A Journey Through Son of Avonar
        a conversation with a most insightful reader

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I've always been convinced that mine are the most intelligent and insightful of all readers. That's one reason I enjoy participating in the Warrior of Two Souls newsgroup and other online bookclubs and discussion group conversations all over the net. But last month, one of the Two Souls gang read Son of Avonar for the second time, searching for clues that might have prepared her for the ending. As she took Seri's journey again, she thought deeply about a number of issues the books touches on. I found her discussion so interesting...and so thorough...that I asked her if I could post it here. I hope you find it interesting as well...

Warning: If you haven't read Son of Avonar, this conversation might spoil the story for you! (Also contains spoilers for Song of the Beast...sorry.)
Sadia: (ref. p. 9) Here is the first of several instances where I thought Seri might be getting some unconscious signal that Karon's soul resided in D'Natheil's body. She smelled the "smoke of unholy fires" and at first I thought she was just reliving Karon's death, her unconscious reminded of it because D'Natheil was there. But now that I think about it some more, I wonder if she was feeling the Zhid "seeking" for D'Natheil. Lucky that he collapsed in the woods.
Carol: Seri was sensing the Seeking, not anything about Karon this time. And yes, it was fortunate that he collapsed in the woods where the natural protection of a life-filled space would shelter him. Why the Seeking evokes the "smokes of unholy fires" will become more clear in Guardians of the Keep.
Sadia: Although, that brings up a question. I assume he [Aeren] was unconscious at this point. Was that one of the reasons he wasn't found [by the Zhid], or was it just the fact that he was in the woods that sheltered him?
Carol: Both contributed. An active mind is easier to find.
Sadia: The whole "being sheltered by woods" idea makes me wonder what other biospheres would be work for that purpose. -grin- And if regular woods are good, how much better are rainforests?
Carol: I won't get into a discussion of alternate biospheres (too big), but a rainforest would work very well. Much life there.
Sadia: (ref. p. 19) I'm sorry, but Tomas is an idiot. Specifically, I'm talking about him "ordering" Seri back to the palace after she had just given birth and they had killed her son. What on earth did he expect to happen? This is a woman who had just had her son murdered, as well as had her husband and closest friends tortured to death. Did he really think she was just going to obey him meekly? Did he learn nothing from growing up with this woman, from the way she danced out of having to marry Evard?
Carol: Tomas was trying very hard to be the exemplar of his culture. Clearly his paternalistic, warrior society didn't know quite what to do with women like Seri, even though she was very much a daughter of her culture as well.
Sadia: Yes, yes, I know he thought he was doing Seri a favor, that he was saving her life, perhaps that she had been ensorcelled or something... Whatever. That was still not one of his finer moments.
Carol: True. But remember, Tomas was also not in complete control of his own feelings at this point.
(ref. p. 20)
    "Once I had considered Darzid my friend, but I had come to believe that he would have watched me burn alongside Karon with this same unemotional curiosity."
Sadia: I tried to believe for the longest time that Darzid was a good character, or rather that he wasn't all bad, and part of the reason was this sentence. For some reason, "come to believe" struck me as the kind of phrasing an author would use when describing a character's beliefs that were actually untrue, ie. although she thought Darzid would act that way, in actuality, he wouldn't have. And maybe I'm just crazy, 'cause Darzid was kinda nasty in later scenes. -grin-

Carol: Seri tried to give Darzid the benefit of the doubt for a very long time. He was a fun guy and very stimulating. But by the time she says this, she has decided he is as amoral as he appears. As for the author's intent...I can give you only what Seri sees and thinks. Perhaps you see more than she does.
Sadia: (ref. p. 24) Did Aeren hear or understand Seri at any level when she whispered "J'den encour"? Was there any... "special" reason why he healed so swiftly from that initial wound to the shoulder, or was it the more prosaic reasons of youth that Seri assumed? (And yes, by "special" I mean some sort of spiffy magic thing. )
Carol: No magic here. He was unconscious when she spoke. He healed quickly because he was young and healthy. Robust. Came from an exceptional bloodline.
(ref. p. 25)
    "The next morning, when I woke from an uncomfortable few hours on the floor, Aeren was sitting up, his eyes fixed so intently on my face that I could almost feel their heat on my skin... Fires of Annadis, why did he stare so?"
Sadia: Yeah - why did Aeren stare so hard at Seri? Was it because she was, at some level, familiar to him? Were Karon's memories and influences always there, at least on some level, or did they only start to appear later on in the book?
Carol: Karon's influences were there from the beginning. Dassine promised Karon that the first memory he returned would be "something of you[Seri]". Of course to do this suited Dassine's plan. He believed Seri would be able to make Karon/D'Natheil function. Of course, the poor fellow didn't understand why she fascinated him so.
Sadia: Maybe he was just frustrated at not being able to talk, and his staring was his irrational way of trying to "make" Seri understand what he wanted... But I have to admit - I prefer the idea of Karon's memories bubbling up, even at this early stage. -grin- More romantic, don't you know. -grin-
Carol: Absolutely. And you get your wish. He was fascinated by her face, just on the edge of familiarity.
Sadia: Random question time - what does having a "barrel chest" mean?
Carol: Big. Wide. Round. Not slender or graceful.
Sadia: Another random question - what does "touching your forehead/forelock" entail?
Carol: Tugging on the front of your hair. Something like tipping your hat.
(ref. p. 44)
    "'My aide Darzid - a truly valuable addition to my staff - has discovered that Vennick has troubles with his estates. I do believe the good earl has failed to pay his levies for ever so many years, and, in fact, evidence will come to light that he has unlawfully diverted the taxes of his vassals... to his own purposes.' [Evard] widened his eyes in shock, then he and Tomas burst into laughter..."
Sadia: So Tomas knew of Evard's actions to disinherit his cousins? Why else would he laugh? But then, why would Tomas go along with something like that?
Carol:: Tomas was an ambitious young man whose father had been in a drunken stupor since he was about ten. Evard was a couple of years older, very worldly, charming, admired, and successful, and the two had been to war together - a bond that we see only in peripheral evidence. I think many ambitious young people can get caught up in such doings with a close friend and only realize later that they are into something unsavory and begin to feel uncomfortable about it. Loyalty was very highly prized in Leiran culture, so Tomas would never articulate his discomfort.
Sadia: Tomas had to have known how close Seri was to Martin, who was the next in line for the throne, even ahead of Evard.
Carol: Tomas had no respect for Martin, and didn't understand Seri's attachment to him at all.
Sadia: Didn't Tomas think that someone who was willing to frame innocent people might not be the best choice as the leader of an entire country?
Carol: Court politics are/were rarely a gentleman's game. Military prowess was the primary qualification for office. Loyalty, leadership, cleverness, wit, connections, and, yes, intelligence, were also important. Martin and his supporters were trying to inject some higher values into the mix.
Sadia: Evard had just mentioned Darzid as his new aide. Was Darzid somehow making these allegations up? Did he convince Evard that the rumors were true?
Carol: No. These nefarious plots were all Evard's doing. But Darzid was encouraging Evard's worst tendencies...and Tomas's after a while.
Sadia: The first time Karon said he loved Seri, right after he healed Martin, my eyebrows flew up. Certainly wasn't expecting that. -grin- I mean, of course I was, I knew she eventually married the guy, but certainly not at that moment, and definitely not like that.
Carol: This is a relationship of heroic proportions (of course it is, as it occurs one of my books!) and thus surprises even its participants. Karon had no intention of ever saying those words. He believed and Martin had warned him that there was no future in his feelings for Seri.
Sadia: So, I need some more detail on this J'Ettanni gift, specifically in regards to procreating with a "mundane.” Is magical ability a dominant/recessive thing, with some kids pure J'Ettanne, some mixed J'Ettanne/mundane, and some pure mundane? Or will all kids of mixed parentage be considered fully J'Ettanne? Is it all packaged together - either you are or you aren't? Or can the abilities be separated - one kid can light fires, but another can read minds?
Carol: All children of mixed marriages are considered to be "J'Ettanne." And all have the potential to do magic. Some just don't develop it. Dar'Nethi magic (for, of course, J'Ettanne is just the Exiles' name for their own race which they've forgotten) expresses itself in two ways.

First: There are certain abilities that 99% of "pure" Dar'Nethi children (and a lesser percentage of "mixed" children) have - those that show up, as Karon said, around the age of four or five. They can make a light from their hands, summon animals, cause distractions, various "small" magics. At one time, all Dar'Nethi could speak in the mind and read thoughts, but this is a talent that has faded since the Catastrophe, more so in Gondai than among the Exiles.

Second: In the middle of the teenage years, ~99% of "pure" Dar'Nethi children (and a smaller percentage of mixed blood children) develop one of a hundred known talents of which Healer is one and Finder (like Kellea) is another. You will learn a lot more about Dar'Nethi talents later in the series.

