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Headscratchers: Old Kingdom
  • Okay. You have the bells and all. What if you're deaf? And if you wanted to use Astarael, couldn't you just plug your ears really, really well?
    • I imagine you can feel the vibrations, just as you would if you stood next to a loud bass. Also, it seems like the sort of Phlebotinum that can be heard by more than one's ears. After all, most of the dead things don't even have proper form, let alone functioning ears.
    • I believe the books mentioned that that the bells affect people, even if they can't hear them.
    • Yes; the music activates magic (the powers of the Seven), the music isn't the magic itself. You don't have to aurally hear it.
    • The books also specifically state that a necromancer, Abhorsen or not, is required to have rudimentary music skills. Because if they get caught in Death without their bells, like Sam did in the beginning of his adventure in "Lirael", whistles and claps can be used in lieu of the bells.
  • I just wonder what would happen to an Abhorsen who had something like pinched-nerve syndrome or cerebral palsy, where they're shaking all the time...
    • Probably they die in some sort of messy way and the bells go on to the next candidate. Sometimes even Charter magic is not especially nice or friendly.
    • This troper always assumed that the relative of the current Abhorsen who is most fit to hold the title becomes the Abhorsen-in-waiting rather than the one most closely related to them for example as Lirael, Sabriel's half-sister, inheriting the bells rather than her son, who was meant to become the new Wallmaker, so hopefully there is a built-in failsafe against something like this. Either that or there is some sort of "Abhorsen gene" that only manifests in two people at once for some reason. (Though all this does bring up the question of how they used to determine who the next Abhorsen would be…).
    • Maybe Saraneth or Astarael still retains some form of consciousness or subconsciousness
    • The Bells are certainly seen to be able to move around on their own (turning up in Sam's pack, for example). Presumably in the old days they just waited to see which of the next generation woke up one morning with the Book and Bells in their room, and knew enough not to jump to conclusions (cf. Sameth).
    • This seems the most likely; the paraphernalia of the Abhorsen are drawn to the person most capable of wielding them. Sam had some affinity for them, but Lirael had much more, so they went to him first but ended up sticking with her. I also figured that yes, the "Abhorsen gene" (or rather, the magical potential to be an Abhorsen) only manifests in a few people each generation, and the same with the royal magic- that's why the Abhorsen and royal lines follow specific bloodlines, while the Clayr talent lets itself get spread out a lot more (presumably because it doesn't make a lot of difference to have one powerful seer or a bunch of weaker seers working together, while the Abhorsen needs to be powerful enough individually to handle the nastiest Dead and Free Magic beings and if you had a couple thousand potential royal heirs, it would be anarchy).
  • It just bugs me how it completely sucks to be an ordinary person in this world. You're pretty much guaranteed to get screwed over whatever happens. Everyone's 100% behind the monarchy, because last time the country went without one (for 200 years) everything went to hell. Pretty much the only function of people who aren't one of the five great bloodlines (or, rather, three, because only the Clayr, the Abhorsen and the Royal family are still around and the Wallmakers, but not until right at the end of the third book) is to get killed to provide mooks for the Abhorsen to fight. It's hardly surprising that some of them become necromancers, since (though Free Magic may well give you cancer), there isn't much else you can do except be doomed to a stereotypical fantasy role for all eternity. Sorry, you can't become a kick-ass Abhorsen, you don't have the right blood. You'll have to be a farmer instead. Maybe an innkeeper if you're lucky. It looks like you could have some fun as a Charter Mage, until you realise that all the most powerful books check for the right Blood when you touch them and will asplode you if you don't have it. By the time the King's forbidden a bunch of books, the Abhorsen's taken away all the books on Necromancy and associated dark magics because they're cool like that and the Clayr have stowed the rest in their magical library pretty much all that's going to be left is My Very First Book of Charter Magic. Isn't life in a world where your entire future is based on being born into the right family fun?
  • The Clayr, being as they are sort of Blessed with Suck. Because they are so numerous, their powers have been extremely diluted to the point at which few Clayr will experience a full vision in an entire lifetime. Even when they all band together, their powers are limited. Despite supposedly being very clever and organised, it took them years to notice that they couldn't See anything near the Red Lake. It bugs me how much importance Lirael places on getting the Sight - sure, it's a sign of normality in the Glacier, but it doesn't really do much and doesn't impact much on most Clayr's day-to-day lives.
