Queen of Sorcery: The Fair Break

Last time, Lelldorin left the party, with Mandorallen and others telling him point-blank that he had to rest and recover or he’ll die. And they also went through a war that had been apparently engineered through Grolim mind control and succeeded at breaking the war by Mandorallen thumping others at jousting, and then Durnik thumping the Grolim while he was casting, earning him a scold from Polgara.

Queen of Sorcery, Chapters Eight and Nine: Content Notes: sex-negativity

Chapter Eight starts with learning why Hettar will kill any Murgo he comes across if he can get away with it – it’s revenge for the death pf his parents, who died from torture, and the torture of the seven year-old Hettar by those Murgos. Hettar got his first revenge kill at ten, and Cho-Hag made him watch the Murgo die, thinking he’d have the same reaction that Durnik did and swear off revenge, but it didn’t take with Hettar. Garion hears this story and thinks that if revenge for the death of his parents an sustain Hettar, it can sustain him, too. And then we have an interesting destiny versus free will debate, one that would be a lot more complicated if there weren’t gods in the world.

“It is our nature,” the knight in his gleaming armor was saying in a melancholy voice. “We are over-proud, and it is our pride that dooms our poor Arendia to internecine war.”
“That can be cured,” Mister Wolf said.
“How?” Mandorallen asked. “It is in our blood. I myself am the most peaceful of men, but even I am subject to our national disease. Moreover, our divisions are too great, too buried in our history and our souls to be purged away. The peace will not last, my friend. Even now Asturian arrows sing in the forests, seeking Mimbrate targets, and Mimbre in reprisal burns Asturian houses and butchers hostages. War is inevitable, I fear.”
“No,” Wolf disagreed. “it’s not.”
“How may it be prevented?” Mandorallen demanded. “Who can cure our insanity?”
“I will, if I have to,” Wolf told him quietly, pushing back his grey hood.
Mandorallen smiled warmly. “I appreciate thy good intentions, Belgarath, but that is impossible, even for thee.”
“Nothing is actually impossible, Mandorallen,” Wolf answered in a matter-of-fact voice. “Most of the time I prefer not to interfere with other people’s amusements, but I can’t afford to have Arendia going up in flames just now. If I have to, I’ll step in and put a stop to any more foolishness.”
“Hast thou in truth such power?” Mandorallen asked somewhat wistfully as if he could not quite bring himself to believe it.
“Yes,” Wolf replied prosaically, scratching at his short white beard, “as a matter of fact, I do.”
Mandorallen’s face grew troubled, even a bit awed at the old man’s quiet statement, and Garion found his grandfather’s declaration profoundly disturbing. If Wolf could actually stop a war single-handedly, he’d have no difficulty at all thwarting Garion’s own plans for revenge. It was something else to worry about.

I think Mandorallen’s boast would have to have context to be believable, but it’s almost as bad to believe that he’s telling the complete truth and that he and his cheerful willingness to “only” severely injure his opponents is being the most peaceful of Arends. That’s more “we probably should have skipped Arendia, it is a violent place” evidence, but the Mrin demands, and so here we are.

That said, I feel like the narrator is understating that we have finally found something that makes Mandorallen have a second thought about just how powerful the old man in front of him is. People usually change for one of two reasons: because they genuinely want to, which is usually the most difficult but also the longest-lasting change, and because there’s something more powerful than they are that will deliver consequences if the change does not happen. Depending on which philosopher you follow at your core, you may believe that one or the other of these reasons is more likely or more necessary, but those are generally the two major reasons that change happens. Belgarath just threatened to forcibly change the nature of an entire country if they couldn’t get it together. (Which sounds like one of those Grolim tricks they keep discounting.) I wonder what the god of the Arends has to say about that kind of threat.

In any case, the party decides they may as well just stop at the Great Fair and get some additional supplies. The horses are apparently complaining, according to Hettar, which is exaggeration and lies, which horses do all the time, according to him. The knowledge that horses lie and are good at it apparently restores Silk’s faith in the universe and earns a quip from Wolf that Silk is an evil person. I don’t fully get it, honestly, but it’s there. At the fair itself, many of the merchants seem to know Silk by previous experience, which makes Durnik nervous that Silk is going to be recognized.

“Isn’t there some danger that somebody’ll recognize you as that other merchant?” Durnik asked. “The one the Murgos are looking for?”
“You mean Ambar? It’s not very likely. Ambar doesn’t come to Arendia very often, and he and Radek don’t look a bit alike.”
“But they’re the same man,” Durnik objected. “They’re both you.”
“Ah,” Silk said, raising one finger, “you and I both know that, but they don’t. To you I will always look like myself, but to others I look quite different.”
Durnik looked profoundly skeptical.

Which makes me wonder if Drasnians have disguise magic in their corner, such that Silk can turn on or off whether he’s recognizable at will, such that when he boasts that Ambar and Radek don’t look anything alike, he’s telling the complete truth, and Durnik is confused because Silk’s not using the disguise magic on him.

