Well hello hello, my lovely Cosmere Chickens! Welcome to reread Thursday, where Paige and I are once again delving deep into the pages of Sanderson’s first published work, Elantris. In this week’s chapter, we encounter a lot of Seon-speculation (seon-lation?) and watch as Sarene crafts a perfect plan to stop Telrii from ascending to the throne… only to have it dashed in one perfectly placed move by Hrathen. Won’t you join us?
Spoiler warning: This week’s article contains some very mild spoilers from The Stormlight Archive and Cosmere speculation. Proceed with caution!
Trigger warnings: Chronic pain, suicide.
Last time on Elantris: Mingling and Murders…
Roial accompanies Sarene to the ball that she convinced him to throw. Once she’s done moping, she trails King Iadon as he sneaks away from the party. She follows him into the sewers where she discovers him ritualistically murdering a woman as part of a creepy cult. Thankfully she’s saved from being his next victim by her friends, but unfortunately Dilaf came along as well, and made certain that the whole city found out. Sarene’s plans to keep Iadon in power (and Hrathen’s plans in check) were dashed.
POV Character(s): Raoden, Sarene
But Shaor’s men had not come to fight. They had come to give him a gift: the head of their former god.
Or at least her hair.
L: Oh. Phew! Not that Shaor’s a good person or anything, but she’s still a little girl. One driven mad by the horrible circumstances she’s been thrust into. I find it hard to justify death for her.
Despite searching, his people never found Shaor’s body.
L: Well, this has been an emotional rollercoaster for me in two simple paragraphs.
P: The fact that Shaor’s wig was stained with her blood was pretty gruesome in itself. Did they eat her? I can’t help thinking it, don’t ostracize me for it!
L: I’m a Stephen King fan too, Paige. No judgments here!
It disturbed him, using men like beasts. He made other efforts to restore their rational minds, but even after just two days he knew that it was a futile hope. These men had surrendered their intellect—and regardless of whether psychology or the Dor was to blame, it would never return.
L: This reminds me a bit of Stephen King’s Wolves of the Calla, in which the “roont” twins (physically powerful adults whose minds never progressed past about the age of 5 or 6) were put to work doing tasks that required strength and brute force. In that story, it gave the intellectually disabled people a purpose and a way to feel as if they were contributing. I hope that Raoden can come to a similar conclusion here, to assuage his guilt.
P: Oh, these men are nothing if not roont. They aren’t howling maniacs like they were when following Shaor, but it’s not unlikely that they would become that again with the right encouragement. Which, thankfully, Raoden does not give them. And will not give them. But might something else set them off? It’s like having a ticking time bomb as a pet.
They were remarkably well behaved—docile, even. The pain didn’t seem to affect them…
L: Now that’s an interesting little tidbit…
P: No room for pain in their state? Not for Raoden, though…
The pain had grown. Sometimes it struck with such ferocity that Raoden collapsed, struggling against the agony. It was still manageable, if only barely, but it was growing worse. It had been five weeks since he entered Elantris, and he doubted he would see another five weeks come and go.
L: It’s really hitting him harder than it does everyone else. Do we ever get a solid answer as to why? I forget…
P: It has something to do with the healing he received from an Elantrian when he was a child. I fail to recall exactly what happened there but we’ll get to it.
Galladon snorted. “You’re about as close to becoming a Hoed as I am to being a Fjordell.”
I hide it well.
L: Oof. That is, as the kids say, an entire mood.
P: I feel it. I feel that mood so hard, Raoden!
“I know why Elantris is covered in slime. […] You know that Elantrian skin was so silvery that some people claimed it glowed.”
“It did,” Galladon said. “Not brightly, but when my father walked into a dark room, you could see his outline.”
“Well, the Dor was behind it,” Raoden said. “Every Elantrian’s body is connected constantly to the Dor. The same link existed between Elantris itself and the Dor, though the scholars don’t know why. The Dor infused the entire city, making stone and wood shine as if some quiet flame were burning within.”
