Greetings, Cosmere Chickens, and welcome to this week’s installment of the Elantris reread! Paige and I hope you had a lovely Halloween, Samhain, Día de los Muertos, or whatever other holiday you may have celebrated at the turn of this season. Paige, did you do anything fun?
Paige: I got my nails done and did homework. I am nothing if not a party animal!
Lyn: ::laughs:: Exciting! My son wanted to be an Ender Dragon (I’m so proud of him for wanting to be a dragon, blocky or otherwise) and we took him out trick-or-treating. There’s nothing like the joy of a six-year-old child trick-or-treating on a crisp New England Halloween night, lemme tell ya!
But, unfortunately for our friends in Elantris, the horrors are real. Hrathen’s up to no good now that he’s been “healed,” and poor Raoden’s dealing with some awful waves of pain. Let’s dive in, shall we?
(Non-)Spoiler warning: This week’s article has no spoilers from other Cosmere works. Read on fearlessly, chickens!
Trigger warnings: Chronic pain, COVID-19.
Last time on Elantris: Unexpected Goings On…
Shaor’s death has brought a new influx of residents to New Elantris. Raoden and Galadon determine what’s been causing the slime all over the city—there used to be a glowing fungi, which lived off the light, covering everything. They’re pretty excited about this discovery (well, Raoden is) until their fun is ruined by the news that Hrathen has somehow “miraculously” been healed…
Meanwhile, Sarene and Roial come up with a brilliant plan to get married and thereby combine their fortunes to take control of the city, now that Iadon is dead. However, Hrathen’s recovery is about to throw a wrench into their plans, too…
POV Character(s): Hrathen, Raoden
When dawn signaled the fifth day of Hrathen’s exile, he knew that he had made a mistake. He would die in Elantris.
P: The poison is lasting longer than the three days Hrathen thought it would last, and now he’s facing his own mortality. You’d think it would teach him some humility. We’ll soon see that it does not.
L: The worst part is that he thinks he’s humble.
Five days was too long to go without drink, and he knew there was no water to be had in the city of the damned.
L: He’s not wrong, here. The rule of thumb is: Three minutes without air, three days without water, and three weeks without food are fatal. The more you know!
P: Yeah, I thought he was only in there for three days. Wrong, wrong!
He didn’t regret his actions—he had behaved in the most logical way.
P: Logical. Take a poison that makes your hair fall out and puts black splotches all over your body in order to dupe an entire city into believing that your god healed you… if the effects of the poison fade, of course. How long was that supposed to take? Three days?
L: I meeeaaaaan he does have a point, though. There wasn’t another way that he could see to counteract Dilaf’s chokehold on the congregation/faithful.
He grew increasingly delirious as the fifth day passed. … The delusions soon changed, however. He no longer saw faces, no longer felt humiliated and scorned. In their place, he was confronted with something much more horrid.
Memories of Dakhor.
P: Dakhor, one of the Fjordell monasteries. Interested to know what happened there, for it to be more horrid than scorn and humiliation.
L: You know what they say… be careful what you wish for.
The boy Hrathen knelt obediently, waiting, crouched in a cell no larger than a closet, sweat streaming past terrified eyes, knowing that eventually they would come for him.
Rathbore Monastery trained assassins, Fjeldor Monastery trained spies. Dakhor … Dakhor Monastery trained demons.
P: Demons? Oooh, tell us more, Brandon! No please… tell us more!
L: We’ll get there, I’m sure. I’ve always been a fan of the “broken anti-hero” trope, personally, so I find it fascinating how divided I am on Hrathen. Maybe it’s the lack of angst that fuels my inherent dislike.
His skin, though covered in dirt, was as fresh and unblemished as it had been five days before.
Forton’s potion had finally worn off.
He had begun to think that it never would, that Forton had forgotten to make the effects temporary.
P: Just when he was about to kick it from dehydration, the poison that made him look as if the Shaod had taken him wears off. There’s no accounting for some people’s luck.
L: Maybe luck… maybe he really does have some sort of higher power looking out for him. Who knows, in a fantasy book!
It was amazing enough that the Hroven man could create a potion that made one’s body mimic the afflictions of an Elantrian. But Hrathen had misjudged the apothecary: he had done as asked, even if the effects had lasted a bit longer than expected.
