Character Appreciation Post: Ista and The Bastard
In The Curse of Chalion, Ista was the god-touched mother of the young Royina, who had spent much of her years trapped within the madness of sainthood. Though others wrote her mind-fogged babbling off as unfortunate insanity, Cazeril, the main protagonist, recognized that there was something more in her perceptions. Freed from the curse and from sainthood, though not from the guilt of her sins, Ista escaped the confines of royalty under the guise of a religious pilgrimage . The irony is that Ista hates the Five Gods. But the Bastard–son of the Mother and an en-souled demon lord– doesn’t care.
But who are they?
Not often do we get to read about older female protagonists. Ones who have already learned from experience, and perhaps grown bitter because of it. She is unapologetic in thought and spoken word, but in spite–or perhaps because of–her privilege as royalty, Ista gives respect to all who deserve it, no matter their societal status. Ista’s bitterness is not without justification because the Gods of Chalion use their saints hard. The more Ista curses the Gods in her stubbornness, the more the Bastard seems to enjoy it, toying with her dreams as he nudges her along her path.
The Gods of Chalion initially seemed to be just figureheads, as usual, with the Bastard as the typical dark trickster. As the first story progresses, the Gods’ hand in events becomes more and more evident. When Ista’s turn comes, the Bastard’s hand–and his mouth and tongue–is never far behind, especially since one of her companions on her pilgrimage, is a priest of the Bastard.
My interest was piqued the moment the priest began his story of the Paladin of Souls, a demon set to corrupt the soul of a good man, until that man willingly offers his soul, thus corrupting the demon and putting it on the Mother’s path as a warrior against the very thing he once was. From a union between the Paladin and the Mother, the Bastard was born, and to him go all the souls who have no other place in the heavens. The Bastard is not merely a dark god who condemns souls to darkness, but a god who protects them from it.
And when Ista finally relents to his command, they become a formidable force.
“Instructing you, sweet Ista, would be like teaching a falcon to walk up to its prey. It might with great effort be done, but one would end with a very footsore and cranky bird, and a tedious wait for dinner. With a wingspan like yours, it’s ever so much easier just to shake you from my wrist and let you fly.” “Plummet,” Ista growled. “No. Not you. Granted, you tumble and complain halfway down the abyss, but eventually you do spread your wings and soar.” “Not always.” Her voice went lower. “Not the first time.” He tilted his head in a sliver of acknowledgment. “But I was not your falconer then. We do suit, you know.”