The party meets up with Delvor, an agent from Drasnia, and they chat in audible language about commerce and in manual language to establish there was a Murgo at the fair, but he left, and there are some Nadraks, but Delvor can’t tell if they’re real merchants or a cover for somebody. (This worldbuilding, argh.) Delvor offers the use of his tent, and to keep up the disguise, Silk gets to go out selling all of the curios that he hid in the folds of the wool that they’ve been carrying. Aunt Pol tells him not to corrupt Garion too much, since Garion’s acting as Radek’s porter, and Silk gets to go out on the town and practice his merchanting and haggling, which he is clearly enjoying, along with the feeling that comes with it of having swindled people into paying much more than any of his goods are worth. We are told “Garion, swept along by the little man’s enthusiasm, began to understand his friend’s fascination with this game where profit was secondary to the satisfaction of besting an opponent.” Just in case we were worried that Silk might actually be the evil little man he’s been called for enjoying the swindling, we’re told that Silk plays the game not for the money (presumably, he already has and will have more than enough of that for his entire life, being a prince and all that) but for the satisfaction of winning. Which tracks, as best I can tell, about how all the people for whom their money is merely numbers also play the game. They don’t care what happens to everyone else so long as they get the upper hand on someone.

At the end of Silk’s wheeling and dealing, he’s got a bottle of perfume that he doesn’t actually know the value of, which annoys him greatly, because not knowing the value means he doesn’t know what to ask for it in trade. Eventually, he gives it as a gift to Polgara, who remarks upon it as being a “princely” gift, and Silk is left aggravated at the Rivan he traded “two ivory-bound books of Wacite verse” for the perfume. Delvor arrives shortly after with the news that five Murgos and two dozen Thulls have just arrived at the Fair, claiming to have come from the south, but actually coming from the north, because there’s clay on their boots which doesn’t come from the south. Barak suggests the best way to stop the Murgos and Thulls from slowing them down is to kill them all, but Silk says that’s an easy way to get in trouble with the legionnaires that patrol the fair as its police. Delvor tells them that the lead Murgo is named Asharak, which aggravates everyone, and then Garion spots (and Durnik confirms) that Brill is out there as well. Which leads Belgarath to tell Durnik to be visible but not to let on that he knows he’s being watched, which is the beginning of a plan, essentially, to keep Brill’s attention on them by coming and going with just enough frequency that he doesn’t report back to Asharak at any point, denying the intelligence until it will be too late and the party will have escaped out the back of Delvor’s tent while everyone is intently watching the front and waiting for the right time to attempt to capture them. Barak suggests having Hettar just stab Brill in the back, but Belgarath says it’s better to feed him false intelligence instead.

The plan goes according to spec and the chapter ends with a touch of revenge against Asharak that he’ll have to sort out before pursuing them.

Silk shook his friend’s hand. “I’d still like to know where you got those lead coins.”
Delvor winked at him.
“What’s this?” Wolf asked.
“Delvor’s got some Tolnedran crowns stamped out of lead and gilded over,” Silk told him. “He hid some of them in the Murgos’ tent, and tomorrow morning he’s going to go to the legionnaires with a few of them and accuse the Murgos of passing them. When the legionnaires search the Murgos’ tent, they’re sure to find the others.”
“Money’s awfully important to Tolnedrans,” Barak observed. “If the legionnaires get excited enough about those coins, they might start hanging people.”
Delvor smirked. “Wouldn’t that be a terrible shame?”

Everyone sneaks out after this and the chapter finishes properly. If Tolnedra is supposed to be fantasy Rome, though, I believe the correct punishment for this would be crucifixion, because if having an untainted monetary supply is as important to the Tolnedrans as Barak claims it is, this is the kind of offense that you want to leave a warning for anyone else who’s thinking about doing the same. That said, based on what we know so far, I think that the need for a pure money supply would be a Drasnian thing, rather than a Tolnedran one. Also, for someone who knows a bit about historical Rome, lead coins were currency during at least some portions of the Empire. To the point that Romans who kept their currency in their mouths to prevent robbers from getting it, or so the story goes, got lead poisoning. So. Counterfeiting would definitely be seen as a crime against the emperor, with harsh penalties for those who did it, but lead might not be the material to use in this particular case for the counterfeit.

Chapter Nine starts with what would be a great introduction to this book if we were trying to set up the “our heroes are the evil side” idea.

Garion was numb with exhaustion by then, and his mind had drifted into an almost dreamlike trance. The faces of his companions all seemed strange to him as the pale light began to grow stronger. At times he even forgot why they rode. He seemed caught in a company of grim-faced strangers pounding along a road to nowhere through a bleak, featureless landscape with the wind-whipped cloaks flying dark behind them like the clouds scudding low and dirty overhead. A peculiar idea began to take hold of him. The strangers were somehow his captors, and they were taking him away from his real friends. The idea seemed to grow stronger the farther they rode, and he began to be afraid.
Suddenly, without knowing why, he wheeled his horse and broke away, plunging off the side of the road and across the open field beside it.
“Garion!” a woman’s voice called sharply from behind, but he set his heels to his horse’s flanks and sped even faster across the rough field.
One of them was chasing him, a frightening man in black leather with a shaved head and a dark lock at his crown flowing behind him in the wind. In a panic Garion kicked at his horse, trying to make the beast run even faster, but the fearsome rider behind him closed the gap quickly and seized the reins from his hands. “What are you doing?” he demanded harshly.
Garion stared at him, unable to answer.
Then the woman in the blue cloak was there, and the others not far behind her. She dismounted quickly and stood looking at him with a stern face. She was tall for a woman, and her face was cold and imperious. Her hair was very dark, and there was a single white lock at her brow.
Garion trembled. The woman made him terribly afraid.
“Get down off that horse,” she commanded.
“Gently, Pol,” a silvery-haired old man with an evil face said.
A huge red-bearded giant rode closer, threatening, and Garion, almost sobbing with fright, slid down from his horse.
“Come here,” the woman ordered. Falteringly, Garion approached her.
“Give me your hand,” she said.
Hesitantly, he lifted his head and she took his wrist firmly. She opened his fingers to reveal the ugly mark on his palm that he seemed to always have hated and then put his hand against the white lock on her forehead.
“Aunt Pol,” he gasped, the nightmare suddenly dropping away.

