All posts by Fenna

PW: Dec. 7 (Sorrel- the Mists of Lere)

Travelling in Lere wasn’t romantic. One did not gaze out upon the landscape, enraptured by unfamiliar scenery. Not as they would when riding over the rolling hills of Risyr, or through the culturally-robust towns of Mirne.

Sorrel sat primly in a gilded carriage drawn by two Allestiun mares. The horses were worth more than some estates, and for good reason. They were the only breed capable of seeing through the thick mists that enveloped Leren lands, not to mention their implausible stamina and strength. Sorrel was rather fond of them. The stares of awe they evoked from commoners filled her with an imperious satisfaction.

Today, however, she felt no such satiety. Not after two weeks of travelling through the depressing mists. With the world around her so fully obscured, she at times wondered if she had somehow crossed into Shadir. This, of course, was impossible. Every Highborn knew the border between the planes had closed long ago. Believing the sorts of legends that claimed otherwise was far, far beneath her.

Only one more week until they arrived at the capital, her Rellent had promised. She doubted it. How could one discern time or distance when the haze shrouded even Ascere, the brightest of the suns? She worried that the Divine could not see her down here. Were the prayers she burned unable to pierce the dense mist? Perhaps they simply became lost within it, mingling throughout until they faded, never able to escape.

She tried to put the unsettling thoughts out of her mind, and absorbed herself instead in the glyphs of an extremely extensive, and extremely heavy, tome that outlined the complex politics of the Leren court.

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IRJE: Dec. 1st (Oathbringer)

In Oathbringer, book three of the Stromlight Archive, by Brandon Sanderson, the people of Roshar have long told tales of horrible creatures called Voidbringers, who attacked humans during the a series of cyclic catastrophic wars called the Desolations. These monsters were thought to be defeated in the Aharietiam, the last desolation. However, scholar Jasnah Kholin discovers that Voidbringers were not banished from Roshar. They, in reality, are the Parshendi, a humanoid race whom they had been recently warring with, and the Parshmen, a less-intelligent version of the same race who have become common slaves. After the Parshendi’s god, Odium, rallied his subjects and waged war once again upon the humans, the rulers of the kingdoms of Roshar united to face the oncoming evil together. However, a new discovery challenges everything they had believed about the Parshendi-Voidbringers. After a breakthrough in deciphering the Dawnchant, an ancient language centuries-lost to Roshar, one of the oldest documents in written history, Eila Stele, is finally translated. This translation reveals that, in fact, the Parshendi were the ones who originally coined the term “Voidbringer,” and did it in reference to the humans, and that humans came to Roshar after the Parshendi, who took the humans in when they came, and were subsequently betrayed by them.

“‘They came from another world,'” Navani said, reading from her sheet. “‘Using powers that we had been forbidden to touch. Dangerous powers, of spren and Surges. They destroyed their lands and have come to us begging.

“‘We took them in, as commanded by the gods. What else could we do? They were a people forlorn, without a home. Our pity destroyed us. For their betrayal extended even to our gods: to spren, stone, and wind.

‘”Beware the otherworlders. The traitors. Those with tongues of sweetness, but with minds that lust for blood. Do not take them in. Do not give them succor. Well were they named Voidbringers, for they brought the void. The empty pit that sucks in emotion. A new god. Their god.'” (pp. 1095-1096).

There are many moments in Oathbringer that make the reader, and often the characters, question which side is truly the antagonistic one. It is easy to fight a righteous war against the evil Voidbringers who invaded your ancestors’ homeland and destroyed their lives, knowledge, and infrastructure (as after each Desolation humans were reset back to the Stone Age). What, then, if you find out that your side are the invaders. Not only that, invaders that betrayed and waged war upon those who welcomed them warmly. Then, when the warring was done, enslaved their enemy’s entire race, and trapped them in a state of compliance and stupidity. It cannot be so easy to justify your actions or feel righteous then.

