Mission to Asia

One of my great frustrations is that the very thing which draws me to a subject is the degree to which it outstrips the ability of my words, and even conceptions, to describe it.  It’s the space beyond the edges of the text that fascinates me.  Those things of which we only catch glimpses, brief tantalizing hints of an impossible to reach whole, and like Augustine with time, I’m fine as long as no one asks me to explain.  Hence my attraction to the dim forgotten corners of history, the dark ages, to the aporia of Plato, and, relevant to the topic of this post, to travel narratives.

These narratives by their very nature are only fragments, scattered impressions of a world necessarily alien to both author and reader.  Somewhere beyond the words of a travel narrative is the memory of place and time which is irrevocably lost, faded.  W.G. Sebald’s use of scattered, haunting photographs in his writings is the greatest expression of this that I’ve encountered thus far.

The world, central Asia in the wake of the Mongol conquests, of Christopher Dawson’s collection Mission to Asia is fascinating in its incomprehensibility.  The most famous and detailed account within is William of  Rubruck’s, whose words imbue me with a strange sense of tragedy.  William was sent by the king of France, the future St. Louis, to meet with Sartach, the future ruler of the Golden Horde and rumored to be a Christian.  The expedition is a failure from the outset.  Sartach is no Christian. William’s missionary efforts are in vain.  The Great Khan wants no alliance. This failure infuses William’s writing with sadness and wasted opportunity, a sense that the cliffs of despair are not far distant, warded off only by a sliver of desperate hope.

There’s disappointment not only for William, but me as well, as William offers a rather prosaic explanation for the wondrous stories of Prester John:

In a certain plain among these pasture lands was a Nestorian, a mighty shepher and lord of all the people called Naimans, who were Nestorian Christians.  On the death of Coir Chan, this Nestorian set himself up as a king and the Nestorians called him King John, and they used to tell of him ten times more than the truth.  For the Nesotorians coming from these parts do this kind of thing-out of nothing they make a great rumor.  This accounts for their spreading the story that Sartach was a Christian, also Mangu Chan and Keu Chan, just because they pay a greater respect to Christians than to other people.  And yet the truth is they are not Christians. So in the same way the great tale of this King John went abroad.  Now I passed through his pasture lands and nobody knew anything about him with the exception of a few Nestorians.  (122)

Years ago it was Prester John, first encountered in Hanover Public Library’s copy of Baudolino which I checked out between re-readings of books about sea monsters and ravishings of the science fiction section,  that kindled my interest in the Middle Ages. William’s account seems all too plausible, all too tawdry and dull (but how could it be otherwise?).  A far cry from:

XIII.—In our palace we eat once a day; each day thirty thousand men eat at our board, besides the guests that come and go. And these all receive their charges from our palace, both in horses and other things also. That table is made of precious stone called smaragdns, and it is supported by two pillars of amethyst. The virtue of this stone is that it suffers no one to get drunk so long as he sits thereon. Before the doorposts of our hall, near where the combatants are, there is a watch-tower of great height, and thereto one climbs by one hundred and twenty-five steps; and these steps, some of them are made of porphyry, blended with the blood of serpents, and alabaster ointment. The third part at the bottom of these is made of crystal, and jasper, and sardooyx, and another part, at the top, is of amethyst, and amber, and jasper, and sardonyx, and panthera. This watch-tower is supported by one pillar, and on this there is a base, that is, some stone-work so called, and on this base two columns, that is to say, arms; and on these there is a base, and on this four columns, and again a base, and on this sixteen arms; and so the work proceeds, until the number thirty-four is reached, and then the number of the bases lessens, and the columns, until they come to one, and that by ascending upwards, as they increased before, ascending to thirty-four.

XIV.—Now the columns and bases are of the same kind of precious stone as the steps through which men ascend. On the summit of the highest there is a watch-tower placed by some graceful skill, so that no one in the various kinds of laud subject to us can work any fraud, or treachery, or dissensions against us whatever, nor those among us, without it being clearly seen from that watch-tower, and without its being recognised who they are, or what they do. There are three thousand men of arms ever guarding this watch-tower night and day, lest by chance it be broken or overthrown to the ground.