Which could either be reality reasserting itself for him, or the evil people putting him into a trance to make him more docile or friendly. Having re-recognized everyone, Garion explains what happened, Belgarath diagnoses the problem as “Garion took his amulet off,” tells him yet again that he can’t remove it for any reason at all, and then with Polgara and her amulet, they do something that involves Garion seeing a vision of Aldur. Presumably this time they’ve set up actual protections and alarms in case someone tries this again. Or possibly even found some manner of instilling in Garion that kind of primal fear that would prevent him from taking of the amulet unless he really had to.

This whole sequence is good for that alternate universe that would probably have been more interesting than the story we have now, and with things described that way, there could be a lot of ambiguity about which of those two worlds is the real one and which of them is the compulsion. I wish we had more of this story, instead.

As it is, Garion points out a raven, which Durnik thinks is suspicious, because it’s circling them, and Polgara says that it’s Chamdar after extending her senses to check (and telling Garion to keep his own mind inside his own body.) After Belgarath tells Polgara that her owl form won’t catch Chamdar’s raven, Polgara instead convinces an eagle to hunt the raven, who doesn’t notice the attack until it’s too late to stop it. With Chamdar chased off, Belgarath decides the best thing to do is make for Vo Mimbre, so that he can tell Korodullin about the infestation he’s got in his kingdom.

“Korodullin?” Durnik looked puzzled. “Wasn’t that the name of the first Arendish king? It seems to me somebody told me that once.”
“All Arendish kings are named Korodullin,” Silk told him. “And the queens are all names Mayaserana. It’s part of the fiction the royal family here maintains to keep the kingdom from flying apart. They have to marry as closely within the bloodline as possible to maintain the illusion of the unification of the houses of Mimbre and Asturia. It makes them all a bit sickly, but there’s no help for it—considering the peculiar nature of Arendish politics.”
“All right, Silk,” Aunt Pol said reprovingly.

So all the Rivan Warders are named Brand, all the Nyissan queens are named Salmissra, all the Arendish kings are Korodullin and all the queens are Mayaserana. I feel like this author really hated coming up with names, so he found as many excuses as possible to keep reusing them.

Also, this is going to sound stupid as everything, but given how much a goodly number of Asturians seem to want open rebellion and the opportunity to crush Mimbrates, where are they finding the queens Mayaserana from if they’re supposed to be Asturian? Are there enough sympathizers in the Asturian nobility to find a suitable woman every time there needs to be a new one? I’m pretty sure Silk’s comment is supposed to mean that the royal family routinely marries within the boundary lines of consanguinity, with the attendant sex-linked recessives and rarer genetic diseases that spring up in the royal families of Latin Christendom, but I’m trying to figure out why this would be necessary if there are willing Asturian women who can trace their lineage to the original Mayaserana who could be brought in for needed genetic diversity. (The problem with reading a paint-by-numbers fantasy that runs on popular perception of the tropes is when you have at least a little training in the time periods they’re mimicking, the mimicry quickly becomes annoying or aggravating because of how wrong it is.) If there aren’t any Asturian women willing to take on the fiction of being a Mayaserana, then presumably this whole thing should have exploded long before this point, and then it doesn’t matter where the Mimbrate king finds his wife, because the supposed peace brokered has been shattered. Which, I suppose, would draw the ire of Ancient Belgarath or his daughter, but it’s been long enough, I think, that most people think of Belgarath as a figure of legend, rather than the old man standing in front of them. (YEEEES! MA-GIC HEL-MET! And I’ll Give You A SAAAAM-PLLLE!) So, again, why do we have this situation, other than “the author picked and chose which bits he wanted to include without thinking about the whys or how it might affect the world”?

There’s a little back and forth about how Chamdar is probably trying to set himself up as Grolim High Priest at this point, and a travelogue, where Garion figures out that he was targeted by Chamdar, but Belgarath doesn’t say the real reason why instead, and where Garion can’t find anything other than “he’s an Arend” as a reason why to dislike Mandorallen, believing everything else that he has as a reason was influenced by Lelldorin.

And then there’s a lady, which has a story behind it, and the narrative takes time while telling this story to mock Durnik and his beliefs.

