「カシャーン城塞の主」 (Kashaan Jousai no Omo)
“The Lord and Master of Kashan Fortress”
I was worried this would be a detour from the main story, but it was nothing of the sort. Arslan learned some difficult lessons today.
The Chase Scene – Show, Don’t Tell
As a storyteller, I doff my hat. The opening chase scene was an excellent example of an old storytelling maxim: Show, don’t tell. The OP led right into the chase—no explanation of how the Lusitanian soldiers found them, or why they were chasing them. Neither were necessary. They would have been a drag on the story to divulge! It didn’t matter; Lusitania after Arslan, Arslan’s party running. Got it, we got the gist. Then there was simple stuff—mention of Daryun, implying that he was working on something that would save them, so they must run. Run!
The djinn thing was whatever—it’s hard to account for guns and arrows when your characters aren’t arrow or bulletproof, so they needed a way to avoid it being too convenient that the Lusitanian arrows would miss, as they did (much better) when Elan cut the soldiers’ bow strings later on. But it still worked because they didn’t let us dwell on it. Go, ride faster! The scene was quick, exciting, and no longer than it needed to be. That’s damn fine storytelling.
Scheming Schemers And Their Schemes
I appreciated that Hodir was—well, he was fairly one-dimensional, but not to a cartoonish degree, like that Lusitanian inquisitor who is so tiresome. This is another example of a medieval trope that absolutely would happen: the scheming influence seeker. I’m glad Hodir was dealt with quickly, because more than one episode would have seen him overstaying his welcome, as the inquisitor has.
Better in the schemers, I thought, was Narsus. Obviously. Since that goes without saying, I’ll give my gold star to Arslan instead. After being admonished by Narsus at the beginning of the episode, he did exactly what he should have—he took good counsel and led. Narsus was right; the monarch need not come up with the plans, nor win battles. His give direction and choose the right people to execute his goals. Once the plot was afoot, Arslan trusted his experts, which shows wisdom far beyond many adults. It also might be important later on, since Silvermask doesn’t really seem to be doing this.
Freedom Isn’t For Everyone
The break from Hodir’s “hospitality” was textbook Narsus; Narsus is better than others, this we knew. That alone would have made for a good enough episode. What elevated it was punching home on the nature of slavery, and that freeing the slaves might not be treated as the blessing Arslan has come to think of it as. This is a medieval society, remember—not everyone can even read, most of all the slaves who haven’t had a reason to do so (and their masters have undoubtedly had call to prevent them from learning). That’s not even mentioning how the slaves don’t have the knowledge to do most jobs. They’ve only ever taken orders! What are they supposed to do if they’re freed?
Freedom is scary. It’s often not a lot of fun. Freedom of choice includes the freedom to be uncertain, to fail, to make bad decisions, to destroy yourself. The master prevents that by making all the decisions for you. I’m not surprised that some—though not all!—of Narsus’ slaves came back, nor that Hodir’s slaves attacked Arslan. Not all would choose slavery over freedom, but some would. Especially if you have a kind master, and you can’t imagine being anything but a slave, and you know you could have much worse than the master you have.
It brings up an interesting conundrum in morality. We also think of it as a binary choice, of black and white. And as far as morality goes, I think slavery is pretty black and white—it’s one of the highest sins in my book, along with sexual assault (rape), since it serves no good purpose. And yet, at this time in history … well, there were economic issues to consider. And I’m not talking about for the slave owners; the slaves themselves needed to eat. Morality is, as Narsus said, more like the stars than the sun. What is murder to you might be self defense to another. It’s not always as easy as we wish it was. But the stars are beautiful too, even if they’re not as bright as the sun.
Loyalty Is Not Due, It’s Earned
Another element that elevated this episode was what Arslan said at the end, and I cannot emphasize how important this was. He said:
“These five who are so trustworthy and dependable… How long will they follow me like this? I must become a worthy ruler before they despair of me.”
To many—such as Andragoras—loyalty is something that is due. It’s not a choice, it’s a requirement is certain boxes are checked. It’s allotted by station, or money, or age, or profession—and if you are, for instance, the King of Pars, then you are due a certain amount of loyalty, however you act. And that isn’t how it works! Loyalty is not given so freely. Loyalty is earned. In the same way that Daryun has earned the respect (and fear) he engenders in allies and enemies alike, Arslan must earn people’s loyalty … and he must continue earning it, again and again and again, lest he become unworthy of the loyalty of such sterling individuals.
If that sounds exhausting, you’re right. It’s not easy being king. At least, if you don’t want to end up in a Lusitanian dungeon, like Andragoras has.
Looking Ahead – Don’t Split The Party!
Looks like they’re going to split up into two or three groups and—wait, what!? Don’t slit the party! (trope!) That’s, like, adventuring 101! What are you guys doing? I know Narsus is behind this, but, but… *sputters* *flips coffee table* *goes to play Sega Saturn*
tl;dr: @StiltsOutLoud – The Lord and Master of Kashan Fortress is out for himself alone. It doesn’t end well for him #arslan 10
- Now Gieve is saying he can take 400! Sorry, but that’s nowhere near enough. Daryun is already doing 50,000. You need to pull your weight.
- “The more you speak, the more you reveal.” So true. Hypocritical coming from Gieve, but accurate. Reminds me of an old tactic in negotiations, sales, and interviewing: get your opposite to talk, in the hopes of them betraying themselves. Fortunately, being an author is the exact opposite.
- I forgot to include a screen cap, but go back to the meal scene and look at Elan. Notice how happy he looks to be eating someone else’s cooking? It reminds me of something Mario Batali (I think) once said. Whenasked what his favorite meal was, he said: “One someone else cooks.” Mario feels you, Elan!
- Daryun maxed out his intimidate skill ages ago. Eep!
- A weighty parting gift, huh… I wonder if Vahriz knew about Hermes. Seems like the old man knew more than he let on.
My first novel, Wage Slave Rebellion, is available now. (More info—now available in paperback!) Sign up for my email list for a FREE sequel short story. Over at stephenwgee.com, the last four posts: A lifestyle designed for productivity, Practical freedom, Old to them, and Stop sending me job ideas.