Don’t make me get between you two!
Well, after all that bloodshed and death, I think that we needed a break just as much as our two broken and defeated heroes did. We basically begin, where we left off, with Arslan and Daryun arriving at the house of a friend after having escaped from the bloody battlefield. It is a dark day for Pars, and things are not looking good right now, the two are on the run from the Lusitanians that are quickly overrunning and invading the land and the prince and captain have to find refuge. Arslan has become overwhelmed by what he has seen and gone through, but also worry over the days ahead are weighing harshly on his mind. He has never been ignorant of his future duty as next in line to the throne to become leader of Pars, he knows what this kind of invasion can mean for his country and people. The status of the capital and his mother and father is unknown, and he knows in the very back of his mind that if anything has actually happened to his father, that he is effectively now the king and sole leader of Pars, and that everything is now resting on his shoulders. That’s a lot for a sheltered 14 year-old to take in one day, especially after everything he’s seen and experienced on that battlefield that would make even more seasoned fighters hurl.
However, thankfully as of right now, Arslan has a strong shoulder to lean on for support in Daryun, a warrior known far and wide to be without peer, and one who has proven his devotion and loyalty time and time again. However, while having an amazing warrior on your side is a great asset, in the end that warrior is nothing but a tool, a living weapon that a ruler can use against his foes. You need to have someone that can also guide that tool, tell it where to go and what to do in order to win the battle. King Andragoras had hundreds of thousands of “living weapons” at his disposal, but not one loyal planner or architect (that he would listen to) to guide him in how to utilize them. Thankfully, his son is not about to make that same mistake.
And thus we meet two new characters in our ever growing supporting cast: Narsus and Elam. While Elam will probably be a more important character later, and his dry wit and experiences as a former slave will probably be influential as the series progresses, it’s Narsus that both I and the episode want to concentrate on. Narsus has actually been mentioned or alluded to in all three of the episodes previous. We finally get his official introduction here, and it doesn’t take long for us to see that this will be quite an important character as the story plays out.
A noble by birth and raised in the ways of Pars upper class, Narsus is quite the Renaissance man. He is an expert scholar, knowledgeable in all things from literature, to science, to history, to astronomy. He is an expert swordsman and a silver-tongued politician. Also happening to possess allure, grace, wealth, and a gallant character, indeed, his only flaw according to his best friend, is that he’s quite inept at art for whatever reason (but don’t tell him that, or he will argue it to the grave).
However, of all those talents and gifts, it is his skills in strategy and tactics that are the most widely known, and they are the ones that Arslan needs. The problem is, how exactly is he going to get Narsus to agree to help him?
Time for backstory! Despite being a polymath and genius, or maybe because of it, Narsus is a man quite ahead of his time in many things, and his ideals, such as his distinct dislike of slavery and his belief that brains is more important than brawn, don’t go over very well with present day Pars, and especially King Andragoras. It wasn’t always so, as on his very first day to court, Narsus proves himself to the king in quite a wily scheme that tears apart three invading nations from the inside. Narsus eventually becomes court secretary for a couple of years, before his good favor eventually runs out. Eventually Narsus’ outspoken ideas on politics and slavery draw the king’s mercurial temper and the nobleman was banished from the court and stripped of his land, title, and holdings.
Now living as hermit in the mountains, you can tell that Narsus has basically lost patience with the world and decided that a tactical retreat was in order. The loss of money and position doesn’t really faze him, but he’s tired of a world that doesn’t understand, and therefore is quite fine with living alone in peace, surrounded by his “art”. But destiny has a way of delivering just the right kick, to throw you back into the mix you thought you wanted no part of again. This comes in the form of a war that is about to touch every part and corner of Pars in big way…and from the actions of the man’s best friend, Daryun.