L: If the potion was originally intended for Dilaf, what would be the purpose of it only lasting three days, I wonder… Like, what was Hrathen’s original plan? If it was to get Dilaf out of the way permanently, shouldn’t the effects have been permanent? Why have them wear off?
P: Yeah, I wondered about that, too. Maybe he didn’t think they’d let him out of Elantris?
“Behold!” he screamed toward the guardhouse above. “Witness the power and glory of Lord Jaddeth! I have been healed!”
P: And so the charade continues, in which Hrathen posits that Jaddeth healed him from the scourge of Elantris. Gag me with a spoon.
L: At least this will result in him supplanting Dilaf, who is undoubtedly the worst of the two.
The gate suddenly cracked open. Another hallucination? But then a head poked through the gap—the avaricious captain that Hrathen had been nurturing.
“My lord…?” the guard asked hesitantly. Then, looking Hrathen up and down with wide eyes, he inhaled sharply. “Gracious Domi! It’s true—you’ve been healed!”
P: Well look who it is… none other than the captain of the Elantris City Guard that Hrathen has been bribing… erm, nurturing. If only nobody had heard him calling out. Shucks.
L: I don’t hate him quite as much as you do, so I’m not entirely upset by this turn of events. Not pleased either, really, but… man. I just don’t know. I’m so divided on this guy. Kudos to Brandon for creating a character so richly woven that I can’t decide if I’m reluctantly rooting for him or hate his guts. Creating a character you love to hate is one thing… I’d argue that this is much, much harder.
P: He is definitely a multifaceted character. And I don’t hate him so much as disdain him, I guess. Well, mostly.
A few huddled shapes watched him from the top of a building.
“Enjoy your damnation, my friends,” Hrathen whispered, then motioned for the guards to shut the gate.
P: What a terrible person, to impersonate being taken by the Shaod when all of those poor souls in Elantris are living in a slimy hell. Well, except for Raoden’s flock, to be fair, who seem to be pretty damn happy, all things considered.
L: For me, the terrible part of this isn’t him impersonating them, but his reaction right here. “Enjoy your damnation” is just so cold and cruel, especially for someone who has (albeit temporarily and not completely) lived as they do. He’s experienced a small part of their horror, and to leave them there to it now, knowing that… How awful.
“Where are the rest of your men, Captain?”
“Protecting the new king,” the captain said proudly.
“New king?” Hrathen asked.
“You’ve missed a lot, my lord. Lord Telrii rules in Arelon now—or at least he will as soon as Iadon’s funeral is over.”
Weakened as he was, Hrathen could only stand in shock. Iadon dead? Telrii seizing control? How could five days bring about such drastic events?
“Come,” Hrathen said firmly. “You can explain it to me on the way to the chapel.”
P: Yeah, you’ve missed quite a lot, Hrathen! Go, have some water, change your clothes, catch up on the gossip. ::disgusted::
L: While he was away, the pieces he placed on the board moved on their own, just as he would have wished. Plans he set up proceeded better than he could ever have hoped. Joy.
The trip was crowded, but uneventful—except for one moment when he looked down a side street and recognized the Teo princess’s head poking out of a carriage window. In that instant, Hrathen felt a sense of fulfillment that rivaled the day he had been consecrated a gyorn.
P: Bleh… I know we’ve talked about how he’s not totally hateable, but right now, I hate him.
L: I do get it, though. They’re playing 3D chess and he’s managed to outmaneuver her.
“People of Arelon!” he yelled. “Know ye this day who is Master! Let your hearts and souls be guided by the religion which can offer evidence of divine support. Lord Jaddeth is the only God in Sycla.”
P: And so it begins, the mass conversion that Hrathen has been hoping for. They will come to Jaddeth willingly, thinking that he can save them from the curse of Elantris, were it to befall them.
L: And who can blame them, really? I almost hate to bring it up but… we’ve all lived through a global pandemic fairly recently. (How wild is it that we can say that, right?) If the vaccine hadn’t become available, and someone showed definitive proof of divine protection from the disease, I don’t doubt that there would have been mass conversions.