    • I got the impression that the Red Lake thing had grown with time as the Sealed Evil in a Can was unearthed, but maybe that's just me. Also, part of Lirael's problem is that because the way the Clayr's society is structured, she is officially considered a child until her Sight awakens. Imagine being trapped in third grade until high school. That's why they arranged for her to get the Librarian job; it gave her something to do other than be around children and people who treated her as such.
    • Their Sight may not have a lot of direct impact on the Clayr's day-to-day lives, but it's definitely deeply ingrained in their culture. Lirael, though an adult by non-Clayr standards since she was fourteen, was technically living in the children's quarters with a group of pre-teen (and possibly younger) children up until she left the Glacier when she was eighteen. There are two or three places where it's stated that Lirael has been the butt of gossip and teasing and that the younger, un-Sighted Clayr gawk at her because they're mortally afraid they're going to end up like her. It's also said that the Clayr never go very long without turning the conversation to their Sight (which is why Lirael finds it painful to talk to them) and that their clairvoyance makes them rather indifferent toward individual people's problems (which Filris states as a reason for her absence from Lirael's life). It's made pretty clear that Lirael only places undue importance on it because everyone else in the Glacier does, as well.
      • Since the entire trilogy is something of a coming of age story for pretty much everyone involved, part of Lirael's desire to gain the Sight is completely explainable'. Getting the Sight would prove she is normal and allow her to become a part of the adult Clayr society, which she had basically been raised to expect to become a part of her whole life. Part of growing up is wanting to find your own niche in your community, so the idea of being a Sightless Clayr understandably nearly drove poor Lirael to suicide.
  • How was Sam born a Wallmaker? I mean, I'm not suggesting his mother was humping the Wall or anything, but you do wonder... If it's an at-times-of-need kind of thing, why didn't one turn up in the 200-year Interim, when hundreds of Charter Stones were broken and the land was plagued by zombies?
    • Because a Wallmaker wouldn't have helped? I mean, the problem was that two of the fundamental pillars that kept the world sane had been corrupted and nearly destroyed. Thanks to the weakening of the Charter, presumably no amount of awesome Mage Punk gadgetry could have held together civilization without the restoration of the royal family. Alternately, perhaps it's more related to the royal bloodline than the Clayr or Abhorsens?
    • As for how Sam specifically inherited the powers of the Wallmakers, presumably Arielle wasn't the first-ever Clayr to shack up with an Abhorsen, or Touchstone the first Royal to do the same. Presumably, the bloodlines are all crisscrossed, which is why Sabriel refers to the Clayr as cousins, as does her father to Arielle — they literally are, though very, very distantly. Thus, it was a mere fluke of genetics that latent Wallmaker genes happened to manifest in Sam. Well, fluke or fate, take your pick.
    • The Charter Did It. That seems to be the explanation for a lot of seemingly random things in the Old Kingdom. Bells appearing when a new Abhorsen awakens. Sabriel getting pushed back into life at the end of the first book. I would guess that the Charter realized it would need a human avatar of the Wallmakers, both to represent them at the binding of Orannis, and to forge the sword needed to break It. Since Sam is a part of the Charter due to having two of the bloodlines as parents, it just altered him into a Wallmaker.
    • I think it was also heavily implied in the first book that Touchstone had Wallmaker-like abilities.
    • Supported by the fact that during the binding of Orannis, Sam stood for Belgaer and Touchstone for Ranna, the two bright shiners who ended up in the Wallmakers, and it was Ellimere who represented the royal line.
      • Ranna poured its power into the Wallmakers/Wall? How do you figure? Ranna is the least powerful of the Seven, yes, but its power seems to fit with the royal line, whose purpose is to maintain peace and tranquility in the Kingdom.