The Dar'Nethi do have what they call "ligneal cards," something like a scientific tarot deck that they can use to determine the probabilities of certain talents among their children (but I never really explore the science behind these cards.) One interesting thing about inheritance among the Dar'Nethi is that relationships of the spirit can be just as significant as relationships of blood.

Sadia: (ref. p. 72) Wait - what? Seri loves Karon, too? When did this happen? -grin-
Carol: Essentially from the first moment she met him. But they did have something like two years of acquaintance before these declarations of love.
Sadia: One wonders that if Seri had married Evard...
Carol: I won't get into this kind of speculation. It's hard enough to keep straight what I was thinking about the events that really happened!!
Sadia: That scene when Darzid came to Seri about a scar he didn't remember... I wonder if she had heard him out, had she invited him back, would he have helped her later on? The sense that something important was being said, but that the protagonist refused to listen - it reminded me of Aidan from “Song of the Beast” (SOTB) and his regal cousin trying to warn him to stay away from the dragons.
Carol: Yes. This is perhaps even a more serious case of inattention than Aidan's. This is a major turning point in the unfolding of this story.
Sadia: This scene, btw, was another reason why I first felt Darzid wasn't really a bad guy. There's something we're missing about him. (Or rather, there's something you haven't given us yet. -grin- ) It's interesting that Aidan's (SOTB) cousin wasn't pure evil either, that he tried to warn him.
Carol: Darzid and Devlin are VERY different people. You will learn.
Sadia: Darzid tried to talk to Seri yet again, right before she saw Karon and his white rose. What did he want to ask her?
Carol: He wanted to talk. She didn't. That was the important thing.
Sadia: (ref. p. 91) That whole bit where D'Natheil held two blades of grass in his hands, and covers the healthy one so only the dead one is exposed… What was that about?
Carol: That the "thing" they experienced at the top of the hill, the Seeking of the Zhid, destroys life.
Sadia: (ref. p. 92) You know that single word for inhaling and exhaling? It's called breathing. -grin- hee...ducks head to escape flying crockery.
Carol: Ah, but what do you call that reflex that makes you inhale and exhale (other than a chemical thing in the medulla)? Breathing is a part of life. We don't have to think about it or name it.
Sadia: (ref. p. 113) So that first year that Seri traveled to Montevial for the King's Pardon, Karon's body was still displayed there? Damn.
Carol: Yes. It had been about 8 months. A "body" is not exactly what would be there.
(ref. p. 128)
    "My eyes had not lied to me. One voice was Rowan's, and the other belonged to Giano, the pale-eyed priest of Annadis.
    Giano laughed. 'We expect to have the business done within the day. You'll be rewarded handsomely.'
    'My reward will be in seeing a scoundrel brought to justice.'"
Sadia: I know that Rowan's a good guy. But I think I knew that even when I read it the first time. Partly it was because of the fact that Jacopo had defended him, and partly it was just a sense that I got - something undefined. But whatever the reason, I knew his meeting with the Zhid wasn't what Seri assumed it was.
Carol: Sometimes an author doesn't want to fool the reader. The tension comes from the reader knowing or suspecting things that the point-of-view character doesn't know or suspect.
Sadia: (ref. p. 133) Carol, have you considered including a short glossary at the end of books like this? It would make things a bit simpler.
Carol: I don't really have the say over that. I "offered" glossaries for the rai-kirah books (which were really more complex) but my editor wasn't much for such things.
Sadia: So why was D'Natheil able to penetrate that rock with his dagger? Since he had been blocked when he was younger, I mean. Was it the influence of Karon's soul? Which would imply the ability of sorcery is more connected with your soul than your body.
Carol: Yes (it was Karon's influence) and yes (sorcery is connected to both soul and body).
Sadia: And of course, it gives rise to the whole question of just what a person is. Is a person fundamentally just a product of their genetics? In the case of D'Natheil and Karon, I'd have to say no, that something else is going on. Because Karon has just been deposited in a body with different genes. And yet, by the end, I assume he's still going to be Karon. Unless... Unless Karon's soul combined with D'Natheil's body interact in some way to give rise to a "new" person. I suppose I've always thought of it in terms of science and what I've learned in class - your genes give rise to what we call your "consciousness." But perhaps your consciousness already exists, and is merely influenced by your genes. (Not to mention the influence of environment as well - the whole debate of "nature or nurture." This is getting very complicated. -grin- )
Carol: And as you will find out in Guardians of the Keep and especially in The Soul Weaver the "reality" is a complex joining of genetics, psyche, instincts, upbringing, etc. Seri herself says "neither one of us knew exactly how much of him [Karon] remained" when she speaks of the difficulties of reestablishing their relationship.
Sadia: There's also this point - D'Natheil always had the potential for sorcery. He just didn't know how to do it, it seemed.
Carol: Dar'Nethi sorcery has components of "talent" and "power." "Talent" is capability, and certainly D'Natheil had that - the potential, as you said. Power, and the ability to bring power to serve your talent is another matter. He was taught how to use his abilities but never absorbed the lessons. Dassine says that D'Natheil's soul was damaged when the Preceptors sent him onto the Bridge when he turned twelve. There are various speculations about why he was so damaged. But the result was that he was unable to gather power and use it to serve his talents.
Sadia: I wonder... If Karon's soul had been deposited in a mundane, would he still have been able to perform sorcery?
Carol: Perhaps some. But there is a physical component of the process as well.
(ref. p. 135)
    "[Baglos's] olive skin paled even further to the color of milky tea. 'The sword... he carried no sword, did he? Please tell me he did not.'"
Sadia: Why was Baglos so worried that D'Natheil might have gotten his sword back? I think all the backstabbing and treachery is confusing me. -grin- Here's what I understand: Baglos' master makes a deal with the Zhev'Na to regain the special ancestral dagger and sword, and in return, they'd get D'Natheil. Oh - if D'Natheil has the sword, that would mean it's not in Avonar, and so not protecting them. Is that it?
Carol: Exactly so.
Sadia: You know, you'd think it would make the Dar'Nethi just a bit suspicious - that the Lords of Zhev'Na would be willing to exchange the weapons for the Prince. Kind of makes one think the Prince is what's actually important and not some sword, no matter how spiffy. -grin-
Carol: Underestimating your enemy is a distinct problem. Some of that occurs on both sides.
Sadia: (ref. p. 139) How many years ago were those twenty Dar'Nethi sent across the bridge?
Carol: A thousand years. It was in the time of D'Arnath.
(ref. p. 140)
    "The only remaining entry to the Heir's Gate was located..."
Sadia: I take it there were originally others? How were they destroyed? Wait - does this have something to do with the Cataclysm thing? But I thought the Bridge was only created as a result of the Cataclysm thing... (Okay, I admit, I'm confused on the whole timeline of those events. -grin- )
Carol: Yes, D'Arnath built the Bridge in the years following the Catastrophe. A Gate was built at each end of the Bridge. Each Gate had multiple entry points. You walk through each of these "doors" and ended up at the same place (the Gate chamber.) But even though there was massive destruction at the time of the Catastrophe, more of Gondai has been ruined in the years of war, and so most of these alternative entries have been destroyed.
Sadia: To be honest, to be a Zhid doesn’t sound as bad as it might, because least you don't have any memory of the atrocities you've committed. If it's ever over for you, even if you know in your head you've done terrible things, you don't remember, so it may not feel like you.
Carol: But a terrible burden of guilt still follows you. You feel quite out of place in the world. And the other Dar'Nethi are not excited about having you around.
Sadia: (ref. p. 142) I've finally discovered what the Dulce are - the medieval answer to the computer. -grin- Seriously, think about it. They have access to all this information at their fingertips, and yet without the right "password," the right command, they’re locked out. It's like the difference between active memory and storage. Furthermore, if they've never "uploaded" the right information, you can't "download" it. So a Dulce really is no better than his programming.
Carol: Dulce are quite individual. Some have more or less of an informational "threshold". Some are more skilled at synthesis of information than others. You will meet another Dulce who is very different from Baglos.
Sadia: Are the Dulce reproductively compatible with the Dar'Nethi? Are they different species, or more like different races or ethnicities?
Carol: They are truly different species, and have no interest in interbreeding. Their minds are so very different. The Dulce feel that interbreeding with Dar'Nethi risks dulling their remarkable intelligence while not relieving the barriers to its use. That would be terrible. The Dar'Nethi would be quite apprehensive at the thought of locking their children's "magical intelligence" away behind such a barrier.
Sadia: (ref. p. 144) I sensed some... trouble in Seri and Karon's early marriage. Rather like the precursor to her thinking that Karon would relent and at least fight to protect her and their son. She wanted him to get that job, she decided they should continue to live in Montevial... I've never been married, so I'm hardly one to judge, but I'm not sure if this isn't evidence of her not truly seeing Karon as an individual with different priorities.
Carol: You should never marry anyone thinking that you are going to change the parts of them that you don't agree with. That is a very immature view and can lead to trouble in a marriage. Yes, there were tensions in the marriage from the beginning. But they loved each other very much. One would hope that as they lived together, they would grow and learn and mutually resolve their differences. Of course, that process was interrupted.
(ref. p. 151)
    "Whenever a sorcerer was taken, seven of the J'Ettanne, always two of them children, would stand in the commard of Montevial or the Imperial Amphitheater in Vanesta and watch while their friend or kinsman burned - so they would never forget. But the children were also taught the skills and the love of life that were bound up with their heritage."
Sadia: It's difficult to imagine teaching children "love of life" while forcing them to watch something like that. So why didn't any of the children rebel? Start their own "Open Hand" society? Even if they never got that far, all it would take would be one child, one person, to bring down the whole society.
Carol: Perhaps some did. We just don't know all the history.
