Welcome back to the Warbreaker reread! Last week, Lightsong and Vivenna played games within games. This week, Lightsong is inadvertently drawn to investigate a certain … squirrel!
This reread will contain spoilers for all of Warbreaker and any other Cosmere book that becomes relevant to the discussion. This is particularly likely to include Words of Radiance, due to certain crossover characters. The index for this reread can be found here. Click on through to join the discussion.
Point of View: Lightsong
Setting: Court of Gods
Timing: Immediately following his scene in Chapter 22; Siri has been in residence for 2-3 weeks
Take a Deep Breath
Lightsong seeks out Blushweaver, who is being entertained with a movable garden. She immediately propositions him, but he forestalls her with a prepared script for their conversation. Correctly interpreting his final line as an agreement to work with her, she expresses her surprise; he clarifies his intent to keep her from doing unnecessary damage through her plotting. She informs him of the intrusion the previous night.
The two of them traipse off to see Mercystar, who is busy fainting from the shock of an intruder in her own palace. Blushweaver promptly insinuates that the Idrians are likely to be behind it, given their suspicious behavior in sending Siri in Vivenna’s place. Mercystar eats it up, but Lightsong interrupts her. Blushweaver insists that recruiting Mercystar is important, as she holds the Commands for a quarter of the Lifeless. Mercystar, for better or worse, is very easy for someone like Blushweaver to manipulate, and is easily drawn into the idea of joining together to prepare for any unexpected aggressiveness from the Idrians.
Once Blushweaver has finished with Mercystar, she and Lightsong walk back toward Blushweaver’s palace, chatting idly with their usual sort of banter. His curiosity piqued by the break-in, he asks a few casual questions, but when he learns about the death of a servant, his interest becomes much more active. He returns to Mercystar to seek more information. Of course, she doesn’t actually know a lot, but she grants permission to speak to her priests about it.
Dismissing the rest of his retinue, Lightsong takes Llarimar in search of those who would know more. Further details come to light: the intruder used an Awakened rope to bind one servant, and knocks another unconscious. The bound servant is later found dead, stabbed through the heart with a dueling blade. A little more detective work reveals more evidence of Awakening, and a few questions about the Lifeless animal used as a distraction proves that it was far too well made to be the work of any less than a master. No Idrians could possibly have been involved in such an intrusion.
Lightsong returns to his palace, invigorated by his efforts and determined to learn more about the intruder and his purposes.
Temporary flower beds. The gods were too godly to leave the court and visit the city gardens, so the gardens had to be brought to them. Such an enormous undertaking required dozens of workers and carts full of plants. Nothing was too good for the gods.
Except, of course, freedom.
This struck me as being very profound, whether it was intended or not. Lightsong is commenting here on the extravagance of the impressive dynamic garden brought in for Blushweaver’s enjoyment, which involves large quantities of potted flowers, bushes, and small trees, constantly being rearranged in a kind of “botanical orchestra,” a “living kaleidoscope.” Much like Siri, he’s realized that for all their luxury, they have very little command over anything but their choice of entertainment. Not so different from some segments of our own society, though they mostly stumble into it on their own these days.
The annotations this week cover 1) some of the background of the local concept of “art”—things that we wouldn’t normally think of in that light, but which have become so in this world which focuses so much on different ways to entertain the gods. 2) the parallel between this chapter and the previous one, showing the complete inanity of the “gods” and “goddesses” in this culture, and beginning the contrast of Lightsong’s development in to something more. 3) the odd disparity between what we saw Vasher do and what the priests describe, and the resulting implication that someone else was following Vasher. This leaves me with one question: were the priests lying or not? Lightsong thought they were, but is that because he saw inconsistency between their story and the evidence that they had missed? In other words, are they telling the truth as they believe it to be, having overlooked the bits of evidence that point to it being wrong, or do they know it to be a lie?
As I Live and Breathe
Lightsong recognizes the proof of an Awakener’s presence immediately. Near where the servants are replacing the bloodstained flooring, there is a patch of oddly gray wood… proof that an Awakener has been here sometime. After some reflection, I think it’s worth mentioning that likely, had Lightsong not heard Blushweaver try to pin the blame on the Idrians, he never would have made such specific note of this. Most of the Hallandren people accept Awakening without a thought; while they might recognize the evidence of an Awakener’s activity, they wouldn’t consciously realize that it totally exonerates any true Idrian.
Vivenna’s reactions in the previous chapter (remember that?) highlight for us just how much a true Idrian loathes the very idea of Awakening, and how that revulsion is compounded in the case of Lifeless. As if the simple fact of holding someone else’s soul (Breath) weren’t bad enough, using that Breath to create what amounts to a zombie that will keep trying to fulfill its command no matter what you do… Yeah, I can see where they can object to all of this.
In Living Color
We’ve already gotten to know Lightsong as a rather frustrated but indolent young Returned who doesn’t believe in his own deity, and Blushweaver as a seductress with a taste for political intrigue. Now we meet Mercystar, goddess of kindness, holder of Lifeless Commands, highly suggestible drama queen. Honestly, I’ve never figured out which of these two goddesses would annoy me more; it’d be a pretty close race. While I wouldn’t quite call her “dumb as a post,” she might have trouble in a battle of wits with a tree. She’s far more concerned with posturing about the trauma of having someone dare enter her home uninvited than she is with the death of one of her servants.
Fortunately for my sanity, Lightsong isn’t. The fact that someone died turns him from casual curiosity to intense interest; this change is certainly not lost on Llarimar, who appears to be most intrigued by this uncharacteristic behavior. He is not only interested, he also makes some very astute observations about the identity (or not!) of the intruder and knows without doubt that Mercystar’s priests are lying to him.
Don’t Hold Your Breath (Give it to me!)
“What was this Lifeless creature you mentioned?”
“A Lifeless squirrel, Your Grace,” one of the men said. “The intruder used it as a diversion.”
“Well made?” he asked.
They nodded. “Using modern Command words, if its actions were any judge,” one said. “It even had ichor-alcohol instead of blood. Took us the better part of the night to catch the thing!”
Every time I read this, especially that last line, I get the giggles again. The mental image of a wild zombie-squirrel tearing around one of these places is fantastic.
So. Lightsong takes another step toward being a worthwhile person, the shallowness of the majority of other Returned is on display, and Vasher is extremely good at creating Lifeless critters, even when he’s just going to throw them away. Anything else? Oh, yeah—later, I develop some appreciation for Blushweaver, but this is yet another chapter in which she makes me snarl. She’ll take advantage of absolutely anything to advance her propositions.
That’s it for the blog—now it’s time for the comments! Join us again next week, when we will cover chapter 24, in which Siri attempts to get answers to some of the many questions she and Susebron are beginning to have.
Alice Arneson is a SAHM, blogger, beta reader, and literature fan. For those who are watching, she would point out that the progress bar on Oathbringer Revision 3 has been moved to 100%, meaning that Brandon has finished incorporating the inputs of his editor and has sent the final sections to the beta readers. Yes, she has finished reading Oathbringer. No, she can’t say any more than that, except that it’s another stunning project.