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Progression of the Chapter:
Shallan has become the perfect, quiet, obedient daughter; the Davar fortunes are slowly changing, but Father is not happier as a result; he forbids Balat's courtship of Eylita; in retribution for defiance, Father has Balat’s new pod of axehound pups slaughtered; Father has not only a new steward, but a whole new batch of frightening guards; Helaran has returned to the area briefly, but will soon be gone for a long time; Balat suggests that he, Eylita, and Shallan run away and find work in Vedenar; Shallan thinks that perhaps Balat should leave, but she herself must stay; Lord Davar orders one of his men to find and kill Helaran, promising the Shardblade as his reward; Malise confronts him, and a shouting match ensues; Lord Davar stomps out, complaining that it’s all everyone else’s fault because no one in this house obeys him.
Quote of the Chapter:
|“|| "Would you go with me? If I took Eylita and left? You could be a scribe. Earn your own way, be free of Father."
"I ... No. I need to stay."
"Something has hold of Father, something awful. If we all leave, we give him to it. Someone has to help him."
"Why do you defend him so? You know what he did."
"He didn’t do it."
"You can’t remember," Balat said. "You’ve told me over and over that your mind blanks. You saw him kill her, but you don’t want to admit that you witnessed it. Storms, Shallan. You’re as broken as Wikim and Jushu. As ... as I am sometimes ... ."
For her sanity, Shallan needs to block her memories, but life would've been a lot better for the rest of the family if they’d known the truth. The brothers wouldn’t have to hate their father; their father wouldn’t have to bear Shallan’s secret alone; they could all work together to protect Shallan from the other crazies out there; the internal pressure wouldn’t have to drive them all into their own special form of insanity.
This chapter returns the reader to the depressive atmosphere of the Davar estate. Last time, Lord Davar had refused to pay Jushu's gambling debts - mostly because he had no money to do so, though he wouldn’t admit it. Defying her father’s orders to go to her room, Shallan offered up what little she and her brothers had to buy Jushu back, and for the first time someone else was beaten specifically for something Shallan had done.
Now the pattern has been established: when she in any way angers her father, he beats someone else in her name. The only defense a fourteen-year-old has in that case, is the one Shallan has used for the past fifteen months: she became a "perfect" daughter so that no one else would get hurt.
What would happen if Balat left? He backed down from fights with Father, but at least he resisted. Wikim merely did what he was told, and Jushu was still a mess. We have to just weather this, Shallan thought. Stop provoking Father, let him relax. Then he’ll come back ... .
Unfortunately, the siblings' attempts at passivity don’t seem to have helped Lin any, and Balat’s resistance is not enough to have the spiraling negative effects that are in evidence. That’s because they are, reckoning without the influence of Odium on their father, plus whatever manipulation the Ghostbloods are doing. He’s getting worse and worse.
There's another reminder that Lin Davar wasn’t always a bad-tempered man:
Surely that would make him start laughing again. Surely that would drive the darkness from his eyes.
Shallan remembers a time when her father laughed often, and was the kind of man who loved and enjoyed his daughter as much as she loved and enjoyed him. Whether that was a daddy-daughter link that excluded his sons, isn't known; they don’t seem to have the same loving memories of earlier years, but it’s possible that all their earlier memories are tainted by the belief that he murdered their mother. Shallan knows that not only did he not commit murder, he’s allowing them to think he did because he’s protecting his little girl ... so her memories of a devoted father are unaffected.
With regard to Balat's declared intent to marry Eylita, Lin has decided she is too low-ranked for his son. No, his son and avowed heir must marry up, and as high up as he can manage.
Sadly, Balat’s attempt to stand up for himself on this particular day has two very negative results: One, Lord Davar uses Balat’s one healthy pursuit (breeding axehounds) against him, tainting the only thing besides Eylita that was holding him together. Two, Balat spills a secret not meant to be shared by telling his father that Helaran is back ... thereby setting up an assassination attempt on Helaran, and a new hostility between Lin and Malise.
This is the first time Malise has felt like more than a bland placeholder:
|“|| "How dare you," said a feminine voice from within.
Stunned silence followed. Shallan edged back to look into the room. Malise, her stepmother, stood in the doorway between the bedroom and the sitting room. The small, plump woman had never seemed threatening to Shallan before. But the storm on her face today could have frightened a whitespine.
"Your own son," Malise said. "Have you no morals left? Have you no compassion?"
"It is one thing to beat the servants, but to kill your own son?"
This takes place one-and-a-half years prior to the "present" action, and about one-and-a-half years after the previous flashback, when Shallan bought Jushu back from his creditors. Shallan is about a week past her sixteenth birthday in this scene.
Painspren, for Balat’s anguish over the pitiful remains of the axehound pups he’d been breeding.
All Creatures Shelled and Feathered:
Stepping back from Balat’s reaction to the fate of his latest batch of pups, one of the ways Balat has been coping with life has been to develop an interest in breeding axehounds. In focusing on the creation of new life, he’s made progress against his old habits of destroying life; now, he rarely hurts anything larger than a cremling. Which ... is still a bit creepy, but it’s better than relishing axehound fights.
Axehounds apparently produce pups in pods. Is "pod" a nomenclature thing, like a pod of whales? Or is it a physical thing, like the egg case of a locust? Just for the sake of Rosharan ecological weirdness, it’s likely the latter.
While there’s no direct mention of the Soulcaster yet, it’s hinted here for the first time, suitably accompanied a few paragraphs later by the first appearance of the new steward, Luesh.
Surely things would get better now. Indeed, as Shallan was involved more by the Ardents in accounts, she noted a shrewdness to the way her father stopped being bullied by other lighteyes and started playing them against each other. He impressed her, but frightened her, in how he grasped for power. Father’s fortunes changed further when a new marble deposit was discovered on his lands - providing resources to keep up with his promises, bribes, and deals.
Whether Lin Davar's new shrewdness was the cause or the result of Ghostblood attentions isn’t entirely clear, though it reads more like the former. In either case, the new marble deposit is certainly the latter, and is plainly instrumental in encouraging his ambitions.
Chanarach and Nalan grace the arch for this poor chapter. Chana is partly for Obedience, and partly for Shallan’s odd role (the youngest child, and the only girl) as Guard for her family. Regarding Nalan, though, is it simply the references to Helaran? Is it the twisting of Justice? The new Confidence of Shallan’s father?
Is Eylita crazy to be with Balat? Not only is he the scion of a fairly questionable house - even if he is several dahn above her - but he’s certifiably nuts. This has to be a very unhealthy relationship.
- Paraphrased from Alice Arneson