Sadia: Avonar failed, so there must have been a slip-up somewhere. Ooh - I wonder it was Darzid? Oh, but wait - then why would he need to learn about sorcerers? Maybe he had his memory changed and is trying to regain it? Oh, who knows? -grin-
Carol: There is a lot to know about Darzid.
Sadia: (ref. p. 163) As I read Karon's thoughts on the Writer not being able to save his child, I am astounded all over again by his level of faith, his depth of conviction. I really do perceive it as religious in its scope. Aidan (SOTB) was religious too, but since his gods were revealed as false, and he stopped believing in his god in captivity (although I must emphasize it was through no fault of his own - I wouldn't have lasted a day in there, and it was only because the dragon stopped speaking to him that he gave up), I have to admit that the first word that comes to mind when I think of Aidan is music, not religion. But Karon... It may not be religious per se, but his set of beliefs and convictions are so strongly held by him, that religion, or perhaps spirituality, is the only word I can use to describe the depth and breadth of that.
Carol: Spirituality. Yes, absolutely. Some other Dar'Nethi possess this same trait, but certainly not all. I think the Exiles kept more of it than did the Dar'Nethi in Gondai. The war has diminished the race of the Dar'Nethi in many ways.
Sadia: And maybe that's why I'm not "in love" with him like I am with the others, with Zander and Seyonne from the rai-kirah trilogy (RK), or Aidan (SOTB). Because I don't think of him that way. He's not my boy toy (like I so desperately want Zander to be. -grin- ) I don't know - he's almost like some sort of holy man, a prophet... a martyr. And there is something intensely... intimidating about that.
Carol: I know exactly. But he IS very human as well. And being joined with "the remnants" of D'Natheil means he experiences the world differently.
Sadia: (ref. p. 163) If I read the case of the Writer and his daughter correctly, he still expended his energy in minor things even after his daughter died.
Carol: The Writer didn't distinguish between minor and major illnesses and injuries. He felt like he had a gift and it was not meant to be hoarded. He, like Karon, had faith that there was a pattern to the world, and that it was not his place to judge beyond the absolutes of the situation presented to him, eg. "this person is in misery and I can help". His purpose and duty were to give back what he had been given.
(ref. p. 163)
    "I was able to heal Christophe because it wasn't time for him to die..."
Sadia: Was Karon referring to fate? Destiny? Does Karon believe in Vasrin Shaper and Changer? Is there another deity coming into play here? When Karon is healing someone, there is a prayer, of sorts, involved, if only to "life." I wonder how necessary that prayer is to the process... Does it serve only to clear the mind and prepare it for the business of sorcery, or is there something else going on?
Carol: Karon considers the Healer's invocation a prayer. Though no necessarily to Vasrin. And it is an integral part of the healing enchantment. I decided not to spend a lot of pages exploring Dar'Nethi theology beyond the Legend of Vasrin (as is available here on my website). Where Vasrin intersects with a "personal" deity is not really explained. But Karon believes there is something greater than himself that his actions serve and from which he draws strength and sustenance.
Sadia: (ref. p. 166) I realize I'm probably the only person in the world concerned with this, but I'll throw it out there anyway. -grin- Would both of Celine's sons be considered J'Ettanne? Or only the horsemaster? Or neither? And could Morin's children, if he had had any, be able to exhibit sorcery?
Carol: Both of them would be J'Ettanne. One with "true talent" and one without. There is no hard and fast rule about which of the children of mixed parentage would exhibit talent and which would not. Morin's children could certainly exhibit sorcery, even if their mother was mundane. Only "being J'Ettanne" is a result of chromosomes, not the development of talent.
Sadia: Could someone who isn't Dar'Nethi or J'Ettanne exhibit sorcery - that is, does it sometimes show up in mundanes or Dulce?
Carol: No.
(ref. p. 169)
    "A small dose of hard reality will always make idealists into practical men."
Sadia: That may be enough to change most idealists, but not prophets, not martyrs. Even at the expense of death and pain, Karon refused to use his abilities to save himself or even his loved ones. Even if he had known what they had planned for his son, he wouldn't have backed down.
Carol: This is one case where Martin was wrong. Karon's beliefs were very deep, and he was a man of immense strength. That's why he was able to accomplish what he did. But that doesn't necessarily mean that he was more "correct" than other Dar'Nethi who did not hold his same conviction.
Sadia: This reminds me, in a way, of that age-old question for believers: How can an all-powerful God let bad things happen to good people? If you can prevent suffering, why shouldn't you? In Karon's case, he had the ability, but he didn't use it. Why? Perhaps because he believed using them could lead to a greater wrong than the thing he may have been trying to prevent. And the risk was just too great.
Carol: That is exactly his belief. He believed that his gifts were a part of something larger than himself. Something good and right, even though he could not always see it. That is faith.
Sadia: The thing with Karon (and I don't know why I'm so fascinated by this, but I am), if he's unable to survive in this world, if his ideals fall to the wayside (or he does), it's not so much he that suffers as it is the rest of the world. After all, he'll either be dead or a "convert" - it won't matter that much to him. It's the ones who are left behind, the rest of us, that are somehow... "lessened" by his absence. So it's really our failure if Karon's ideals fail to survive, not his.
Carol: Yes. The world needs people who are idealists, who are people of such faith and commitment. It also needs people who are more pragmatic.
Sadia: I have to say that I've never been any sort of pacifist, much less the extreme kind that Karon is, where he won't even defend his family. But I do so admire his conviction.
Carol: I do too. But that doesn't mean I think he was absolutely right.
(ref. p. 187)
    "Perhaps by then Karon, too, would realize that the way of the J'Ettanne was not the way of the world."
Sadia: Seri's right - it's not the way of the world. And maybe you could say that even if Karon changes in a way that allows him to fight back if oppressed, that's only natural and right, and the way most people should be.
Carol: I never say that Karon's philosophy is the way we all should be. It is the way he believed he had to be. And, of course, he eventually questions his own actions.
Sadia: Karon’s ideals are what make him even more precious - precisely because he's not like most people. People like Jesus, Gandhi, Mother Teresa - they're never going to represent the average person. That's exactly why they have the impact that they do.
Carol: Exactly so. They play a role in the world. We need them very much.
Sadia: (ref. p. 188) They named their son Connor Martin Gervaise. I know why they named him Connor and Martin, but does Gervaise have any special significance? (Or did they just think it was a spiffy name? -grin- )
Carol: Gervaise was Seri's father.
(ref. p. 193)
    "'You picked up his knife. He had no call to beat you for it.'
    'He thought -' Baglos changed whatever he was going to say."
Sadia: Okay, so... What was he going to say? That the Prince thought Baglos was trying to steal the knife? That he was trying to keep it from him? (And considering what Baglos turned out to be, looks like the Prince was actually right for a change. -grin- )
Carol: Yes, on all counts.
Sadia: (ref. p. 195) Why was the Prince so frantic about scrubbing the blood from his hands from when he hit Baglos? Was that Karon seeping through, at the thought of hurting someone? Or was he just frustrated at not being able to talk?
Carol: He had just committed an act that Karon would consider abhorrent. He felt defiled. But he had no idea why, because part of him insisted this was perfectly fine behavior. This dichotomy was painful.
Sadia: (ref. p. 211) Just when I thought D'Natheil was essentially a decent person, if a bit of a "bad boy," just a little too aggressive and roguish, I read the story of him and his swordmaster. Ugh. I get the sense it was probably for the best that he didn't really survive. He was a vicious, spoiled, vindictive brat, and if he would have grown up, it probably would have just gotten worse.
Carol: Dassine said that D'Natheil was incapable of human sympathy after being damaged on the Bridge. But this incident occurred before the Bridge. He was a troubled child, no doubt of it.
Sadia: Now that I think about it, D’Natheil was lot like Zander (RK), pre-Seyonne (RK). Except that Zander never killed Dmitri, so it seems D'Natheil was actually worse. Can you imagine?
Carol: No, they were only the same in the most superficial ways! Zander was a truly great-hearted, intelligent, and generous soul who had been overindulged, neglected in many ways, and allowed to flounder in adolescent selfishness and carelessness. D'Natheil had a skewed personality that many suspected of being corrupted by the Lords at an early age. Very different.
Sadia: (ref. p. 215) Is it just me, or is D'Natheil's smile actually Karon's?
Carol: Absolutely!
Sadia: Is that why he smiled right after they discovered that Tennice was still alive? Because Seri also told the Prince he would get to fight today, so one could argue he was actually happy about that. But I prefer to think it was because at some level, he recognized Tennice, and was happy he was still alive. (Although, he was seconds away from killing the poor guy... -grin- )
Carol: He could not have told anyone why he smiled. But I think it was definitely seeing Seri and Tennice together again, feeling the connection to the happiest times of his true life.
Sadia: (ref. p. 217) Okay, I realize I'm probably over-analyzing here - looking for clues and hints that may not even be there. But the fact that D'Natheil needed to be alone after the flight away from Ferrante's place, during which he had killed, makes me think that's yet another case of Karon's mindset seeping through. The Prince was hardly one to feel the need for solitude after killing someone, I'd imagine.
Carol: Exactly so. You are not at all overanalyzing. He was feeling so strange. His mind that had been this blank canvas was suddenly marked with emotions and fragments of memory that he could not identify.
(ref. p. 221)
    [Tennice said] “'I suppose I was boring next to Martin and Julia. I told them everything I knew in the first day, said everything they wanted me to say, and signed whatever they wanted me to sign soon after. At the last I lost consciousness, believing and hoping I'd never wake again.'"
Sadia: Is there anything worse about torture than how it demeans the human spirit? It's not just the pain, but to be confronted with the knowledge that we'd say most anything, give up most anything, do most anything, to stop that pain. We know in our heads that this doesn't make us bad or evil, just ordinary and human, but sometimes we can't stop torturing ourselves with "I should have been stronger" and "If only I had held out a little bit longer." I don't know if one could ever fully recover from something like that.