“When Mandorallen was about Garion’s age, he showed a great deal of promise—strong, courageous, not too bright—the qualities that make a good knight. His father asked me for advice, and I made arrangements for the young man to live for a while with the Baron of Vo Ebor—that’s his castle back there. The baron had an enormous reputation, and he provided Mandorallen with the kind of instruction he needed. Mandorallen and the baron became almost like father and son, since the baron was quite a bit older. Everything was going along fine until the baron got married. His bride, however, was much younger—about Mandorallen’s age.”
“I think I see where this is going,” Durnik remarked disapprovingly.
“Not exactly,” Wolf disagreed. “After the honeymoon, the baron returned to his customary knightly pursuits and left a very bored young lady wandering around his castle. It’s a situation with all kinds of interesting possibilities. Anyway, Mandorallen and the lady exchanged glances—then words—the usual sort of thing.”
“It happens in Sendaria, too,” Durnik observed, “but I’m sure the name we have for it is different from the one they use here.” His tone was critical, even offended.
“You’re jumping to conclusions, Durnik,” Wolf told him. “Things never went any further. It might have been better if they had. Adultery isn’t really all that serious, and in time they’d have gotten bored with it. But, since they both loved and respected the baron too much to dishonor him, Mandorallen left the castle before things could get out of hand. Now they both suffer in silence.[…]”

This is in line with other mockery of Sendarian prudery that’s happened beforehand, usually with Durnik as the target of the same. It’s actually a nice change of pace from how fantasy worlds often uncritically parrot various conservative Christian moralities without thinking about whether they actually apply in the case of the world built. (In Garion’s case, everyone wants to make sure he doesn’t get busy because there’s probably prophecy or other things involved with him.) Right after Belgarath displays this pragmatism of belief, though, the author does decide that Polgara also needs some mockery.

“Does the baron know about it?” Durnik asked.
“Naturally,” Wolf replied. “That’s the part that makes the Arends get all mushy inside about it. There was a knight once, stupider than most Arends, who made a bad joke about it. The baron promptly challenged him and ran a lance through him during the duel. Since then very few people have found the situation humorous.”
“It’s still disgraceful,” Durnik said.
“Their behavior’s above reproach, Durnik,” Aunt Pol maintained firmly. “There’s no shame in it as long as it doesn’t go any further.”
“Decent people don’t allow it to happen in the first place,” Durnik asserted.
“You’ll never convince her, Durnik,” Mister Wolf told the smith. “Polgara spent too many years associating with the Wacite Arends. They were as bad or worse than the Mimbrates. You can’t wallow in that kind of sentimentality for that long without some of it rubbing off. Fortunately it hasn’t totally blotted out her good sense. She’s only occasionally girlish and gushy. If you can avoid her during those seizures, it’s almost as if there was nothing wrong with her.”
“My time was spent a little more usefully than yours, father,” Aunt Pol observed acidly. “As I remember, you spent those years carousing in the waterfront dives in Camaar. And then there was that uplifting period you spent amusing the depraved women of Maragor. I’m certain those experiences broadened your concept of morality enormously.”
Mister Wolf coughed uncomfortably and looked away.

It backfires spectacularly, of course, because despite the general sex-positivity of the position of “eh, adultery, whatever” (ETA: sex-positive in this case means “having sex is a good thing and people should do it rather than contort themselves into painful positions to avoid doing what they want” rather than any broader, more general message about it being a good idea to break contracts and promises that someone has made to someone else, since there’s no corresponding worldbuilding about how seriously Arends take marriage vows or whether they think of them as things that come alongn with pre-arranged marriages or the like) and the consistent “no, Durnik, the world does not work according to your prudery” messaging, we still have this argument that Polgara’s infatuation with courtly love is a morally superior position to Belgarath’s time with the sex workers. I have to guess it is because sex workers and actual sex with sex workers is immoral in this world, because the narrative does not say anything about how Polgara is alone in her opinion, and also, Belgarath looks embarrassed about that being brought up, so presumably there’s at least some shame component attached to it. I’m guessing the approved relationship model here is something like “healthy sex life, probably within the confines of a religiously blessed union, with a partner who does not do sex work,” which is sort of the U.S. default official position for someone who doesn’t have a more conservative or liberal interpretation they are being vocal about.

The “Polgara loves courtly romance and the Arends and it makes her turn into a giggling, gushing girl devoid of sense” thing can go die in a fire. Women are allowed to like nice things and to request things like baths or be charmed by an accent and cadence that hasn’t been heard in a while. She can like all these things and still be a shit parent and a Sorceress Supreme and all of those other things and we don’t have to descend to the level of “at least I don’t spend my free time drinking and whoring” to get there.

The plot continues with the party getting prepared to enter Vo Mimbre, having inquired of monks that don’t lie and also answer any questions they’re asked as to whether any Murgos have passed their way and received a negative answer. Which doesn’t mean much when you’re dealing with people who want to wipe their presence from your mind or otherwise manipulate it, but I guess this is supposed to be taken as reliable information. Polgara insists on everyone being properly dressed to make good impressions. Belgarath is not having any of the fancy clothing options, but that doesn’t deter Polgara.

“Lots of things are silly, father. I know the Arends better than you do. You’ll get more respect if you look the part. Mandorallen and Hettar and Barak will wear their armor; Durnik and Silk and Garion can wear the doublets Fulrach gave them in Sendar; I’ll wear my blue gown, and you’ll wear the white robe. I insist, father.”
“You what? Now listen here, Polgara—”
“Be still, father,” she said absently, examining Garion’s blue doublet.
Wolf’s face darkened, and his eyes bulged dangerously.
“Was there something else?” she asked with a level gaze.
Mister Wolf let it drop.
“He’s as wise as they say he is,” Silk observed.

