Last time on Solars, a raiton god lays down the exposition and tells Yushuv that he’s awesome and always right because that’s certainly something you want to encourage in Solars.
Now back to Wren and Ratcatcher. So still technically involving an exalt, even if it’s just the semibyssal.
Poor Wren is in a bad situation, and Ratcatcher isn’t making it any nicer, kicking him awake each day.
The wound where the hound had bitten him had begun bleeding again during the night, and it had caked to the thin blanket that Ratcatcher had provided for him. Pulling the blanket away tore the wound open once more, and did so in agonizing fashion.
But it’s hard to really take seriously when we’re getting this level of whining. It’s not that easy to have a wound scab over into a blanket, and of body areas, the ankle where the injury was is unlikely to have been in perfect contact the way, say, an injury on his torso might be. And it’s still going to be painful but you can work it loose with a minimum of damage.
Behind them, the hounds trailed along, conversing in almost-human voices
I just really like the doggies. I wonder how smart they are, and if they’re made out of regular people or a separate breed.
They’ve been traveling by horse, with Wren tied on. He tries to escape once while Ratcatcher’s horse is stuck in mud, forgetting to consider the hounds. It goes badly and ends with him getting a noose around his neck tied to Ratcatcher’s saddle.
“One more thing. You really must understand this,” he hissed. “You’re alive only because I can make a gift of you at the end of this ride. Your corpse will make a lovely present as well, and your ghost an even better one than that. So don’t give me any more reasons to leave pieces of you out here, and you’ll reach our destination with the same number of fingers you started with.
This sounds very sinister, but you’ll notice he hasn’t done any of it. He’s still being cruel – he originally makes sure to tie Wren’s hands too tightly, and the noose is short enough that it keeps choking him – but he doesn’t cause either lasting damage or kill him. Why not cut off a finger per escape attempt?
When they stop, he’s allowed to go to a stream to drink. He washes off some of the blood and notices the way the mica-flecked silt of the streambed swirls in the current into beautiful patterns.
Even here, in these desolate circumstances, there was some beauty.
Honestly, it sounds more like he’s lightheaded. But then he and Ratcatcher start arguing philosophy though the medium of the steam, and he sounds lucid enough.
Stooping, he picked up a pebble and flipped it into the water by Wren’s feet. “How fascinating is that? Old mud returns to new mud, to be worn down into sand.”
Wren knelt and retrieved the pebble. It was gray and nondescript, half-caked in reddish mud and vaguely egg-shaped. “And the sand becomes new stone, which men will build high into castles and towers that pierce the heavens. Or it washes out to sea and travels to places neither of us will ever see. There’s something in that, I think.”
Ratcatcher spat into the water. “I’ve seen places you can’t imagine, Wren. I’ve no wish to see where this bit of stone will go. Take it with you; I’ll toss it into the Abyss in front of you some day, and all your fanciful talk will mean nothing.”
Wren’s response was simply to cast the stone, two-handed, downstream. It hit the surface of the water with a small splash and a loud thunk, then sank from view. “I’d rather let it find its own path,” he said, and turned toward shore.
“Suit yourself. The Abyss will swallow everything, sooner or later. That’s one of the things they teach you down in the dark, Wren.
…it keeps going from there, because WORDS WORDS WORDS, but that’s the better chunk. And the bit about the Abyss is a subtle hint of why the Abyss is so worrying – it’s the final and complete end for everything. The rest of Creation cycles and changes from one thing to another and back again, and even in death things still exist and turn into new things. Nothing leaves the Abyss.
Ratcatcher ends by saying he’s met the dead gods and the Dragonblooded can’t stand up to the forces they’ll be facing, they’re just not capable of it. Wren says Ratcatcher sounds almost sad, so I guess that’s part of why we’re supposed to find him sympathetic, because he’s an Abyssal out of hopelessness? Eh, someone with that attitude wouldn’t be into sowing fear and pain.
Wren looked at Ratcatcher quizzically. ‘What did they do to you?”
“They made me theirs, priest.” His voice was pitying as he led Wren up the slope to where the horses waited. “You really know nothing, and the ones who pull your strings to make you dance are very happy to keep it that way.
This is an interesting backstory for an Abyssal, it’s just not a fitting one for this Abyssal, who’s a huge dick and also a whiner.
Once men like you would have hunted me as Anathema, or called out the Wyld Hunt to do the deed for them.
No, they’re still doing that, things haven’t broken down anywhere near that much, and you totally are an anathema. That’s what exalting as a non-Dragonblood means.
Ratcatcher seems to be implying he exalted prior to the destruction of Thorns, which was the deathlords’ first major attack on creation using their new Abyssals, and even before the disappearance of the Scarlet Empress, who he calls an “ancient bitch”. Fuck you for that, book – he can hate her all he wants, but he shouldn’t be talking about her with a phrase that implies she’s pathetic and weak.
Anyway, this would mean Ratcatcher predates the breaking of the jade prison, which in turn means he’s been exalted for more than five years, which in turn means he’s older then the Prince of Shadows and generally should be a force to be reckoned with by now. It’s not like you have to start over from scratch when you’re converted.
He says that he was hunted constantly by them.
A man gets tired of it, even a man who’s been told he’s not a man anymore.”
“That’s when you start looking for alternatives, my little friend. Even when you’ve got the sun shouting at you in your dreams, you start looking for other friends
And that’s why he’s an Abyssal. No word on why he likes to traumatize children for shits and giggles, though. The bit about the sun makes me wonder if he’s meant to be a zenith – pretty sure there’s no actual sign of what caste he is. Generally, I assume Dusk for the same reason I assume a given fighty-type Solar is a dawn, but the sun yelling at you is more a zenith thing. Hardly limited to them, though. But he works decently as a zenith – you have the whole broken faith thing going on, and he’s still a good mirror to Yushuv if they’re both zeniths instead. (He’d be a better mirror if Yushuv had vowed not to let the hatred of people get to him and make him behave monstrously, instead of flipping out at the first upset guy and ranting that it’d be all his fault when Yushuv loses it and goes on a killing spree of his own.)
This backstory would work with some tweaking, I think. Either Ratcatcher needs to lose the outright sadism or it should be spun into an issue of since no one helped him they can all burn. In the latter case the emo aspect of how hard and awful it was to know the secrets of the neverborn and how he’s doing this because it’s inevitable should be cut. And there’s no need for the bit about the Wyld Hunts being a thing of the past – not only is it clearly not true since Yushuv just saw one, but if people are still hunting exalts, Ratcatcher can be a much younger exalt himself, maybe a year at the most. Still, it’s a decent idea and you can get plenty of mileage out of the idea the Wyld Hunt is creating monsters in their attempts to kill monsters.
Anyway, the people he found then include his current master, which actually suggests Ratcatcher really fucked up in terms of timing – he must have joined up with the Abyssals after the Prince exalted and presumably after he’d been around for a while, so that’s at least two years into the Empress’ disappearance and during the start of the Realm (and Wyld Hunt’s) decline. That might be intentional, given how much Ratcatcher’s life sucks.
Ratcatcher is especially emo today, so he finishes up by proclaiming You’ll envy the dead men when my prince is through with you, Wren. You’ll envy them, and for a heartbeat, I might even envy you. Cry more, whiny.
And they get back to the riding business.