Strap on your dancing shoes, oh Cosmere Chickens, because this week we’ve been invited to a fancy ball! (Sorry to disappoint; Mr. Darcy won’t be there.) But Sarene and her new “date” Shuden are ready to cut a rug and infiltrate the ranks of the nobility, all in the name of information gathering and forming new connections. Intrigue, sexism, and deception await, so read (and dance) on, fearless chickens!
(Non-)Spoiler warning: This week’s article has no spoilers from other Cosmere works. Read on fearlessly, chickens!
Trigger warnings: Misogyny
Last time on Elantris: Zealots and Infiltrations…
Dilaf decides to make an impassioned speech and Hrathen realizes that he has a powerful weapon (if a loose cannon) in his corner. He uses a trapped seon to make a report to Wyrn.
Meanwhile, in Elantris, Raoden guides Karata outside of the gates and into the palace to visit her child. She reveals that she’s been sheltering all of the children of Elantris, and that she wishes to join with him.
POV Character(s): Sarene
After a few moments of quiet, Eshen began to talk, as usual. The queen seemed frightened of silence, and was constantly speaking or prompting others to do so.
L: So she joins the ranks of other neurodivergent characters that Brandon’s created, then.
P: Looks like it. Rather makes you more fond of her than you would be otherwise.
At first Sarene had avoided their meetings, instead focusing her attention on the political court. However, she had soon realized that the women were as important as any civil matter; gossip and idle chatting spread news that couldn’t be discussed in a formal setting.
L: Ah, yes. As in many cultures, the women are the ones in the background subtly maneuvering while the men think they’re in complete control of everything.
P: There’s always something to be learned from the ladies!
“Of course,” Sarene said. “We are, after all, only women.” She looked up from her needlepoint discreetly, smiling at the reaction her statement sparked. Perhaps the women of Arelon weren’t quite as subservient as their men assumed.
L: Hi Barbie!
P: I think those men will be quite surprised to learn it.
“Yes,” Seaden said. “We’ve always heard it—they say that women in Teod kill one another for the sport of the men.”
L: While I’m usually a huge advocate of women with swords (heck I have an entire show I run at Renaissance Faires in New England based on this concept), it’s the “for the sport of the men” bit that puts my hackles up, here. Thankfully this proves to be a false rumor, but the fact that these ladies even believe it…
P: Yes, it’s always got to be for the benefit of the men, doesn’t it? I’m glad Sarene sets them straight about it.
“We call it fencing, Lady Seaden. We do it for our own amusement, not that of our men—and we definitely do not kill one another.”
L: Heck yes. Love me some fencing!
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P: This will be fun.
“So none of the men can fight?” Sarene asked, startled.
“None except for Lord Eondel and perhaps Lord Shuden,” Torena said…
L: What’s that? The men can’t fight? Oh no, how awful it would be if an armed insurrection led by women should occur!
P: I’m not giggling at all.
“Ashe, where did I put my sword?” Sarene said, on her knees beside her bed, fumbling around beneath it.
“Your sword, my lady?” Ashe asked.
“Never mind, I’ll find it later. What did you discover?”
P: So back in her rooms, Serene is prepping for a ball and getting an Elantrian status report from Ashe.
“I even tried approaching the Elantrians themselves, but many appeared scared of me, and the others only begged me for food—as if I could carry it to them. Eventually I found the best source of information to be the soldiers that guard the city walls.”
P: So Ashe is trying to get info on the Elantrians to bring to Sarene. At this point we can only assume that she’s interested in them because Hrathen is also interested in them.
“I am afraid, my lady, that Arelon’s most ‘elite’ military group hardly does the country any credit. Yet they are the city’s most informed experts regarding Elantris.”
L: That certainly bodes ill for if/when Fjorden attacks. But I suppose the king thinks his riches would save him. ::eyeroll:: In all seriousness, it seems like the height of folly to not have a trained military when you’ve got aggressive countries nearby! Is Iadon really so short-sighted that he thinks that an invasion could never happen?
P: It seems woefully irresponsible, doesn’t it? I mean, there’s so much wealth in Kae, you would think they’d have adequate soldiers to protect that, if nothing else.
“There is nothing to fear from a seon.”
L: I wonder… With all the fear lately about the possibility of the creation of true, sapient AI, it really makes me wonder if the seons are as harmless as they appear. Sure, they can’t physically interact with objects, but they seem incredibly smart. Surely they could effect change in the world through more subtle means if they put their minds to it. (Now I kind of wish that Brandon would write a spin-off series about a seon, fed up with generations of inadequate leadership, trying to overthrow the government.)
“So the Shaod is mental as well as physical,” Sarene said speculatively.
L: Hmm. She’s not entirely right, but she’s also not entirely wrong (see: the seons). ::puts on tin foil hat:: If the seons are similar to the spren on Roshar, then their consciousness would be located on the cognitive realm with a link between the two. So we could hypothesize that this break in the magic system is causing some sort of harm to the cognitive/physical connection between them. That would make sense, if the Investiture that’s powering said connection is the Aon at their center (now missing a line). But this raises the question… why aren’t all of the seons affected? Shouldn’t they be, if they’re all powered by Aons?
P: Also the Elantrians do suffer mentally. They’ve essentially died without the courtesy of everything ending. They’re forced to continue existing with never-healing wounds and maddening hunger. It does take a toll on their minds, hence the Hoed.
