The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season

by

N. K. Jemisin

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Essun/Damaya/Syenite Character Analysis

The protagonist of The Fifth Season is first introduced as three different characters—a young girl named Damaya, a young woman named Syenite, and a middle-aged woman named Essun. Eventually, they are all revealed to be the same person at different stages of her life, even as their narratives happen simultaneously in the book. After discovering that she is an orogene, Damaya’s parents give her away to the Guardian Schaffa, who takes her to the capital city of Yumenes to be trained. There, Damaya comes to think of herself as a weapon that must be honed, but she also longs for the autonomy that older ringed orogenes have. After passing her first ring test, Damaya takes the name Syenite. As a four-ringer, she is assigned to conceive a child with the ten-ringed Alabaster. Syenite also finds that she has the rare ability to connect with the mysterious obelisks that float above the Stillness. Later, on an island called Meov, she enjoys a brief time of peace, having a child named Corundum with Alabaster and enjoying a polyamorous relationship with Alabaster and Innon. When Guardians attack Meov, Syenite chooses to kill Corundum rather than let him be taken as a slave. She then creates a new identity as Essun in the town of Tirimo, where she marries Jija and has a daughter and son, Nassun and Uche, both powerful orogenes themselves. These three personas show Essun’s change and growth as she experiences various traumas and transitions. Overall, she is a fierce woman with a dry sense of humor and a sharp tongue, who closes herself off to most people and is often considered unlikeable, but who feels deeply and has experienced great pain. At the same time, she is an extraordinarily powerful orogene, and she develops a keen sense of the injustice of the world, sometimes letting her resultant rage flow through her orogeny, which causes great destruction. At the novel’s end, Essun is in a transitional state, still hoping to find Nassun but also reunited with the dying Alabaster and beginning to find a home in the underground comm of Castrima.

Essun/Damaya/Syenite Quotes in The Fifth Season

The The Fifth Season quotes below are all either spoken by Essun/Damaya/Syenite or refer to Essun/Damaya/Syenite. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Hierarchy, Oppression, and Prejudice Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Orbit edition of The Fifth Season published in 2015.
Chapter 4 Quotes

If the problem is that ferals are not predictable…well, orogenes have to prove themselves reliable. The Fulcrum has a reputation to maintain; that’s part of this. So’s the training, and the uniform, and the endless rules they must follow, but the breeding is part of it too, or why is she here?

It's somewhat flattering to think that despite her feral status, they actually want something of her infused into their breeding lines. Then she wonders why a part of her is trying to find value in degradation.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite, Alabaster
Page Number: 73
Explanation and Analysis:

But this is what it means to be civilized—doing what her betters say she should, for the ostensible good of all. […] With the experience and boost to her reputation, she’ll be that much closer to her fifth ring. That means her own apartment; no more roommates. Better missions, longer leave, more say in her own life. That’s worth it. Earthfire yes, it’s worth it.

She tells herself this all the way back to her room. Then she packs to leave, tidies up so she’ll come home to order and neatness, and takes a shower, methodically scrubbing every bit of flesh she can reach until her skin burns.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite, Alabaster
Page Number: 75
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 5 Quotes

Because everyone’s starting to realize what the shake and the redglow and the clouded sky all mean, and to be on the outside of a community’s gates at a time like this is—in the long run—a death sentence, except for a handful who are willing to become brutal enough or depraved enough to do what they must. Even those only have a chance at survival.

None of the people at the roadhouse wanted to believe they had that in them, you saw as you looked around, assessing faces and clothes and bodies and threats.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite
Page Number: 79
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 6 Quotes

Never say no to me,” he says. The words are hot against her skin. He has bent to murmur them into her ear. “Orogenes have no right to say no. I am your Guardian. I will break every bone in your hand, every bone in your body, if I deem it necessary to make the world safe from you.”

Related Characters: Schaffa Guardian Warrant (speaker), Essun/Damaya/Syenite
Page Number: 99
Explanation and Analysis:

“I have to do what you say or you’ll hurt me.”

“And?”

She closes her eyes tighter. In dreams, that makes the bad creatures go away.

“And,” she adds, “you’ll hurt me even when I do obey. If you think you should.”

“Yes.” She can actually hear his smile. He nudges a stray braid away from her cheek, letting the backs of his fingers brush her skin. “What I do is not random, Damaya. It’s about control. Give me no reason to doubt yours, and I will never hurt you again. Do you understand?”

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Schaffa Guardian Warrant (speaker)
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 7 Quotes

He’s not just small but stocky, as if his people are built for a different kind of sturdiness than the ideal that Old Sanze has spent millennia cultivating. Maybe his race are all this white, then, whoever they are.

But none of this makes sense. Every race in the world these days is part Sanzed. They did rule the Stillness for centuries, after all, and they continue to do so in many ways. And they weren’t always peaceful about it, so even the most insular races bear the Sanzed stamp whether their ancestors wanted the admixture or not. Everyone is measured by their standard deviations from the Sanzed mean.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite, Hoa
Page Number: 111
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 8 Quotes

“They kill us because they’ve got stonelore telling them at every turn that we’re born evil—some kind of agents of Father Earth, monsters that barely qualify as human.”

“Yes, but you can’t change stonelore.”

“Stonelore changes all the time, Syenite.” He doesn’t say her name often, either. It gets her attention. “Every civilization adds to it; parts that don’t matter to the people of the time are forgotten. There’s a reason Tablet Two is so damaged: someone, somewhere back in time, decided that it wasn’t important or was wrong, and didn’t bother to take care of it. Or maybe they even deliberately tried to obliterate it, which is why so many of the early copies are damaged in exactly the same way.”

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Alabaster (speaker)
Related Symbols: Stonelore
Page Number: 124
Explanation and Analysis:

“You think you matter?” All at once he smiles. It’s an ugly thing, cold as the vapor that curls off ice. “You think any of us matter beyond what we can do for them? Whether we obey or not.” He jerks his head toward the body of the abused, murdered child. “You think he mattered, after what they did to him? The only reason they don’t do this to all of us is because we’re more versatile, more useful, if we control ourselves. But each of us is just another weapon, to them. Just a useful monster, just a bit of new blood to add to the breeding lines. Just another fucking rogga.”

