Elantris Reread: Chapters Twenty and Twenty-One

Greetings and salutations, Cosmere Chickens! Our apologies for missing last week; the opening three-day weekend of the Connecticut Renaissance Faire did a number on Lyn, and Paige was having computer issues. But we’re BACK and ready to dive back into our reread of Elantris! Courtly (and religious) intrigue awaits! Won’t you join us?

(Non-)Spoiler warning: This week’s article has no spoilers from other Cosmere works. Read on fearlessly, chickens!

Last time on Elantris: Mobs and… More Mobs

Hrathen has an Elantrian brought before him, and learns about the gangs inside the city. After the interview, Dilaf whips the city’s faithful into a religious fervor bordering on riotous rage. Only Hrathen’s swift intervention saves the Elantrian from being burned alive… from the mob, anyway. Afterwards, in privacy, Hrathen gives the poor creature the merciful end he requested while berating Dilaf for his unwise handling of the situation.

In Elantris, Raoden is attacked by the wildmen, but he’s saved by his loyal friends. He continues his research into the Aons, making little progress until Galladon tells him about the Dor—the mysterious life force behind everything.

Chapter Essentials

POV Character(s): Sarene, Hrathen


Chapter 20

“Let me see if I understand you, Princess, dear,” Ahan said … “You want us to help Iadon? I thought we didn’t like the fellow?”

P: Here we see Sarene trying to get her band of nobles on board with saving Iadon after they discover that Wyrn has been sinking Iadon’s ships.

Dreok Crushthroat’s fleets couldn’t be sinking the boats—most of Dreok’s ships were destroyed fifteen years ago when he tried to take the throne of Teod, and any remnants have long since disappeared.

L: Sarene’s dear uncle apparently had quite a sea-faring life fifteen years ago.

P: He was a busy guy, it seems. Lol!

“The fact remains that the duke has not aligned himself with Shu-Dereth,” Eondel pointed out.

P: Sarene is suspicious of Duke Telrii’s extravagant ball and very profitable shipments to Fjorden. She’s trying to convince the others that Hrathen is financing Telrii, which of course, he is.

L: The fact that he hasn’t aligned himself publicly is, as we’ll soon see, very wise of him.

“He’ll take the throne, then make good on his pact with Wyrn,” Roial agreed.

P: Now they’re getting it. Telrii and Hrathen have planned well and they’re bent on taking Iadon down so Telrii can take the throne and then convert the country to Shu-Dereth.

“Disasters are something every good merchant should plan for. Never ship what you can’t afford to lose.”

L: Merchants have to think on their toes if they’re going to get ahead in the business, for sure. This bit of the plot kind of reminds me a little of Dumas’s The Count of Monte Cristo, where the Count manages to bankrupt his enemies by tricking them into overextending themselves.

“We could go to him with the truth,” Sarene suggested.

“He wouldn’t believe us.”

P: Roial is right, Iadon wouldn’t believe them. He’s as arrogant as he can be and despite losing money due to sunken ships, probably still confident in his throne. They also discuss how Iadon has given Hrathen free reign and how Arelon and Fjorden have a “friendship.”

L: Trust is definitely in short supply with that one.

“It is going to take a miracle for Iadon to recoup from this little catastrophe…”

“What if he had an agreement with Teod?” Sarene asked. “An extremely lucrative contract for silks?”

P: Despite the lords disagreeing that Iadon would fall for the bait of Teod suddenly wanting to pay outrageous prices for silk, Sarene believes that she can make it happen. At this point, it’s anything to keep Iadon on the throne instead of Telrii.

L: Well… if she can manage to trick him into thinking he’s got the upper hand… gods above and below know that he already thinks she’s dim-witted, so she’s already got a winning card there.

“You’re just going to have to trust me, my lords,” Sarene said. “Hrathen’s schemes are important.”

L: You’d think that Wyrn sinking all of Iadon’s ships would be enough to convince them that Fjorden isn’t to be underestimated, and yet…

P: They do seem oddly complacent about that situation, don’t they?

