete, or his need for us is so desperate that he cannot explain what he wants without making what he wants impossible.”


Thus vague, dreamy Myste appears to have figured out at least half of the whole damned plot. with a better understanding of her sister, and more respect for her than she’s ever had before, Elega decides to let Myste returned unharmed to her strange Champion. “Before they left, she and Myste shared a hug as if they had recognized each other for the first time.” Of course, Kragen finds out about the visit, but Elega convinces him to hear her out. “That was why she loved him. Despite the fact that she was the daughter of his enemy—that she had betrayed her own father and might therefore be capable of betraying anyone—that she had helped another of the King’s daughters escape—Prince Kragen went into her tent and heard her story.”

And now the scene shifts again, to inside the castle, where Artagel (“The Champion of true Iustice”—Edmund Spenser, The Faerie Queene, Book V, Canto 1) is attempting to rise from his bed. The wound Gart gave him in Orison’s bazaar is just barely healed, but the rumors he’s been hearing from his visitors are dire enough to send him out to learn what’s really going on. And the best source of that knowledge is Castellan Lebbick.

Quote:
He and Lebbick were old friends, after all—to the extent that the Castellan could be said to have friends. In fact, he had been Artagel’s teacher and commander until Artagel had reached the point where it was no longer reasonable for anyone to tell him what to do. Because of this, he was widely believed—at least among the castle’s active defenders—to be the only man in Orison who could go to the Castellan and ask him questions and actually get answers.


When Artagel finally makes it in to see the Castellan, he finds Lebbick living in absolute squalor—unwashed, surrounded by piles of moldy laundry and dirty dishes—and almost, but not completely, mad. Artagel gets from the Castellan what information he can about the state of the siege, but every time he touches on the subject of Nyle or Terisa, Lebbick starts to get incoherent. By slow stages, and feeling every step of the way that he’s about to pass out, Artagel brings Lebbick around to discussing the conclusion that the swordsman himself has come to: that Terisa was telling the truth about Nyle and Underwell; that Geraden did not, in fact, kill his brother. And that if it wasn’t Geraden, the only one left to blame it on is Master Eremis.

Quote:
“I know that. Why do you think I hit her so hard? Why do you think I kept hitting her? I was trying to get her to tell me the truth.”


The rumor that brought Artagel off his sickbed was that Castellan Lebbick had beat Terisa’s former maid, Saddith, nearly to death. She was reported to have claimed that she had gone to Lebbick’s chambers to offer him the comfort of her body, and he beat and maimed her to the point that she had not yet been able to leave her own rooms. After a bit more hedging, Artagel presses the matter, and discovers that Saddith’s appearance in his bed was, for Lebbick, the proof that Terisa had failed to give him about Eremis’s complicity in Nyle’s “death.” And his rage at himself, at Eremis, and at his King, pent up for so long, exacerbated by his physical reactions to Terisa, as well as his moral certainty that she was up to no good, resulted in the explosion that Terisa had known was coming. And Saddith ended up bearing the brunt of it.

When it becomes clear to him that Lebbick has come at least part of the way back to being human, Artagel takes a chance—the kind of chance only a true friend who genuinely cared would take.

Quote:
“You know, Castellan, if you wife saw this pigsty she’d spit granite.”

Artagel was probably the only man in Orison who would have dared mention Lebbick’s wife to his face.

By luck or intuition, however, Artagel had found the right approach. Instead of erupting, the Castellan looked chagrined. “I know,” he muttered. “I’m going to clean it up. I’ll get around to it soon.”

The sorrow in his face wrung Artagel’s heart. Without premeditation or forethought, he said quietly, “Don’t bother. Leave it. I’ve got an extra room. I’ve even got an extra bed. Come stay with me.”

Castellan Lebbick stared dumbly. His mouth worked as if Artagel had asked him to give up his link to the only thing that held him in one piece.

“She’s dead,” Artagel said as gently as he could. “It can’t be helped. She doesn’t need you anymore.

We’re the ones who need you.”

Roughly, fighting collapse, the Castellan rasped, “ 'We? Who is ‘we’?”

“Me.” Artagel didn’t hesitate. “Geraden. Terisa. Anybody who thinks King Joyse is still worth trying to save, even though he does act like he’s got his head stuck up his ass.”


And Castellan Lebbick half-carries Artagel back to their rooms.
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Last edited by Myste on Tue Sep 07, 2004 12:53 pm; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2004 3:51 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great job, Myste. Smile
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[It’s also interesting to note that for all the people Eremis manipulates—generally to their dooms—he never really bothers with Myste and Elega and Torrent. (King Joyse does that.) Mordant’s princesses don’t have Terisa’s power…and maybe trying to use them could be too obvious. What would a Master of the Congery have to do with King’s daughters? And more importantly, what could they do for him? Not much—Elega would have been the first to admit it. So he disregards them, and they make alliances with Alend and alien powers and help save the life of the Queen, among other things. Is ignoring them one of his big mistakes, or was it just not that crucial in the long run?]


Given what the three girls accomplish, Eremis definately underestimated them, IMHO. Smile Perhaps it is something as simple as Eremis thinking of women primarily as sex toys to play with and manipulate to his will and desires. It might not have been good politics to play with the daughters of a King, even a King in decline. Wink
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PostPosted: Sat Sep 04, 2004 4:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great, great job Myste--I'll be back to comment later--but aren't we spoiling a little bit? Confused
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PostPosted: Tue Sep 07, 2004 12:59 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Eeep! Yr right, danlo. I put a spoiler on it. If you notice anything else, let me know--I've read these books so many times I sometimes forget where I am and let things slip. Very Happy

Duchess, that's pretty much the conclusion I came to. IMO, it might have been entertaining for Eremis to strike at Joyse through his daughters by seducing them (either physically or emotionally), but in the end the risks would be greater than the rewards.
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PostPosted: Fri Oct 08, 2004 4:09 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Myste wrote:
their essential natures remain unchanged. All of Elega’s questions are pointing at gaining specific information, so that she can add the knowledge to her calculations for and against success; and Myste’s are aimed more at discovering Elega’s intent and her place in the siege in order to make a moral decision about which side to take.


That's a neat observation, Myste. Helps me see their relationship from another angle. So, Myste sees the big picture, while Elega has difficulty because she's lost in the details? Maybe Myste's "dreaminess" all those years has made her mind more agile and her imagination better equipped than Elega's to figure out what's going on. Elega may have been the practical, realistic one, but perhaps that left her imaginative powers weak, or at least weaker than Myste's. Elega's thinking is a bureaucratic process, unlike the free-form, intuitive thinking of Myste that goes outside that process, outside the box.
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