Wednesday 2 September 2020

The Tyrant Baru Cormorant Reading Notes Act Three

ACT THREE: Svir's Choice. 


Baru is still trying to figure out what Tain Hu's plan is, and she is now in the throes of meningitis. She has a dream/vision/hallucination of both of them, and asks questions that she keeps getting very vague answers to. Tain points out to her that war is not her strength, and that whenever she makes herself believe that the answer is war, she is just acting out something that was put in place for her by Farrier - her true strength lies in trade, in money. Baru's strength doesn't lie in violence, but in creating the context for power. She realises that she has to open up the trade routes between the Stakhieczi necessity and Oriato Mbo - in fact, that's exactly why Tain created something on the Llosydanes without her knowledge. There are many obstacles to overcome, like the undredged harbour in Welthony and the unsafe routes through Aurdwynn. The lesson of Kyprananoke is how awful the fallout is of a sudden Falcresti withdrawal - that it leads to nothing but slaughter and death - and instead, Falcrest must be made to "disentangle itself. To shrivel up and withdraw, and to pass its power over to those it has injured." Tain still playfully refuses to answer her question of what the difference is between serving and pretending to serve, and instead they merge and come apart (in a literal dream sense and a figurative sex scenes and all the other ways). Baru comes out of it considering that she is Tain's widow because she made her consort the one night she was queen of Falcrest. 

And she survives meningitis, just. She tries to explain her plan to Xate Yawa (but Xate will always ask, but what of my brother, and Baru doesn't have any answers). She needs a monopoly from the emperor, and thinks she has a way to get it, but doesn't share the precise details of that plan. She does ask Apparitor for Tain's will, which he has been dangling in front of her, but he admits that he made it up, that Baru herself is Tain's testament. She does get somewhere when she speaks to the remaining Vultjagi fighters and they tell her about the man in an iron circlet, the first man Tain duelled with, who lost because Tain was eager to fight, and he was eager to live. It's a useful lesson for Baru, somehow, but she doesn't reveal why. She later goes to Xe, who is living apart from the other Vultjagi and seems to be meditating most of the time. Xe warns Baru about taking lovers like Shao Lune who make her think that she deserves cruelty, and they make love for a second time - and in the peace of it (oh how little peace Baru gets, and those who love her), Baru explains to Xe about being Tain's widow. It's as lovely as things could get for her, I'm afraid. 

On the Eternal, the Brain has taken over control of the ship and plans on attacking the harbour at Isla Cauteria, as the ship is running out of provisions and urgently requires repairs. Baru realises that, and wants to help the ship by passing it off as a trading vessel. To do that, she needs Kimbune's help, who still has one of the ship's Uranium lanterns and has to signal Baru's suggestion. 

"And they certainly found the drugs, Miss Aminata.” 

For Baru's plan to work, she needs Aminata's help, but Aminata still needs to know how to trust Baru. She goes to Tau, to see what they think about her. Meanwhile, Tau's trying to ship's apothecary to commit suicide, but just ends up realising that some of the drugs help with the "oriati disease" - they have a moment of euphoria and clarity, in which they seem to accept the new situation in which they have been cut out of trim. They confirm that Baru intends to destroy Falcrest - "But she fears that she will have to destroy herself to do it. And she fears that if she does not destroy herself then she will be corrupted.". Tau asks Aminata to look after Baru, because Baru, in their opinion, now occupies their space in trim, and the only bond that she has left is with Aminata, and the most important bond is the dyad between friends. Just like the broken friendship between Kinda and Abd has begun all of this, the mended one between Aminata and Baru could save the world. But if Baru goes wrong, they have to kill her. 


  • Kimbune's proof is Euler's identity, e (i * π) + 1 = 0. Baru knows enough about mathematics to understand its beauty, and what it would mean for presumed superior Falcrest to have an Oriati mathematician discover it. 
  • Aminata finally realises that the man she had sex with was Cosgrad, and is befittingly mortified. 
  • Also, her perspective is so interesting - she is such a deeply indoctrinated Falcresti navy woman, so afraid she will slip up and back into Oriati customs. 
  • A flashback reveals that Kinda asked Tau to marry Farrier for the good of the Mbo, and we can guess how that turned out. 

