January Brust: Jhereg

Late, late, later.

I’m working on a project to re-read all of Steven Brust’s Vlad books this year, to try to work out what’s going to happen next, or at least to understand some of the deeper currents I picked up from reading Iorich.  I’m reading them in publication order.  Don’t read these posts if you haven’t read the books.

Jhereg is the book where Vlad has to stop Mellar, a cross-breed, from destroying the Jhereg, Dragon, and Dzur Houses by stealing the Jhereg’s bankroll and hiding out at Castle Black.

The prologue is backstory including how Vlad watched his first Jhereg killing from his father’s restaurant and meets Kiera for the first time (Kiera wasn’t involved in the killing).  How Vlad got Loiosh in the jungles west of Adrilankha (there’s a flash-flash back about how Vlad never knew his mother, but his father would call her a “witch”).  Vlad mentions he was taught sorcery by a Sorceress from the Left Hand of the Jhereg.  How Vlad got into the Jhereg, over a fight at a card table, via Nielar and Kiera.  Loiosh hatching.  Nielar mentions Kragar has no problem working with humans.

Question:  Why does Kragar have no problem working with humans?  Why is he so loyal to Vlad, over the years?

Chapter 1.  Kragar mentions that Vlad’s built up one of the best spy rings in the Jhereg.  The Demon wants to meet Vlad at the Blue Flame (inside Vlad’s territory).  The Demon, true name unknown, under 800 years old. “No one heard of him before the Interregnum.”  Killed 2 of 3 on Jhereg council just afterward.  Kragar mentions taking out Leonyar last year.

C2.  The Demon makes an offer (desc of Demon is undescriptive).  Vlad mentions Mario as the top assassin.  Mellar, one of the council members, has taken 9 million in funds.  The Demon is convinced Mellar is in the East.

C3.  Vlad decides to use Daymar to find Mellar with a psychic link.  Mentions the nineteenth guy he killed was a sorcerer who liked to polish his staff.  Vlad doesn’t know whether he enjoys killing or not.

C4.  Vlad mentions his receptionist has killed three people and has been killed once.  Vlad is currently married to Cawti.  The first time Kiera’s been in Vlad’s office (openly?).  Kiera mentions Vlad fighting an Athyra wizard in his own castle.  Vlad knows Aliera.

C5.  Vlad meets Cawti in the “lab.”  Daymar to watch spell.  Cawti and Loiosh help with spell; Daymar almost takes them down.  Vlad is overwhelmed by images which may or may not be memories, including:  “There is a cry of ‘charge’ and five thousand Dragons come storming at the place the Eastern army is entrenched.” “The Dzur hero, coming alone to Dzur mountain, sees Sethra Lavode stand up before him, Iceflame in her hand.”  “A small girl-child with big brown eyes looks at me and smiles.”  “Aliera stands up before the shadow of Kieron the Conquerer, there in the midst of the Halls of Judgement…”

C6.  Vlad mentions that Cawti didn’t ask him for his help a month ago.  Norathar has retired.  Mellar is at Castle Black.  Empire has existed between two and two and a half hundred thousand years.  House of Lyorn keeps records of other Houses’ records.  Desc of Dragon-Jhereg war, about 10K ago, involving e’Kieron line, which was almost wiped out.  Can’t assassinate in own home (Jhereg rule).  Dragon rule, don’t violate hospitality.

C7.  Castle Black.  Morrolan e’Drien in East, learning witchcraft.  Zerika.  “After that, he was instrumental in driving back the Easterners, and he helped cure the plagues they left behind them as remembrances of their visit.”  Met Morrolan after they almost killed each other, first time they met.  Lady Teldra. Aliera desc:  short, levitate.  Gold hair.  Green eyes, but change colors.  Sethra desc:  “Color her black for sorcery, color her gray for death.”  “Morrolan carried Blackwand, which slew a thousand at the Wall of Barritt’s Tomb.  In a list of great weapons, Vlad doesn’t mention Spellbreaker.  Mellor had given Morrolan a book of Pre-Empire Sorcery.