“One more question, my lords. I’ve been considering my Widow’s Trial, and would like to hear what you think.”

“I’m afraid we have no choice. We have to side with Elantris.”

P: The menfolk grow uncomfortable at Sarene’s comments and she basically tells them to get over their fears of Elantris. She points out that Hrathen is demonizing the Elantrians and he’s trying to gain support from Korathi worshippers in order to get them to convert to Shu-Dereth. In short: Hrathen is against the Elantrians, so Sarene will ally herself with the Elantrians in order to try to foil Hrathen’s plan.

L: My enemy’s enemy is my friend.

“And my Widow’s Trial is our opportunity. I am going to take food to the Elantrians.”

“Did I hear you correctly, my dear?” Ahan asked, his voice shaking. “You’re going to go into Elantris?”

P: And there it is… I’ve been waiting for this! For Sarene to finally go to Elantris. Things are starting to ramp up, chickens! Of course, she wants the lords to agree to help her distribute the food, and they balk at the idea.

L: Yessssssssss. The sooner she gets into Elantris and potentially meet Raoden, the better!

“What if everything they say about Elantris is true?”

Sarene considered. “I don’t think they’re dangerous, Lord Eondel. I’ve looked in on the city and its people. There is nothing frightening about Elantris—well, nothing besides the way its people are treated.”

P: Our dear princess has never seen the Elantrians attack a newcomer for a morsel of food, either.

L: Yeah. She’s betraying her naiveté again here. Just because she hasn’t seen anything dangerous doesn’t mean it’s not there.

“I just see a collection of men and women who have been mistreated and misjudged.”

L: I mean… kudos to her for trying to see the best in everyone, I guess, but this is still incredibly (and dangerously) naive.

P: Exactly. I would say that she should have watched them sending new Elantrians into the city, but by the time she got there and got settled, Raoden was already claiming them all.

“It is hard to demonize a man after you have seen tears in his eyes as he thanks you for feeding him.”

L: I wish this were true, but unbiased hatred and prejudice unfortunately proves it to be quite the opposite. (At least… in our world.)

“Maybe I was a little too optimistic,” Sarene admitted, standing at the doors of Iadon’s study.

She had no idea how she was going to get Iadon to let her into Elantris, let alone get him to accept their help.

P: Sure, she talked a big game in front of her allies about getting Iadon to let her feed the Elantrians. But now that she has to walk the walk instead of just talking the talk, she’s getting nervous. Too funny.

L: I don’t see it as funny per se, so much as human. It’s so much easier to have confidence in something when you’re not staring it directly in the teeth.

P: Truer words, and such.

Iadon looked up from his desk, a pair of spectacles she had never seen him wear before balanced on the end of his nose. He quickly pulled them off and stood, slamming his hands against the desktop, disturbing several invoice stacks in the process.

L: This is such a little thing, but it tells so much about his character. He has to wear the spectacles to read, but doesn’t want to appear weak in front of anyone else.

P: And only a man like Iadon would see it as a weakness.

“You aren’t content to annoy me in public, so you have to follow me to my study as well?”

“I’ll tell you what, Father,” Sarene said frankly. “I’ll pretend to be an intelligent human being capable of a semilucid conversation, and you pretend the same thing.”

P: And so the game is up and Sarene gives away that she’s not the ditz she’s been playing since arriving in Arelon. And insults him in the same breath. I love it.

L: If we were using chess terms, I’d say that she sacrificed her queen for this move. I hope it plays out to her advantage…

“In a few short months, you could lose your throne unless you listen to me.”

Iadon betrayed surprise at her knowledge. “How do you know these things?”

“Everyone knows, Father.”

“You propose a deal?” the king demanded.

P: And this is where Sarene suggests selling his silks in Teod, where he could get sole mercantile rights and turn a fantastic profit. Of course, he’s suspicious.

L: Rightfully so.

“I would of course require something in return,” Sarene interrupted.

“I want to go inside Elantris.”

P: So she tells him what she wants to do for her Widow’s Trial. And amazingly enough, he makes a deal with her. She can take no more than ten people at a time, excluding guards. And she can only stay inside for the two hours around noon. And so Sarene has made her deal.