She has never heard so much hate put into one word before.

Related Characters: Alabaster (speaker), Essun/Damaya/Syenite, The Node Maintainer
Page Number: 143
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 9 Quotes

Alabaster smiles, though the muscles of his jaw flex repeatedly. “I would’ve thought you’d like being treated like a human being for a change.”

“I do. But what difference does it make? Even if you pull rank now, it won’t change how they feel about us—”

“No, it won’t. And I don’t care how they feel. They don’t have to rusting like us. What matters is what they do.”

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Alabaster (speaker), Asael Leadership Allia
Page Number: 159-160
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 10 Quotes

You think, maybe, you need to be someone else.

You’re not sure who. Previous yous have been stronger and colder, or warmer and weaker; either set of qualities is better suited to getting you through the mess you’re in. Right now you’re cold and weak, and that helps no one.

You could become someone new, maybe. You’ve done that before; it’s surprisingly easy. A new name, a new focus, then try on the sleeves and slacks of a new personality to find the perfect fit. A few days and you’ll feel like you’ve never been anyone else.

But. Only one you is Nassun’s mother. That’s what’s forestalled you so far, and ultimately it’s the deciding factor. At the end of all this, when Jija is dead and it’s finally safe to mourn your son…if she still lives, Nassun will need the mother she’s known all her life.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite, Nassun, Jija, Uche
Page Number: 172
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 11 Quotes

You are representatives of us all, the instructors say, if any grit dares to protest this treatment. When you’re dirty, all orogenes are dirty. When you’re lazy, we’re all lazy. We hurt you so you’ll do the rest of us no harm.

Once Damaya would have protested the unfairness of such judgments. The children of the Fulcrum are all different: different ages, different colors, different shapes. […] One cannot reasonably expect sameness out of so much difference, and it makes no sense for Damaya to be judged by the behavior of children who share nothing save the curse of orogeny with her.

But Damaya understands now that the world is not fair. They are orogenes, the Misalems of the world, born cursed and terrible. This is what is necessary to make them safe.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite, Misalem
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

What Damaya sees in them is something she does not understand at first, though she wants it with a desperation that surprises and unnerves her. As those first weeks pass into months and she grows familiar with the routine, she begins to understand what it is that the older orogenes display: control. They have mastered their power. […]

If to achieve this Damaya must endure a few broken bones, or a few years in a place where no one loves her or even likes her, that is a small price to pay.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite
Page Number: 196
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 12 Quotes

“What do you want? An apology? Then I apologize. You must remember, though, that most normal people have never seen an orogene, let alone had to do business with one and—” She spreads her hands. “Isn’t it understandable that we might be…uncomfortable?”

“Discomfort is understandable. It’s the rudeness that isn’t.” Rust this. This woman doesn’t deserve the effort of her explanation. Syen decides to save that for someone who matters. “And that’s a really shitty apology. ‘I’m sorry you’re so abnormal that I can’t manage to treat you like a human being.’”

“You’re a rogga,” Asael snaps, and then has the gall to look surprised at herself.

“Well.” Syenite makes herself smile. “At least that’s out in the open.”

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Asael Leadership Allia (speaker)
Page Number: 216
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

The young man has a sash around his waist that is soft and peach colored and there solely for decoration, as far as you can tell.

Except it’s not really decoration. You notice how they look at you when you walk up: a sweep of the eyes, an inspection of your wrists or neck or ankles, a frown as you are found wanting. The impractical cloth has one very practical use: It is the marker of a new tribe in the process of being born. A tribe to which you do not belong.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

She scrambles backward again, tries to get to her feet again, tries again to reach for power, and fails in all three efforts. Even if she could succeed, though—he’s a Guardian. It’s her duty to obey. It’s her duty to die, if he wills it.

This is not right.

“You need not understand,” he says, with perfect kindness. “You need do only one thing.” And then he lunges, aiming the poniard at her chest.

Related Characters: Edki Guardian Warrant (speaker), Essun/Damaya/Syenite
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 15 Quotes

You’ve always known better. How dare you expect anything else? You’re just another filthy, rusty-souled rogga, just another agent of the Evil Earth, just another mistake of sensible breeding practices, just another mislaid tool. You should never have had children in the first place, and you shouldn’t have expected to keep them once you did […]

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite, Nassun, Uche
Page Number: 271
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

There’re so many ways to die in this place. But they know about all of them—seriously—and as far as I can tell, they don’t care. At least they’ll die free, they say.”

“Free of what? Living?”

“Sanze.” Alabaster grins when Syen’s mouth falls open.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Alabaster (speaker)
Page Number: 294
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

(Friends do not exist. The Fulcrum is not a school. Grits are not children. Orogenes are not people. Weapons have no need of friends.)

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite
Page Number: 297
Explanation and Analysis:

He does understand. She bites her lip and feels fresh tears threaten. It isn’t right that she loves him, but many things in the world are not right. So she fights off the tears, and makes her decision. Crying is weakness. Crying was a thing Damaya did. Syenite will be stronger.

“I’ll do it,” Syenite says, softly. “I’ll pass the test for you, Schaffa. I promise.”

“My good girl,” Schaffa says, and smiles, holding her close.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Schaffa Guardian Warrant (speaker)
Page Number: 331
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 20 Quotes

And what do they even call this? It’s not a threesome, or a love triangle. It’s a two-and-a-half-some, an affection dihedron. (And, well, maybe it’s love.) She should worry about another pregnancy, maybe from Alabaster again given how messy things get between the three of them, but she can’t bring herself to worry because it doesn’t matter. Someone will love her children no matter what. Just as she doesn’t think overmuch about what she does with her bed time or how this thing between them works; no one in Meov will care, no matter what. That’s another turn-on, probably: the utter lack of fear. Imagine that.

Page Number: 372
Explanation and Analysis:

“Heh.” Innon sounds odd, and Syenite glances at him in surprise to see an almost regretful look on his face. “Sometimes, when I see what you and he can do, I wish I had gone to this Fulcrum of yours.”

