Happy Thursday, Cosmere chickens! In this episode of the Elantris Reread, we find Hrathen atop the Elantris city wall, contemplating his demonization of the poor Elantrians, before a secret meeting with Lord Telrii. Then we see Raoden marvel at the beauty of Elantris beneath all that slime before he recruits another warlord to his crew. We hope you’ll join us to discuss these happenings! So without further ado, let’s get to it!
Spoiler warning: This week’s article contains spoilers from The Lost Metal. Proceed with caution if you haven’t read it yet!
Trigger warnings: Chronic pain
Last time on Elantris: Dances and Deceptions…
Sarene subtly begins to subvert the ladies’ social circle by planting a seed of rebellion in their hearts in the form of fencing lessons. She then attends a ball, where she begins to make inroads with the nobles. Hrathen manages to outmaneuver her and turns her own ditzy guise against her, but her plans are gaining momentum…
POV Character(s): Hrathen, Raoden
Hrathen … had visited Elantris nearly every night this week, pacing its walls in thought. Though he had an additional purpose behind his visit this particular time …
P: This is the same night of the ball—the same night Raoden and Karata sneak into the palace. And Hrathen is up to something.
He also felt a responsibility toward the people—or whatever they were—that lived in Elantris. He was using them, holding them up as an enemy to unite his followers. He felt guilty; the Elantrians he had seen were not devils, but wretches afflicted as if by a terrible disease.
L: Once again proving that he at least has a conscience.
P: I suppose. I just don’t like the “whatever they were.” Obviously, they’re people.
Also, yes… He should feel responsible. He’s turning them into devils and they have no way to defend themselves.
Still, his devils they would become, for he knew that it was the easiest and most harmless way to unify Arelon. If he turned the people against their government, as he had done in Duladel, there would be death. This way would lead to bloodshed as well, but he hoped much less.
L: Sounds familiar…
This is a theme that recurs in Sanderson’s work often, I’ve noticed. We see it in the Stormlight Archive in Taravangian’s actions, even in Hoid’s motivations: “You must not trust yourself with me. If I have to watch this world crumble and burn to get what I need, I will do so. With tears, yes, but I would let it happen.” (Words of Radiance)
MAJOR SPOILER FOR THE LOST METAL
We even see it exemplified in a single person, as Wayne sacrifices his own life at the end of The Lost Metal to save the city of Elendel.
Now, this moral quandary is an excellent way to create a relatable villain or a heroic martyr, and it’s possible that that’s the only reason we see it pop up so often, but I wonder if maybe this is something that Sanderson spends time pondering, whether consciously or subconsciously.
P: If I may… I see Wayne’s sacrifice, and Spock’s, as different from Hrathen’s or Taravangian’s plans. Wayne and Spock sacrificed themselves for the needs of the many. Hrathen and Taravangian are willing to sacrifice others. Not as noble but okay, I see the draw. And let’s not forget that Taravangian actually put the needs of the few in Karbranth over the needs of the many of Roshar.
L: Touché. They’re different flavors of the same bitter brew; I sure wouldn’t want to be a leader and have to make that kind of choice. It’s morally easier to sacrifice yourself than to make the call to have to sacrifice others.
It didn’t matter that he had acted in the name of the church, or that he had saved thousands upon thousands of souls. The destruction Hrathen had caused in Duladel ground against his soul like a millstone. People who had trusted him were dead, and an entire society had been cast into chaos.
L: That is indeed a heavy weight to bear on your soul. It’s a position I’m very, very glad to never have been in.
P: It’s actually good to know that he feels so bad about it. Feel that guilt!
Hrathen would apply pressure carefully until Iadon folded, and a more agreeable man took his place. The nobility of Arelon would convert easily, then. The only ones who would truly suffer, the scapegoats in his strategy, were the Elantrians.
L: His intentions are (sort of) noble, but I can’t help but think that he’s being awfully naive here. Surely he’s done enough of these missions to know that people rarely if ever concede power willingly.
“Aren’t you going to ask why I wanted to meet with you?” Telrii asked.
“You’re having second thoughts about our plan,” Hrathen said simply.
P: Hrathen’s not an idiot, Telrii. He’s wicked smaht, as they say. You’re playing with fire.
L: Wow Paige, you must have visited my favorite haunt of Boston often to pick up on our parlance! Now to go pahk your cah in Havard yahd…
“The entire republican class that ruled Duladel was slaughtered in that revolution! And my sources claim that you had a great deal to do with that.”
L: Well, at least Telrii’s not a complete idiot.
P: He might be easier to stomach if he were.
For centuries, the Derethi priesthood had been training its monks in war, assassination, and … other arts. Arelon’s defenses were so weak that a single monastery’s personnel could probably conquer the country.
L: If D&D and Avatar: The Last Airbender have taught me anything, it’s to never underestimate a monk.
“How many soldiers are there in Hrovell? In Jaador? In Svorden? In the other nations of the East? These are people who have sworn themselves Derethi. You don’t think they would rise up at Wyrn’s command?”
P: So Hrathen’s not above threatening bloodshed, though he likely knows he can get what he wants otherwise.
“I have your word, then?” Telrii said.
“You will have the throne,” Hrathen said.
Telrii nodded—this was obviously what he had been waiting for.
P: So Telrii goes to his super seekrit meeting with Hrathen expressing doubts, but he was in actuality just waiting to be promised the throne.
L: Both of them are playing a dangerous game here.
“Double your men’s pay,” Hrathen said … “give them time off to spend with their former comrades. It might be… beneficial to your future to have it known amongst the Guard that you are a man who rewards those that give him allegiance.”