For me, it is a very powerful moment when the former Parshmen are released from their mental prison, and talk to one of the main characters about their experience. Imagine if suddenly all of the animals we keep in poorly-conditioned factories gained self-awareness. We justify our immoral treatment of them by saying that they’re too stupid to care, or not worth thinking about because they aren’t as intelligent as us. How awful would everyone feel, though, if it turned out they were only dull in the first place because we manipulated their mental capacities so that it was easier for us to exploit them. Then, if they one day gained those capacities back, and told us about how they watched their families being killed, so that we could have food we didn’t need, and about how they weren’t even able to feel sad about it because of what we did to them.

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PW: Nov. 21 (Benefits of Owning an Undead Army)

Benefits of Owning an Undead Army: a Dissuasion From the Impractical Use of the Living in Belligerence, by Len-Zehlek

After centuries spent serving as primary martial-savant in Archlich Rehs’telen’s court, I have found it overwhelmingly evident that there is, candidly, only one legitimate contention in the argument of animated versus reanimated soldiers. That is, that living companies cannot even begin to rival the efficacy of the Undead.

For any who have observed the activities of the Undead, both within and outside of combat, and who have noted their numerous inherent and exceptionally valuable attributes, all of the following will seem conspicuous remarks and conclusions. Still, however, in the last decades focus has shifted more and more to the employment of the living in warfare. This seems to be largely a result of the undead-averse propaganda that pervaded Enyle during and subsequent to the third Necromancen War.

Before beginning, I will say that the enmity towards undead is, in majority, unfounded. Even so, dislike for these reanimated creatures does not negate their practicality and versatility; one can benefit from them without favouring them. For ease of comprehension, I will divide my arguments into two categories: superiority in battle, and out of.

Firstly, merits during combat. The Undead, unlike their living counterparts, have no moral qualms about who or how they kill– they will not question or hesitate, making them more reliable. Additionally, they are immune to all mind-affecting, poison, sleep, paralysis, stunning, disease, and death effects, as well as impervious to the diversions of human emotion. These attributes make them, indisputably, physically and mentally stronger.

Out of combat, their preeminence is simple and cogent. They have no requirement for food nor rest, nor pleasant conditions. They do not feel the physical discomfort of humanoids in low or high temperatures, and are not concerned with personal space or the wish for cleanly environments.

In summary, the many faults that limit human capability and compliance often do not affect the Undead. This makes them nonpareil in warfare when compared to the lesser living forces.

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IRJE: Nov. 15 (Oathbringer)

In Oathbringer, book three of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, Highprince Dalinar Kholin is thrust into a position of leadership when a Desolation comes for the first time in centuries. Dalinar is chosen by the Stormfather to receive visions created by Honor, who is one of the gods of Roshar. These visions warn him of the coming Desolation, and encourage Dalinar to unite the kingdoms of Roshar in order to fight it.

In his youth, Dalinar cared only about fighting– he lived and breathed war, and killed thousands. He did this for the purpose of uniting the Althekar. However, this time he is determined to take a more peaceful route to unification. Dalinar models his ruling after the Way of Kings, which was a book written by Nohadon, a king who lived hundreds of years ago. Dalinar has a vision in which he is walking with an elderly Nohadon, discussing his issues with him.

“Being a ruler is a burden, not merely a privilege,” Dalinar said. “You taught me that. But storms, Nohadon, I can’t see any way out! We’ve gather the monarchs, yet the drums of war beat in my ears, demanding. For every step I make with my allies, we seem to spend weeks deliberating. The truth whispers in the back of my mind. I could best defend the world if I could simply make the others do as they should!” (p. 1014)

This issue, of whether it is best to force people to do the right thing or leave them be and watch them do all the wrong things, occurs throughout history, as well as in current events, both small and large scales. It is one of the fundamental problems with democracy– what if you let everyone decide what they do, but they decide the wrong thing? What if, like Dalinar, you had to choose between using war to force people to make the right decision, or letting them keep their freedom, but in so doing allow them to make decisions that will end up with the human race enslaved or extinct? I think it is good for us to realize the complexities of ruling, and to consider that sometimes when someone makes a bad decision, it is because their choices are between that and an even worse one.