L: So does this mean the Elantrians would also be slimy? Like a frog? (Sorry, I had to.)
P: I think there’s enough slime in Elantris to go around. We don’t need Raoden and company to be covered in it, as well.
“There are fungi and molds that live on light, Galladon,” Raoden said. “The Dor’s illumination was different from ordinary light, however, and it attracted a different kind of fungus. Apparently a thin translucent film grew on most things. The Elantrians didn’t bother to clean it off—it was practically imperceptible, and it in fact enhanced the radiance. The mold was tough, and it didn’t make much mess. Until it died.”
L: Aw man. There goes my Elantrian-Frog theory! (Also my theory from previous chapters that it was the magic itself imbuing the stones that caused this. You know… one advantage to having a terrible memory is that when I reread a book that I haven’t read in a long time, in some ways it’s like reading it for the first time all over again!)
P: Right? I can’t believe how much of this book has gotten away from me, even as many times as I’ve read it. It’s mind-boggling that I don’t recall some of these events!
“Well, for one thing, I haven’t found a single book that mentions how to make seons.”
“None at all?” Karata asked with surprise.
Raoden shook his head. “I always assumed that seons were created by AonDor, but if so, the books don’t explain how.
L: This is one of those details that’s going to be a huge Cosmere thing down the line, I just know it.
P: No doubt, it will!
L: I just had a thought that’s not linked to any specific passage, so I’m putting it here. Why are some of the seons affected, and not all? According to Brandon, in answer to a question asked way back in 2005:
“I intentionally left seons—their origin, their connection to AonDor—a little vague in Elantris. The reason for this is that I intend the secrets of the Seons to be a major plot element in a sequel to the book.”
In 2011, he said:
“What happens to seons during the Reod is that the Reod messes with the seon’s spirit.”
Later, in 2013, he was a little more forthcoming:
“Q: Are the Aons at the heart of seons SPLINTERS of Aona?
L: That last one is particularly interesting. It’s worthwhile to note that anything said in an interview and not on paper still isn’t canon, so we have to take these comments with a grain of salt. And none of it is answering our initial question: Why are some affected, and some not? The answer may lie in this comment by Raoden:
“There’s… something about seons and their masters. They’re bonded, somehow. Seons go mad when their masters are taken by the Shaod, for instance. I think they were created to serve—it’s part of their magic.”
L: So, it’s not something in the magic, but in the bond between the master and servant that causes the madness. This seems awfully similar to spren on Roshar, doesn’t it?
P: Sooo similar! I can’t even think of anything to say, you’ve already echoed all of my thoughts.
Eventeo sighed. “So Iadon is dead?” […] he only hanged himself last night.”
L: I wonder what they would have done to him if he hadn’t killed himself. Thrown him into Elantris, perhaps? Now wouldn’t that have been an interesting pickle for Raoden!
P: Yeah, they let the vile old murderer off easy, I think.
“You didn’t see it, Father. The king didn’t just murder that girl, he… enjoyed doing it.”
L: Yeah, I find it difficult to find any sympathy in my heart for this monster. Especially knowing that this girl wasn’t the first.
Eventeo sighed. “I know. Your mother has a new fascination—Hraggish weed soup.”
L: I’d just like to reiterate for the record how refreshing it is to have the main character in a fantasy novel have a stable relationship with a living parent.
P: And to have both parents alive! What is this magic??
“You know what the JinDo say, Father,” Sarene said. “If it burns, it isn’t healthy.”
L: … I mean… everything burns, when enough heat is applied? Except water, I suppose.
P: I think that pretty much everything burns, yes. But I won’t test that on tonight’s libations.
“As soon as we found out about Iadon’s suicide, Seinalan commandeered one of my fastest ships and set sail for Arelon. He should be arriving within a few days.”
“Seinalan?” Sarene asked, puzzled. “What part does the patriarch have in all this?”
L: First we’ve heard of this character!
P: Oooh, head of the Korathi church?
“Seinalan is a self-serving egotist with enough pride to make a Derethi gyorn look humble.”