Well, there’s also the possibility that he might not be doing it all of his own accord. The Will and the Word, after all, could mean that there was some extra oomph behind it and Garion doesn’t notice. Because, was she is currently characterized, I expect Polgara would use something like that on her own father as a way of settling the argument before it can begin. (She even says this in a not quoted bit above about how they might argue about it for an hour or two, but she’s getting her way regardless of his objections.) And also, the explanation consistently used “Be [Z]” as the usual way of phrasing the Word to enact the Will.

Having gotten everyone the way she wants them, the party enters Vo Mimbre and the chapter ends. There’s probably going to be more action in the next chapter than there was in this one, so I suppose that’s a good thing.

24 thoughts on “Queen of Sorcery: The Fair Break

  1. Firedrake October 21, 2021 at 3:11 am

    I wonder if there’s a personality test here. Choose between:

    (a) “if we do this, nobody will be worse off and some people will be better off”
    (b) “if we do this, I will have more than you”

    My t-shirt for this book: MRIN HAPPENS.

    Brill: not just a local patsy as he was clearly presented in the first book, but a tool of the Enemy who’s worth transporting across borders.

    Yeah, lead is valuable. You line aqueducts with it. (They don’t appear to have aqueducts.)

    What you really want in this situation is a honeypot host running a copy of Garion’s personality (it wouldn’t need much processing power) for the Grolims to attack…

    The Catholic upbringing I had would say that you avoid the occasion of sin – i.e. what Mandorallen should do is avoid being in the company of Baroness vo Ebor (and vice versa), because the more they do think about each other and spend time together the more probably they will eventually sleep together. (I suspect it would also say he should look for a wife elsewhere.)

    But I think what we mostly have here is an attempt to wedge Arthurian courtly love into the setting simply because that’s a thing Eddings likes.

    (Your summary of the US default position reminds me of watching CSI: if you are a woman who is anything other than hetero and monogamous, preferably married, you are either a killer or a victim.)

    I think the presentation isn’t meant to imply magic, simply uppity women get their way what she needs is baybeez.

  2. Dr Sarah October 21, 2021 at 6:57 am

    @Firedrake:

    (Because someone had to say it…)

    No aqueducts? SO WHAT HAVE THE TOLNEDRANS EVER DONE FOR US?

    I think the presentation isn’t meant to imply magic, simply uppity women get their way what she needs is baybeez

    From having read all the rest of these books, I think it’s meant to imply ‘Women are the ones who are really in charge due to having The Power Of Nagging, amirite guys, fnar fnar’. (SilverAdept’s interpretation is brilliant, but I don’t think it’s correct.)

  3. Silver Adept October 21, 2021 at 11:57 am

    @ Dr. Sarah –

    I’m wrong, but we haven’t gotten to the point where I twigged to understanding that Garion is absolutely sensitive to the noise that sorcery makes, even if he still doesn’t. And, of course, getting Belgarath to be quiet by magic would probably make enough noise for Garion to notice. (Much as we would like to believe someone in this party is capable of subtlety.)

    The Power of Nagging is the greatest magic of them all, apparently, since it seems to grant women the ability to get any man to do what she wants him to do.

    @ Firedrake –

    Brill’s appearance is probably the conservation of names intruding again, since he was also in Cherek, despite having been thumped into unconsciousness at the farm which let them get away. That would normally be classic You Have Failed Me *stab* territory, but I guess the author didn’t want to have to write the scene where Lelldorin warned Garion same others about the suspicious person that’s been tracking them for the last few days and the party decides, when they see him again, to try and pull this same scheme of keeping his attention focused that they do here. Although I could see importing Brill as a viable option if someone makes the offhand remark that neither Chereks nor Arends have any actual skill at not being seen, and therefore, if you can’t get your hands on a Drasnian, a Sendar is your next best choice.

    I feel like you could do the honeypot in just about any of the wildlife or the local population as you pass, given how little personality Garion has and how little characterization the populations get. Maybe put Garion’s shadow out and lead pursuit away from them that way.

    It’s definitely a clumsy courtly love scenario. And besides, it would make even better courtly love if Mandorallen deliberately kept himself very far away from the person he has pantsfeels for, so as not to corrupt their love into something quite so base as lust.

    There’s a marked lack of representation on television or movies for people who aren’t in a very small subest of “approved” relationships. (What little I saw of CSI makes me worried about what happened to Lady Heather, if what you said is true.) Some genres, like romance, are getting better at being something other than her all the time, but here, in this kingdom, the advice probably would be for Mandorallen to get himself a good wife of his own. Blame the Hays Code or the Comics Code Authority and the mindsets that produced them.

    Mrin happens.

  4. Firedrake October 21, 2021 at 12:55 pm

    Thanks, I’d forgotten about Brill in Cherek. He seems like such obvious locally-recruited muscle.

    Yeah, Malory’s version of courtly love has the principals constantly in each other’s company, and therefore that’s what has to happen here.

    Lady Heather was one of the few exceptions; she didn’t get a particularly good ending, but nor did she get a particularly bad one. (More open-ended so if they’d made another TVM or whatever she could have come back.)

  5. genesistrine October 21, 2021 at 1:33 pm

    when he boasts that Ambar and Radek don’t look anything alike, he’s telling the complete truth, and Durnik is confused because Silk’s not using the disguise magic on him.