“No, you don’t.” She doesn’t even want to think about what he would be like if he had grown up in captivity with the rest of them. Innon, but without his booming laugh or vivacious hedonism or cheerful confidence. Innon, with his graceful strong hands weaker and clumsier for having been broken. Not Innon.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Innon Resistant Meov (speaker), Alabaster
Page Number: 386
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 22 Quotes

“All the accounts differ on the details, but they agree on one thing: Misalem was the only survivor when his family was taken in a raid. Supposedly his children were slaughtered for Anafumeth’s own table, though I suspect that’s a bit of dramatic embellishment.” Alabaster sighs. “Regardless, they died, and it was Anafumeth’s fault, and he wanted Anafumeth dead for it. Like any man would.”

But a rogga is not any man. Roggas have no right to get angry, to want justice, to protect what they love. For his presumption, Shemshena had killed him—and became a hero for doing it.

Page Number: 418
Explanation and Analysis:

“Freedom means we get to control what we do now. No one else.”

“Yes. But now that I can think about what I want…” He shrugs as if nonchalant, but there’s an intensity in his gaze at he looks at Innon and Coru. “I’ve never wanted much from life. Just to be able to live it, really. I’m not like you, Syen. I don’t need to prove myself. I don’t want to change the world, or help people, or be anything great. I just want…this.”

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Alabaster (speaker), Corundum, Innon Resistant Meov
Page Number: 422
Explanation and Analysis:

Promise, Alabaster had said.

Do whatever you have to, Innon had tried to say.

And Syenite says: “No, you fucker.”

Coru is crying. She puts her hand over his mouth and nose, to silence him, to comfort him. She will keep him safe. She will not let them take him, enslave him, turn his body into a tool and his mind into a weapon and his life into a travesty of freedom.

[…]

Better that a child never have lived at all than live as a slave.

Better that he die.

Better that she die. Alabaster will hate her for this, for leaving him alone, but Alabaster is not here, and survival is not the same thing as living.

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Alabaster (speaker), Innon Resistant Meov (speaker), Corundum, Schaffa Guardian Warrant
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 23 Quotes

“After Meov. I was…” You’re not sure how to say it. There are griefs too deep to be borne, and yet you have borne them again and again. “I needed to be different.”

It makes no sense. Alabaster makes a soft affirmative sound, though, as if he understands. “You stayed free, at least.”

If hiding everything you are is free. “Yes.”

[…]

“I understand why you killed Corundum,” Alabaster says, very softly. And then, while you sway in your crouch, literally reeling from the blow of that sentence, he finishes you. “But I’ll never forgive you for doing it.”

Related Characters: Essun/Damaya/Syenite (speaker), Alabaster (speaker), Corundum
Page Number: 446
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Fifth Season LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Fifth Season PDF