XV.—Each month in the year seven kings serve me, each one of them in his order, and forty-two princes, and three hundred and fifty-six earls. That number is always at our board, without those placed in the various duties in our palace. At our board there eat each day, on the right twelve archbishops, and on my left hand twenty bishops, and the patriarch from the place where is the grave of the Apostle Thomas and he that is in place of a pope. (The Letter of Prester John)

William’s own sadness can, I think, be witnessed most acutely in one of the few moments when his traveling companions express interest in his faith.  He has neither the time nor the resources to truly instruct them, and in lieu of books:

I will teach you a word which you will bear in your hearts, by means of which both your souls and your bodies will be saved for eternity.”  But whenever I wanted to instruct them my interpreter let me down.  However, I wrote out the “Credo in Deum” and the “Pater noster”, saying, “Here is written down what a man ought to believe about God and a prayer in which petition is made to God for everything which is necessary for man; therefore firmly believe what is written here although you cannot understand it and ask of God that He will do to you what is contained in the prayer written here, which He Himself taught His friends with His own lips; and I trust that He will save you.  I could do no other, for to speak words of doctrine through such an interpreter was dangerous; nay, it was impossible, for he did not know the words. (146-7)

That line “I trust that He will save you” expresses a desperate hope that even in this desolate, alien country, even with the faith reduced to incomprehensible, quasi-magical formulae, William’s mission might not be in vain.*

William’s efforts are plagued not merely by the difficulties of travel, hostile Nestorians, and inept translators.  These he might have dealt with.  It’s the overwhelming apathy that plagues him the most, that seems to slowly wear him down towards despair.  Not a rejection of what he teaches but far worse, indifference.  We see this in his famous account of a debate between Buddhists, Muslims, Nestorians, and himself, arranged by the Great Khan.

I then gave a place to them [the Nestorians] and when they wanted to dispute with the Saracens the latter replied: “We grant that your faith is true and that whatever is in the Gospel is true, therefore we do not wish to argue on any point with you.”  They admitted that in all their prayers they beseech God that they may die a Christian death.

There was an old man there, a priest of the sect of the Uigurs, who say there is one God and yet make idols, and the Nestorians spoke a great deal with him, giving him an account of everything from the coming of Christ to the Judgment, and also by means of comparisons explaining the Trinity to him and the Saracens.  They all listened without a word of contradiction, yet not one of them said, “I believe, I wish to become a Christian.”

When this was finished the Nestorians and Saracens alike sang loudly while the tuins [Buddhists] kept silence, and afterwards they all drank their fill. (193-4)

Christianity is tolerated in this world, even favored.  It’s a nice thing, maybe the nicest thing, but it is ultimately just one thing among many, not worthy of serious commitment.

There’s something else lurking in William’s final moments at the court though, perhaps another fragment of hope mixed with desperation shining through in his final audience with the Great Khan who, William tells us, is quite drunk at the time.

When he had said this I asked his leave to say a few words.  “You may speak,” he answered.  Then I said: “My Lord, we are not warlike men, we would like to see those holding dominion over the world who would govern it most justly according to the will of God.  Our duty is to teach mean to live according to the will of God; for this reason did we come to these parts and we would gladly have remained here if you had allowed it.  Since it is your good pleasure that we return, it must needs be I will go back and carry your letter to the best of my ability in accordance with your commands.  I would like to ask of your Eminence that, when I have taken your letter, I may be granted your permission to return to you, especially as you have some poor serfs at Bolac who speak our language and need a priest to teach them and their children their faith, and I would gladly abide with them.”  He replied, “Provided your masters send you back to me.”  I then said: “My Lord, I do not know what my masters have in mind, but I have permission from them to go wherever I will, where there is need to preach the word of God; and it seems to me that it is most necessary in these parts, therefore whether he send back an envoy to you or not, given your permission I would return.”

He kept silent and sat for a long time as if turning things over in his mind, and the interpreter told me not to speak any more.  However, I anxiously awaited his reply.  At last he spoke: “You have a long journey ahead of you, fortify yourself with food so that you may be strong enough to reach your own country.”  And he had given me something to drink.  I then left his presence, and never afterwards returned.  If I had had the power of working miracles like Moses, he might have humbled himself.  (196-7)

Though maybe I read too much into this, I can picture it all, better than any other scene in William’s narrative.  Somehow it’s the Khan’s drunkenness that makes it so real, that gives it the sense of a moment on the precipice, a chance not quite seized.  And that last line, if only.