Then there are those who are extraordinary, the martyrs, like Karon, who hold on to even just a little bit of themselves no matter what they’re put through. Whatever information they may have gotten out of him, however they tortured him, they still couldn't make him become that which he abhorred.

Carol: Karon was exceptional. But, of course, he has his own guilts.
(ref. p. 226)
    "I wondered if perhaps we should consider leaving Montevial."
Sadia: Well, duh! -grin- Of course you should have considered leaving, silly! Your husband's very existence just happens to be illegal, and you wonder if you should perhaps consider other locales? Okay, if they had done so, there might not have been a story, but I doubt Seri would have cared about that. -grin- Although, now that I think about it, where would they have gone? If all the Four Realms were under Leiran control, one imagines the same rules would apply everywhere. Still, though... there could have been some place at least slightly less dangerous than Montevial itself.
Carol: That's right. But it was almost too late by the time she was thinking this. She had grown up believing that if she wanted something bad enough, she could make it happen. She was an extremely confidant young woman who was destined for a terrible lesson.
Sadia: (ref. p. 227) Even though, the second time through, I knew what was coming, that Karon was about to be exposed, I wished it weren't happening. And when you know what's coming, it's even harder to read the build-up, the moments right before when everything still seems okay. That scene where they're complimenting each other on their outfits is just so bittersweet.
Carol: I know. I still get the quivers and feel awful when I read it.
Sadia: It's just a small thing that took down a family, really. All because Karon tried to help people in that earthquake. If he hadn't done that... Although, if I look at it from the J'Ettanne perspective, he was right to have helped those people, and it was simply his time to die (or not, as the case may be. -grin- )
Carol: That's right. He had the gift. He couldn't hide it away. Whatever came later was the path he had to walk.
Sadia: Not to mention it opened up the Gate again...
Carol: That's right. When Seri realizes this, it is a huge step in her growth. There is no simple answer to her disagreement with Karon.
(ref. p. 233)
    "I wish we had found time to talk about my dreams, my lady. Too late now, I'm afraid."
Sadia: Even the first time I read that, I went "uh oh." And what on earth was Darzid talking about? Something's up with him, and I don't know what it is, and it's making me crazy. -grin- I waffle between feeling sorry for him and not... And this entire scene makes me wallow in the land of "if only's." If only Seri had found the time to talk with Darzid...
Carol: This is a huge if only... Darzid is acknowledging Seri's power and that different actions on her part might have truly made a difference in his own course.
Sadia: But then, as Karon said, in that way lies madness, I suppose. I don't know if it's easier to believe that it was just Karon's time. Or at least to keep the result of his sacrifice and his eventual fate in mind.
Carol: You just do your best, follow your heart and your convictions. You can't spend your life (or death!) second guessing.
(ref. p. 237)
    "Underneath [Darzid's] display of shock, I felt him laughing."
Sadia: Okay, the scene in which Karon's revealed to be a sorcerer, well, let's just say I had no trouble hating Darzid then. And who but a monster would laugh at a time like this? But... and there rears the "but," again. -grin- But I can't forget how he tried to talk to Seri before. I wonder again - could he be under the influence of the Zhid somehow? And maybe he was trying to fight it? Oh - I don't know.
Carol: -grin-
(ref. p. 238)
    "Damn you. Damn all of you. Get a surgeon in here."
Sadia: I take it the speaker was Tomas? You know, I suppose it's true that Tomas loves Seri as best as he knows how, but he really is one deluded man. -grin- One would think that he'd be upset at the guy who stabbed his sister in the back (literally), and grateful to the guy who saved her, and instead he gets it all twisted around.
Carol: Yes it was Tomas. He does love her. His mind is just a mess, though. I see him as a truly tragic figure. His own callow behavior left him vulnerable.
Sadia: The contrast between how Tomas reacted to Karon's Healing and how Julia and the rest reacted to Karon's Healing couldn't have been more different. Yes, in the latter case, Karon was their friend, and Tomas probably never forgave Karon for marrying his sister when she could have been Queen, but still... One would think that because he loved his sister he'd be willing to hear her out, give her the benefit of the doubt. But he just completely shut her out, especially when she told him about Connor.
Carol: There was a reason Tomas didn't join in the society at Martin's. He was close minded. Martin is the champion of open mindedness.
Sadia: It seems like Thomas never really thought of Seri as an autonomous individual with the right to make her own decisions, and never gave her the gift of trusting those decisions. At least, not until the end.
Carol: All this is exactly right. I like to think that if Tomas had not been "messed with" he would have grown up to understand Seri and the others and perhaps have become one of them. We learn a bit more about Tomas in Guardians of the Keep, regarding his relationship with his son.
Sadia: This makes me wonder another "what if." What if Seri hadn't told Tomas about her son? She might have been able to conceal her pregnancy long enough to escape, if only she had realized how her brother would have reacted to the news.
Carol: She wasn't thinking particularly straight. But deep down she trusted her brother. Again, if he hadn't been messed with, I think he might have protected her a little better.
(ref. p. 243)
    "Only on one corner stood a wild-eyed, shabbily dressed man, preaching that the stars foretold the doom of Leire and the coming of a philosopher-king."
Sadia: Was there anything... special about this person?
Carol: I'll tell you that he was just truly a loony.
Sadia: You know, Carol, I think you have some sort of unconscious bias against fish-eyes. First Rhys, now Maceron - their ocular protuberance is hardly their fault. -grin-
Carol: Sometimes that happens. It's just a great description and I really shouldn't have used it again.
Sadia: (ref. p. 262) And the award for ditziest character goes to...(drum roll, please)... Misara! hee

Seriously, what was up with this girl? How could she not have known who was on trial? How could she not be aware of the penalty for sorcery in Leire? How could she so carelessly help dig Karon's grave?