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PW: Nov. 7 (Nemie- Feywild Forests)

Nemie danced playfully in the canopy, hopping between branches that should’ve been too thin to support her. She wasn’t worried about falling– she never was. How could she be when the branches reached out to catch her every step?

Together, for no audience but themselves, she and the trees performed a wondrous play– one of marvels, freedom, and windfalls. Nemie belonged to this forest; she was its secret, and one it was loath to share. At times, she felt its jealousy when she passed through the treeline into different territories. Once, when she was sent with an embassy to the Bogwren Marsh, she was away from her forest for a month. When she returned, it had curled up its branches and smoothed its bark, refusing to let her climb its trees for days out of spite.

Now though, all grudges were forgotten. Everything was forgotten. It was just her and her forest, playing together under the ever-dusky sky of the Feywild. She delighted in the movement of the wind as it came to join them. It capered around her, and she could almost hear it giggle as it began pulling the carefully placed strands of her intricately braided auburn hair loose. She was too exultant to mind.

The wind urged her forward– faster it whispered. She broke into a sprint, moving so quickly that the branches barely had time to move beneath her as she bounded between them. This was right.

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WWI Lit: Nov. 4 (Remembrance Day)

War is a massively destructive and largely useless activity in which humans have been partaking for centuries upon centuries. Some wars have been between two countries, and others have involved almost every country in the world; some have lasted less than an hour, and others have been drawn out over two-hundred or more years. They occur all throughout humanity’s timeline, in every corner of the Earth, and for a variety of reasons. However, no matter the time period, location, or purpose, nearly all wars end up the same: with people dead.

To encourage their citizens to take part in their wars, which often boil down to trivial squabbles between wealthy or otherwise high-ranking people, leaders have spread ideals of war that paint it as the foremost way for an individual to be honourable, and to be a good citizen to their country.

This is exemplified in much of the literature written about various wars. One such piece of literature is World War One poem Marching Men by Marjorie Pickthall. In this, the soldiers are described as “Christs,” who march “in holiest fellowship.” Pickthall views these men as holy beings, even though in reality they are little more than shells of people, broken and hollowed out by the terror and death they experience.

This brokenness is shown throughout the book All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, which follows German soldier Paul Bäumer. He remarks that if the soldiers return, they will be “weary, broken, burnt out, rootless, and without hope,” and will be unable to find their “way any more” (p. 294). It is also demonstrated in the short story Soldier’s Home by Ernest Hemingway, where returned-soldier Krebs cannot relate whatsoever to his family, even though the war is over. In one passage, Kreb’s mother asks “don’t you love your mother dear boy?” And Krebs responds “no… I don’t love anybody” (p. 9). He then goes on to take back his statement when his mother bursts into tears, but feels nauseated while doing so because he cannot stand lying so much.

War should never be glorified, and nor should joining the army. There is nothing noble about killing people mentally damaging our citizens, no matter the justification. With our world growing more and more connected by the addition of accessible and easy international communication and travel, my hope is that it will be more difficult for people to view each other as less-than-human enemies in the future, as so often soldiers did in the past. Still, that is only as individuals, and these things are rarely determined by the will of the citizens. With so many countries continuing to build up their military power and weapon stores, it isn’t hard to imagine tensions rising between forces once again. This time, however, considering the technological advancement we have made, a world war would almost certainly leave Earth severely and irreversibly damaged.

This is why it is so important that we educate everyone on the effects of war now. Unfortunately, it seems for many people the only time we talk about war is during Remembrance Day. Even then, our ceremonies don’t include much educating on the more unpleasant details, even though that is exactly what we need to hear in order to understand that war is dreadful and wrong, and something we truly need to avoid at all cost.

If I were to design a ceremony, it would honour those killed in the wars, not by glorifying their cause, but by helping ensure that future wars would be prevented.

One good thing that our Remembrance Day ceremonies do is encourage people to donate money to charities that help provide veterans with the physical, financial, and mental care they need. This I would keep the same, thought possibly put even more of an emphasis on.