P: So he basically wants to have Telrii woo the Elantrian City Guard in case they do need more soldiers to supplement Telrii’s whopping fifteen personal guards.
“You’ll provide the funds to pay my men extra?” Telrii asked carefully.
Hrathen rolled his eyes. “Very well.”
L: Rich people staying rich by pinching every penny. How very Scrooge McDuck of him. (But also shrewd, to realize that Hrathen wants this badly enough to foot the bill when Telrii can clearly afford it himself.)
P: They certainly don’t get rich by paying the help well!
“I have been wanting to study one of these Elantrians up close, for theological reasons,” Hrathen said, setting a pile of coins on the table. “I would be appreciative if the next captured Elantrian found his way to my chapel before being thrown back into the city.”
L: Ugh. Nothing good can come of this for the poor Elantrians…
P: Yeah, that’s hella creepy, Hrathen. Don’t undo what good will you’ve fostered with us!
Raoden had once tried to set Ien free. He had been a young boy then, simple of mind but pure of intention. He had been learning about slavery from one of his tutors, and had somehow gotten it into his mind that the seons were being held against their will.
L: Thereby proving what a good person he was, even in childhood.
P: Raoden is the best boy.
L: He and Adolin would get along splendidly.
“You see rank and distinction; you try to order the world so that everything has a place either above you or beneath you. To a seon, there is no above or beneath, there are only those we love. And we serve those we love.”
L: And for those creatures so full of love to now be wandering about aimlessly, mindless… it’s heart-wrenching.
P: And Ien sounds as if he was particularly full of love. It is, indeed, heart-wrenching.
“You’re finally free, my friend.” Raoden’s smile was wan as he watched Ien float and bob.
L: Oh. Oh, dear. My heart.
P: Free to not serve, maybe? But free? I can’t help but think of those seons as trapped inside their own minds. Which is a dark thought, Paige.
“Ien,” Galladon said thoughtfully. “That’s healing. Kolo?”
“What one thing would you bring here to Elantris if you could?”
“Letters,” he said. “I’d bring a stack of letters.”
L: Just amping up the anticipation for them to eventually meet.
P: Oh, I can’t wait for that part! ::deep breath:: Patience, Paige.
“I was actually excited about the marriage, even if the union was just a reaction to the Derethi invasion of Duladel.”
There was silence.
“What was that you just said, Raoden?” Galladon finally asked in a quiet voice.
L: Oh no. He’s been in here so long he didn’t know! Definitely not the best way to break the bad news to him, Raoden. (Not that he knew…)
P: Yup. Another hint that Galladon has been there longer than he claimed.
Galladon had claimed to have entered Elantris a few months ago, but Dulas were known for understatement. The Duladen Republic had fallen just over six months previously.
L: Raoden’s so trusting, he just assumes that Galladon was exaggerating and not outright lying to him about when he entered Elantris.
P: He’s such a good boy, he can’t conceive of someone being dishonest, despite the fact that his father imprisoned him in Elantris.
“The Mysteries are not the same thing as Jesker, sule. They are a mockery of things sacred. A perversion. Only outsiders—those without any sort of true understanding of the Dor—practice the Mysteries.”
L: Ooooh, more cool theological intricacies about this planet’s societies!
The old man smiled. His hands were black with grime, and a half-dozen ragged cleaning cloths hung from his sash. But he was happy.
L: Giving people a purpose, something to take pride in, has restored their humanity. Raoden’s a gem for giving them this.
P: Truly. And he does it so easily. Like helping the others keeps his own humanity intact.
“Do you know what it is? The secret, I mean?”
Kahar smiled. “I haven’t been hungry in days, my lord. It is the most amazing feeling in the world—I don’t even notice the pain anymore.”
L: Purpose, especially in service to others. It’s such a powerful thing.
Elantrians retained their flesh and most of their figure, though their skin wrinkled and darkened. They were more withering husks than they were decaying corpses.
L: Interesting. It’s almost as if the Investiture that should have been flooding them is instead being drained. Pulling out their life force, their essence, like the Skeksis did to the Gelflings in The Dark Crystal.
P: I’ve never actually seen The Dark Crystal but I do believe I know which creatures you’re talking about. (I think.) And yes, it does feel as if their investiture is being drained. And some faster than others.
“We’re so few we can’t afford to lose a single man—not even those who follow Aanden.”
L: He’s so… so… good. He even views the enemy as people who haven’t yet seen the light. In a way, he’s like the light version of Hrathen. Hrathen is trying to convert people to save them, too. Such similar motivations, but for such different purposes. Hrathen’s end goal, like it or not, is power. Not for himself, but for the man he serves. Raoden’s is to help people to fight the darkness within their own souls.
P: He really does want to save everyone. Just like Kaladin.
“Think of the opportunity, Taan,” Raoden said. “Only you, out of all the sculptors in the world, can see Elantris. Only you can experience its beauty and learn from its masters. You are the luckiest man in Opelon.”
L: Raoden has a gift for taking the very worst situations possible and spinning them into a positive light.
P: And he’s exactly right in this respect. Clear away the sludge and Elantris is stunning in its beauty. And Taan really is lucky to see it.
“At the price of a little hunger, we can be loosed from the bonds that have held every living thing since time began.”
L: Case in point as to my previous statement.
“Give up your anger,” Raoden pled. “And let me give you hope instead.”
L: What a powerful statement.
P: Hope is a better choice. And now I’m all verklempt!
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 chapter seventeen.
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!