L: Of course Iadon agrees. He’s a rat on a sinking ship and he knows it. This deal is probably his only life-line.

“Is there anyone you can’t manipulate, my lady?”

“Father,” Sarene said. “You know he gets the better of me three times out of five.”

“He says the same thing about you, my lady,” Ashe noted.

L: In a genre full of orphans, it’s always refreshing to see a healthy parent/child relationship like this.

P: OMG, right? Like, she has a dad she can actually talk to! And they get along! How novel.

“You are a brilliant woman and a fine politician, but you betray a common weakness of your class—you ignore the opinions of servants.”

L: Even the best of us have these blind spots. Sarene is no different. The key is, how does she react to being called out on it? Thankfully, she does back down after a bit of gentle chiding on Ashe’s part, rather than doubling down on her inherent classism.

“A runaway, my lady,” Meala explained. “They aren’t supposed to leave—we’re indentured like the rest of the peasants. For some reason we have trouble keeping maids in the palace, however.

L: Ooooo… mystery!

“Quiet,” Sarene ordered, pressing her ear against the stone wall beneath her window, listening to the scraping sound. “What do you think?”

L: Another mystery… but this time, we have an idea as to what it could be. Who’s creeping about in the hidden passageways, hmm?

Chapter 21

“I have been impressed with your service in Jaddeth’s kingdom, and I have decided to offer you the position of head arteth of this chapel.”

Thered looked up with surprise. “Your Grace?”

“My lord…” the arteth said, obviously overwhelmed. “I cannot accept this position.”

Dilaf—Dilaf had something to do with Thered’s refusal.

P: And so we start to see Dilaf’s scheming, which will come to a head momentarily!

L: Hrathen’s underestimation of Dilaf is about to bite him square in the… armor.

Dilaf had to be dealt with.

He had made a mistake with Dilaf. While it was possible to channel a zealot’s ardor, Hrathen currently had neither the time nor the energy to do so.

P: Hrathen can’t wait for that poison to come. He wants to get rid of Dilaf now.

L: I don’t blame him in the slightest.

“I have an important task for you, Arteth,” Hrathen said. “One I cannot trust to anyone else.”

“Of course, my hroden,” Dilaf said submissively.

“Arteth, I need you to deliver a letter.”

“A letter?” Dilaf looked up with confusion.

When one’s master commanded, one obeyed.

P: Hrathen tells Dilaf that he has important information to get to Wyrn and he trusts no one else to deliver the letter. Dilaf accepts the letter subserviently and it’s mentioned that the hroden-odiv relationship is binding.

L: Seems like a reasonable plan… until Dilaf wrecks it. As he does.

The event had been even more painless than he had hoped. He held back a sigh of relief, stepping with a bit more confidence as he walked toward his chambers.

A voice sounded from behind. Dilaf’s voice. Speaking softly—yet with enough projection to be heard. “Send out messengers,” the arteth ordered to one of the dorvens. “We leave for Fjorden in the morning.”

Hrathen spun. “We? I ordered only you, Arteth.”

“Yes, my lord,” Dilaf said. “However, surely you don’t expect me to leave my odivs behind.”

“Odivs?” Hrathen asked.

“Who, Dilaf?” Hrathen asked sharply.

Most priests called one or two odivs; several of the gyorns had as many as ten. Dilaf had over thirty.

P: That was a lot to quote, but it shows how busy Dilaf has been! Gathering supporters that are his and not Hrathen’s. Hrathen even thinks that Dilaf has completely undermined his entire support network. So if Dilaf commands them all to accompany him to Fjorden, as is his right, then Hrathen is left with no support among the aristocracy.

L: It’s incredibly savvy, honestly. There’s a siege technique where you dig beneath a wall and weaken the underlying support network. Since you’re underground, none of the defenders can see you, and once you strike, the whole wall crumbles. This is exactly what Dilaf has done here, right under Hrathen’s nose. Masterful.

“Wait,” Hrathen ordered as Dilaf’s messenger turned to leave.