Finally, and on a somewhat different note, there’s an off-handed comment by William that I found intriguing.  He advocates for the reconquest of the formerly Byzantine lands (Turkey) which he passes through on the way home.  He’s convinced it could be accomplished easily, for

I can inform you that not one man in ten there is a Saracen; rather are they all Armenians and Greeks and the power is in the hands of boys. (219)

A different picture than I expected, indeed the whole of the lands through which William, and the others in the collection whom I have unjustly neglected, journeyed is unexpected and strange, leaving only the barest sketches in my memory.  That’s what makes it a joy to read, to explore.

 

 

*Compare John of Monte Corvino, perhaps the most remarkable character in Mission to Asia, doggedly baptizing thousands in China with no support, no companions save a few Italian merchants.  I am thoroughly impressed by John.  He seems to have been an amazing man.

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More on Nature on the Fringes

In the last post, we noted that, at the edges of things, the order of nature breaks down.  Exhausted by the work of creation, she begins to tire of her labor and the whole tapestry begins to fray.  It resembles the sea, unfathomable and vast, mysterious and dangerous.

There’s another factor on this particular edge, Ireland, which also disrupts the order of things.  Its roots lie in the deep connection between the natural and social orders.  At their heart the two are inseparable, both facets of the larger harmony of Creation as it extends through space and time.  To skip a good bit of exposition on the character of creation in medieval thought, we might get an idea of the general understanding by picturing an infinite and beautifully arranged series of imperfect mirrors, all reflecting a light so bright that it appears as darkness beyond black (cf. fuligin).  The natural and social orders are both a subset of these mirrors, simultaneously interlinking with and reflecting each other, giving us glimpses, tantalizing fragments, of the primal order which underlies them both.

The immediate consequence of this in Gerald of Wales is that the social structure of the bounds of the world mirrors the natural, less refined, unpredictable, raw and not fully formed.  Thus, the barbarism of the Irish,

They are a wild and inhospitable people.  They live on beasts only, and live like beasts.  They have not progressed at all from the primitive habits of pastoral living (101).

He tells us with astonishment of sailors venturing near the extreme edge of the island encountering truly barbarous folk, men wearing only hides who had never seen bread or cheese, even taking some home to show their people as a wonder, who knew nothing of Christ (110-112).  Such men could only exist on the outskirts, beyond the pale of civilization (to say nothing of the customs which Gerald describes on the preceding page, kings confirmed in their dominion by intercourse with a mare).  On the fringes of the edge, where nature herself has grown tired, so to do the structures of man fail to take root.

Thus also, the forthcoming disruption of the Norman Invasion, which precipitated Gerald’s visit to the island and the writing of his account, is presaged by the warping of nature.  A frog, a poisonous beast which ought to have died upon contact with Ireland’s soil due to the island’s natural enmity towards the venomous is found alive after many days,

While the English, and more so the Irish, regarded it with great wonder, Duvenaldus, the king of Ossory, who happened to be there at the time, with a great shaking of his head and great sorrow in his heart at last said: ‘That reptile brings very bad news to Ireland.’ (52)

So too does the appearance of a fish “of unusual size and quality” possessing (among other wonderful things) three gold teeth prefigure the imminent conquest of the country.  Wales, Gerald tells us in his description of traveling through that country, experienced similar portents on the eve of their subjugation by the English.  Beware unusual fish.

Perhaps it is the fraying of nature and the corresponding simplicity of the political order which allows for an immediacy to the Irish encounter with nature, an immediacy which leaves the men closer to beasts, but which gives fuel to the fire of monastic devotion that even Gerald can’t help but praise.  This immediacy, the close connection to nature on the edges, provides the locus for the characteristically Irish devotion of exile and solitude which seeks the boundaries, places which lay bare the energies of nature in which we might glimpse flashes of her Creator and Guide.

Indeed, the predominance of miracles in Gerald’s account are nature miracles, animals behaving strangely, mysterious wells, holy hedges.  Like nature, there is a dangerous inscrutability to the saints of Ireland.  They are a vindictive bunch, inclined towards cycles of revenge and anger, capable of great holiness, but with danger lurking just under the surface (91).  In them we see a mirror of the order of the world in which they live-nature wild, unfathomable, and raw; society barbarous, violent, and unformed-for the sacred is a mirror too.