L: Undeniably yes, they are suffering. I just think their deteriorating mental state is a direct result of their physical torment and not anything that’s affecting them from the cognitive side of things.
“The guards also spoke of several despotic lords who rule the city. Food is so valuable that the Elantrians vigorously attack anyone bearing it.”
Sarene frowned. “How are the Elantrians fed?”
“They aren’t, as far as I can tell.”
P: And so we see where Sarene gets her eventual idea to feed the Elantrians for her task that the men brought up at the dinner at Kiin’s.
L: It’s nice to see someone actually having pity and treating the Elantrians like people and not corpses.
“They are a group of miserable, cursed individuals that your God appears to have forgotten—and the rest of the country is trying very hard to follow His example.”
L: For some reason the fact that the seons appear to believe in religion is incredibly odd to me. They do seem to be individuals with their own personalities, so I guess it tracks that there would be different beliefs among them. But they just seem so… logical. Almost Vulcan, if you will.
P: He did say “your” God, so it might not be so much that he believes in Shu-Korath but that he respects her belief.
L: Ah, that’s true. Good point.
“I’m sorry, my lady—I found no secret alcoves hiding half-starved princes. If Iadon locked his son away, then he wasn’t foolish enough to do it in his own palace.”
“Well, it was worth a look.” Sarene sighed. “I didn’t think you would find anything—we should probably be searching for the assassin who wielded the knife instead.”
L: I feel so bad for her. She’s still got a glimmer of hope that Raoden’s alive. And, of course, she’s right… she’s just looking in the wrong dungeon.
P: I can’t wait to get to the exciting parts!!
“I don’t know, my lady,” Ashe said. “Dio might know; he works much more closely with your father.”
L: “But it was me, Dio!” Sorry—I had to. The laws of anime fan meme-dom demanded it of me.
“What are they, Lord Shuden?” Sarene asked, nodding toward one of the bright flames, which burned atop a tall metal pole.
“Special rocks imported from the south.”
L: Knowing Brandon, this is going to pop back up at some point, probably in a worldhopper’s treasure trove or something.
P: Sounds like something Hoid might like!
“One would never know this country is dancing on the edge of destruction,” he muttered. …
“That is always how it is though, isn’t it?” Shuden asked. “Those who can least afford extravagance seem to be the ones most determined to spend what they have left.”
L: Well, you can’t take it with you, so I guess they figure they might as well try to ignore the approach of the coming horrors by drowning themselves in opulence while they can.
P: I mean… what if all things don’t end? Then you’re out of money. I’ve never understood the whole, “You can’t take it with you” mindset. Of course, I’ve never had anything left to me and won’t have anything to leave behind me, so I guess I wouldn’t understand.
“It always interests me to see what you people have done with Keseg’s teachings.”
“‘You people’?” Sarene asked. “I’m Korathi—don’t lump me together with the gyorn.”
Shuden held up a hand. “I apologize. I didn’t mean to offend.”
P: Funny how Shuden, who belongs to the parent religion, sees the two offshoots both as “you people.”
“I wonder what the great master thought when his two students, Korath and Dereth, left to preach to the lands northward. Keseg taught of unity. But what did he mean? Unity of mind, as my people assume? Unity of love, as your priests claim? Or is it the unity of obedience, as the Derethi believe?”
L: Religions in fantasy novels always intrigue me. I really like this one. It reflects the way that religions in our world often shift and evolve over time, as different followers interpret the holy texts in different ways.
P: It does remind me of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam… each worshiping the same God but each so sure theirs is the true religion.
L: Protestant and Catholic, too. There are so many examples of this in our world.
“The soul of Shu-Keseg is acceptance. There is room for all teachings.”
L: Maybe in the parent religion, but Hrathen’s made it quite clear that the offshoot isn’t nearly as accepting.
P: Yes, Derethi is definitely all about obedience.
“There has rarely been a party like this in Kae, and the duke is throwing it for no obvious reason. One begins to wonder just what Telrii is advertising, and why he wants us to know how wealthy he is.”
L: In this society, it seems like this sort of thing would be in the nobles’ best interests.
P: It makes me think of the balls in Mistborn.
“I wouldn’t have thought the king would discuss important matters where the dull-minded can hear. Such people tend to be so confused by events that it is a disservice to allow them the opportunity.”
L: Sarene: 1. Hrathen: 1.
P: Girl needs to get on it.
L: Well, the story wouldn’t be any fun if she was handily defeating him at every turn!
“All right, Lord Shuden, I want to mingle. Hrathen has a week’s lead, but Domi curse me if I’m going to let him stay ahead of me.”
P: She is nothing if not determined to best this gyorn.
L: And we’re here with the popcorn, eager for the show.
We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, and hope to join you there! Next week, we’ll be back with chapters 15 and 16.
Paige resides in New Mexico, of course. Between work and school and the SA5 beta read, she’s trying to work on book 3 of a YA/Crossover trilogy with just a hint of the supernatural. Read book 1 on her Patreon. Links to that and to her other writing are available in her profile.
Lyndsey lives in Connecticut and makes magic wands for a living, as well as working as the costumer for two of her local Renaissance Faires. If you enjoy queer protagonists, snarky humor, and don’t mind some salty language, check out book 1 of her fantasy series. Follow her on Facebook or TikTok!