A Lycanthrope in Wolfe’s clothing: Gene Wolfe’s ‘Caldé of the Long Sun’


At his Palace, Prolocutor Quetzal, who despite appearances is not human, having snake-like fangs concealed in the roof of his mouth, discusses the rapidly changing situation in Viron with Patera Remora. He orders a letter sent to the Chapter endorsing the return of a Caldé then, once alone, flies into the pouring rain.
On Lake Limna, Auk steers Patera Incus’s boat back to the shrine, on the instructions of the possessed Chenille/Scylla. The Goddess orders these three, and Dace the boatman, to prevent Kypria from taking Viron. She appoints Incus as Prolocutor before leaving Chenille, which flatters his self-importance. When Auk tries to ignore her instructions, they are attacked bya talus which smashes the boat and bears them off into the tunnels.
At Sun Street, Mayteras Marble and Mint prepare to conduct the sacrifices in the absence of both augurs. Mint announces the death of Maytera Rose and orders that, in view of the large congregation, the service be conducted in the street. Volunteers under Horn move the Sacred Window. To her amazement, she conducts the sacrifices with growing confidence and boldness.
Blood and Musk present themselves. Maytera Rose, speaking through Marble, identifies the former as her son, Bloody. Mint prophecies an early death for Blood, or perhaps Musk, who presents two rabbits: she mistakes him for Blood’s son. The prophecies refer to victories. Mint’s readings are interrupted by the return of Patera Gulo, here to announce that Silk is back, and lead open chants of Silk for Caldé.
Silk returns, warning the crowd not to assume the Guards are against them. Gulo resumes the sacrifices whilst he changes. Mucor warns that Blood has been ordered to kill him. He collects two letters before returning outside, in his robes, and takes over the sacrifices.
Immediately, the Sacred Window is occupied by Echidna, wife of Pas, Queen of the Gods. She countermands Kypris, orders that Viron must remain Scylla’s and all sacrifices must be hers. The Ayuntamiento must be overthrown. Mint is ordered to lead the crowd to the Alambrera, their Palace. A part of Echidna occupies her. Silk throws her the azoth. The bull he is sacrificing foretells war, tyranny and fire.
The last supplicant is Musk, who is intent on killing Silk. Maytera Marble intervenes, imprisoning Musk in her arms and sacrificing him by burning him in the pyre. Echidna possesses her, announcing that Pas is dead. Mucor possesses an old woman, tittering that she could kill Silk with Musk’s needler, but it is slapped from her hand by an old man who identifies himself as Quetzal.
In the tunnels, the talus carries Auk’s party into battle against chem soldiers that it ‘kills’. Incus restores Corporal Hammerstone and reprogrammes it to worship him. When the talus is destroyed by a launcher gun, and Auk receives a head wound that nearly kills him and leaves him mentally affected for a long period, Incus turns on Auk with spite and threats over his earlier casual treatment, using Hammersone’s muscle to back up his affronted dignity. Auk begins to imagine his older brother, Bustard, dead several years, talking to him.
They encounter a band of escaped criminals, one of whom, Urus, they take with them on their stumbling journey. Dace is captured and killed by the convict leader, Gelada, who starts to eat him: Auk talks Gelada into range with promises of forgiveness but executes him.
Echidna’s announcement has shocked Silk and undermined his faith
Silk is in shock at Echidna’s announcement and feels he can never sacrifice to her again. Quetzal takes temporary charge as the crowd follows General Mint to the Alambrera. The little sybil becomes an immediate stretegist. Silk learns of Maytera Rose’s death. She has largely replaced Marble and confirms the details of being Blood’s mother: she is to blame for his urge to cause trouble by buying the manteion.
Quetzal leads Silk in completing the funerary ceremonies for Maytera Rose and Musk. He explains his reasons for not opposing the Ayuntamiento’s seizure of power, and reveals that it was believed that Caldé Tussah – who knew Silk’s mother – nominated a secret successor, an adopted son, an embryo taken from the chambers in the tunnels, before he was killed.
Quetzal and Silk walk towards the Alabrera. Quetzal confesses already knowing Pas was dead. It happened thirty years ago, and Echidna and the seven children openly boast of in in other cities of the Whorl but Quetzal has kept it secret in Viron to uphold morality and keep the Chapter safe. He has tried to distance Pas in favour of Scylla and prevent theophanies. Their talk is interrupted by a Guard Lieutenant who shoots Silk.
He suffers a punctured lung and receives expert and sympathetic care, but Crane’s bandage is taken away for more urgent use. Patera Shell, his junior, updates him on the seige, shrives him and delivers the Chapter letter supporting Silk. This puts Quetzal into as much danger as Silk, who orders Shell to find him and take refuge in areas controlled by Mint. He is also reminded of his two letters and calls for his clothes.
At Sun Street, Marble/Rose has the Sacred Window brought back inside. She begins to re-organise the manteion. From the roof, she sees what she assumes is a solid cloud, over the Lake, moving against the wind.
Silk is visited by General Oosik of the Guard, who is embarrassed to have the Caldé as his captive, entirely on the initiative of an officer who was only supposed to reconnoitre. He is in an invidious position, holding Silk alive when the Ayuntamiento’s orders are to kill on sight. The rebellion is finely balanced: whichever side wins, he will be at best disgraced, at worst executed. Silk shows him the Chapter letter, including information that Councillor Lemur is dead, which Oosik didn’t know.
He returns Silk’s robes and their contents. He has read the other letter, from Hyacinth, who wants to meet Silk. Oosik knows and has slept with both Hyacinth and Chenille. He gives Silk directions to Hyacinth’s meeting place and leaves, removing the guard and leaving Siilk his needlers. Not knowing whether Oosik wishes him to escape, or seeks an excuse to kill him whilst escaping, Silk leaves. He addresses a letter of apology to the owner of the bedchamber in which he has recuperated, signing it as Caldé for the first time. In the street, Oreb rejoins him.