C8.  “The higher a House is, the more fate tends to favor it.”  Kragar kills an assassin.

C9.  “This was the fourth time I had almost had my tale of years snipped at the buttocks.”  Aliera checks Vlad’s genetic background.  Vlad mentions Spellbreaker.  Mellar is a Dzur-Dragon-Jhereg crossbreed.  Aliera mentions Jenoine, and how they used Dragaerans and Easterners of genetic stock.  Houses formed after Empire formed by Kieron the Conquerer.  Jenoine may have bred in psionic ability into Easterners.  Dragaerans and Easterners can’t interbreed.  Jenoine rarely come to Dragaera; Sethra fought with and destroyed one only a few years ago (possibly during the first time Vlad met her).  Great Sea of Amorphia:  “Boom!  We have a Great Sea of Amorphia, a few new gods, and no more Jenoine.”  Connection between Jenoine experiments and Pre-Empire Sorcery.  Adron is Aliera’s father.  Aliera:  “Pre-Empire sorcery is not exactly direct manipulation of chaos; it’s one step removed.  Direct manipulation is something else again–and that’s what Adron was doing.  He had the ability to use, in fact, the ability to create amorphia.  If you combine that with the skills of pre-Empire sorcery…”  Morrolan can’t create it.  Only e’Kieron line can, although it is said Kieron never used it.

Originally about 30 tribes; many died off; 16 left.  Jhereg formed from outcasts under an ex-Dragon named Dolivar.  Kieron eventually killed by group of Lyorn warriors and Shamans who decided he was responsible for problems brought by Jhereg.  Sethra was there at the formation of the tribes; older than the Empire.  Aliera remembers through regression.  Dolivar had been Kieron’s brother before shaming himself, being tortured and expelled.  Aliera was sister.  “Sethra was supposed to hamstring the yendi, but she missed–deliberatly.”  (A vague reference.)  Aliera was a Shaman.  Vlad is reincarnated Dolivar.  Kieron is still on the paths of the dead.

C10.  Kragar says he was relieved when kicked out of house of Dragon.  Cawti:  “Really, Vlad, what’s the difference?”  Vlad visits Dzur Lord Keleth, who owes him money.  Vlad threatens to ruin Keleth’s reputation; he bends.  To join Dzur, must defeat 17 champions of the House.  Mellor, as Leareth, did; the only one Keleth had heard of since the Interregnum.  Two years, then gave up Dzur and joined Jhereg–made a fool of Dzur.  Kragar doesn’t know how he sneaks into rooms.  “He hadn’t left the House of the Dragon on his own; he’d been expelled.”

C11.  “…a dimly lit hallway in which Lady Teldra is framed, like the Guardian, that figure that stands motionless atop Deathgate Falls…”  Paintings:  one done by the Necromancer showing wounded dragon protecting its young.  One by a nameless Lyorn showing Kieron debating with Shamans, with broadsword.  Picture that fills entire ceiling of dining hall:  depiction of Third Siege of Dzur Mountain by Katana e’M’archala.    (I suspect Necromancer pic is assigned to her by mistake?)  Vlad exchanges a pleasant smile with the Necromancer.  Cold stare to Sorceress in Green.  Nods uncommittally to Sethra the Younger.  Fentor, a Tsalmoth, is missing. Pathfinder desc:  shorter and heavier than a rapier.  Black.  Glows green.  What are Great Weapons?  Morganti, made by Serioli, can destroy souls.  GW, legend says seventeen, can decide whether to take souls, are joined to soul of bearer.

C12.  Morrolan unrevivifiable, spell blocking, Aliera can’t break.  Aliera heals, then revivifies Fentor.  Use of Spellbreaker.  Vlad uses chaos.  “Something like formless, colorless fire shoot from me…”  “I suddenly felt myself drained of energy, of hate, of everything.  I saw her fall in upon herself and dissolve into a swirling mass of all the colors I could conceive of, and several that I couldn’t.”  Aliera turns chaos into BLUE stone.  Vlad mentions Verra.  Aliera has sorceress’s soul inside Pathfinder.  Vlad tortures sorceress:  “Sometimes I truly loathe the things I do.”