Loneliness on the Edge of the World

A passage in J.A. Baker’s obsessive, wonderful little book, The Peregrinebrought together a number of threads which have been tossing around my head lately.  He writes, describing his home in the south of England “out there at the edges of things,”

Farms are well ordered, prosperous, but a fragrance of neglect still lingers, like a ghost of fallen grass.  There is always a sense of loss, a feeling of being forgotten.  There is nothing else here; no castles, no ancient monuments, no hills like grey clouds.  It is just a curve of the earth, a rawness of winter fields.  Dim, flat, desolate lands that cauterize all sorrow.  (8)

The same sense, of loneliness, loss and exile, pervades the Anglo-Saxon poetry that I’ve been enjoying recently.  We might forget it today in the wake of England’s great empire, but the British Isles were truly at the edge of the world in the geographical consciousness of the Middle Ages.  Gerald of Wales in his Topography of Ireland puts it beautifully,

For beyond those limits [of Ireland] there is no land, nor is there any habitation either of men or beasts — buy beyond the whole horizon only the ocean flows and is borne on in boundless space through its unsearchable and hidden ways. (31)*

Beautiful, but terrifying.  No wonder then that Anglo-Saxon poetry is so riven with sorrow and loneliness, a desperate craving for the warmth of home and fire.  No surprise also that there’s an almost overwhelming feeling of tenuousness in their poetry and in the writings of authors like Bede, a recognition of just how fragile the security that hall and hearth provide, think Heorot.  Against this background, Bede’s monasteries are anchors, squat fortresses of stability in an ever-shifting landscape.   One can see the appeal.**

At the edges of things, reality becomes frayed.  Gerald tells us

For sometimes tired, as it were, of the true and the serious, [Nature] draws aside and goes away, and in these remote parts indulges herself in these secret and distant freaks (31)

And not only are we at the edge of space but time as well.  The world has grown old and grey, the past faded and fallen into ruin

The days are gone
of all the glory
of the kingdoms of the earth;
there are not now kings,
nor Cæsars,
nor givers of gold
as once there were,
when they, the greatest, among themselves
performed valorous deeds,
and with a most lordly
majesty lived.
All that old guard is gone
and the revels are over
the weaker ones now dwell
and hold the world,
enjoy it through their sweat.
The glory is fled,
the nobility of the world
ages and grows sere,
as now does every man
throughout the world. (83-9)

Nature tires and warps in her decay,

This indeed was the true course of nature; but as the world began to grow old, and, as it were, began to slip into the decrepitude of old age, and to come to the end, the nature of almost all things became corrupted and changed for the worst. (53)

Unsurprising then that she might throw up monsters in the dark, against which all we can do is huddle around the slimmest glimmers of light.

 

 

*Strangely, Irish literature seems to display less awareness of this.  Perhaps they’re so on the edge that they don’t realize they’re on the edge.

**You get a similar sense in a very different context in Richer of Saint-Rémi’s Histories, a book I hope to write about at length later.

The Poem of the Cid

Ultimately, I found The Poem of the Cid rather disappointing.  The straightforward style lacked both the grandeur of other classic medieval epics–The Song of Roland, The Alexandreis–and the sparse, haunting beauty of the Anglo-Saxon poetry that I enjoy so much.  The first part of the poem, perhaps 50 lines, has apparently been lost, and this loss creates my favorite moment, the opening stanzas which suggest an air of mystery that is unfortunately present nowhere else.

Tears streamed from his eyes as he turned his head and stood looking at them.  He saw doors left open and gates unlocked, empty pegs without fur tunics or cloaks, perches without falcons or moulted hawks.  The Cid sighed, for he was weighed down with heavy cares.  Then he said, with dignity and restraint: ‘I give Thee thanks, O God, our Father in Heaven.  My wicked enemies have contrived this plot against me.’

First Cantar, I

 

Three Fragments of Tacitus

I remembered Tacitus as a grumpy stick-in-the-mud, and, while that’s not necessarily an incorrect characterization, I actually enjoyed re-reading him more than I expected.  Three passages which stood out to me, all from the Agricola:

There is no great difference in language [between the Gauls and the Britons], and there is the same hardihood in challenging danger, the same cowardice in shirking it when it comes close. (62)

Interesting that we encounter Romans with this same stereotype of the Britons in Geoffrey of Monmouth, albeit from the other side. I doubt Monmouth read Tacitus, though I have no idea of the Agricola’s reception in the Middle Ages, but I wonder if some diligent detective work might uncover a line of transmission.