Carol: She was just an ignorant little country girl who could not imagine that anyone would connect what Karon did with evil.
Sadia: So let me see if I understand this correctly - J'Ettanne was sent across to maintain the Gate, and D'Arnath "sealed" the breach.
Carol: Well, he actually linked the two worlds across the Breach. After sending J'Ettanne and his company across, he blocked the way so no one could cross in either direction. Many years later, the Dar'Nethi finally discovered how to undo the blockade so the Bridge could be crossed.
Sadia: The “breach” was caused by some sort of Catastrophe, I take it. A war or something? Oh wait - does it have something to do with those three sorcerers who turned evil?
Carol: Yes. The Catastrophe was caused by three ambitious sorcerers who thought they were doing something really good. King D'Arnath and the Preceptors forbade them to continue their work. They didn't. The King was right about the consequences.
Sadia: J'Ettanne's people, had to do some sort of... maintenance on the Gate? Or it would lead to the eventual darkening of the fire?
Carol: Yes.
Sadia: So, before the Catastrophe, whatever it was, no maintenance was needed - is that correct? Oh, that's right - there wasn't even the need for the Gate, because the lands were connected and easily accessible to each other... right?
Carol: Right. Reasonably easy. Inhabitants of the mundane world didn't really know about Gondai but sometimes wandered into it by chance. People in Gondai knew about the mundane world, but kept a low profile when they traveled there.
Sadia: For some reason, I'm still a bit confused about this part (in case you hadn't noticed. -grin- ) It'll probably get cleared up the next time I read SOA, or when Happy Day finally comes and the second book comes out - whatever comes first.
Carol: I don't spend a lot of time on history, but I think the issues become clear.
Sadia: Kellea is a good example of what I was talking about before - how can one judge the effect that seeing an execution will have on a child?
Carol: Yes. But she also never had the offsetting sense of community that the other J'Ettanni children had.
Sadia: I just wonder, if they're so concerned with teaching their children fear, how do they teach their children love at the same time?
Carol: They worked very hard at it. And from Karon's evidence, were very successful for the most part.
Sadia: I do admire Kellea for being willing to work through whatever issues she had and help Seri and the others (especially Rowan. -grin- Is it just me, or is something going to happen there?)
Carol: -grin-
(ref. p. 279)
    "[D'Natheil] bestowed upon [Celine] the gift of his smile.
    'Oh my,' she said, raising her eyebrows and laying her dry fingers on his cheek. 'What sorcery is this? I didn't doubt your words, Seri, but this... this is beyond your telling. Beyond wonder. Can you not see-?' She glanced sharply at me. 'No, perhaps not...'"
Sadia: Celine was Karon's mentor, so she'd be quite familiar with his smile, and might not have all that traumatic baggage that Seri carried around. Which may be why she couldn't recognize Karon the way Celine did? Or at least, the reason it took her longer to realize it consciously. Her "widow's lust" knew long before she did. (You know, I've never actually heard that expression before. It's quite... colorful. -grin- )
Carol: I don't think Celine knew exactly what she was seeing, but she knew it had something to do with Karon.
Sadia: So, D'Natheil, by "walking the bridge," is supposed to be able to heal it. I'm guessing that part of that was the Healing that Karon did - without that, the Bridge would have failed. (Or was it just to compensate for the fact that he caused those injuries in the first place? Maybe it's the sort of place that can't be..."profaned" by bloodshed.)
Carol: No one really knew what had to be done to keep the Gates open and strengthen the Bridge. That was part of the problem. Dassine believed that a lot of the Dar'Nethi theories had taken a wrong turn somewhere. When he felt Karon's power as he died, he said "this guy knows something about enchantment that we are missing." He didn't know what Karon could do, only that he was their best hope for the person to do it. I don't think it is necessarily true that the healing that Karon did was the only way to accomplish the strengthening of the Bridge and the opening of the Gates. Other Dar'Nethi could perhaps have found other ways. It was the spirit, the generosity, the life-encompassing power of Karon's giving that was the key.
Sadia: But it's still only a stopgap measure, correct? I mean, it still has to be maintained in the future, right? But it has to be maintained from the mundane side, too... Else why would they have needed to send over J'Ettanne and the others through before?
Carol: Yes, it has to be maintained. Now that the Dar'Nethi have learned how to overcome the barrier that D'Arnath put up, it is less important that someone live on the mundane side to take care of it. D'Arnath worried about the Zhid being able to follow a Dar'Nethi cross the Bridge, and as happened in SoA, that is certainly a risk.
Sadia: I'm not quite sure what's entailed by "walking the bridge." Is it actually a physical "walking," or...
Carol: It is physical in that the Heir must pass through a Gate and be present on the Bridge. The actual enchantments that are needed to keep the Bridge strong are a mystery that is passed from Heir to Heir. Unfortunately D'Natheil never got proper mentoring.
Sadia: If Karon went through to the other side, who's left on the mundane side to maintain the Bridge? Or will it fail only after such a long period of time that Karon will be back way before then?
Carol: This is not something that would have to be done every day or even every month.
Sadia: Aside from the mechanisms of it, it reminds me that once you've broken or destroyed something, it's very hard to fix it to the way it used to be. The link between the worlds was damaged to such an extent that a stopgap measure was needed. But that's never quite as good as the original, is it? And even it, at the end of the whole series, the balance is restored like it used to be, I'm sure it'll be a long and difficult road to get there.
Carol: Absolutely true. This universe is in a broken state. The Bridge was meant to keep the two worlds living and linked so that the natural processes of healing could draw them back together. Clearly that hasn't happened as yet.
(ref. p. 303)
    "'Where is he?' Tennice's eyes blinked wide open as soon as I kissed his hot forehead. 'Where's Karon?... Run away, Seri. Take him away from the darkness... The shadow will destroy him... enslave us all.'"
Sadia: It sounds like Tennice was a lot more aware of what was going on than he realized even himself. What I like to think is that Tennice's unconscious mind picked up on something even he wasn't really aware of. Little things, stuff that wouldn't seem to be important or else was too small to worry about, may have sat in the back of his mind and percolated.
Carol: Yes.
Sadia: And certainly, being ill was an important reason for why Tennice said what he did. Because it allowed him to let go of seeming impossibilities and contradictions that his healthy mind wouldn't have been able to let go. Obviously, Karon was dead, so he couldn't have been helping Tennice at that moment. But if one is ill and doesn't remember that, it opens the door to connections and links that might be next to impossible for other people to make. If Karon wasn't dead, then perhaps he was the one helping Tennice. There was something of Karon to recognize in the person known as D'Natheil, if one opened himself up to the possibility. And along the same line, there may have been signs of this growing darkness Tennice referred to, but his conscious, rational mind just didn't pay any attention to it.
Carol: That's right.
(ref. p. 318)
    "...I opened the box and looked on the precious things I had last seen in Karon's hand. I removed the tattered journal... then I returned the box to the trunk and pushed the trunk back into the corner."
Sadia: You know, it would have been nice had Seri gotten the other stuff back too, the implements of a Healer. I know she didn't know about Karon then, but wouldn't it have been nice to keep anyway? Nobody else would have understood the historical significance of those artifacts, and it would have been nice to keep them in the hands of someone who would. Not to mention anything would have been better than being hidden away like that.
Carol: She didn't think she had any use for them. And it would risk them being lost. She was too much of an archeologist's assistant to do that.
(ref. p. 320)
    "[Garlos was] an insightful gentleman indeed. Not at all like Tomas's usual associates. No sardonic glint in his eye as there would have been in Darzid's."
Sadia: Okay, I kind of like Garlos. I don't know why - but he seems like a really good guy. I wonder if we'll see him again...
Carol: I like to think of minor characters as real people who have their own agenda not necessarily related to the story. Sometimes they show up again. Sometimes they don't.
(ref. p. 323)
    "In a voice so soft I had to work to hear it, [Tomas] said, 'I dream, Seri. Bloody nightmares that have not left me since that day. Desolation and ruin. Fire. And sorcery. I see you with that knife in your back...and the child...oh holy Annadis, the child...'"
Sadia: I still say there was something fishy about the death of Connor. -grin- Why, for example, did Tomas say "the child" and not "your child"?
Carol: Acknowledging out loud that he had killed an infant...his sister's infant...is dreadfully difficult. He was "convinced" he did the right thing and is now consumed by doubt.
(ref. p. 324)
    "I have a son, ten years old."
Sadia: Uh huh. And Tomas' son just happened to be the same age as Seri's, had he survived. Coincidence? I think not. -grin- There's got to be a connection between the two events, Connor's death and the existence of Tomas' son.
Carol: Tomas's wife gave birth to a son in that same year.
(ref. p. 325)
    [Seri, talking to Tomas] "'Who convinced you that only you, of all the bastards in Evard's multitudes, had to murder my son?'"
Sadia: So, it was Tomas who was responsible for the actual deed, for the actual killing of the child?
Carol: Yes. Tomas slit the infant's throat. That's one reason Seri bears such hatred for him for so long. And why her forgiveness at the end of SoA is such a profound step. It helps that she believes he was "influenced."
Sadia: If one were to speculate, which of course I would never do -grin-, one could imagine a situation where Tomas somehow got hold of a dead newborn - perhaps a stillbirth - and managed to switch the two, Darzid and the rest never the wiser. Only if one were to speculate.
Carol: I will not aid in your speculation.
(ref. p. 343)
    "'You, man, tell your new master to beat this woman twice a day until she has a softer tongue.'
    'Aye, lordship,' said Baglos."
Sadia: Okaay. -grin- Sheesh - did the nobleman actually expect that anyone would actually follow those directions?
Carol: Some nobles would expect the servant to obey. Some servants would obey. In this case, think "face saving."
(ref. p. 345)
    "D'Natheil took a firm grip on Paulo's ear, transforming the boy's scowl of freckled ferocity itno a forlorn wince."
Sadia: -hee- "Itno" -grin- There's also a typo in the very first sentence of the book, btw.
Carol: I know. And I caught it in the proofs and they didn't fix it. Aarrgh.
(ref. p. 350)
    "Paulo asked why I didn't use my horse's name, as that would make him listen better. When I said that I didn't know the beast's name and hadn't had time to think of one, the boy stared at me in scornful disbelief.
    'Name's Firethorn,' he said. 'Don't know why you never figured it out.'"
Sadia: There's something...unusual about Paulo. I'm not sure what it is, though. It may just be that he's a rather intuitive boy who simply got caught up in something. But I get the sense that he's about to play a larger role in future events than one might expect.
Carol: I will say that Paulo plays a huge role in future events. Which is not at all what I intended when I wrote him into the story. He is a character that just grew on me in his own quiet way as he does on all who meet him.
Sadia: I've been thinking more about the Way of the J'Ettanne. So, if I understand it correctly, it states that every person must choose his or her own path. It doesn't advocate pacifism specifically - that's just how Karon chose his path.
Carol: That's right. The Way is more a method of living rather than a set of beliefs.
Sadia: If the choice is left up to the individual, however, how can one be sure some people won't choose a way of, well... evil?
Carol: Because ethics is a major part of their training.
Sadia: What were the Two Tenets again? I know one was something like not using their abilities to influence thought, but I don't remember the other.
Carol: 1. The gifts of the J'Ettanne are for life and not destruction. 2. You cannot invade a mind without consent.
Sadia: Can you explain the Way in a little more detail, as well as how the Tenets relate to it?
Carol: The Way is a deep-rooted understanding that a person must both experience and embrace life and try to see the particular elements of it - even the bad things - as part of a larger pattern that is essentially good. The Dar'Nethi who do this successfully find this a source of magical power. The Way is something deep within that they brought from Gondai. The two tenets are ethical guidelines that the J'Ettanne developed after seeing how their good intentions went so horrifically astray. They were a response to living in the mundane world. In a world where essentially everyone has this power to read minds, you face different issues and develop different social structures.