Essun/Damaya/Syenite Character Timeline in The Fifth Season

The timeline below shows where the character Essun/Damaya/Syenite appears in The Fifth Season. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue: you are here
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...in the ground, and one of these belongs to the woman, who is introduced as Essun. She is 42 years old, and her dead son Uche was almost 3. Essun knows... (full context)
Chapter 1: you, at the end
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...speaking in the second person, the narrator says that the “you” he is addressing is Essun, the orogene whose son Uche is dead. Essun has lived in Tirimo for the last... (full context)
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Finally, someone knocks on the door. When Essun doesn’t answer, the visitor breaks the glass on the door and comes in: it is... (full context)
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When Essun wakes again, Lerna tells her that there has been a big “shake” in the north,... (full context)
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Lerna is the only one besides Essun’s children who knows that Essun is an orogene. Lerna now tells her that Rask, the... (full context)
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Lerna then brings up Uche, and Essun says that she knows Jija is the one who killed him. According to Lerna, the... (full context)
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When Essun is able to speak again, she tells Lerna that she wasn’t the one who revealed... (full context)
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After Lerna leaves, Essun washes her face until the tap water turns brown and trickles to nothing, meaning that... (full context)
Chapter 2: Damaya, in winters past
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A young girl named Damaya wakes up to the sound of voices. She has been asleep in a pile of... (full context)
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Damaya hears the strange man comment on the corner of the barn that she has been... (full context)
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The strange man starts to climb the ladder to Damaya’s loft, though Mother angrily calls for her to come down. The man tells Damaya (using... (full context)
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The man smiles at Damaya and offers his hand to her, asking if she will join him. Damaya knows that... (full context)
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Damaya follows the man back down the ladder, where the man asks Mother to give Damaya... (full context)
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The man says that Damaya will still need protection from the cold on their way to Yumenes, and Mother seems... (full context)
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Damaya realizes that the strange man is a “Guardian,” and he affirms that he is now... (full context)
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Schaffa says that Damaya is actually lucky that her parents reported her and kept her isolated, as many orogenic... (full context)
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The day that Damaya discovered she was an orogene, she was sitting with two of her friends after lunch... (full context)
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As Damaya remembers this, Schaffa continues speaking, describing Damaya as “firemountain-glass” and a “gift of the Earth.”... (full context)
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Schaffa reassures Damaya that none of this is her fault, and she shouldn’t blame herself or her parents.... (full context)
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Schaffa hands Damaya the blanket that Mother brought, and Damaya realizes that it is the one Muh Dear... (full context)
Chapter 3: you’re on your way
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Essun is deciding what to do next and who to become. The self that Essun has... (full context)
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Essun resolves to leave town immediately; she makes herself eat something and then gets the family’s... (full context)
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Essun walks through the town, which has probably been locked down and is mostly empty. In... (full context)
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...is merely a shack filled with books and scrolls, but Rask goes there for privacy. Essun finds him asleep on his cot at the back of the structure. As he wakes... (full context)
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Rask asks if Jija was ever violent before. “Never,” Essun replies, but she thinks that maybe it would have been easier if he had been,... (full context)
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...tells him to open the gate. Karra and the other Strongbacks are clearly suspicious of Essun and are reluctant to open the gate—they even refuse to do so until Rask gets... (full context)
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Nodding farewell to Rask, Essun heads toward the opened gate. Suddenly, out of the corner of her, eye she sees... (full context)
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As the guardswoman loads another arrow, Essun stands in the center of a circle of frost, suddenly letting her anger take hold.... (full context)
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The destruction continues as Essun lets herself fully feel the pain of Uche’s death, and she sees the entire town... (full context)
Chapter 4: Syenite, cut and polished
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A young woman named Syenite sits drinking safe at a meeting with her “assigned senior,” an older woman named Feldspar.... (full context)
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According to Feldspar, Syenite will be traveling with the “ten-ringer” to a town called Allia, where the quartent governor... (full context)
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Syenite asks about the ten-ringer, and Feldspar says that he is in his room in another... (full context)
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Syenite walks through the grounds of the Fulcrum, which is itself like a city contained within... (full context)
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Syenite realizes that she knows very little about this man except that he has achieved the... (full context)
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The man seems nervous now, and he purposefully sits as far away from Syenite as possible. He says that this isn’t the first time that he’s had to do... (full context)
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The man now says that as a ten-ringer, he can refuse, but Syenite tells him not to—she knows that for her, this is a best-case scenario, and she... (full context)
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The man stews silently to himself, and when he looks up, Syenite sees hatred in his face—but not directed at her. He says that Syenite must not... (full context)
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...and not subject to all of their rules and science—rather, it can pop up anywhere. Syenite lets herself think about this for a while, first feeling somewhat pleased that she was... (full context)
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...have perfunctory sex, neither of them enjoying or wanting it. Afterwards, the man asks for Syenite’s name, but she cuts him off before he can tell her his. They tersely make... (full context)
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Syenite leaves, dreading the coming month on the road but also trying to justify it to... (full context)
Chapter 5: you’re not alone
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Essun is exhausted after her deadly display of orogeny at Tirimo’s gate. Most of the effort... (full context)
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Essun stops to eat and drink, having recently refilled her water at a roadhouse on the... (full context)
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Essun is falling asleep while leaning against an old post when she suddenly realizes that someone... (full context)
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Deciding to risk it, Essun tosses Hoa a bedroll and decides to make him leave the next morning, but she... (full context)
Chapter 6: Damaya, grinding to a halt
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Damaya and Schaffa first arrive at the town of Brevard. Damaya has never left her hometown... (full context)
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Schaffa and Damaya ride for many hours until they come to a place near a fault line. Suddenly... (full context)
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...master his orogeny to a great degree and used it to kill thousands of people. Damaya is horrified to hear this, realizing that she too is a “rogga” like Misalem. She... (full context)
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...and destroyed every living thing that she could within Yumenes’s walls. This, Schaffa explains to Damaya, is because orogeny works by drawing kinetic energy largely from other sources. This kinetic energy... (full context)
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This story thrills Damaya, but Schaffa isn’t done. He explains that Shemshena was the first Guardian. The Fulcrum is... (full context)
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...the threat of any orogene that might become like another Misalem. Now that Schaffa is Damaya’s Guardian, he says, it is his job to ensure that she remains “helpful, never harmful.”... (full context)
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Schaffa and Damaya keep riding through empty plains, and Damaya notices ruins of old civilizations as they pass,... (full context)
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Schaffa asks Damaya if she is still thinking about the story, and he seems to know that she... (full context)
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Schaffa stops the horse. He asks if Damaya really can control herself, and he says that this is the most important question of... (full context)
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Schaffa’s grip on Damaya’s hand now steadily tightens, and she starts to whimper and struggle. Calmly, Schaffa tells her... (full context)
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As Damaya struggles, Schaffa whispers into her ear, saying that she could kill him right now if... (full context)