    I feel it’s more meant as a context/perception thing – people expect to see Radek so they see Radek and not Ambar.

    the legionnaires that patrol the fair as its police

    Oh come ON. So the legions are also law enforcement in a completely different country than their own, then? Is this a Tolnedran trade fair? Tolnedran territory by tradition and/or courtesy? Are the local ker-nighits too classy to do cop stuff? Too worried about giving serfs weapons and authority to set up an Arendish police force? WHY IS TOLNEDRA DOING ALL THIS SHIT FOR FREE?

    there are some Nadraks, but Delvor can’t tell if they’re real merchants or a cover for somebody

    Why can’t they be both? Drasnians seem to manage it.

    lead might not be the material to use in this particular case for the counterfeit

    Eh, it’s cheaper than gold, which is the point of counterfeits.

    Presumably this time they’ve set up actual protections and alarms in case someone tries this again

    I wouldn’t bet anything much on that, personally…

    Though yes, I’d love to see a bit more ambiguity about which is the “good” side.

    where are they finding the queens Mayaserana from if they’re supposed to be Asturian?

    They have to marry as closely within the bloodline as possible to maintain the illusion of the unification of the houses of Mimbre and Asturia. It makes them all a bit sickly

    The royal house is a mix of the original Mimbrate and Asturian royalties. They marry each other. Presumably “a bit sickly” is a euphemism for “so inbred they’d frighten the Habsburgs”.

    Adultery isn’t really all that serious, and in time they’d have gotten bored with it

    I so, so want this to be an in-joke about the Arthurian mythos…

    @Dr Sarah: I think it’s meant to imply ‘Women are the ones who are really in charge due to having The Power Of Nagging, amirite guys, fnar fnar’

    Yeah, that’s what I reckon too.

    @Silver Adept: The Power of Nagging is the greatest magic of them all, apparently, since it seems to grant women the ability to get any man to do what she wants him to do.

    Well, only *some* women…

    Let the Mrin pile high.

  6. Silver Adept October 21, 2021 at 8:42 pm

    I suppose, genesistrine, the line about how Ambar is not usually seen in Arendia could be “so long as Silk keeps his identities separated by kingdom, people won’t know his identities are the same.” All it would take, though, is a merchant who travels between kingdoms and keeps getting pwned by someone who claims to have different names and he’s going to eventually lose that identity shield. And since Silk plays the game to pwn, it seems extremely likely he already has several of those kinds of people who would recognize him on sight. (Especially since those people have a Tolnedran highway system to take advantage of for fast travel and protection from the locals.)

    I assume that Tolnedra gets a cut of the trade going on at the fair for agreeing to patrol it, and this is established by some sort of treaty that everyone hates Tolnedra for but won’t renegotiate because of reasons that are never established enough for anyone to yell at the author about.

    Nadraks could certainly be both, but that would assume that the Scary Foreigners have intelligence and the ability to take on a role that isn’t Always Cartoonishly Evil. (But still indescribably able to be in places where they are known to be Always Cartoonishly Evil.)

    I assume “a little sickly” is also supposed to be “more inbred than the Hapsburgs,” but at the same time, you can only inbreed so much before you start having non-viable fetuses and lots and lots of dead children before you get a new king and queen to rule again. At a certain point, you almost have to have had the civil war because nobody could produce a king and queen that stayed alive enough and could maintain the fiction.

  7. genesistrine October 24, 2021 at 3:37 pm

    a merchant who travels between kingdoms and keeps getting pwned by someone who claims to have different names and he’s going to eventually lose that identity shield

    “Ambar? Who he? Nah, I’m Radek of Boktor, ask any of the people here. Well known.”

    :Everyone stares at merchant as though wondering about his sanity; he shuts up out of sheer embarrassment. Protagonist power!:

    you can only inbreed so much

    Eh, fantasy genetics. And gods. And possibly a callback to “Adultery isn’t really all that serious”…

  8. MadamAtom October 25, 2021 at 7:09 am

    [This] makes me wonder if Drasnians have disguise magic in their corner, such that Silk can turn on or off whether he’s recognizable at will, such that when he boasts that Ambar and Radek don’t look anything alike, he’s telling the complete truth, and Durnik is confused because Silk’s not using the disguise magic on him.

    Maybe, but I might give Eddings this one. The Drasnians’ “hat” is “We are all very deceitful people,” and Silk clearly thinks he’s the best deceiver of the bunch. If he’s right or close to right, I could see him being able to pull a Christopher Reeve level of transformation-via-acting, and that–plus, possibly, a bit of physical disguise–actually might be enough to fool someone who didn’t know the real him, but probably not someone who did, which is exactly what he describes.

  9. MadamAtom October 25, 2021 at 7:10 am

    (Commenting fail. Please pretend the first paragraph is a block quote.)

  10. Silver Adept October 25, 2021 at 10:03 pm

    You know, genesistrine, I would like “Adultery isn’t really all that serious” to be the real answer to the problem of inbred royals, such that any child fathered by the king or borne by the queen is considered part of the royal line and thus, sufficient generic diversity persists as to make this fiction work. Anyone who knows this truth and speaks it aloud is immediately killed, so nobody speaks it aloud, but it holds the peace together just enough that they’re not willing to give it up. (And a line from History of the World, Part I arrives to help out: “Pawn jumps queen! Knight jumps queen!” and so on.)

    @ MadamAtom –

    I can believe that being the case, but if that were the thing, I would have liked the narrative to figure that part out and describe it to us in some way. Garion is supposed to be observant and clever, perhaps he tries to do the same thing and gets slapped down by Polgara for having an idea that she doesn’t approve of, for example. There’s so much that gets left out of these things.