The Way is a method of thinking not a structure of morality.

Sadia: This brings up the question that's haunted parents since parenting began - at what point does a child have the right to choose his own path?
Carol: You teach your children morality, ethics and you live what you teach. You guide them through early years allowing them to make age-appropriate decisions and reap the consequences of poor decisions at a time when the consequences are not life threatening. By the time they are old enough to make serious decisions, you hope...
Sadia: I am curious to find out whether the Way originated with J'Ettanne himself, or whether it was some facet of Gondai life.
Carol: The Way has come from Gondai. The purity of expression that Karon exemplifies is rare.
Sadia: J’Ettanne must have been a remarkable person. To let yourself be exiled from everything you've ever known, with no hope of coming back, and with only twenty others to share it with... I can't imagine how difficult that would have been.
Carol: J'Ettanne and his followers were extraordinary. Despite all that happened to them through the years, one could say that this strain of courage and commitment that Karon demonstrates reflects the best of his ancestors.
Sadia: Throughout most of the book we're led to believe that Karon died ten years ago. As such, what's the point in investing too much emotionally into a character we don't think is around anymore?
Carol: One reason I spent so much time in the past was so that the reader would be forced to know him more than just as a passing name. And thus perhaps recognize him sooner than Seri did. You will get up close and personal with him in Guardians of the Keep-grin-
(ref. p. 357)
    [Baglos said] "'I was Master Exeget's madrisse for eight years... When Bendal was wounded by the Zhid, Master Exeget commanded me to take the madris with D'Natheil.'
    And so Baglos, sworn to obey his linked madrisson, had been given little choice in the matter of this journey."
Sadia: The whole relationship between the Dulce and the Dar'Nethi - I'm becoming more curious about it. Do all Dulce go into service?
Carol: No.
Sadia: Do the Dulce actually choose to go into service, or is it forced upon them?
Carol: They choose. They must be a willing participant. Some choose not to do it. But many do, because it is the only way to reach their full potential.
Sadia: The Dulce going into service... It rather hints at the existence of a second-class group of people. Not that there's anything wrong with service, of course, but it shouldn't be imposed upon you springing from your ethnicity.
Carol: It is not second class, any more than one could say that the Dar'Nethi are second class or "ignorant" because they don't have the potential for such depth of knowledge or analytical skill.
Sadia: Are the label of "Dulce" and "Dar'Nethi" only set after you’ve chosen your path in life? That is, if you choose to go into service, you're a Dulce, and if not, you're a Dar'Nethi?
Carol: No, they are two distinct species. Dar'Nethi, Dulce, and mundanes are all human, but they are distinct branches.
Sadia: Is it more palatable to say that one group was more suited to one thing and one group was more suited to another? I suppose that attitude was the accepted reality of Middle Age life, but coming from a 21st century perspective, it's a rather difficult idea to digest. Perhaps I could look at it as akin to gender differences. There's no doubt that men and women, as two general groups, have very different physical abilities. Maybe Dulce and Dar'Nethi are as different as men and women. And just as it took women centuries to achieve even the beginnings of equality, maybe the Dulce just aren't there yet.
Carol: There is no prejudice against Dulce. They are not excluded from ordinary life in any way. However, they are not part of the royal family. Their limited immediate knowledge makes them unsuitable for certain roles in public life.
Sadia: I'm not saying that the Dulce are this massively oppressed group of people, or that they're the slave class of Gondai or anything like that. I just... I like the idea of self-determination, and it seems as if that freedom of choice is taken away from the Dulce. Not to mention it hardly fits the Way - of being able to choose your own path.
Carol: Dulce are absolutely free to choose. To coerce a Dulce into the madris would be a reprehensible.
Sadia: I wonder about the nature of the link between madrisse and madrisson. When the book talked about being "sworn to obey," what exactly did that mean? Is it along the lines of keeping one's word, or is there a... stronger reason to do as your madrisson says? Meaning, is a madrisse physically unable to disobey his madrisson?
Carol: Part of the madris - the rite of linking - is the binding of will. It, as all parts of the rite, is voluntary, but it is seen as part of the total commitment between madrisson and madrisse. The perfect madris relationship involves all the centers of thought, memory, and will. But, of course, it is an immense responsibility on the part of the madrisson. A Dulce would never go into this relationship without being very sure of the other person. Likewise, the bond exposes the madrisson as well. You don't do it unless you have absolute trust in the partner.
Sadia: Could Karon have ordered Baglos to help them when it was revealed that he was a traitor? I'm actually relieved he didn't do that - it smacks too much of compulsion.
Carol: The relationship of Karon and Baglos is imperfect to say the least. Those who instigated this relationship had no idea of what had been done to D'Natheil.
(ref. p. 367)
    "[Ghouro] took his flock too far into the mountains two years ago. When he didn't come back before snowfall, we thought him dead. But didn't he wander into the village in the middle of winter, half starved and off his head?"
Sadia: At first I thought that perhaps Ghouro somehow managed to wander into the Gate, and that's what caused his present affliction?
Carol: At first I thought so as well. But then I decided that he didn't. Mmm...the power of authorship!
Sadia: Could Ghouro's madness have been caused by some Zhid he ran into? Of course, that would mean that there were Zhid coming through at least a couple years before D'Natheil/Karon did. Which I don't think is too much of a stretch, actually.
Carol: No. The three Zhid that came through were the first Zhid to cross the Bridge ever.
Sadia: When speaking of religious characters, I suppose Rowan would have to qualify, what with the putting of the ash on the forehead before journeys and all that. But since I think of it as a false religion (which seem to be a common in your books - every single named god you've ever mentioned has turned out to be... less than adequate -grin- ), I suppose I think he's simply been fooled. Not to mention that he seems more "ritualistic" than having a true depth of belief.
Carol: Rowan is a pious man. I think he believes sincerely in the somewhat bleak religious tradition of the Four Realms. As with many/most people, he infuses his beliefs with his own experiences and growth as a human being.
Sadia: I have a hard time imagining Rowan doing those terrible things Seri accused him of. It could very well be that he was one of the few men of principle involved in the campaign against Avonar. Maybe he was responsible for acts of heroism that pop up every so often in times of war. He certainly wouldn't be one to talk about them, after all.
Carol: He is a man of principle. I think those principles have evolved by the time we meet him. Fear and ignorance can lead people to do terrible things, and he was young and ignorant and afraid when he did them.
Sadia: Speaking of religion, the idea of one without the concept of an afterlife, or even something after death like reincarnation - it's rather odd, to be honest. Even if there's no heaven or hell per se, which I believe some religions have, there's still something incredibly attractive to most people about the idea of existing forever, albeit in an altered state. What does the religion of Annadis have to compensate? Being "remembered" by the Twins doesn't seem to give you a whole lot. -grin-
Carol: Speculation on the afterlife is almost universal. But even among people who believe in a higher power of some kind, there is a big difference between belief in a "personal" afterlife - the survival of an individual identity - and "continued existence" which is more "becoming a part of the infinite" without individual identity. And there are many people who believe in the second. And, of course, each of these concepts could be illustrated in different ways. For Leirans, there is no personal relationship with their gods, and thus no personal afterlife. I don't explore what they think actually happens to their consciousness. I think they believe it just goes out like a light. Thus the idea of your name being somehow preserved on a list of heroes gives some comfort.
(ref. p. 390)
