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Reading from pages 62-66 of Shadow & Claw

The House Azure

In the ornately superficial brothel Severian experiences the entire process of adolescence in a single encounter, the awakening of passion for the opposite, the disappointment of intimacy and the categorization of what was once wonderfully unattainable as drained of gravity, pallid and worn.

The pimp of the brothel seems to be a genetically engineered eunuch, a man’s whose uncomplicated smile of friendship and his ageless though mature face featuring not a line, unsettles Severian.

The House Azure traffics in the fantasy that its whores are the Chatelaines of the House Absolute, brought in by sleigh in the young night to dispense their charms among slightly more than common men. Severian realizes that he is being treated to a tryst with a poor, used local girl, fitted in cheapest costume in a room nearly filled with a large bed. He admits that the sham aspect of the encounter had more meaning than much of his mundane reality. There comes a scene in which she senses he wishes to hurt her and bluffs that a gang of men await to punish him for any transgression against her tenuous claim to her own person and they come to a resolution. And from his least likely teacher—for Severian’s journey is a tale of one ascendant soul’s education by the damned—truth is learned. Like most women, her very lack of power, has armed her with a keen instinct for qualifying that which they lack:

“Weak people believe what is forced on them. Strong people believe what they wish to believe, forcing that to be real. What is the Autarch but a man who believes himself Autarch and makes others believe by the strength of it.”

The author imbued his protagonist with a youth that passed in a night, marking manhood as a single step from boyhood.

Diction of note

-caryatids, a style of ancient portico column


-thurible, a suspended heating and/or lighting device

-theocenter, a cultic concept of divine unifying consciousness

Easy Chair and Other Stories: Humorous Reader Generated Fiction

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