Something I would definitely change though is what is read– at almost every Remembrance Day ceremony, we read poetry such as In Flanders Fields by John McRae, and Marching Men by Marjorie Pickthall, that is all about acknowledging how virtuous soldiers are and honourable war is. To me, telling people killing is honourable does not seem like a good way to build a peaceful and moral society. For this reason, I would instead read poems such as Dulce et Decorum Est and Anthem for Doomed Youth by Wilfred Owen, which tell of the horrors soldiers have had to face, and of what war can do to people. I would also have veterans come to speak of what they have gone through, and how it has affected them.

By doing these things, I would hopefully be able to make people understand that war is not something to be proud of, and help prevent the “enlisting is honourable” mentality.

 

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IRJE: Nov. 1 (Oathbringer)

In Oathbringer, book three of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, religion is an integral part of society. The Vorin people worship a god called the Almighty, and each individual tries to please him throughout their lifetime by displaying and acting in accord with the divine attributes. Ardents, such as Kadash, are the people who help keep individuals on track in their life, so that they will go to the Tranquiline Halls when they die (which is essentially the equivalent of Heaven). Dalinar Kholin, uncle to the king of Alethkar and who in reality makes all the decisions for the kingdom, has learned that the Almighty has died through divine visions, and has announced this to the highprinces of Alethkar. Furthermore, Dalinar has married his late brother’s widow, which is not considered acceptable in Vorin culture. The ardents are extremely displease with him, and view the proclamation and marriage as symbols of Dalinar’s heresy. Ardent Kadash accuses Dalinar of no longer respecting Vorin traditions.

“I love tradition,” Dalinar said to Kadash. “I’ve fought for tradition. I make my men follow the codes. I uphold Vorin virtues. But merely being tradition does not make something worthy, Kadash. We can’t just assume that because something is old it is right.” (p. 174)

I think that Dalinar is completely right in saying that old is not the same as right, and I think almost everyone is constantly mistaking these two things. Often it seems people are uncomfortable with change, even when the current way of doing things or current beliefs were created in a completely different time when the human race needed completely different things. For instance, it’s insane to expect an education system established hundreds of years ago to serve our current needs, yet in most cases we have only marginally altered it, and that only started happening in force a few years ago. Another example is climate change, something we didn’t used to know anything about, and so didn’t do anything about. Now that we realize its real and so extremely impactful, we cannot continue to behave in the same way we did previously. The human race develops at an exponential rate, and that rate is only getting quicker. We have to be able to accept that times change and adapt our methods and beliefs to fit that.

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WWI Lit: Oct. 28 (All Quiet on the Western Front)

In All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, the story follows a group of young men who were enlisted into the army. When reminiscing on their enlistment, main character Paul Bäumer talks about how only one boy, Joseph Behm, hesitated in joining up.

But he did allow himself to be persuaded, otherwise he would have been ostracized. And perhaps more of us thought as he did, but no one could very well stand out, because at the time even one’s parents were ready with the word “coward.” (p. 11)

To me, the idea that even parents would want to send their children off to war is astonishing. I can’t imagine my mother or father ever encouraging me or my brother to go off somewhere so far away and dangerous, let alone berating either of us for declining to do so. I understand that it was a different time, but still I don’t see how parents would willingly send their young kids into war to be bombed, gassed, and shot, no matter the era. You can tell when Paul returns to his hometown on leave, his mother is extremely glad to see him again, and very worried about his safety and his returning to the front. This seems like a direct contradiction to me.

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PW: Oct. 21 (Of Wsgria)

His name they speak in hushèd tones,

His tales are left in dusted tomes.

A thousand men who would not dare,

A thousand deaths- not one he’ll spare,

 

Not children small nor women fair,

For for their lives he does not care.

A tangled plait of confliction

Surrounding truth’s jurisdiction.

 

Perhaps no more than a mere tale,

But veracity is a veil.

To ask why he deigns to defile,

Is a question far too fragile:

 

You may construe a halfèd sooth,

Or even worse the wretched truth.