C13.  Vlad mentions Barlen.  Necromancer:  “The strange, perpetual half-smile on her face.  I’ve always liked her.  Some day I hope to understand her.  On the other hand, perhaps I’d better hope not to.”  Two Dragon-Jhereg wars.  Aliera:  “Briefly, the Jhereg who was killed was the friend of the Dragonlord, and he was helping him out on something.  Someone found out what he was doing and put a stop to it.  The Dragons demanded that the assassin be turned over to them, and this time the Jhereg agreed.  …In any case, the assassin escaped from the Dragonlord’s home before he was killed.  …He killed himself later, but by then it was too late to stop anymore. …The Jhereg killed enough of the right Dragonlords, including some wizards, so that a certain one, who’d been planning a coup, found himself forced to move too soon, and to rely too heavily on magic…” (Adron.)  “The assassin had reasons of his own to hate the Emporer and was working with father to find a way to poison the Emporer when things fell apart.  As you know, it was Mario who finally killed the Emporer, when he tried to use the Orb against the Jhereg.  Another Phoenix tried to grab the throne, and father had to move too quickly….”

It sounds like Mario wasn’t the assassin who eventually killed himself.  This really doesn’t jive with 500 Years After.  Unless he’s talking about Greycat, well, maybe.  But Greycat was a Lyorn.

C14.  What would Mario do?  Wouldn’t take a job with time constraints.  What would Cawti and Norathar do?  Spell on Mellar and make sure Morrolan never found out.  Vlad says, “break out the kilinara” – can’t find that anywhere.  Vlad’s father died after one of the plagues.  Vlad would have died of same plague if Grandfather hadn’t cured him.  About Mellor:  “His father killed someone, another Jhereg, just before the Interregnum.  The Jhereg he killed was protected by a Dragonlord; to be exact, Lord Adron.   …Revenge for the way a cross-breed is treated and revenge for the death of his father.”

Who is Mellar’s father?

C16.  Aliera and Cawti friends, through Norathar.  Aliera instrumental in returning Norathar to House of Dragon.  Kiera and Aliera know each other.  Vlad doesn’t call for Sethra, even though she’s been involved throughout.

C17.  Rocza.

Epilogue. Morrolan seems to be able to communicate with Loiosh.   Morrolan jokes about Blackwand being his familiar.  Rocza really isn’t a second familiar.  Vlad and Kragar prevented information from coming out.  He avoids a straight answer of why.  Vlad talks about buying a castle; Cawti’s always wanted one.  “I’m not really sure about this genetic inheritance through the soul.  I mean, sure, I felt something for it, but I also lived through what I lived through, and I guess that shaped me more than you’d think.  I am what I am, in addition to what I was.  Do you understand what I mean?”

So:

Who was the Jhereg who was working with Adron, that was Mellar/Feareth’s father?

Why is the first book about a cross-breed working to take down three Houses?  Would taking down the three Houses have killed the Empire?  Would it at least have made the cycle change from Zerika to Norathar (I seem to remember N quit the Jhereg at the same time she became heir).

Cawti and Vlad seem to be getting on together just fine; I didn’t see any mention of Cawti and justice,  other than the reference to a job a month before Jhereg.

The Jenoine are mentioned several times; the Dragaerans are connected to animals several times.

How much more of Kragar’s story is left to come out?  I may have to deal with that later.

On the one hand – genetics (of the soul?).  On the other hand – life experiences.  Is Vlad predetermined or not?  Is the Cycle something set or not?  The Cycle was created, indirectly, by the Jenoine, who liked to mess around with genetics, souls, and controlling chaos, but failed.  Should the Cycle be destroyed?  The Interregnum wasn’t anything to celebrate, but you see a lot of characters who changed their genetic destiny during that time, and who would not have gained their advantages without it.

More later…

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