“Princess!” Eondel said with indignation. “You’re talking about the father of our church!”
L: Ah hah! So, their Pope, basically. (In the “father of the church” respect, not the “self-serving egotist” respect.)
P: THIS will be interesting!
“I’m not going to reject Domi just because He put a fool in charge of His church; fools need to have a chance to serve too.”
L: I do love her spirit.
P: I mean, she’s not wrong. I suppose.
“The Elantris City Guard left their posts to set up camp outside Telrii’s mansion.”
Eondel snorted. “The Guard is hardly more than a club for second sons who want to pretend they’re important.”
“True,” Ahan said. “But there are over six hundred people in that club. At fifty-to-one odds, even I would fight against your legion.
L: Oof. Yeah. That’s a bit much.
P: That’s what happens when you line people’s palms with coin. Ugh, disgusting.
“Well, Sarene is still very wealthy,” Shuden said. “Raoden left her at least five hundred thousand deos.”
“We discussed this, Shuden,” Lukel said. “She has a lot of money, but still less than Roial.”
“True,” Shuden agreed. “But together they would have far more than Telrii.”
L: As always, Shuden’s very, very shrewd. However, it’s easy to say “oh yeah, just have an arranged marriage!” when you’re not the one who has to say the vows.
P: At least this is an option, though not the most favorable for Sarene.
Roial found her with eyes like those of a benevolent grandfather. “I must admit that young Shuden has a point. The marriage would be strictly political, Sarene.”
Sarene took a breath. Things happened so quickly. “I understand, my lord. We will do what must be done.”
L: Kudos to Sarene for agreeing so quickly, but I’m not in the least bit surprised.
P: Poor, poor Sarene. Willing to do what it takes, though she deserves so much more.
“I meant what I said, Sarene. This will be strictly a union of convenience—do not fear yourself obligated in any other way.”
Sarene rode quietly for a moment, listening to the horse’s hooves clop in front of them. “There will need to be heirs.”
Roial laughed quietly. “No, Sarene. Thank you, but no. Even if such were physically possible, I couldn’t go through with it. I am an old man, and can’t possibly survive more than a few years. This time, your wedding contract won’t forbid you from remarrying after I die. When I’m gone, you can finally choose a man of your own preference—by then we will have replaced Iadon’s silly system with something more stable, and your children with the third husband will inherit the throne.”
L: This is assuming that they manage to set up a system whereby she can rule in the interim, which seems… unlikely, given the political climate of this country.
P: There are always ways to produce heirs.
L: Oh yeah, no doubt, but I meant in the time between husbands two and three…
“…you assume that nobody wants you.” “
“They don’t,” Sarene said flatly. “Trust me.”
Roial shook his head. “You’re an excellent judge of character, Sarene—except your own.”
L: And Sanderson connects with a lot of us once again. I’d wager that few of us haven’t felt this way at least once in our lives. (And if you haven’t, I pray you never do.)
P: I don’t need to be an excellent judge of my own character, because I know what I am. I’m not hiding it. Lol!
“Our wedding will have to come soon if we are going to beat Telrii.”
“What do you suggest?”
“The day of Iadon’s funeral,”
L: Yikes. That seems a tad gauche, even considering how much of a d**k Iadon was.
P: Meh. The pig deserves as much, I say!
Sarene tensed, but the yells weren’t ones of anger or pain. They seemed joyful and excited. Confused, she looked out the carriage window and saw a crowd of people surging through a cross street.
“What in the name of Domi is that?” Roial asked.
L: The destruction of all of your carefully-laid plans, barely out of their infancy. I feel bad for them. They think they’ve got this in the bag… and then Hrathen comes in and sweeps their whole castle of cards right off the table with one carefully-planned move.
P: I forget who’s ahead of who in points at this juncture. But they were probably pretty even before this revelation!
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 36 and 37.
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. Links to her other writing are available in her profile.
Lyndsey lives in Connecticut and is finally done with Renaissance Faires for the season… only to begin working for Santa on the North Pole Express. (It’s a heck of a commute.) 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!