  • Not to sound like a hater, but the entire first book bugged me. It's painfully clear that Garth Nix, a middle-aged man, has no idea how the mind of a teenage girl (Sabriel) works. Every other chapter he finds a way to reference her gender in a glaring, unnatural way, two or three of those times of which are referencing her physical gender, which I found creepy and unnecessary. Sabriel seems to me a very flat, one-dimensional character. Comparably, Lirael is much more convincing. Coincidentally (or not, is what I'm saying), the fact that Lirael is female isn't constantly, constantly driven down our throats in the second two books; what's focused on, especially in the second book, is her social withdrawl and awkwardness. Likely, Garth Nix never got within ten feet of a teenage girl back in his day, but intimately knows what it's like to be socially inept, wishing for friends and for joy at company but only ever reviling at human contact. And don't get me started on the forced, unnatural romances. "I think I might love you, too." *rolleyes* Romance doesn't work that way, Nix. That trainwreck reads like Nix fantasizing himself as Touchstone and Sabriel as his personality-devoid dream girl. And at the end of the third book, I just kept saying "no, no, no" out loud during the epilogue, when it was clear Nix was playing up a Lirael/Nick romance. Gag me with a spoon!
    • When I read the books for the first time, I read them as a teenage girl. I found Sabriel fairly "convincing", and I don't remember creepy references to her gender. Examples might help with that. But I do remember her gender being mentioned in ways that could be odd to somebody who isn't a teen- menarche can seem like kind of a big deal at the time- or are appropriate to the time period.
    • As mentioned above, an example that the OP might be referring to (and the only one I can think of) is discussion of Sabriel's first period. An alternative would've been No Periods, Period, but it seemed handled reasonably enough to me. Sabriel's themes of parental abandonment/lack of guidance play a part, as does the time period (see bullet #2 of No Periods, Period). So sorry, it does seem like you might just be hating that Most Writers Are Male - it seems like you're reading a lot more Author Appeal into the romances than most.
    • As an eighteen-year-old girl, I found Sabriel very convincing. Perhaps it's more of a personality thing? She's certainly more restrained than most teenagers, with the whole walking in Death thing and all.
    • Personally, I found Sabriel far more realistic and pleasant than Lirael.
    • This Troper is a girl and also found Sabriel just fine in terms of characterization. Not to mention, the stories take place in the equivalent of the twenties, so there might be some Values Dissonance.
    • To add another perspective, I also found that Sabriel was a rather flat character, though her age did not matter. The narrator had the tone of an unconcerned third-party, to the point that the reader never has any idea what Sabriel thinks of everything that has happened to her. I mean, yeah people might be taught to keep their emotions in check back then, but inside their own heads too?
  • Um, also, dropped mysteries much? Who is Chlorr of the Mask, really? Mogget lets it slip that she was an Abhorsen, but nothing beyond that. And Hedge is never anything but a generic villain; who is he, what's his story, how'd he get to be the way he is? What about the Our Country Party and the whole mess in the south? The Old Kingdom is saved, so screw Ancelstierre? And the most glaring drop of all — why did Arielle abandon Lirael? Again, Mogget, relaying her final message to her daughter, tells that it wasn't her choice to leave, but that's all we get. Is she still alive? Is she dead? Why, exactly, did she have to leave her daughter?
    • To answer one of your questions, at least, there's apparently a prequel in the works called something like "Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen", about Chlorr. Dunno about Hedge, tho.
    • There's also supposed to be a book set chronologically after Abhorsen, which might clear some of the other stuff up. As for Hedge, I believe the beginning of Lirael establishes him as a necromancer who worked for Kerrigor, then transferred his allegiance to the Destroyer when Kerrigor went down- he's probably not that different than most of the Old Kingdom's petty necromancers, save being a fair bit more powerful and having more blatant supernatural support.
      • Going back over Lirael and Abhorsen, there are enough references to work out a rough biography for Hedge: he was an Ancelstierran Crossing Point Scout who was seduced by the lure of power, deserted, moved to the Old Kingdom and learned Free Magic and necromancy. He became a Servant of Kerrigor, presumably attaching himself to him as part of his quest for power and immortality, and when Kerrigor fell he went looking for a new source of power and found the Destroyer. Of course, in the long term Hedge doesn't need that much elaboration on his backstory to fill the narrative role he does - as a proxy for Orannis up until It has the freedom to act more directly. He's not like Kerrigor, whose backstory is absolutely essential to understanding both how he does the things he does and the world situation as a whole.
