Character Study: Dekarta

I have to admit that Dekarta fascinates me. He’s probably the only truly religious character in the whole book, for one thing. This is a world where everyone believes in gods because hello? they’re right there in your face. (I’m wrestling with the idea of how an atheist would function in this world right now, in book 3.) But not everyone believes in the gods. Especially among the Arameri, understandably; it’s hard to feel reverence for beings you can order about and put on a leash. But Dekarta feels true faith toward all the gods, even the Enefadeh. In fact, it’s because he feels such faith that he permits his fellow Arameri to torment them; in his eyes it’s his duty, as one of Itempas’ chosen, to make sure even the most exalted of Itempas’ enemies suffer.

Going to put the rest of this behind a spoiler cut for those who haven’t read 100K.

In some ways Dekarta is the only real villain in The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms. He alone specifically and deliberately sets Yeine up for the hell she goes through over the course of the book. Scimina would’ve been cruel to anyone put into Yeine’s position; Viraine is a victim of circumstance (although motivated by jealousy); Itempas doesn’t care about mortal affairs. But Dekarta knows full well what it means for him to bring Yeine to Sky. He knows she has almost no chance of overpowering either of her cousins, and will most likely end up manipulated by them into becoming the sacrifice. He knows he’s destroying his daughter’s memory. But it’s worth it, in his mind, to find out whether Yeine killed Kinneth or not.

What I continually noodle is, what if Yeine had killed Kinneth?

In my mind, Kinneth’s abdication left a massive hole in Dekarta’s life. He not only lost his beloved daughter, he lost whatever direct familial legacy he’d hoped to leave in the world. (She wasn’t Arameri anymore, remember, and Relad and Scimina are his brother’s children, not his own.) Some of his cruelty to Yeine comes not just because he thinks she killed Kinneth, but because — conflictingly — he desperately wants to see something of himself in her. He’s frustrated that it’s not there overtly, but when he finally realizes Yeine has more than a smidgeon of ruthless murderer in her, he’s delighted. A granddaughter with a soul of death: just what he always wanted. She’s a real chip off the old block.

That said, in the conflict between “I loved my daughter” and “I want a legacy,” Dekarta’s love for Kinneth (and his own ruthless murderer streak turned vengeful) would’ve won out. So I think he still would’ve made certain Yeine died even if she had somehow won the contest of heirs. As he said at the novel’s climax to Yeine, “You took Kinneth from me.” That doomed her pretty much from birth. At the same time, his regret at killing Yeine was genuine, which why I think Dekarta was so pleased by Yeine’s ultimate fate; this way he gets to honor his daughter and have a hell of a legacy. Whenever Yeine gets around to it, Dekarta will be great-grandfather to a whole new generation of gods. I imagine this tickled the hell out of him during his last days.

(I can’t help it; the old guy was a bastard, but I kinda liked him.)

5 thoughts on “Character Study: Dekarta”

  1. I like Dekarta too; he was a much more interesting villain than the others.

    I don’t think it makes much sense to have atheists in a world where the gods are actually walking around, being visible and doing godlike stuff. It’s kind of like refusing to believe the Earth is round in an age of telescopes and satellites.

    Maybe you have a few stubborn people who insist that all these stories of gods are made up (though even that’s kind of hard to sustain in a world where you’ve got, like, continents that no longer exist because of gods…), but I imagine most of them see a god sooner or later and then remaining an atheist is just delusional. Terry Pratchett has atheists in his Diskworld series, but it’s pretty clear that they aren’t really atheists, since the gods literally throw lightning bolts at them whenever they claim not to believe in them.

    I guess an atheist would have to be someone who believes that these powerful entities exist, but they aren’t really divine and they didn’t really create the universe, or something like that.

  2. You might not have atheists in our sense of the term, but I could very easily see a disgruntled/disillusioned Arameri who, after Yeine’s ascention, discounted the divinity of the gods (since, after all, if a human can become one, are they really more than just very powerful beings?). It wouldn’t even be hard for that idea to spread among anyone with a grudge against the Arameri, given that the gods have been the Arameri’s weapons for such a very long time.