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Schaffa now takes Damaya’s hand again, gently this time, and tells her that it will heal if it’s set... (full context)
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Damaya’s hand continues to burn, and the earth beneath her continues to beckon to her. But... (full context)
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When night falls Schaffa makes camp as Damaya sits nursing her hand. Finally, she says, “I want to go home.” Schaffa tells her... (full context)
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Schaffa gives Damaya some soup, and they lie down to sleep on their single bedroll. Damaya dreams of... (full context)
Chapter 7: you plus one is two
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Essun wakes up and starts walking again, this time with the strange child Hoa accompanying her.... (full context)
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Essun continues to examine Hoa and try to figure him out. He is very small, but... (full context)
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Essun and Hoa pass by a few travelers on the Imperial Road, and ash is now... (full context)
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Hoa realizes that Essun wants him to wash himself, and he seems confused until she sarcastically shows him how... (full context)
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Still in shaken by Hoa’s appearance, Essun curses and then is even more surprised when Hoa smiles and says that she’s “weird.”... (full context)
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At one of their rest breaks, Essun tries to tell Hoa that he can’t stay with her, and that she’ll try to... (full context)
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Essun asks Hoa how he knows these things, and he just shrugs and says that it’s... (full context)
Chapter 8: Syenite on the highroad
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Now on the road toward Allia with her new “mentor,” Syenite finally learns that his name is Alabaster. As they travel, he often falls asleep in... (full context)
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Syenite thinks about this mystery for a few days as they travel along the Yumenes-Allia Highroad,... (full context)
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Syenite thinks of what she knows about the node maintainers: nodes are outposts placed at certain... (full context)
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Alabaster asks Syenite if she has ever been to a node, and she responds that of course she... (full context)
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Syenite is enraged to hear this—as it’s significantly out of their way—but she also knows that... (full context)
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The next morning, the two have sex, and afterwards Alabaster asks Syenite why she seems to hate him so much. Syen knows that if he were a... (full context)
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Syenite argues that those other civilizations failed, and so they must have been wrong, but Alabaster... (full context)
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Syenite is shaken by this, but she still tries to cling to the idea that “stonelore... (full context)
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Syenite starts to ask Alabaster another question, but then she notices that he is suddenly distracted.... (full context)
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Suddenly Alabaster uses his orogeny to make a kind of “punch,” and Syenite can feel all the pressure of the magma bubble release. Alabaster then pulls them out... (full context)
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Shaking, Syenite crawls over to Alabaster to see that his body is clenched, but he is alive.... (full context)
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Syenite sits gathering her strength and then gets some food out and waters the horses. She... (full context)
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...agitated. Finally, he explains why he feels the need to get to the node immediately—as Syenite already thought, hot spots like that never come out of nowhere, and the center of... (full context)
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...that almost took place and they are grateful to see Fulcrum orogenes now. That night, Syenite and Alabaster stop and sleep for a few hours before setting out again. The next... (full context)
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...that no one has come out to meet them, and he can’t hear anyone inside. Syenite asks who usually lives at a node station, and she is surprised to learn that... (full context)
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Syenite ties up the horses and then follows Alabaster, though he’s out of sight by now.... (full context)
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Syenite approaches and examines the chair, noticing that Alabaster is there as well. When she realizes... (full context)
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Syenite is shocked and horrified. Alabaster shows her something else—a scar at the base of the... (full context)
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...is why he was so insistent that every orogene should see a node in person. Syenite says that she had no idea about any of this. Alabaster’s voice is cold and... (full context)
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Alabaster and Syenite make camp in the node station’s courtyard. They sit beside the fire for a while,... (full context)
Syenite, now using the term “rogga” because “orogene” feels like a falsehood to her, says that... (full context)
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Alabaster’s laughter lasts a long time, to the point that Syenite can feel the earth moving with the rocking of his body. She realizes that what... (full context)
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After a while Alabaster speaks again, saying that he knows he’s crazy, but that Syenite will become crazy too if she stays with him and sees and understands more things... (full context)
Chapter 9: Syenite among the enemy
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After another week of traveling, Syenite and Alabaster reach Allia, their destination. At the outskirts of the city, a young man... (full context)
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Alabaster and Syenite arrive at the governor’s mansion, which is similarly ornate and not especially sturdy. They are... (full context)
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...huge amount of money to the Fulcrum to get him to come out here—he and Syenite are Allia’s entire future. The least Allia’s leadership could do, then, is offer them some... (full context)
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Alabaster then requests that he and Syenite stay at the (expensive-looking) inn they passed nearby and meet again the next day. Asael... (full context)
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...the two of them order food delivered to their room. Noticing how skinny Alabaster is, Syenite puts some of her own food onto his tray. Alabaster explains that he rarely feels... (full context)
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Syenite suddenly wakes up to the feeling that something is wrong. She looks over at Alabaster... (full context)
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Her orogeny now bound to Alabaster’s, Syenite can feel him flailing about and searching for something with his eyes, but she doesn’t... (full context)
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Alabaster drags Syenite up through this faceted world of light, and then she feels a sudden throb of... (full context)
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Still dazed, Syenite gets Alabaster some water and props him up in the bed, then sits down and... (full context)
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Calming down now, Syenite realizes that Alabaster has just been using whatever means he has at his disposal to... (full context)
Chapter 10: you walk beside the beast
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Essun is considering what kind of person she should be in this situation. She has been... (full context)
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Essun and Hoa are sleeping near a roadhouse for the night, with many other people camped... (full context)
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As Essun catches her breath, she says that they will have to go back to the roadhouse... (full context)
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As Essun and Hoa walk through the falling ash and approach the roadhouse, everything seems abandoned. Hoa... (full context)
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The woman helps Essun pump water, and they talk cautiously to each other. Essun notices a scientific contraption among... (full context)
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Packing up, the woman lets Essun have a pack that someone left behind. Essun asks if she saw what happened to... (full context)
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...pet, and it paces back and forth as if fighting between its two contradictory instincts. Essun prepares to kill it with orogeny, but suddenly Hoa steps toward it. Essun tries to... (full context)
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Essun and the woman stare in awe at this, and then Essun hurries to Hoa’s side.... (full context)
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Now realizing that Hoa is something extremely dangerous, Essun considers what to do. Finally, she is convinced just by the sight of his face—he... (full context)
Chapter 11: Damaya at the fulcrum of it all
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Damaya is now living at the Fulcrum and slowly adjusting to an entirely new way of... (full context)
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...very different, and it seems wrong to make them conform so harshly, but by now Damaya knows that this is the way it must be. The world hates orogenes, and “this... (full context)
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...through the Fulcrum’s Ring Garden in neat lines, past the older, ringed orogenes. Watching them, Damaya longs to have their sense of control and mastery, and she also admires their sleek... (full context)
