(urth) The Piteous Gate

Roy C. Lackey rclackey at stic.net
Fri Feb 24 00:49:54 PST 2006

I agree with what Aquastor said, and Crush had earlier implied much the
same. Book one ended with a cliff-hanger. Readers expected to find out what
happened in the next installment -- but it didn't happen. I know that Robert
Borski, for one, was particularly put out with the lack of an explanation in
the other books.

Crush also noted, "But Dorcas *says* that they are turning around because
they are frightened." That serves to make a point about the timing of the
events at the Gate. When Sev and his group first caught sight of the Gate
and the travelers, they were still half a league away from it. Traffic was
moving in a steady stream into the tunnel formed by the Gate. By the time
Sev's group reached the Gate, the stream had been flowing for some time
without any problems. Clearly, had the five uhlans been positioned on the
road outside the Gate all morning, they hadn't been causing any difficulties
for the travelers, who took whatever paths they normally took.

If we assume that the uhlans made a *sudden* appearance and started killing
people on the road, causing the panic in question, then we have to account
for a sudden appearance. So far as I can tell, that portion of road nearest
the gate was straight. I don't think it reasonable that five mounted men
could have come down that road so rapidly that any travelers who might have
been on the road couldn't see and hear them coming in time to get off the
road, particularly given the fact the travelers had every reason to be on
the lookout for the troopers. It might be argued that the uhlans were hiding
in the woods, just waiting to ambush the foolhardy. If that were the case,
why didn't they act sooner, before Sev's group ever got to the Gate?

No, something happened inside the long tunnel through the wall that was so
frightening and immediate a threat as to cause the travelers to panic trying
to get away from it. They fled to the closest exit, some, like the man on
the wagon who struck Dorcas, back to the city-side of the tunnel, those
nearer the outside of the gate fled in a panic from whatever danger there
was behind them. Some of them leapt from the frying pan into the fire, so to
speak, and ran onto the road and were killed by the soldiers.

In Severian's dream at the opening of CLAW, the travelers are screaming and
shouting, then he gains the farther side of the gate and sees the green road
with five mounted soldiers on it. "On these riders, the tide of travelers
broke as a wave on a rock, some turning left, some right. Dorcas was torn
from my arms ..." This was *after* the panic inside the tunnel, when people
were still running in a chaotic stream, that he got separated from Dorcas
and the others. The panic was not caused by the uhlans, who were outside the
gate, blocking access to the road. Sev and his group went forward in the
tunnel *towards* the uhlans, not away from them and back to the city.


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