It didn’t bother him that the miracle was an effect of Forton’s potion—Hrathen had found that most supposed miracles were either natural or the result of human intervention. Jaddeth was behind them, as He was behind all things, using natural phenomena to increase the faith of man.
L: We often see this mindset in religion here in the real world, too.
P: Oh, definitely.
Hrathen lifted praises to God for giving him the capacity to think of the plan, the means to execute it, and the climate to make it succeed.
P: Of course, he doesn’t need to thank Jaddeth for saving him from the Shaod because that was never real. Though he does seem to have some faith restored to him just from the fact that he made it out of Elantris alive.
L: It is awfully convenient that the captain should have heard him and rescued him right in the nick of time, I give him that.
Drained, Hrathen finished his prayer and lurched to his feet. As he did so, he heard a chapel door open behind him. When he turned, Dilaf stood in the doorway.
“I doubted you, my hroden,” Dilaf confessed. “I thought Lord Jaddeth had cursed you for incompetence. Now I see that your faith is much stronger than I realized. I know why you were chosen to hold the position of gyorn.”
P: Hmmm… How sincere is Dilaf here, really? Is he still faking or does he really feel remorse for doubting Hrathen? It’s hard to tell with this one, he’s a sneaky bugger.
L: I don’t trust him as far as I could throw him… but I think he’s sincere here, for a little while at least. He may be conniving, but he’s also deeply pious, and it would be hard to view this “healing” as anything other than a miracle.
Dilaf moved to leave. As the man rose, Hrathen studied his eyes. There was respect there, but not as much penitence as the arteth was trying to show. He looked more confused than anything; he was amazed and unsettled…
P: Yeah, Dilaf isn’t all taken in. Confused, yes, but still Dilaf. Still sneaky and mistrusting. And untrustworthy.
The seon floated inside, unperturbed. The three remaining vials of potion lay next to it; two had cracked, leaking their contents into the bottom of the box.
“Did anyone open this box since I last spoke through you?” Hrathen asked.
“No, my lord,” the seon replied in her melancholy voice.
P: So Dilaf tried to break into the box where Hrathen imprisoned his seon, but was unable to do so. That’s some kind of strong box the gyorn has.
L: And a good thing too, for Hrathen’s sake. Dilaf undoubtedly would have viewed owning a seon as blasphemy, and probably wouldn’t have been as forgiving when faced with a miracle, had he known.
“Yes, my lord?” Dothgen asked.
“You were trained in Rathbore Monastery, were you not, Arteth?” Hrathen asked.
“I was, my lord,” the man responded in a deep voice.
“Good,” Hrathen said, holding up the last vial of potion. “I have need of your special skills.”
P: And what does Hrathen need an assassin for, pray tell?
“Who is it for, my lord?” the priest asked. Like every graduate of Rathbore, Dothgen was a trained assassin. He had received far more specialized training than Hrathen had at Ghajan Monastery, the place Hrathen had gone after Dakhor proved too much for him.
P: Hrathen gives the arteth a vial of poison… Is it the same poison he’d consumed, or is it deadly, like what we thought he had planned for Dilaf? We must know!!
L: If I remember correctly, it’s the same as the one he took, and he’s intending for it to go to Sarene. Which I’m not entirely displeased by, to be honest. I’m still frothing at the bit for Sarene to realize who Raoden is and for them to fall head over heels in love.
P: Same thing with giving it to Dilaf. If she’s healed in 3-5 days, won’t that swing the crowds back to Shu-Korath?
L: Unless there are several different types of potion, I suppose.
It struck while Raoden was studying. He didn’t hear himself gasp in agonized shock, nor did he feel himself tumble from his seat in a spastic seizure. All he felt was the pain—a sharp torment that dropped upon him suddenly and vengefully.
P: Raoden’s increasing pains are worsening. Now he feels attacked by the pain, as if it’s another entity that’s out to get him, or something.
L: Sounds like my migraines. (No joke; I get them so bad I literally can’t move and wind up curled up on the ground, sobbing. It’s soooo much fun.) So I can, unfortunately, relate to Raoden in this scene.
I hope not many of you, dear chickens, can as well.