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One day a tall, handsome older boy comes over to sit with Damaya at lunch. He introduces himself as Maxixe. Damaya is immediately suspicious, but she lets her... (full context)
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The next day, the other grits start treating Damaya differently. Someone purposefully bumps into her in the shower, and when she gets out, she... (full context)
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Damaya takes Galena’s words to heart and decides that she needs an ally. There is one... (full context)
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...somehow involved, they decide to target him first. One morning while he’s in the shower, Damaya claims that someone has stolen her shoes again. She confronts a boy named Jasper, who... (full context)
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Carnelian agrees to do this, though he says that Damaya will be punished if she’s wrong. The boys open their chests, and Damaya’s shoes are... (full context)
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...when Carnelian turns to him, he suddenly points at Crack. He says that she sold Damaya’s shoes in exchange for liquor. Damaya is shocked. Crack erupts at Jasper, cursing at him... (full context)
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...Jasper, and Crack to come with him immediately. As Crack is leaving, she looks at Damaya and says, “better you than me.” Crack knew that she herself was constantly in danger... (full context)
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...instructors leave, the tension in the room dissipates, and one of the girls apologizes to Damaya for pushing her in the shower. After this, the other grits don’t bully Damaya anymore.... (full context)
Chapter 12: Syenite finds a new toy
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The day after Alabaster’s poisoning, Syenite returns to the governor’s mansion alone, telling Asael that Alabaster is sick. Asael is clearly... (full context)
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Asael still seems uneasy, and Syenite knows that it’s a Fulcrum orogene’s job to make sure that “stills” feel safe and... (full context)
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After a few more analogies, Asael seems to understand why Syenite and Alabaster are so angry. She offers a weak apology but also says that orogenes... (full context)
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...Asael returns with an older woman who introduces herself as Heresmith Leadership Allia. She shakes Syenite’s hand and has a solemn but likeable air about her, which Syen appreciates. Heresmith apologizes... (full context)
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At the harbor, Syenite immediately meets a strange obstacle that she’s never encountered before. She can sess the coral... (full context)
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As Syenite senses all this, she closes her eyes and moves her hands around—this is unnecessary to... (full context)
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...the Fulcrum’s fee is already a huge burden to Allia. So, the leaders suggest that Syenite should just move the object. She tries to dissuade them, saying that it could be... (full context)
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...as the potential danger of moving the obstruction. One of the men is suspicious of Syenite’s motives, but she retorts that if she were trying to cheat them, she wouldn’t have... (full context)
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There now seems to be an agreement among Allia’s leadership that Syenite should go ahead and move the obstruction despite the risks. Asael asks if she is... (full context)
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As Syenite searches around the ocean floor with her orogeny, she encounters the obstructing object itself and... (full context)
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Syenite uses this rush of power to lift the foreign object from the seabed, and then... (full context)
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...middle. Some kind of foreign black substance seems to have seeped into the cracks, and Syenite can feel a stutter in the obelisk’s energy where it has been damaged. (full context)
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As Syenite continues to study the massive obelisk, which hovers above the harbor and begins to rotate,... (full context)
Chapter 13: you’re on the trail
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The commless woman now joins Essun and Hoa on their journey, introducing herself as Tonkee but not giving a comm or... (full context)
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The next day the three set out south again, with Essun still trying to figure out what exactly Hoa is, because he doesn’t seem to be... (full context)
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...people from the Equatorial regions to the north, closer to the site of the earthquake. Essun notices that many of these people wear some article of clothing that is strictly ornamental.... (full context)
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Essun asks one of these Equatorial women what happened in the north. The woman says that... (full context)
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The group sometimes stops at comms along the way to trade, and Essun notes that different comms accept different kinds of currency, whether money or bartering for other... (full context)
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...at them. As weeks go by, Hoa seems less sure of himself, however. He tells Essun that “there are a lot of you in one place now,” which makes it hard... (full context)
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...least passed near to the place with all the orogenes, if she’s not still there. Essun decides to focus on getting to this spot, and just hope that she finds Nassun.... (full context)
Chapter 14: Syenite breaks her toys
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Syenite and Alabaster are in their room, having just had their usual daily sex, when they... (full context)
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Alabaster says that it’s likely the Fulcrum wants Syenite to stay in Allia so that she can meet with geomests and maybe get more... (full context)
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Still frustrated and confused, Syenite says she’s going for a walk. Alabaster invites himself along, though she clearly wants to... (full context)
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The obelisk is still hovering over the harbor, and both Alabaster and Syenite can sense it emitting occasional weak pulses of energy. Alabaster suddenly starts acting like he’s... (full context)
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...too risky to speak in their room. The Fulcrum is keeping them in Allia because Syenite raised the broken obelisk, and they are surely concerned about controlling the orogene who can... (full context)
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Syenite asks why Alabaster is being so cautious about speaking when there’s clearly no one else... (full context)
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This revelation horrifies Syenite. Alabaster then tells her that it’s really the Guardians that they have to worry about,... (full context)
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...knows both of their names, and comments on how busy they’ve been here in Allia. Syenite notices Alabaster tensing up beside her. Edki scornfully comments on Alabaster’s work with the obelisk.... (full context)
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Edki know draws another knife, this one long and thin and familiar to Syenite. She backs away and tries to use her orogeny, but suddenly realizes that she cannot.... (full context)
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Time seems to stop. Syenite still cannot sess anything, and she can see Alabaster convulsing in agony nearby. Suddenly she... (full context)
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This time Syenite feels like she is not in control of the obelisk at all, and as she... (full context)
Chapter 15: you’re among friends
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Essun, Hoa, and Tonkee have finally reached the place where Hoa could sense all the orogenes... (full context)
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...is holding a crossbow, though not pointed at them—she is white, blond, and small, and Essun internally judges her according to what the “average Equatorial” would condemn about her breeding. The... (full context)
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The intimidating woman introduces herself as Ykka Rogga Castrima, and Essun and Tonkee are both surprised to hear “rogga” used as a use-caste name, considering its... (full context)
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Essun now realizes that Hoa has never showed his teeth before, and though they are the... (full context)
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Essun thinks of the real reason she is here and asks Ykka if a man and... (full context)
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Suddenly Essun feels a wave of some kind of orogeny sweep past her, and it reminds her... (full context)
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...soon enough, but she doesn’t believe that the Season will be short. Ykka looks at Essun, who reluctantly confirms what she’s known all along—that this Season will probably last for thousands... (full context)
Chapter 16: Syen in the hidden land
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Syenite wakes up to a cold wind, the taste of dirt in her mouth, and the... (full context)
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Syenite speaks to the woman, who doesn’t turn to face her. The woman says that they... (full context)
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Behind them, Alabaster groans, and Syenite asks the stone eater why she brought them to this island. She responds that she... (full context)
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As Syenite and Alabaster recover their strength and examine the island further, they find that there is... (full context)