One thing I really liked in this episode was that you can plainly see the deep friendship the cavalry captain and the world-weary strategist have for each other. From the moment they reunite, even though it’s been years, the two are at complete ease with each other, passing quips and barbs back and forth between each other, and getting on each other’s cases with utter comfortability and familiarity. And it is because of this friendship and the concern that comes with it, that Daryun can’t stand to see Narsus waste all of his many talents hiding from the world in the woods. He even knows that the man will have none of what he’s trying to say, and so hedges his bets by purposefully drawing Kharlan’s men to his trail and thus Narsus’ house. Though, while this does give the man a chance to show that his ingenuity, intelligence, and sharp tongue haven’t dulled at all in his years in isolation, it doesn’t move him at all into deciding to come out of retirement.
And this is where our young prince comes in. Arslan has been interested in meeting Narsus since he was 11, and he’s not disappointed in the man that goes with the name. He recognizes quite quickly that Narsus possesses something that he lacks, and that he will need such a man at his side if he is to take up the fight to get his country back. He recognizes his father’s own failings and does not wish to repeat them. Much more open to and actually desiring advice and guidance, Arslan asks rather than commands for the man’s help. And in the end, he ends up offering the man an offer he never expected, and couldn’t possibly refuse.
I’ve heard many comment that they thought that actually Arslan would offer to end slavery in exchange for Narsus’ help, and I have no doubt that the man had been expecting such an answer after the obvious non-options had been dealt with. However, such a deal would have been a double-edged sword, and one that Narsus would have probably turned down. Arslan has a small bit of growth this episode as he is faced again with the issue of slavery. But it’s actually rather refreshing that he doesn’t all of a sudden decide that slavery is actually bad. It’s much more believable that he’s still undecided about the issue considering his upbringing and culture. Arslan needs to make such a conclusion and decision for himself. For him to offer it now as a bargaining chip would ring hollow, and not something that he truly believed in and really desired. Also, if you’re going to compensate someone for the use of their talents, you probably want it to be important to them personally and not simply for their ideals.
And thus, this episode also shows Arslan’s uncanny ability to observe and analyze. During this short stay, he’s been able to get an idea of Narsus’ character. Despite already knowing the man’s background from multiple sources, he feigns ignorance and asks for Narsus to tell him the story from his own point of view. He also took note of the things that were said and the importance of them. During his time in the man’s home, he has heard Narsus comment on three things he’s been offered as a reward for his services: gold (from his father), power, and status (from Kharlan). However, none of those things seemed to put even a trace of excitement into the man’s voice; instead, he listed them off as if they were nothing.
However, the one thing Arslan noticed, the one thing that Narsus has spoken of with passion since the moment he arrived, is his love of art. No matter how bad his paintings may be, he defends them with fervor, and it causes such animation and happiness about him that no other subject will. If you hope to convince someone to join you, it helps to know what it really is that they desire. For some, money is enough for them, but for others, it means nothing. Arslan realized what Narsus’ true passion was and acted on it.
There’s a difference between what you are good at, and your passion. Many times they can be the same thing, but sometimes not. Narsus is an excellent strategist and tactician, but what did he spend his days doing while he was alone? Painting. Analyzing situations, forming strategies and making up tactics are Narsus’ talents, art is his passion. One is something he’s good at doing and does well, but the other is something that makes him happy.
Ya know? unlike you, he gets me.
I for one, am glad we didn’t see Narsus’ supposedly horrible paintings. Art is one subject that is pretty much totally subjective. How bad or good it is, is based on the opinion of the beholder. What one would think of as “great”, another could deem as “horrible”. Here, they only allude to how horrible his art is based on everyone else’s reactions, but they don’t show it. Allowing us as the audience to be able to imagine our own brand of horribleness for ourselves. So, Arslan has now added two more allies as he tries to make his way back to the capital. He’s gotten a chance to take a catch his breath and get some rest, and he’s going to need all the fortitude he can muster in the days ahead as things are changing in Pars…and not for the better.
What have I gotten myself into?