Mortal men may have goal or cause,

But in killing he takes no pause.

 

No heart nor soul, nor humane bone,

He’s the smell of fetid brim-stone.

For all of this, the message follows:

If you see a smile, wide and hollow,

 

If you hear dark words, detached, eerie,

Dust and smoke that’s hot and dreary,

If these fit to one mirthless man,

You’re wise to flee, fast as you can.

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IRJE: Oct. 15 (Words of Radiance)

In Words of Radiance, book two of the Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson, the religion practiced throughout the kingdoms the story mainly takes place in is called Vorinism. According to Vorin beliefs, it is extremely improper for a woman to leave her left hand (“safehand”) uncovered. Shallan, the female protagonist, and a woman from one such of those Vorin kingdoms, becomes an apprentice of sorts to a con-artist named Tyn. One of the things Tyn begins to teach Shallan is how to pretend to be someone from a different kingdom.

“I, for one, am going to be very amused to watch your face when you have to go out in public with that hand of yours uncovered.”

Shallan immediately pulled her safehand up to her breast. “What!”

“I warned you about difficult things,” Tyn said, smiling in a devious way. “West of Marat, almost all women go out with both hands uncovered. If you’re going to go to those places and not stand out, you’ll have to be able to do as they do.”

“It’s immodest!” Shallan said, blushing furiously.

“It’s just a hand, Shallan,” Tyn said. “Storms, you Vorins are so prim. That hand looks exactly like your other hand.” (p. 428)

Initially when reading this, it’s easy to think that the Vorin “safehand” tradition is ridiculous. When you consider further though, many of our beliefs about propriety aren’t any better. For instance, we consider it to be a very intimate thing to see someone in their underwear, yet our swimsuits look nearly exactly the same besides the material. Somehow we find one material to be more intimate than the other. When considering it this way, left or right isn’t much different than one material or another.

I find things like this interesting to think about. It changes our perspective when we realize what we consider right or wrong in regards to “decency” is often completely abstract. In fact, this applies to many things about society- barely any of it can be completely justified in a logical way, it’s almost all about how we are raised and what we are told.

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PW: Oct. 7 (Sybil- Shadir’s Fall)

The faint glow of dawn slowly formed on a horizon Sybil had never seen before. Fearful, he cringed as the light invaded his vision, disturbing the pure oblivion that usually served as the unobtrusive background to his life.

His chains clanked against the cold featureless ground as he backed away, trying to stay inside the comforting darkness that seemed to be slowly retreating from the unfamiliar light.

Anxiety claimed him as his chains pulled taut. He could not go any farther. The darkness was leaving him behind; it was leaving him to be claimed by the ever-brightening luminescence.

He had never understood the concept of change that those who wandered through his endless solitary occasionally spoke of, but as he stood there, waiting, he knew soon nothing would be the same.

Before long, the invasive glow illuminated his marbled grey-and-red skin. He looked down, perplexity briefly prevailing over fear. What was that on him? Colour, he realized. The answer seemed to appear in his mind as if someone had placed it there for him to find.

Below the hand he had been examining, more of the strange not-black began creeping across the ground. His gaze shifted to it as what had been stark, unadorned darkness transformed into soft, swaying grass of green. This, he recognized, was not light that simply revealed surroundings- it was Solrel, divine light of creation.

There was barely enough time for panic to reclaim him as he realized what was happening. The forces of Solreun had finally taken the last stronghold of Shadir. He glimpsed a host of divine soldiers in shining armour marching on the horizon, heralding the light onwards, before he collapsed, his Shaden mind urged into unconsciousness by Solrel.

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IRJE: Oct. 1 (Queen of Shadows)

In Queen of Shadows, book four of the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, Manon, heir to the Blackbeaks, one of the three witch clans of the Ironteeth Alliance, is renowned for her brutality and discipline, and recognized by her wearing of a red cloak, the same type that all Crochan witches, sworn enemy of the Ironteeth witches, boast. When Manon’s red cloak is torn, her grandmother, matron of the Blackbeaks, gifts her a Crochan so that she may slay it and take it’s cloak as a replacement for her own. Months later, Manon is still bothered by the words the Crochan spoke to her before being killed.