    • If you read some of Nix's other works he's pretty fond of Cryptic Background Reference and we don't always get full explanations for things that the characters wouldn't find out in the actual story or only find out in passing. As for Ancelstierre it's mentioned in passing at the beginning of the novella but since it's not something that the main characters would be involved in we don't get to find out much.
  • Since Sam, by fate or genetics, is not to be an Abhorsen, then why/how do the bells and book follow him magically in Lirael? Shouldn't they either jump into Lirael's possession or remain inert until she obtains them? And for that matter, how does Mogget find him? Does his service now extend to the entire royal family? It seems too easy and flawed to say that whoever the current Abhorsen thinks is the Abhorsen-in-waiting is recognized by the Charter magic, regardless of their actual abilities.
    • Perhaps they were following him as a quick way to get taken to Lirael?
      • The book says so.
      • Presumably the bells can't just jump to where ever they want, so they went with Sam in an attempt to get back to the House? As for Mogget, even if Sam's not the Abhorsen he still has Abhorsen blood.
      • Also, Mogget serves the Abhorsens only because there are no Wallmakers. In the first book he's described as the Relict of the Wallmakers, and the Wallmakers made his collar. Mogget serves the Wallmakers first, then Abhorsens, which is why he sticks close to Sam.
  • Okay, so at the end of Sabriel all the past Abhorsens bring Sabriel back because she needs to provide a successor before she can die, since she's the last of her kind. Alright. I buy it. OH WAIT WHAT ABOUT LIRAEL!? Sure Lirael was a baby at the time and it would have taken a while for her to grow into it, but ancestors of charter blooded people didn't really care all that much when Touchstone was imprisoned for much longer than it would take for one girl to grow into her power. I buy Nick's resurrection a lot more, if only because it's completely within the Dog's personality. I understand the climactic need for her to have a brush with death that close in a book where the actual line of when you're DEAD is quite blurred, but JUSTIFY IT BETTER!
    • These are both a bit of a stretch, but pick from one of these
      • They can somehow see into the future and knew that Sabriel would give birth to a Wallmaker, which would be important enough to send her back into life
      • As a reverse, their knowledge at the time was limited, thus they didn't even know Lirael existed. After all, Sabriel's Dad only met Lirael's Mum once, so it's entirely possible he never even knew of Lirael's existence.
    • I always saw this as Lirael needing an Abhorsen around to be able to find her true calling. The Clayr had no idea what to do with her. Lirael was about to commit suicide without ever knowing her heritage, and it was only Sabriel's imminent arrival that stopped her
    • At the time, Lirael was 1. There's no way in hell she could have stopped Kerrigor, and that would have meant the end of the world, pretty much.
      • Lirael was not even 1. She was conceived right before Terciel met his fate and the story ends about 2 months after that.
    • I figured that there needed to be someone that could actually become the Abhorsen right then, not someone who just had the blood and could become the Abhorsen once she'd grown up and been trained.
    • Yeah, keep in mind that if Sabriel dies, then the Old Kingdom has a King but no Abhorsen until Lirael comes of age. That gives Hedge a much bigger opportunity to do his thing than he ever had in canon, and I imagine that would mean the end of the world well before Lirael would come into her powers. Of course, how much of that Sabriel's ancestors knew (rather than just sensing vaguely she was needed) and how much they would have been able to communicate is a lot more iffy.
  • At the end of Sabriel, Mogget and Kerrigor were both turned into cats. Mogget shows up again in the later ones, but what happened to Kerrigor?
    • This one is actually answered in Lirael. He is at Abhorsen's House, in the deepest cellar, and will sleep there "till the end of time", according to Mogget.
    • I've always been rather fond of the idea that if the sequel to Abhorsen ever gets written, a threat will emerge that will require someone of the Abhorsen bloodline to awaken Kerrigor and force info out of him. The whole setup seems tailor-made for it.
  • I got one; how the heck does a Charter-Mark become corrupted? It clearly isn't due to Free-Magic; the Abhorsens have a tendency of spamming the stuff while in Death, and, hell, Nick, due to being heavily affected by Orannis' shard, would likely be stabbed as soon as someone tested his Charter-Mark, so that can't be it. So, what creates a corrupted Charter-Mark?