  11. MadamAtom October 26, 2021 at 6:50 am

    @ Silver Adept – True, I definitely did a “Marvel No-Prize” there, and readers shouldn’t have to do that to make things work.

  12. genesistrine October 26, 2021 at 8:57 am

    Thing is, we’ve no authorial/narrative clue to how true what Silk is saying is in-world. Is he telling the truth? Is he exaggerating his own ability? Has he just been lucky so far? Is he bullshitting Durnik the innocent rustic for the fun of it? Is there a polite fiction in the cross-racial merchant class that you never question the name/identity another merchant gives you, even if they look amazingly like someone you knew under another name wearing a silly hat?

  13. Silver Adept October 27, 2021 at 2:44 pm

    I think it would be funny if the name of any merchant is something like a corporate subsidiary brand, or a does business as, such that you never actually get the name of the merchant themselves, only the corporate identity, and if you want to (or you’re a tax collector), you can try to trace the maze of shells and name changes and other obfuscations to try and find out what the actual identity of the person is, but it’s going to be hard, and frankly, there’s better money to be made in bribes and grift than in trying to untangle the mess. So nobody bats an eye at any of the names Kheldar gives in a merchant disguise because all the merchants know all the names are constructions, anyway. I think that would be hilarious, but unfortunately, this book is set right during Reaganomics, isn’t it. Before we really knew just what kind of vast maze lurked for anyone trying to trace a brand back to its most grandparent company.

  14. Dr Sarah October 27, 2021 at 4:17 pm

    I feel like this author really hated coming up with names, so he found as many excuses as possible to keep reusing them.

    Wait till he starts doing that with plots. Come to think of it, I think the fact that he does this with names is probably a reflection of the fact that he does this with plots. (In fact, the plot repetition is actually something he lampshades in the second series.)

    where are they finding the queens Mayaserana from if they’re supposed to be Asturian?

    The story of the Tolnedran emperor’s family line is going to make even less sense.

    Also, now that I think about it, how are the Arendish royal family getting the monarchs all to have the same name? This implies they’re choosing them for arranged marriages in their infancy. Of course, there have been plenty of real-life societies that have done precisely this, but it doesn’t fit well with Eddings’ focus on the importance of True Love in marriage.

    This is in line with other mockery of Sendarian prudery that’s happened beforehand, usually with Durnik as the target of the same.

    That’s interesting; the books always came across to me as presenting Durnik’s position as the morally correct one (even though other characters mock it).

    the general sex-positivity of the position of “eh, adultery, whatever”

    While I’m not keen on Durnik’s slut-shamey attitude, I do want to object to the idea that being casual about adultery is sex-positivity. Adultery involves deceiving someone to whom you’ve made promises and who is supposed to be your partner in life. (Unless you’re counting consensually polyamorous marriages as a form of adultery, which I don’t but which I suppose they technically are.)

  15. Silver Adept October 28, 2021 at 12:00 am

    Oh joy, even less sense for things.

    I assume that king and queen names were like Pope names, honestly – when you ascended to the office, you got the name, but unlike Pope names, you don’t get to choose.

    I probably should be clearer that the characters are doing most of the mocking of Durnik and his attitudes. You’re right that the narrative will pick Durnik over many others when it wants to find a moral center, or at least someone who has morals that are close to the assumed reader, but I read the narrative as generally thinking of Durnik as too conservative when it comes to sexual attitudes, since he’s usually complaining rather than scheming on how to join in the fun.

    We may have different working definitions of adultery, Dr. Sarah, so rather than make assumptions and talk past each other, would you tell me what you think of as adultery? It’ll also help me figure out how to revise that part to be clearer.

  16. Firedrake October 28, 2021 at 12:49 am

    Dr Sarah: one of my grudging moments of respect for Eddings came with that lampshading, where one character says “hang on, doesn’t this all seem terribly familiar” and someone else says more or less “yeah, prophecy does that”.

    Silver Adept: A technical definition of adultery is “sexual intercourse by a married person with someone other than their spouse”. (Though bluenoses tend to extend the term to mean “sexual intercourse between people not married to each other”; that is mere fornication, which of course includes adultery.)

  17. genesistrine October 28, 2021 at 4:54 am

    @Silver Adept: ha, yes – the “of Kotu” or “of Boktor” being kind of a flag of convenience? Registered as Merchant name of X in town of Y?

    Also has the advantage of those not in the know thinking “wow, he didn’t recognise ‘that guy’ who’s blatantly ‘other guy we both know’ with a fake name these merchants are really stupid I’m going to make a killing in this deal hey where did my pants go?”

    @Dr Sarah: This implies they’re choosing them for arranged marriages in their infancy

    Given how inbred the family must be, eugenically-selected partners might be essential just to have surviving children.

    Not that having a thoroughly-documented family tree helped the Habsburgs at all…

    @Silver Adept: I assume that king and queen names were like Pope names, honestly – when you ascended to the office, you got the name, but unlike Pope names, you don’t get to choose

    Yeah, that’s my thinking. Unless every royal is named Korodullin if AMAB and Mayaserana if AFAB, which must involve a lot of confusion and nicknames. Or possibly going by one’s middle name until one ascends the throne.

    I read the narrative as generally thinking of Durnik as too conservative when it comes to sexual attitudes, since he’s usually complaining rather than scheming on how to join in the fun.