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...the earth right now—and that this is also how she must have brought him and Syenite to the island and away from Allia. Syenite doesn’t like thinking about this. She finds... (full context)
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Still frustrated and confused about everything, Syenite asks Alabaster to explain what happened with the Guardian back at Allia. Alabaster admits that... (full context)
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...how Alabaster used the obelisk to remove the poison from his body at the inn, Syenite asks him if anyone knows what he’s really capable of. He says that even he... (full context)
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...sessapinae. This gives them the ability to negate others’ orogeny, among other things. Hearing this, Syenite’s hand hurts in memory of an old injury. She asks about the knife that Edki... (full context)
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Syenite asks why Alabaster warned her not to let the Guardian’s skin touch her, and he... (full context)
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After a moment, Alabaster suggests that they continue on to the village and Syenite reluctantly agrees, despite their currently negated orogeny. As they approach, Syenite thinks about how the... (full context)
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Syenite greets the villagers, but none of them respond. Examining them, she thinks that they are... (full context)
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Later the people of Meov have invited Alabaster and Syenite into their comm, and Alabaster continues to explain to Syen everything they’ve told him. Piracy... (full context)
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Syenite asks why anyone would live on an island, and how they’ll survive if there’s a... (full context)
Chapter 17: Damaya, in finality
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A year passes for Damaya at the Fulcrum. She is lonely, but she comes to think of herself not as... (full context)
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Damaya is most intrigued by “Main,” the massive central building of the Fulcrum campus. This is... (full context)
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Making her way through the dark rooms, Damaya finds that the abandoned wings echo the structure of the other parts of Main, with... (full context)
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One day, however, a girl entirely unfamiliar to Damaya joins her group of grits on their march through Ring Garden. They have just finished... (full context)
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When they return to the barracks for Free Hour, Damaya confronts the strange girl and asks who she is. The girl is very talkative and... (full context)
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Though this seems nonsensical at first, Damaya actually knows what Binof means: the massive building of Main is circular in shape, but... (full context)
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More serious now, Damaya asks again who the strange girl is, and now she offers her full name: Binof... (full context)
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Damaya again threatens to call an instructor, and in a panic, Binof offers her money and... (full context)
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As Damaya leads Binof toward Main, she notices more adults looking at her than usual. At first,... (full context)
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...head toward the spot that Binof thinks contains an entrance to the secret inner room, Damaya grows uncomfortable because they’re now close to the Guardians’ wing. Binof says that, as an... (full context)
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Damaya now starts walking down the corridor until she comes to the place where she sessed... (full context)
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Continuing to search, Damaya opens a closet in the room. It seems like the right place, but she can... (full context)
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...says that only Leaders are supposed to know this information, Binof finally relents. She tells Damaya that she’s learned that there’s some kind of mysterious artifact in the center of the... (full context)
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...the thing itself. Binof says that this is the mystery she’s trying to solve, and Damaya now silently agrees to continue helping her. Together they enter the tunnel. (full context)
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Binof blunders ahead in the dark, and Damaya warns her to be careful, sessing that there’s something heavy and pressed down ahead—some kind... (full context)
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Crouching and looking closer at the hexagonal pit, Damaya sees that its walls are lined with iron needles. As the two girls continue to... (full context)
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...is smiling in the same strange way that every Guardian seems to. The Guardian calls Damaya by name and says that Schaffa will be disappointed in her. Binof then declares that... (full context)
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...them, and the Guardian locks the office’s door. In the Guardians’ wing, the woman stops Damaya and leads Binof away. Binof looks back, but Damaya avoids her eyes, feeling that the... (full context)
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Damaya sits down and immediately apologizes to the Guardian, who sits down as well. Smiling again,... (full context)
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...and as the woman continues, she starts to press her thumb into the bones of Damaya’s hand that Schaffa broke a year and half ago. The woman keeps speaking as her... (full context)
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...back of her head. Suddenly she jolts forward and blood flows from her neck, and Damaya begins to scream. Schaffa continues, tearing something small out of the back of Timay’s skull.... (full context)
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Schaffa then takes Damaya’s hand and examines where Timay cut her. He smiles sadly at her and says that... (full context)
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After a while, Schaffa picks Damaya up and lets her weep into his lap. She cries for a long time, not... (full context)
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Damaya thinks again of all the mysteries of the last year—what the “socket” is, where Crack... (full context)
Chapter 18: you discover wonders down below
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Ykka now leads Essun and the others into the house where the three women first emerged from. Inside is... (full context)
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...tunnel that appears to be an old mine shaft. After walking for a long while, Essun asks where the red-haired stone eater is, and Ykka implies that she prefers to travel... (full context)
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...it’s something she discovered that she could do years ago, and she now demonstrates it: Essun suddenly feels like she’s slipping downhill, toward Ykka herself. Ykka stops and then confirms that... (full context)
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The group continues walking, and Essun estimates that they are now at least a mile below the earth’s surface. As they... (full context)
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After taking all of this in, Essun finally introduces herself, giving only the name “Essun,” which itself is a lie, she thinks.... (full context)
Chapter 19: Syenite on the lookout
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Alabaster and Syenite have now been in Meov for three days. Syen still hasn’t learned any of the... (full context)
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...finally be free of the Fulcrum, even if it means staying on Meov. He assures Syenite that neither of their Guardians can find them unless they manage to get near enough,... (full context)
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Syenite still feels guilty, though—she can now sess further than before, oddly, and so can appreciate... (full context)
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Syen continues to be angry, and Alabaster then reminds her how many times they’ve had sex... (full context)
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Glaring at each other but then walking together again, Syenite and Alabaster head back down to the village, where a large ship called the Clalsu... (full context)
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As Syenite and Alabaster enter Meov’s caverns, they can immediately hear Innon’s booming voice where everyone has... (full context)
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Alabaster translates Innon’s story some for Syenite, and finally asks her directly if she wants Innon for herself. She asks him if... (full context)
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Syenite says that Alabaster can have Innon if he wants him. Alabaster recognizes that Syen wants... (full context)
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Syenite leaves and finds her way to Innon, who leans against the wall beside her. She... (full context)
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Syenite stands looking out at the sea, now that her bedroom is occupied. She remembers one... (full context)
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After a few hours, Syenite goes back into her room where she can hear Alabaster crying very quietly. She passes... (full context)
Chapter 20: Syenite, stretched and snapped back
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Two years have now passed since Syenite had her baby, and she starts to feel useless and bored in her life on... (full context)
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On the docks, Syenite argues with Innon, saying that she’s bored. He reminds her that Alabaster is happy to... (full context)
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Finally, Innon asks if Syenite even loves Corundum, given that she wants so badly to leave him. Syenite knows that... (full context)
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Alabaster already seems to know what has happened, and he asks Syenite if she will ever come back to Meov once she leaves. He says that she... (full context)