Auk’s confusion has separated him from the party. Chenille wants to search for him but Incus to abandon him. They argue over their destination. Whilst incus prays, Urus sneaks off, noticed only by Oreb. When they chase Urus, he sets off in search of Silk, who has sought shelter with Master Xiphias, the swordsmaster. Xiphias insists on another bout before, despite Silk’s exhaustion and multiple wounds. Silk wants to learn a safe route to the Palatine, for Hyacinth, but when it becomes apparent that Xiphias intends to escort him, he slips away alone.
Auk hears the voice of blind Tartaros, god of night and thieves, who addresses him as ‘my noctolator’. Tartaros will guide the damaged Auk back to where he can leave the tunnels, can eat and preserve himself. He is reunited with Chenille, who has fled Incus and Hammerstone.
Silk is held up at the barricades by Lieutenant Liana, a girl no more than twenty, but argues his way through under a white flag as a simple augur, bringing the Peace of Pas to mortally wounded Guardsmen. A jeweller tells him that the last augur to do so was killed as soon as he finished his prayers. He leads Silk to his shop and its strongroom to keep him safe. There, Silk finds Quetzal.
Silk reaches Ermine’s Hotel, for his rendezvous with Hyacinth. He is extremely nervous, expecting to be refused entrance, but he is expected and afforded all courtesy. Someone has been asking for him but this is actually Remora, ejected from the Prolocutor’s Palace by Guards seeking Quetzal. Silk writes a letter requesting Mint’s forces to permit Remora to pass, to try to negotiate a truce with Brigadier Erne. Remora is then possessed by Mucor, who is being tortured to do the Ayuntamiento’s work. Xiphias appears, prepared to save Silk’s life. Silk sends both away, just in time for Hyacinth to appear, kissing him and professing love. They are barely united when Silk collapses, coughing blood.
At Sun Street, Maytera Marble is washing and cleaning and increasingly remembering another figure, male, of metal. The seeming cloud is now hovering overhead, but is an airship. Auk and Chenille see it from the pit, where they find ncus and Hammerstone disarmed and bound, the former gagged. According to Tartaros, the airship is from Trivigaunte, whose Rani has ordered an invasion. A sudden announcement, by Silk, fills the pit, releasing the criminals to fight for Viron.
Before this, Silk comes to in bed again, surrounded by people, including General Oosik, who wants to ensure the revolt is ended with minimum further bloodshed, and without the moral disaster of the Alhambrera being taken. Silk accedes: whatever Echidna has ordered, to return to Viron’s Charter of Caldé and Ayuntamiento it is neither victory nor defeat .
Silk and Quetzal broadcast their announcement live across the city. Privately, the Ayuntamiento offers massive rewards for the bodies of Silk, Oosik and Quetzal.
Silk is taken by floater to the front-line, with Quetzal accompanying him officially and Hyancinth unofficially. En route, they are attacked by parachuting women warriors from Trivigaunte’s airship. Auk’s escape is hindered by bombs from the airship that shatter the Alambrera’s wall. Silk undergoes a near-death experience: his soul leaves his body for the Aureate Path, where he is greeted by his mother and his father, former Caldé Tusssah. Silk comes to, underground, back in the tunnels, having been rescued from being buried alive.
Whilst Quetzal seeks water, Silk digs desperately, believing Hyacinth to be similarly buried nearby: instead, he uncovers and is arrested by Sergeant Sand.
Silk is imprisoned at the Juzgado. After a failed attempt at a truce on behalf of General Saba of Trivigaunte, Maytera Marble gains access under a white flag, by asking for her son, Bloody. He admits that his purpose in buying the manteion was to get back at Maytera Rose, for abandoning him, and that he grossly misrepresented the price to Silk. Blood has won his game, but his house stands only because Silk is inside. He has done well out of the Ayuntamiento, but is beginning to resent being taken for granted by them.
Silk is brought up by Councillor Potto to a meeting involving the Ayuntamiento’s new presiding officer, Councillor Loris. Present are Blood, Maytera Marble, Chenille, Xiphias and Patera Incus, still proclaiming himself Prolocutor.
Marble recites exactly the forces outside, which Loris refuses to believe. He issues terms, non-negotiable, or all the prisoners will be killed. They represent total surrender, withdrawal of Trivigaunte, disarmament and a declaration that only the Ayuntamieto rules, with only its present Councillors, into infinity. The terms are wholly unrealistic, as Silk spells out. Marble gets agreement to allow her and Silk to talk alone before she reports back to Mint and Oosik.
They are joined after a long talk by Blood, bringing Mucor for safety. Blood is looking for an opportunity to change sides if he can keep the criminal empire he’s built. Silk refuses: he accepts the return of the manteion, but Blood will be prosecuted, fairly.
Suddenly, Mucor announces that Potto coming, to kill Silk and send his body back with the woman who killed Musk. Blood realises this must be Marble. As she reaches towards him, he uses his azoth to cut off her hand. He’s about to kill her when Silk intervenes with Xithias’ swordstick, automatically running Blood through the throat. Potto bursts in, ordering Sand to kill the Caldé, but on identifying Silk as the true authority, Sand kills Potto. Marble gives Silk the azoth before she uses it on him. Sand and his fellow soldiers salute Silk.
In a brief epilogue, Silk wears the Caldé’s robes as he prepares to meet the new Tivigaunti Generalissimo. He reflects on the journey he has taken in so few days, and wonders as to the whereabouts of those he has drawn with him…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.