    I don’t think anyone in this adventuring group schemes on how to join in the fun. Except Barak with Cherek professionals and maybe Belgarath when Pol’s not around. They’re mostly Tragically In Love With Unavailable Women: Barak with Merel (yeah I know but that’s how the narrative tries to spin it), Silk and Mandorallen with younger-wives-of-relatives, Durnik with Pol. Hettar is Vengeance Incarnate and not interested as far as we’ve seen, and given that we’ve already had Chamdar mouthing off about Pol and Torak I don’t think it’s too much of a spoiler to say that yes she’s a virgin and going to have to stay that way until Prophecy says otherwise.

    The narrative talks a nice line about how Durnik’s kind of prudish but I think its sympathies are with him regardless.

    @Firedrake: one of my grudging moments of respect for Eddings came with that lampshading

    Yeah, like I said in last week’s comments, I have to give the guy credit for realising what he was bad at and coming up with a structure that worked around that, but once he’d got the formula he just kept on churning it out. Still, can’t blame a guy for making a nice living out of what people are willing to buy, I guess…

  18. Dr Sarah November 4, 2021 at 4:44 am

    Fair point! I think of adultery as cheating on a marital partner; having sex with someone else in a situation where fidelity to the marriage has been implied or explicitly agreed. (The technical definition covers any situation where a married person has sex with someone other than their spouse, so it would also cover polyamorous married couples deciding to open the marriage with full mutual consent, but that’s not really what I think of when I think of adultery.) And this would be a correct description of this situation, since it’s made clear that marriages in this world also carry the implied expectation of having sex with only that person, and there’s no indication that the Baron would be OK with his wife having sex with Mandorallen.

    BTW, while having sex with another partner when your spouse is in agreement isn’t the kind of thing I’m thinking of here, it’s also not something I’d dismiss as NBD. My understanding of polyamory is that ethical polyamory actually involves agreeing ground rules with your partner about the circumstances in which both/all parties are OK with having sex with other partners, and sticking to those rules… precisely because it is something that’s a potentially big deal that can be harmful if not done according to agreements and with trust. Hope that makes sense.

  19. Dr Sarah November 4, 2021 at 10:49 am

    Sorry, missed out a quoted paragraph; as you can probably work out anyway, my comment just above was meant to be a reply to SilverAdept’s from Oct 28th. (Also, apologies for taking so long to get to it.)

  20. Silver Adept November 4, 2021 at 2:02 pm

    Thank you for clarifying, Dr. Sarah. I think that can be made clearer, that “general sex positivity” was meant more that in the long term, in Belgarath’s opinion, as bad actions go, adultery isn’t one to fuss about, and that it’s better for someone to cheat with another and have sex to get it out of their system, rather than let it fester and possibly produce outcomes like war, murder, or other greater crimes. Which elides significant parts of “what happens when it’s discovered, what if there are children,” and so forth, but I think we’re supposed to handwave them by deferring to Belgarath’s experience as the Eternal Man.

    Even though there presumably were ethically non-monogamous couples and marriages at the time of the writing, I don’t think adultery is being sliced in that particular way here, but the question of broken promises probably also needs some additional context that the author is not providing. If this is a pastiche where’d most marriages are arranged for property and nobility reasons rather than for love reasons, I think the underlying thing we’re supposed to assume is that because very few people are married to people they genuinely love, the part about fidelity is, at best, lip service and nobody really believes that stuff, except when is convenient to do so for other reasons. Which, historically, has sucked for the women involved. The constant leaving Mandorallen alone and the Baron’s violent response to someone making fun of it suggests that he is more fascinated by what they put themselves through not to have sex, rather than finding ways to get it done that are pausing deniable.

    So it seems much more like the attitude is “get yourself some, it’s better in the end than trying to play by rules that nobody else is and that might invite you to do worse things than bang the boss’s wife.” That at least gives me an idea of how to revise to be more accurate, since it is more positive about sex, but probably not what the audience if this time thinks when we hear “sex positive”. Thanks again.

  21. Pebblerocker November 5, 2021 at 1:22 pm

    Did you catch how Mandorallen was the next to speak, therefore present, in the scene where Silk mocks Arendish politics and calls their royal family inbred? He gets a mild reproof from Aunt Pol and no reaction at all from Mandorallen, who might be expected to be all hot-headed chivalry over insults to his monarch but instead only asks for details on Grolims.

  22. Silver Adept November 7, 2021 at 12:14 pm

    I missed that! A remarkably subdued reaction from Mandorallen, even if his protest might have been more for show than for believing it’s not true. Perhaps everyone knows that Silk gets to say all the offensive things and will never be called out on it in any meaningful way, so Mandorallen doesn’t bother. (In a better work, he might move to protest, but then think better of it given his own questionable parenting.)

  23. genesistrine November 10, 2021 at 7:45 am

    Or maybe Mandorallen thinks it’s unsporting for knights to duel rogues and he doesn’t know any other way of resolving conflicts?

  24. Silver Adept November 10, 2021 at 3:15 pm

    Or, I suppose, if Arendia hadn’t been painted with Honor Before Reason as their hat, Mandorallen might decide that while it’s a cruel thing to say, he’s not going to cause an international diplomacy and prophecy incident by murderating a crown prince of Drasnia. There are a lot of ways that could be used here, of the worldbuilding wasn’t so sparse.

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