While Execarne advises her to betray Baru, attack Eternal and bring a sample of the Canceroth back to Hesychast, Xate instead shares the palimpsest with her that she stole but never managed to decipher. It reveals a few things we already knew: that Xate would betray anyone to save her homeland, especially Falcrest. But it also retells the story of the man with an iron circlet that Tain Hu killed. He was the Pretender-King Kubarycz, and not only did Tain Hu kill him, but in the ensuing skirmish, her people killed all of the king's sons as well, which means that his mansion was without heirs, but in the Stakhieczi tradition, any inheritance would have passed on to Tain, the woman who beat him. And as Tain's widow - a union that Dziransi witnessed - that inheritance would have passed on to Baru, which means that she has something better to offer the Necessary King than her own life. If she married Heingyl Ri, which she could do because in the mountains, the only thing that matters is the role you play, not your sex, and then divorced, and Ri then married the King, he would have two mansions under his control. It's a much more tasty proposition than what Xate promised him, but the problem is that the only way to make that offer to him would be to send Apparitor back to his homeland to treat with his brother, and he hates it there. Also Xate doesn't know yet that he is the King's brother, and Lindon is in trouble, so that's the only thing he worries about. And then they run out of time, because news arrive that the Stakhieczi are attacking Vultjag. 


" holding to basic principles of kindness, charity, and honesty, they prevented themselves from succumbing to the pressures of circumstance. Circumstance could be manipulated. Principle could not. Neither could absolute, immovable, irreconcilable defiance."

Svir indicates to Baru that the only way he will go back to the mountains and his brother is if Baru blackmails him with the knowledge of his family, and so she does, if reluctantly. She promises to keep Lindon and his family safe somehow, and give them all what you would call "fuck off money", from the concern that she is setting up. 

They arrive on Isla Cauteria where incidentally, Heingyl Ri is holding a Governor's Ball, which gives Baru the perfect opportunity to start courting her. Only to find out that 1) she's kind of into her (of course she would be) and 2) that she's not willing to leave her current husband for her. Also, Iscend insists on accompanying Baru to the ball ("like some kind of murder cat", I thought in my head), which commences a very interesting story arc in which Iscend continues her flirtation with Baru and escalates it, much to Baru's confusion and discomfort. At the ball, Baru steals Heingyl Ri's spotlight and starts pitching her trade concern, but just then, Apparitor prevents an assassination attempt on Ri. 

Meanwhile on the Eternal, Iraji and Aminata try to reclaim the ship from the Brain by using the gross pig cancer, but Shao has made her own plans - she has tied a plague knot, trying to get the Falcresti ship to destroy Eternal before it can dock. It tips something over in Aminata, who has been struggling between her duty as an officer and her identity as an Oriati woman (and her duty to Baru, as well), and she decides to fully commit to what Iraji and Tau-indi are planning. When Shao makes it to shore, she threatens Baru with Aminata's court martial for insubordination. The whole group moves towards a Taranoki village on Isla Cauteria, where --  shock, how unlikely - Baru's two remaining parents have just moved (also, elsewhere, Tain Shir is retrieving the third, lost parent). 

At the end of this Act, Iscend and Baru debate why gay people continue existing if Hesychast's theories are correct - Baru is basically asked to find principles that explain her own existence, and justify it. It's one of those weird, rare, unlikely moments, because it all happens through Iscends continued flirtation, and Baru's attempts to make herself immune to it (she fails). Iscend explains that there could be no higher service for her than to serve Baru, an agent of Falcrest - she is programmed to enjoy serving her, after all, a programming that she has learned to twist to her own devices to an extent, but that she can never escape. And the other thing that makes her happy is something that the Masquerade has never been able to take away from her, that Baru can also give her. Baru hesitates especially because she thinks she would be using someone who doesn't have a true choice. And then Iscend gives her something amazing, a theory: that (translated) there is such a thing as recessive genes, which could explain why gay people continue existing in spite of not having children of their own. After all, Falcrest is obsessed with Incrastic ideology, in which biology explains violent homophobia, but if Baru can explain and prove her theory, as well as present Kimbune's genius mathematical theorem, she would have undermined all of Falcrest's supposed superiority. She's so happy about this that she almost fails to restrain herself from giving in to Iscend - but then, from the distance - "MOM!"
  • Like a classic comedy of doors, Hesychast appears at the Ball as well, the only big player we are missing now is Farrier. 
  • Baru comes up with a plan to remove Abd's tumour, but she needs Iscend's self-control and Xate Yawa's surgical skills to do it. 
  • Also, JFC Iscend. 

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