Then he felt it. It stood like an enormous slick surface, without crack or cavity, at the back of his mind. It pressed demandingly, pounding the pain into every nerve in his body, like a workman driving a spike into the ground. It was vast. It made men, mountains, and worlds seem paltry. It was not evil, or even sentient. It didn’t rage or churn. It was immobile, frozen by its own intense pressure. It wanted to move—to go anywhere, to find any release from the strain. But there was no outlet.
P: Okay, maybe it’s not out to get him, but it’s out to get OUT of him, it seems. Interesting.
L: I’m not sure if this is just a stylized description of the pain, or an actual supernatural thing. Either way, what a great descriptive passage.
“I’m all right,” Raoden croaked, shamed. They would realize how weak he was, that he couldn’t stand the pain of even a monthlong stay in Elantris.
“Sule, what happened?” Galladon asked, retreating to his own chair.
“It was the pain,” Raoden said, holding his head in his hands and resting his elbows on the table. “It was too much for me for a moment. I’m all right now; it retreated.”
P: And so we get to the mystery of why Raoden feels the pain so much more than he should. At least we’re almost there!
L: ANSWERS, Brandon! Give us answers!
“Sule, the pain doesn’t come in waves,” Galladon said. “It just remains the same.”
“It comes in waves for me,” Raoden said tiredly.
“It comes all of a sudden, as if trying to destroy me, then moves away. Maybe I’m just worse at dealing with it than everyone else.”
P: Of course, Raoden sees himself as inferior somehow. Kaladin Stormblessed, anyone?
L: The similarities continue.
“My prince,” Karata said hesitantly, “you were glowing.”
Shocked, Raoden looked up at her. “What?”
“It’s true, sule,” Galladon said. “After you collapsed you began glowing. Like an Aon. Almost as if…”
Raoden’s mouth fell open slightly. “… as if the Dor were trying to come through me.”
P: Just, whaaaat? He was glowing? Like, legit glowing, like an Elantrian of old? If the Dor was trying to come through him… am I correct in remembering that this has something to do with him being healed by an Elantrian as a child?
L: Heck if I know. My memory’s just as bad as yours!
The force had been searching for an opening, a way out. It had tried to use him like an Aon.
L: This is a really good theory, on Raoden’s part.
Raoden nodded slowly, almost forgetting about his agony. “During the Reod, they say the most powerful Elantrians were the first to fall. They didn’t fight when the mobs burned them.”
“As if they were overwhelmed by something. Kolo?” Galladon said.
P: Ermagherd, they’re so close!
“The attacks are getting worse. If they continue, they will take me, eventually. If that happens…”
Galladon nodded solemnly. “You will join the Hoed.”
“The Dor will destroy me,” Raoden said, “ripping my soul apart in a futile attempt to break free. It isn’t alive—it’s just a force, and the fact that I am not a viable passage won’t stop it from trying. When it does take me, remember your vow.”
Galladon and Karata nodded.
P: Of course, the vow is to take Raoden to the pool, where he’ll disintegrate.
L: Mmhmm. I’m more interested in this whole concept of the Dor trying to break free out of him, though. Like a square trying to shove its way through a circular hole, and battering the surrounding wall to pieces as it does…
“That doesn’t have to happen though, sule,” Galladon said. “I mean, that gyorn was healed. Maybe something’s happening; maybe something has changed.”
P: Poor Galladon, having hope that all of the Elantrians might be healed. Damn Hrathen for this if for nothing else… for giving the Elantrians false hope.
L: Yeah. I can’t blame the Elantrians for clinging to it, but…
It was a hopeful sign, but somehow Raoden doubted it would mean much of a change for the Elantrians. They needed to work and improve their own lives, not wait for some external miracle.
He turned back to his studies.
P: He’s totally right, they need to work to improve their lives. How difficult would that be though? Knowing that the gyorn had been “healed” after praying to his god for five days. Our poor Elantrians just can’t catch a break!
L: I wonder if Hrathen considered the fact that several of the so-called “demons” locked in Elantris would likely switch to his religion in the vain hope of being healed? On the other hand, even if he did consider it, I doubt he’d care.
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 38 and 39.
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. She makes magic wands for a living and will be helping out Santa Claus this season in Essex, CT. 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!