Here’s some of that old Tacitus crabbiness:

And so the population was gradually led into the demoralizing temptations of arcades, baths, and sumptuous banquets.  The unsuspecting Britons spoke of such novelties as ‘civilization’, when in fact they were only a feature of their enslavement.  (73)
We might consider in what ways today that we’ve become enslaved under the guise of ‘civilization.’  Quite a few, I think.
Memory has been on my mind a lot lately, in reaction to loss, in Honorius’ writings, and in the classical texts in which I’ve been whiling away my time.  It’s an enduring concern of the ancients, so much of what they write, particularly histories, is to prevent us from forgetting those who’ve come before.
But representations of the human face, like that face itself, are subject to decay and dissolution, whereas the essence of man’s mind is something everlasting, which you cannot preserve or express in material wrought by another’s skill, but only in your own character.  All that we loved and admired in Agricola abides and shall abide in the hearts of men through the endless procession of the ages; for his achievements are of great renown.  With many it will be as with men who had no name or fame: they will be buried in oblivion.  But Agricola’s story is set on record for posterity, and he will live. (99)
 History, memory, art, poetry, immanence and distance, all bouncing around in the back of my brain, like an itch that I can’t scratch.  Frustrating, but perhaps if I stare into the mist long enough something real might emerge.  We’ll see.

The Alexandreis, Book X

At the close of Book IX, Alexander has conquered the world, and sets his sites on more distant pastures:
The boundary of the world lies near at hand.
Not to provoke the ill will of the gods,
the world’s too narrow, and the breadth of the earth
is insufficient for its only lord.
Bu when I’ve passed beyond this conquered universe,
I’ll undertake to open to my followers
another world.  The strong man finds no goal
insuperable.  I hasten now to penetrate
the shores of the Antipodes, and view
the other Nature. Though you begrudge your arms,
I cannot fail in duty to myself.
I’ll think the entire world my theater,
and move my troops throughout its length, ennobling
ignoble lands and peoples by my wars.
While I stand as your duke, your feel will trample
lands hidden from all races by great Nature.
IX.655-69
This troubles Nature, who decides she must put a stop to the Macedonian before he shatters the rightful order of things even more:
That same while, Nature with a mindful grief
recalled how both the world and she herself
had suffered insult from the prince, who’d called
the earth too narrow and prepared armed throngs
to lay open her secret parts.  Distressed,
her noble white hair tangled, she left off
her latest works, the figures she’d begun
to form of Matter, and in rage she ceased
instilling souls into diverse limbs.  Veiled
in cloudy mantle, toward the Styx she turned,
and to the hidden kingdoms of the second world.
The elements gave quarter where she trod
and rose to meet their Shaper. Newly calmed,
the air worshiped the advent of the goddess.
In vernal pleasure Earth’s flowers burst forth,
the sea reined in the waves more than its wont,
and now the tumid billows held their silence.
All things bestowed on Nature worth honor,
praying that what she’d sown she’d multiply,
and grant increase unto the seeds of things,
infusing warmth and moisture.  Paying thanks
to her creatures, she bade them keep her laws
and in nothing exceed the bounds she’d set.
X.6-28
So, Nature goes to Hell (!) and enlists Leviathan, “the father of all crimes and their avenger”, by threatening him with the possibility of Alexander laying siege to Paradise itself, “What praise is yours, serpent, what glory, that you cast the first man out, if such a garden should yield its honors up to Alexander?” (X.116-8) Can Hell be far behind?
Everything about this is fascinating.  The way Nature is portrayed – veiled, shaping matter, all created things growing calm at her advent – especially so (there’s an interesting parallel between creation’s reaction to Nature and the nations of the world’s reactions to Alexander later in the book).
Plus, I love the descriptions of Hell:
Without delay, he roused the shadowy town
and called a council, bellowing across
the ancient plain of evils, which there lay
hardened by ice, and ravaged by the snows,
unconquered by the sun or gentle breeze.
X.123-9
Anyway, as you might expect, the Devil is all about killing Alexander and sets Treachery to the task.  Stirred by treachery, Antipater does the actual killing and the rest is, literally, history.
There’s one more passage I found especially poignant.  Alexander knows that when he conquers the whole world he will die, yet he refuses to stop, unquenchable is his desire for glory and conquest:
No otherwise, the tiger sees far off
a herd of horses, and a bitter thirst
burns in he flashing jaws; then is she lashed
by hunger’s goad to drink in living blood,
and savagely devours the shredded limbs;
but if, perchance, upon a hidden path
the tracking hunter’s spear pierces her flank,
she wails, he blood poured out, and dies upon
the grass, still thirsting, still unslaked with gore.
X.299-307
What better way to describe the end of Alexander?