    "As I drifted off to sleep, I felt vaguely as though I were forgetting something important, but I was much too tired to dredge it up."
Sadia: Okay, whenever a character says they've forgotten something, you just know it's going to be important. -grin- But in this particular case, I have no idea what she could be forgetting.
Carol: Look at D'Natheil's comment just prior to this -grin-
(ref. p. 416)
    [Baglos said] "'Just before we stepped through the Gate, our Preceptors took possession of D'Arnath's sword and knife, held by the Lords in Zhev'Na since the Battle of Ghezir. As long as the Dar'Nethi hold the sword, Avonar cannot be defeated... I was commanded by my bound master to complete the bargain by delivering D'Natheil as soon as we came to the Gate.'"
Sadia: So Exeget wasn't the only Preceptor involved in this mess, I take it? Was Dassine the only holdout? What baffles me is why either side expected the other to keep their word.
Carol: Exeget was not the only Preceptor involved. Dassine did not communicate with any of the others. He had long written them all off. He agreed that Karon/D'Natheil had to cross the Bridge, because they were in imminent danger of the Gates being closed again. He had not told any of the Preceptors about Karon or what he had done to their Prince. And he was appalled when he discovered that they had agreed to exchange D'Natheil for the sword. As to the trust issue, loss of hope obscures judgment, and many among the Dar'Nethi had despaired. And there is more to unravel about this particular plot.
Sadia: Once Exeget had the sword and the dagger, why would the Zhev'Na expect him to deliver on his promise and give them D'Natheil? After all, if those weapons have as much power as the Preceptors believed, they could hold off the Zhid forever, and they wouldn't have to kill their Prince to do so.
Carol: Baglos was bound to Exeget by the madris - a free choice that he had made many years before. He had been commanded by his madrisson to slay D"Natheil before the Prince could destroy the Bridge. Yes, Baglos COULD have chosen - albeit with great difficulty - not to do this. But part of the "enforcement" of the binding of will is that the Dulce knows that he doesn't have all the facts at his command when the time comes to obey the order. He has to trust that his madrisson had chosen the right course even if he (the Dulce) can't see it right at that moment. The madris is NOT a linking to be taken on lightly for either party.
Sadia: Why did Exeget trust the Zhid not to retake the sword and dagger once D'Natheil was dead? It was certainly possible. After all, it ended up in the Lords of Zhev'Na's hands somehow.
Carol: You will find out more about Exeget's beliefs in Guardians of the Keep.
Sadia: I really don't understand why anyone would place so much faith in the sword in the first place. If something is supposed to have some magical ability to protect you, the fact that it could be taken in battle or whatever would kind of blow that idea apart, wouldn't you say? If it can't even protect itself, how could it protect anything else? And again, I have to point out that if it did have any kind of ability like that, the Zhid would hardly give it up so lightly.
Carol: The Dar'Nethi had been fighting this war for a thousand years, believing that the future of two worlds depended on their victory. They had seen their land, their people, and their future consumed in horror. They knew they had changed. Their talents were diminished. They were down to the last Heir of D'Arnath and everyone knew he was inadequate to a task that had confounded even his greatest ancestors. They were grasping at straws.
(ref. p. 417)
    [Maceron said] "'You are quite trusting of this little vermin.’ [meaning Baglos]
    'You needn't worry. A Dulce's bound service is quite reliable. We can afford to be trusting.'" [said Giano]
Sadia: Baglos was bound to Exeget, and that never ended, apparently. Was he also bound to D'Natheil? Can you be bound to more than one master? Or was he just ordered by Exeget to appear as though he were helping D'Natheil?
Carol: For a Dulce to be linked to two Dar'Nethi is just not done. Imagine the confusion. The burden on the poor Dulce would be awful. But, in this case, Exeget did it. He knew that D'Natheil was "damaged". But he just didn't know how much. He made sure that his "tool" Baglos was the Guide chosen for D'Natheil.
Sadia: How much choice did Baglos have in the entire mess? Was he really a traitor if all he had been doing was what he had no choice in doing?
Carol: He always has a choice. He just doesn't always have the evidence to guide him in that choice, and he knows it.
Sadia: Even if it wasn't an actual lack of free will, Baglos was still doing what his bound master had ordered him to do. I realize that "following orders" is never an acceptable reason for doing horrible things, but he really did think he was doing it for Avonar.
Carol: Yes, he did. And he believed in his madrisson, Exeget.
Sadia: The real traitors were Exeget and the other Preceptors who sold D'Natheil (and almost all of Avonar) out. Baglos was simply the easy target, the peon who got blamed for the actions of his superiors.
Carol: As always.
Sadia: As I understand it, the Zhid wanted to destroy the Bridge because that would increase the sorrows upon which they fed. Once the Bridge was destroyed, any link between their two worlds would be gone, so they'd only have Gondai to gorge on, correct? The misery that would descend upon the mundane world would be irrelevant to them, since they would have no way of accessing it.
Carol: You will have to wait for Guardians of the Keep to understand more of the Lords' motives.
Sadia: How long have the two worlds needed each other? Forever? Or did it develop over time?
Carol: Forever. The two worlds create a balance in the universe. Dassine says that it is the passion of the mundanes that balances the sorcery of the Dar'Nethi. Two kinds of magic in a way.
(ref. p. 434)
    "I stretched my arms around the column, paying no attention to the ache of my shoulders or the pull of the bindings or the scratch of the ropes about my abraded wrists. 'Oh, holy, blessed gods...'"
(ref. p. 444)
    "'Not fair. Not fair.' Did the saving of the world require this blood, too? I clutched my brother in my arms and wished that I could pray."
Sadia: She did pray, though. It may have been vague, she may not have understood what she was asking for, or even what she did, but what else are you doing when you're crying out to the gods?
Carol: People who have been brought up to believe that "prayer" is a particular formula don't always consider spontaneous expressions of need as prayer.
Sadia: Seri's prayer is often the way prayer works. It's the refuge of the desolate, the last hope, the thing you hang on to when there's nothing else there. Oftentimes, even people who profess not to believe in a higher power will find themselves desperately crying out to... something, if it gets hard enough.
Carol: That's right. But often they don't think of it as prayer, because prayer is those formulas they were taught as children. Some people stay in elementary school where religion is concerned. Just as we come to a more mature understanding of the science and history and stories we are taught as children, we should come to a more mature understanding of the religious practices we are taught as children. I truly think that a lot of the problems with organized religion is that when the matters involved are things like sin and the afterlife and so forth, people are afraid to grow up and admit that things are more complicated than they were taught when they were six.
(ref. p. 450)
    "The two who battled were on the ground now, weapons thrown aside. Grunting, twisting until the blue-eyed one lay atop the other. The pale one's arm outstretched was all that stayed the deadly stroke of the shining dagger.
    And as I watched, the pale one, the one with the empty eyes, broke into wild laughter and with a crow of triumph snatched his hand away. All the force of the battle was focused in the silver dagger that plunged into his own heart... The pale one's bestial exultation did not fade with his surrender. His echoing laughter was the essence of horror..."
Sadia: Let's see if I understand this correctly. The blue-eyed man was Karon/D'Natheil, and the empty-eyed one was Giano?
Carol: Yes.
Sadia: If Karon had not attempted to Heal those he had killed or injured, would that have been what would have destroyed the Bridge forever? What specifically about Karon killing Giano, for example, would have been the trigger, though?
Carol: I'm not going to address this completely. There are three books still to come in which the Bridge is at risk!

The Zhid wanted to force the Heir of D'Arnath to repudiate his oath by violently destroying the lives of those he was sworn to protect - someone from the mundane world and someone from Gondai. In addition, the Heir doing murder on the Bridge itself was a profound violation of an artifact created to preserve and reinstate the order of nature.