    Likewise, I can see some people forming a general apathy toward the gods — sure, they’re real, but the common people are about as likely to actually see them as the average American is to see Mwai Kibaki (the president of Kenya), and might start to consider them to be about as relevant to their everyday lives if they were less inclined to attribute random chance to the will of the gods.

  3. Dekarta was interesting, but since the first vision Yeine had, Nahadoth became my favorite character.

    Like these guys said, though, atheists sort of have no place in this world since gods are proven to exist and are/were enslaved by the Arameri. Unless you wanted to set the book in a place that is so backwards and isolated from the rest of the world that the concept of gods being more than myth is impossible, I don’t know if atheists would fit here.

  4. I have to say that always found cold, ruthless, duty-boubnd and efficient politicians interesting and Dekarta is no exception. However, his successor dispositions have a distinct feel of “after me, the flood” and just don’t make sense to me. Both Scimina and Relad were clearly unstable and it is unclear to me why he would even suspect Yeine of killing Kinneth.
    I mean, there were zero indications that Yeine had any shot at Arameri inheritance, prior to the summons, so why should she kill her mother over it?
    And why does he pize unbridled murderousness so much? I mean, a ruler has to be ready to kill, yes, but not be too trigger-happy either, if stability of their autocratic rule is the goal.
    And again, for such a ruthless, duty-bound fellow, didn’t he give up on Kinneth a bit too easily? Particularly since her having a daughter and a husband, whom she loved, offered him excellent levers with her.

  5. Hi Isilel,

    I think you’re laboring under a key misconception here: the Arameri have no interest in being good rulers. It simply doesn’t matter whether they’re competent or not, whether they’re murderous or not, even whether they’re 100% sane or not. They have absolute power. That’s what absolute power means — short of losing their source of power (the Enefadeh), they literally fear nothing. You saw in chapter 5 of 100K what happens when an incompetent Arameri takes over; even though there was a rebellion against him, he still handily defeated it (and destroyed a continent, but that actually helped to cement Arameri rule — by Yeine’s time, no one would even think of rebelling, for fear of a similar catastrophe). He was incompetent not because he destroyed a continent — that’s not even the worst the Arameri have done — but because he lost control of the Enefadeh. So the ideal Arameri heir is simply someone who won’t do that.

    Granted, Dekarta is a devout Itempan, so he actually believes in the Bright (the philosophical/religious principles of the Order of Itempas), and tries to make sure the Arameri serve this goal. But that’s just his personal preference. In reality? The only reason the Arameri exist is to be essentially human batteries, each one wielding the Stone of Earth’s power for a moment (then dying) in case Itempas ever needs it. Which is why being able to kill is pretty much a basic job requirement for an Arameri heir.

    Neither Relad nor Scimina are unstable. Relad’s a drunk, but he can control himself, as he does when the chips are down. Scimina’s basically a sadist, but that’s not exactly a problem for an Arameri. If her tastes didn’t run to hurting people she’d enslaved or coerced, it wouldn’t even be a character flaw.

    And Dekarta doesn’t prize unbridled murderousness. He prizes the willingness to murder for a purpose, as he does, and as Kinneth was willing to do. He believed Yeine had this willingness because, as he said, it’s a family tradition, and he didn’t kill her, so who else could it have been? Most people in Darr (and elsewhere) would’ve been terrified of harming Kinneth, for fear of Dekarta’s vengeance. Dekarta knows this — and he figures that if someone kills an Arameri, the culprit is probably the nearest other Arameri. In Darr, that would be Yeine.

    And remember that if Dekarta had tried to keep Kinneth in the family, it would’ve required her to kill either her husband or her child. Since they’re the reason she left in the first place — he knew she wouldn’t have been willing to do either — he could have forced her to do it, or had them killed in order to remove her resistance. But a) he did love her, and he wasn’t a sadist, and b) an unwilling heir is potentially more dangerous than an incompetent one. An unwilling heir with nothing to lose is even worse.

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