 

The Alexandreis, Walter of Châtillon

Lately, I feel like I’ve lost some of my connection to the Medieval world.  I’m rooted in Honorius, but not in the Middle Ages more broadly.  In an attempt to rectify this, and to get through some books that I’ve long had on my to read/to reread list, I’m going to try to read a number of “medieval” books during my free time for the next few months.
For accountability, I’m going to try to post my thoughts on each here.

First up, the Alexandreis, a 12th century epic poem on the life of Alexander the Great by Walter of Chatillon.  It’s pretty fun and was rather popular in its day, well worth a read.
Like any good epic poem, the Alexandreis also serves as a primer on geography, and I found Walter’s description of Jerusalem especially beautiful.  It was perhaps my favorite passage in the book:
Then over all the fields of Palestine
towers the one Judaea of one God,
and at the center of the earth, Jerusalem
is set, where, sprung from virgin womb, Life died,
nor was a reborn world content to stand,
but shuddered, stricken, at the death of God.
I.492-7
Tarsus also:
He therefore sent a force under Parmenion
to save a half-dead Tarsus from their flames —
Tarsus that was adorned, as Scripture tells,
by his illustrious birth through whom faith’s lamp
shone on nations long blinded by their error.
Pure and unsullied, through the city’s midst
there flows the Cignus, drawing its cold streams
from bubbling springs.  Content with its own waters,
receiving none from other falling torrents,
it tosses pebbles in its swirl, and sand
rolls playfully beneath its swift descent.
II.160
Interesting the use of the past tense in both passages, the cities are somehow already adorned by events of centuries later.  That the Incarnation’s effects echo backward and forward in time (I picture ripples in a pond after a stone’s been dropped in) is, I think, an underappreciated facet of medieval thought.  I’m certain it has interesting implications for their understanding of history, which I’d love to explore one day.
Early on we also run into Zoroas of Memphis, whose story deserves to be recounted at length.  Zoroas is quite the impressive figure,
…whom none surpassed
in starry lore, or in foreknowledge of
mundane affairs.  He knew beneath what star
the fields suffer a dearth, what year bears fruit,
the source from which come winter’s snows, what mildness
impregnates the warm soil in early spring,
why summer burns, what grants autumn a robe
hung round with grapes.  He knew whether the circle
can be squared, whether music forms
celestial harmonies, and what proportion holds
among the four elements; what force compels
the planets on a course against the world,
what grades divide them, and which star impedes
the rage of the adverse Old Man, which tempers Mars;
how each seeks out its house, which holds its sway
within this hemisphere.  He sought their paths,
noted their hours, and all human events
perceived among the stars.  I say too little-
all heaven’s vault he held within his breast.
And since he presaged fate and coming death
by heaven’s portents, nor could turn aside
the fatal sequence, boldly he pushed through
to meet the Macedonian’s commander.
IV.171-193
Alexander is reluctant to kill such a distinguished man,
“Portent that you are, live on,
whoever you may be.  Do not destroy
in death, I pray, the lodging of such arts.
O never may my right hand an my sword
endeavor to make gory such a brain
The world has use of you.  What error, then,
drives you in longing towards the Stygian banks,
where knowledge never flowers?”
IV.209-216
Yet, Zoroas refuses to relent in his attack and is brutally killed, having his legs sliced off at the knee before,
A varied rabble then hacked him to pieces,
and set the man again among the stars.
IV.225-6
I just find so much fascinating here, the interaction of fate and free will, Zoroas containing within himself “all heaven’s vault”, discerning all human affairs in celestial motion (a sort of semi-sanctioned “white magic” during the Middle Ages), and his death placing him back amidst the stars, a happy cap to a gruesome end.
The tenth book is extremely interesting, and I think I’ll try to dedicate a separate post to it.