“Areteth, I have changed my mind.”

“I cannot do without you.” The lie made Hrathen’s stomach clench tightly. “Find someone else to deliver the message.”

“I am, as always, my hroden’s humble servant,” Dilaf whispered.

P: And so Hrathen has been outplayed. Dilaf has all but guaranteed that Hrathen can’t send him away, despite how badly Hrathen might want to.

L: Ugh. Dilaf’s a snake, to be sure. That last line is just twisting the knife.

Hrathen fled again.

He needed to think, to clear his mind.

The breeze was gusty and strong atop the wall of Elantris, and it whipped at Hrathen’s cape as if with glee.

P: As he so often does, Hrathen leaves the chapel to ascend the city wall of Elantris to look out over Kae.

“The king forbids begging in his city, good sir,” the man croaked. “It is a poor sign of prosperity to have us on his streets. If he finds us, he sends us back to the farms.”

L: Exiling people from their homes for the “crime” of begging when they’re already homeless and hungry is just icing on the cake of Iadon’s cruelty.

“You don’t look much like a merchant, good sir,” he said hesitantly.

“I’m not,” Hrathen responded, dropping a bag of coins in the man’s hand. “That is for you.”

Then he dropped a second bag beside the first. “That is for the others. Goodnight, old man.”

L: Yet again we see Hrathen doing something good and kind, threatening the reader’s poor opinion of him. This is just incredible work on Sanderson’s part.

P: Hrathen is definitely a new breed of “villain.”

“It was so much nicer once,” a voice said behind him.

Hrathen turned with surprise. He had heard the footsteps approaching, but he had simply assumed it was one of the guards making his rounds. Instead he found a short, bald Arelene in a simple grey robe. Omin, head of the Korathi religion in Kae.

“Of course, that was back then, when the Elantrians still ruled.”

“Do you realize that no one in all of Arelon went without food? The Elantrians could turn stone into corn and dirt into steak. Confronted by those memories, I am left wondering. Could devils do that much good in this world? Would they even want to?”

P: Omin actually sought out the gyorn, telling him his supporters talked of how he spent time on the wall at night. Wanted to have a little heart-to-heart, he did.

L: Turning stone into corn and dirt into steak, huh? Sounds an awful lot like certain powers that we know about from Roshar.

“It doesn’t matter to me why you climb these stairs, Hrathen. I do, however, wonder why you preach hatred of the Elantrians when you yourself simply pity them.”

“A man can force himself to hate if he wishes, especially if he convinces himself that it is for a higher good.”

“The oppression of the few brings salvation to the many?” Omin asked, a slight smile on his face, as if he found the concept ridiculous.

P: Which it is, of course. Ridiculous.

L: Hello, variations of the Trolley Problem! We’ve found you again…

“What happened, Hrathen? What happened to your faith?”

“My faith?” Hrathen asked with shock.

“Yes,” Omin said, his words soft, almost meandering. “You must have believed at one point, otherwise you wouldn’t have pursued the priesthood long enough to become a gyorn. But you lost it somewhere. I have listened to your sermons. I hear logic and complete understanding—not to mention determination. I just don’t hear any faith, and I wonder what happened to it?”

Hrathen hissed inward slowly, drawing a deep breath between his teeth. “Go,” he finally ordered, not bothering to look down at the priest.

Hrathen stood on the wall for a long time that night.

P: Shut down by the short, bald Korathi priest. This is so awesome. He was so arrogant, talking about Shu-Dereth’s superiority over Shu-Korath, and little Omin just shut him up. Boo-ya!

L: He makes a good point. Hrathen notes that Dilaf has passion. The ideal leader would be someone in the middle of the two of them; someone with logic and understanding, but passion backing the words. Someone, in short… like Raoden.


We’ll be leaving further speculation and discussion to you in the comments, and hope to join you there! Next week, we’ll be back with chapters 22 and 23.

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 is busy running a feminist stage combat show at the Connecticut Renaissance Faire for seven weeks. 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 her personal TikTok or the Sisters Pendragon one!

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