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Syenite assures Alabaster that she will come back, and she explains that she’s not being useful... (full context)
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Syenite lingers for a while, wondering how she ended up in this situation, and then she... (full context)
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Syenite falls asleep and wakes up to the sounds of Alabaster having sex with Innon. Syenite... (full context)
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The next day Syenite sets sail with Innon and his crew on the Clalsu. Days pass, and she is... (full context)
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As they prepare to attack, Syenite rases one fog around the attack ship and another one between the Clalsu and the... (full context)
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...the attack ship appears, barreling out of the fog and toward the other two vessels. Syenite is still full of power that she has drawn from the ocean and she reacts... (full context)
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When the cargo ship’s hold is emptied, Innon finds Syenite. She expects him to be angry with her, but instead he seems awed by this... (full context)
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Syenite has promised to obey Innon’s orders, but she is reluctant to kill so many people... (full context)
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Syenite remembers everything she can about the old myths: Father Earth didn’t always hate life, until... (full context)
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...is surely dead, and the hot spots keep growing and spawning new vents. Standing beside Syenite, Innon tries to reassure her that many people on the outskirts of Allia managed to... (full context)
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Syenite stabs her power into the volcano, letting herself feel all the rage and sadness that... (full context)
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Unable to make Innon understand in time, Syenite despairs until suddenly an external force arrives and calms the gathering waves. It’s Alabaster, using... (full context)
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...wishes that he had gone to the Fulcrum, so that he could have power like Syenite and Alabaster do. Syen assures him that he doesn’t, and she grows sad imagining how... (full context)
Chapter 21: you’re getting the band back together
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Essun and the others have been put up in an apartment inside a crystal. Amid her... (full context)
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Learning this, Essun grows angry and demands an explanation. Tonkee apologizes and tries to explain: she is a... (full context)
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Backtracking, Essun learns more about what happened to Binof, who now prefers the name Tonkee. She disappointed... (full context)
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Tonkee says that she wasn’t obsessed with Essun on a personal level, but mostly had her followed because she thought that Essun might... (full context)
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Essun says that there should have been only one obelisk headed toward Tirimo, the amethyst, but... (full context)
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Hoa comes into the room, and Essun prepares to talk to him. He admits that he is a stone eater, but Essun... (full context)
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Essun is still confused, and she asks Hoa why he would want to seem human when... (full context)
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Essun asks Hoa about the other stone eaters in Castrima, and he tenses up again, saying... (full context)
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Finally, Essun finds the communal baths, which are heated and continuously refilled by a mysterious system of... (full context)
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The other people at the baths seem to look more kindly on Essun after her encounter with Lerna, and Essun wonders if Ykka tries to hide her orogeny... (full context)
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Lerna says that he left Tirimo the day after Essun did, as the town was already falling apart, and everyone was suspicious of everyone else.... (full context)
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...could escape. Later the daughter left Lerna, calling him a coward for abandoning her father. Essun tries to comfort him, as he is clearly still upset about this. (full context)
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...he, too, was extremely vulnerable, just like the daughter who was now on her own. Essun silently agrees, and she physically assesses him—he’s not tall or bulky like the Sanzed Equatorials... (full context)
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Lerna and Essun fall silent for a while, and then Lerna tells Essun that Nassun definitely isn’t here—he’s... (full context)
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Lerna suggests that they go to Essun’s apartment, and Essun manages to control her tears once more and lead Lerna away. As... (full context)
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Essun again feels like it’s insane to build a comm in the middle of these ruins,... (full context)
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...apartment and first glares at Lerna, but then seems to visibly relax. He turns to Essun and says that there’s someone here from Yumenes who wants to see her. Essun is... (full context)
Chapter 22: Syenite, fractured
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...many valuable spoils for the island. The Meovites hold a massive party to celebrate, but Syenite has been in bed ever since she got back. She feels like they are celebrating... (full context)
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Syenite rejects them, insisting that they are free of the Fulcrum now, and so they don’t... (full context)
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...Season called the Season of Teeth, and the emperor at the time was called Anafumeth. Syenite interrupts to ask Alabaster how he knows this, and he says that because he was... (full context)
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...together to attack others. This is also when they started calling other people “lesser races.” Syenite assumes that they just raided the other comms’ supplies, but Alabaster says that no one... (full context)
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Syenite thinks about this: Misalem’s rage was certainly justifiable, but roggas aren’t allowed the luxury of... (full context)
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...bringing food and blankets with them. Innon brings a musical instrument, Alabaster carries Corundum, and Syen brings a terrible but enjoyable novel from the looted cargo ship. When they reach the... (full context)
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...at the Meovites, with Innon tossing Corundum into the air as Alabaster looks on nervously, Syenite feels like she might really love these people. Alabaster then starts reading Syen’s novel and... (full context)
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Syenite wakes to see Innon holding Corundum and looking worriedly at Alabaster, who is on his... (full context)
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Syenite explains this to Innon, who tells her to give Corundum to someone else, as they... (full context)
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Syenite reaches the comm level, where everyone is arming themselves and loading up their boats. She... (full context)
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...Innon breaks down a section of Alabaster’s wall, but more rock immediately replaces it. Meanwhile Syenite has to carry Corundum and also control all of the waves being created by these... (full context)
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As she gets higher, Syenite can see that one of the four ships has boulders piled on its deck and... (full context)
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Getting on her hands and knees and focusing the torus of her orogeny, Syenite sends a thin line of ice down into the rock, splitting it just as one... (full context)
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Syenite reaches Alabaster and can tell that he’s hurt. She lingers at the edge of his... (full context)
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Syenite grabs Alabaster and tries to pull him up, cursing the stone eater and sending her... (full context)
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Suddenly Syenite feels the presence of Guardians nearby, startling her from her sorrow. She looks back over... (full context)
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As Syenite reaches Innon and Corundum on the deck of the Clalsu, a section of Alabaster’s wall... (full context)
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...troops—clearly professional soldiers—start boarding the Clalsu and murdering everyone aboard. Surrounded by screaming and death, Syenite goes belowdecks and finally finds Innon and Corundum in the captain’s cabin. Innon tells her... (full context)
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Syenite then hears a familiar voice, and Schaffa appears. She grabs Corundum and backs away as... (full context)
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Corundum is wailing now, and Syenite starts to say “no” over and over again, but Schaffa reminds her that she is... (full context)
Chapter 23: you’re all you need
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Essun and Lerna make their way down to Castrima’s infirmary, but at the door, Essun silently... (full context)
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Alabaster greets her as Syenite, and she replies that her name is Essun now. Alabaster says that he always knew... (full context)
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Alabaster asks about Essun’s life, and she says that after Meov she needed to become a different person. Alabaster... (full context)
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Essun tells Alabaster that he can kill her, but he has to wait until she kills... (full context)
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Essun now realizes that Alabaster is the one who tore the continent in half and started... (full context)