Made, made made.

That was what the Crochan had said before Manon slit her through. You were made into monsters.

She tried to forget it- tried to tell herself that the Crochan had been a fanatic and a preachy twat, but… She ran a finger down the deep red of her cloak.

The thoughts opened up like a precipice before her, so many all at once that she stepped back. Turned away.

Made, made, made.

Manon climbed into the saddle and was glad to lose herself in the sky. (p. 170)

In this passage, Manon is troubled by the word made- the idea that Ironteeth witches were not born heartless, but made so. I think this concept will likely be an extremely important turning point for Manon, as if she begins to think of her malevolence as a choice rather than an inherited trait, it could lead to her to realize it is possible for her to be less cruel, and maybe even to let herself begin caring about things.

This idea in general is really quite interesting- nature versus nurture, born to be or influenced to be. It is my belief that no one is born evil, or born really anything. We learn what is right or wrong, and our personalities are determined by our environment. If we are constantly praised for cruelty, as the Ironteeth are, likely we will grow up to believe that that is what is right. I believe that subscribing to the mentality of no one being born a certain way is a good thing for us as a race, as it encourages the idea that everyone can change- the idea that there is no unalterable set way of being we are born with.

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PW: Sept. 21 (On the Confined)

In open air they writhe, six cold stones surrounding. Meandering wind avoids their skin, scared of dropping ill. They, dropping into sealed grey. Drops of water underground. Dropped upon tongues; closed mouths.

Without, quiet. Within, murderous silence- devouring silence, ravenous silence. Take them, silence. Take me, silence.

Seeking sin, searching six seas, the seventh untouched for they are unwilling. Unsee them, undo them. Never unearth, never unbind them. Caged in open air, writhing in open air, underground in open air. Leave.

Tremors rumble above, collapsing the sky inwards. From heavenly chasms, wholly hollow creatures fall heavily. Crash. Fractured fingernails find purchase between too-tough too-weak slab. Calming fear chains bodies to rock.

Their minds hide in the interlude between panic and oblivion, the ever-dark obscuring grey matter.

Not enough.

Black sunlight streams through cracks in their stony solitary, the midnight brightness blinding them. They’re binding them. Time’s biding them. It begins.

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IRJE: Sept. 15 (Queen of Shadows)

In Queen of Shadows, book four of the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas, the witch clans have a very hierarchical culture, in which to question your superior is to show yourself to be unloyal and useless. Manon, Wing Leader of the witch clans, is ordered by Duke Perrington to provide one of her Blackbeak covens to be used as child-bearers for the Valg. However, as all witches are female and do not breed with mortals, in witch culture witchlings (children mothered by witches) are very rare, and considered sacred. For this reason, Asterin, Manon’s Second, is insistent on ensuring Manon isn’t considering complying with the duke’s request. When Manon replies to Asterin that she hasn’t decided, suggesting she may hand one of the covens over, Asterin presses further.

“And if they object?”

Manon hit the stairs to her personal tower. “The only person who objects to anything these days, Asterin, is you.”

“It’s not right-”

Manon sliced out with a hand, tearing through the fabric and skin above Asterin’s breasts. “I’m replacing you with Sorrel.”

Asterin didn’t touch the blood pooling down her tunic.

Manon began walking again. “I warned you the other day to stand down, and since you’ve chosen to ignore me, I have no use for you in those meetings, or at my back.” Never- not once in the past hundred years- had she changed their rankings. [103]

This quote is interesting because it showcases the witch culture regarding obedience. The idea of a society that so heavily punishes even the hesitation of immediate deference to decisions made by superiors is interesting. Without any kind of advice from others even being considered by leaders, you could imagine how easily a society could become ruled by tyrants, and full of docile, unthinking citizens. With complete authority such as Manon has, realistically it would be extremely difficult for her not to become corrupt with power.

 

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