    • My guess is that it all depends on intent. If you use Free Magic with the intent of perverting the Charter, bam, corrupted mark. The Abhorsen uses Free Magic to keep the Dead bound, and take care of nasty Free Magic constructs, so the Charter would approve it. It's also possible that the Abhorsen's bloodline has an innate resistance to corruption. As for Nick, he wasn't exactly a willing host, was he? And let's not forget that Kibeth herself gave him his mark.
    • I would imagine we'll get more info on how this works when Clariel finally comes out, as it's Chlorr's Start of Darkness.
  • How does no one understand the Arc Words? It's obviously a question of fate: Is everything predestined, or do you choose your own? The fact that NO ONE in the books understands it kinda makes them look a bit dumb.
    • Remember that the line is written on the very last page of the Book of the Dead, and it seems to carry the weight of scripture. Like "In the beginning was the Word," the idea isn't to quickly understand and be done. The line requires meditation, resting in uncertainty without looking for answers.
    • In short, it's an open-ended question which serves more as a foundation for the moral code of whoever reads it, depending on their personality. Sabriel was an example of someone who chose her path by looking for her father when everyone told her not to. Even though Terciel died right afterwards, Sabriel did finish her own quest before she went to save the kingdom, so she's more proactive. Lirael was a more tragic example of being chosen. While she acknowledges that being the Abhorsen-in-Waiting is better than being a failed Clayr, it still wasn't what she really wanted for herself. Then there's how Lirael wasn't even born from love (which is free will), but because Arielle Saw it was supposed to happen.
  • Mogget is the second greatest of the Nine Bright Shiners. Kerrigor is a powerful prince who manages to defeat him. How?
    • Mogget was fresh out of prison. Spend a millennium or two chained in cat form and see how warmed-up you are.
    • More seriously, Kerrigor, as the closest thing that the Old Kingdom has to a King, has access to the power of one of the Charter Bloodlines. Considering the Charter Stones he's broken, and the fact that there are only two people with that bloodline left alive, he might in power be closer to a Bright Shiner than any mortal. And as I recall, the battle was far from over — Kerrigor temporarily overcame Mogget, but if Sabriel hadn't thrown the ring over both of them Mogget was going to destroy Kerrigor from the inside out (she saw a "white flame" flickering in Kerrigor's eyes.)
    • Kerrigor was also basically a Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot of the most dangerous possible magic-user under Old Kingdom rules - a Royal prince and a Greater Dead and a necromancer and a Free Magic Adept who'd worked out tricks to both increase his power by getting people to swear allegiance to him and keep himself from being permanently destroyed so long as his body continued to exist. Guy was a boss. Besides, do we know for sure that Yrael was the second-greatest Shiner? We know Orannis was number one, seemingly by a fair margin, and presumably we can tell how the others were ranked based on the size/power of their corresponding Bell, but I don't think it's ever established where Yrael fits. Certainly the bindings on Yrael are much less exhaustive, and the song at the end of Lirael treats his binding as almost an afterthought while it indicates binding Orannis took a lot more effort. Also, I always got the impression from her brief appearance in Abhorsen that Astarael was a lot more powerful than Mogget even in her diminished state, and Lirael and Sam both seemed to believe that she had destroyed Mogget up until he reappeared and said that she'd decided to give him another chance.
    • Perhaps Mogget conceded to Kerrigor, allowing himself to be subsumed? Ultimately it means that he can be bound by the collar.
    • Eh, seems unlikely. Mogget was in full Yrael mode at the time, and in that state the absolute nicest thing he seems willing to do for the Abhorsens is "kill them quickly". Letting himself get eaten - even temporarily - on Sabriel's behalf seems fairly out of character, especially since he'd already discharged Terciel's final command and therefore wasn't bound to do anything for her until she collared him again.
    • Also remember that nineteen years later, in Abhorsen, Mogget can resist the binding and Ranna's bell (Sam suspects that he only 'obeys' when he chooses, to irritate Sam &co.), while Kerrigor, under the same binding, has not woken up once. Clearly, Kerrigor had chops, but his overcoming Mogget was, from his POV, just a Hope Spot.

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