Sadia: I wonder if the Dar'Nethi were more... contemplative than I had originally thought. Perhaps it was a particular kind of mindset that was necessary to fix the Bridge, a kind of connection with everything around you. Karon had that kind of connection. D'Natheil did not.
Carol: Yes. Dassine recognized something in Karon that was missing not only from D'Natheil, but from most of the Dar'Nethi in Gondai and certainly from the recent Heirs. War changes people. If those people are lucky, the war ends and they can go back to being mostly what they were albeit with a core that has been altered (see most veterans.) For the Dar'Nethi, they have not been able to go back for all these generations. The experiences of those in Exile were not easy, but not as relentless as those in Gondai.
Sadia: Maybe it wasn't Giano's death that would have been the problem so much as Karon's death. Perhaps if D'Natheil/Karon had managed to kill Giano, Karon would never have been able to come out like he needed to.
Carol: Karon did kill Giano. If he had left it at that, then Dassine's gamble would have failed. Dassine himself didn't know what he expected Karon to do, only that it would be better and more likely to succeed than whatever D'Natheil would do. Seri was the catalyst, bringing out Karon's true nature so that he could do what was necessary by instinct, if not plan.
Sadia: Giano didn't know about Karon, I don't think, but maybe in his mind, the fact that he got D'Natheil to "kill" him meant to him that D'Natheil didn't have the right... heart to "walk the bridge." So really, even if Karon hadn't been able to heal Giano, the mere fact that he would have tried would have been enough to show he truly understood what he had to do.
Carol: Perhaps. Karon was not guaranteed to succeed. Something about the enchantments he worked - spillover? - did what was needed. If he hadn't had the power to actually do the healing, he might not have had enough to take care of the Bridge.
(ref. p. 456)
    "Some remnant of D'Natheil will always remain with [Karon], but eventually it will seem neither strange nor uncomfortable."
Sadia: I get the impression this means Karon won't be the kind of pacifist he was before. Maybe he'll be a little like Seyonne (RK) - not a violent man by any means, but willing to do what was needed to protect those who needed it.
Carol: You will certainly learn what comes of all this!
Sadia: I suppose I should be happy. If it had been Karon on the journey to the Bridge, would they have made it? D'Natheil's skills were the only thing that kept them from getting captured sometimes, it seemed.
Carol: You will have to judge if things worked out for the best or not.
Sadia: You know, it seems as if there would have been a way for even "pure" Karon to succeed in this, though. -grin- My point being that there was a place for him, just the way he was. And although having a bit of D'Natheil's beliefs about fighting, at least for protection, might make it easier for him (and those he loves as well), I would still mourn for that "purity of spirit," as you called it.
Carol: Karon is a unique human being, I think. I adore him. That doesn't mean I agree with everything he does.
(ref. p. 460)
    "[D'Natheil] turned the tide of that night's battle, but not until he met a crafty Zhid who used a mind-destroying poison on his knife and left D'Natheil among the dying. I knew that poison... as I knew the Zhid who wielded it.'"
Sadia: Whoa - what? Does that mean what I think it means?
Carol: Yes.
Sadia: So, what, Dassine murdered D'Natheil? And he's supposed to be one of the good guys? How is what he did any different than what the other Preceptors did, or Baglos did, or even what Narim (SOTB) did?
Carol: That is a good question. We will never know if Dassine could have gotten the same result without his reprehensible means.
Sadia: You know, it's either okay to murder an innocent person in defense of your homeland, or it's not. And btw, an argument can be made for the idea that it is indeed okay; the needs of the many outweighing the needs of the few and all that.
Carol: This is why it is very important whom you put in the position to make those decisions. (I hope everyone here is registered to VOTE!) I certainly don't want to have to make those decisions (except in fiction). You need someone with a mind that can grasp the big picture, as well as the consequences on all parties involved. Was Dassine a Winston Churchill or a ... ok, I won't go there...
Sadia: Baglos and the other Preceptors and Narim (SOTB) were as equally justified as Dassine was in what they did. All of them were willing to sacrifice one person, either D'Natheil or Aidan(SOTB), if it meant their people would be protected. Sure, the Preceptors and Baglos, as well as Narim were willing to screw over the dragons(SOTB) and the mundane world... Is that the difference between them and Dassine?
Carol: The general welfare as opposed to one's own narrow goals would have to be a part of the picture. The full examination of options would be another piece. Again, think Winston Churchill and Coventry.
Sadia: Dassine was ostensibly thinking of everybody when he stabbed his charge in the back? If he was so certain of his justification, why didn't he bother telling Karon what he had done? Maybe because he knew that his moral foundation was in danger of falling about his head.
Carol: Absolutely! He knew enough about Karon by that point to know that Karon would wholly disagree with him and perhaps refuse to cooperate at all.
Sadia: Dassine could have at least attempted, at least tried to explain something of what was going on to D'Natheil. Maybe the Prince would have been willing to be the martyr if it meant saving his people. Dassine could have at least tried. After all, he always had that other option...
Carol: Perhaps Dassine had tried this in the years he had D'Natheil in his custody. From what he says of D'Natheil, there was no possibility of the prince growing into such larger considerations. D'Natheil wanted to fight. He was a creature of anger and violence, and little else. Again...you haven't been told what all Dassine tried with him. (And you won't be.) You will have to judge Dassine's trustworthiness.
Sadia: Dassine took D'Natheil's choice away. The same way Narim(SOTB) took Aidan's(SOTB) choice away. Narim and Dassine are exactly the same. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that Narim's what Dassine would become if he lived long enough. I doubt that Narim started out with the intention of keeping the dragons as slaves. But when you open the door to the possibility of destroying someone's life without explanation to further your own ends, it's not that far a step to widening your circle to include more and more people you're willing to destroy.
Carol: That is certainly a risk.
Sadia: Dassine made a determination that Karon was useful to him, and D'Natheil wasn't. D'Natheil was in the way, so he had to be gotten rid of. How many other people would he be willing to get rid of that might be "in the way"? What about Seri? What if he dislikes her influence over Karon? What if he thinks she's trying to interfere with what he's planning on teaching the guy? (Things like murder and betrayal, perhaps... -grin- ) Will he find a "crafty Zhid" for her too? What about the entirety of the mundane world? What if it somehow gets in the way of whatever he's trying to accomplish?
Carol: Those are excellent questions. You will meet Dassine again. You can judge.
(ref. p. 460)
    [Seri said] "'You murdered him!'
    Dassine did not flinch at the word. 'Some would say it. But I would not change the choice I made.'"
Sadia: Dassine seems to have no real conception of the enormity of what he did. How was what he did not murder? And he says only some would say it? No, everybody would say it. He didn't flinch? Murder is a word that needs to be flinched at. He doesn't seem to regret the fact that he killed the person he was supposed to be taking care of?
Carol: He believed he had a mission and that no one else in either world understood it. He believed the end justified the means. So did Narim(SOTB), as you said. (I had never really compared them before.) You will have to tell me what you think after you learn more, not only about Dassine and the Preceptors, but also about the Lords, their enemies.
(ref. p. 469)
    "'I've brought you that which properly belongs to the King of Leire. Since there is no other king, it must be returned to you...' I laid the bundle on a polished table and unwrapped the red silk. With reverence and care, I lifted the sword in my hands and presented it to Evard."
Sadia: I have to admit, I was honestly surprised that Seri cared so much about returning the Champion's sword to Evard. I probably would have just buried it with Tomas.
Carol: Seri was a true daughter of Leiran culture. She admired her father immensely. And she was proud of Tomas. Her relationship with Martin helped her to think beyond her childhood education (there is that theme again!) but that doesn't mean she wholly rejected it. She saw the potential for honor and nobility and wisdom. Martin might have become king, and think how different matters would have been.
Sadia: The fact that Evard was truly saddened by Tomas' death took me aback. I had never considered their relationship a friendship, but more akin to that between lackey and master.
Carol: I think I mentioned (eons ago -grin-) that Tomas's and Evard's friendship was grounded their early days in combat, when they were both very young. Evard's protection of Seri from horrific consequences of her deeds was solely due to Evard's friendship for Tomas. Tomas laid his life on the line every day for Evard. No king would put anyone but a true and loyal friend (as well as superior fighter) in the office of Sword Champion. I wish I had given myself the opportunity to show their affection a little more, as I do think it was important.
(ref. p. 470)
    "I bore a message for my ten-year-old nephew... As my driver rang the bell and waited for someone to answer it, I rubbed the rose-colored stone that lay cool and secret in my pocket, and I breathed deep of the sweet morning."
Sadia: What the - ! Wait, so we don't even get to meet the prodigal son? Nooooooo!!!
Carol: First chapter of Guardians of the Keep.

Many thanks to Sadia Sayed for her intelligent and insightful questioning, and to Anna Davidson for her help in transcribing this conversation.


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