Cnaiür urs Skiötha is a Chieftain of the Utemot, a tribe of Scylvendi, who are feared across the Three Seas for their skill and ferocity in war. Because of the events surrounding the death of his father, Skiötha urs Hannut, some thirty years previously, Cnaiür is despised by his own people, though none dare challenge him because of his savage strength and his cunning in war.
Cnaiür is tall and powerfully built, with broad shoulders and a narrow waist. He has long black hair and intensely blue eyes. His forearms are covered in over two hundred swazond, more than any other warrior.
Cnaiür is an exceptionally accomplished Scylvendi warrior. He is over 45 years old. He owns eight wives, twenty-three slaves, and more than three hundred cattle. He has fathered thirty-seven sons, nineteen pure-blooded.
What Came Before
Thirty years prior to the events of The Darkness That Comes Before, when Cnaiür was little more than a stripling, a man called Anasûrimbor Moënghus had been captured, and given to Cnaiür’s father, Skiötha urs Hannut, as a slave. He claimed to be Dûnyain, a people possessed of an extraordinary wisdom, and Cnaiür spent many hours with him, speaking of things forbidden to Scylvendi warriors.
At one point Moënghus, the slave, challenges Skiötha and with Cnaiür as his ally they force Skiötha’s hand. In the end, Moënghus is free and Skiötha is dead.
Cnaiür has been tormented by this ever since. Though he once loved the man, he now hates him with a deranged intensity. If only he could kill Moënghus, he believes, his heart could be made whole.
The Darkness That Comes Before
Word arrives that Ikurei Conphas has invaded the Jiünati Steppe, and Cnaiür rides with the Utemot to join the Scylvendi horde on the distant Imperial frontier. Cnaiür senses a trap, but his warnings go unheeded by Xunnurit. The horde is destroyed but Cnaiür escapes and returns to the pastures of the Utemot more anguished than ever.
He rides to the graves of his ancestors, where he finds the grievously wounded Anasûrimbor Kellhus surrounded by circles of dead Sranc. Realizing the stranger could help him find Anasûrimbor Moënghus, Cnaiür takes him captive and later agrees to accompany him on his quest. The two strike out across the Steppe.
Near the Imperial frontier they encounter a party of hostile Scylvendi raiders. A battle ensues and in its aftermath they find a captive concubine called Serwë. Cnaiür takes her as his prize. Through her he realizes that the only possible way they can reach Shimeh is to join the Holy War, which according to Serwë, gathers about the city of Momemn in the heart of the Nansur Empire—the one place he cannot go.
Cnaiür is convinced Kellhus will kill him. He confronts Kellhus, who claims he has use of him still. The two men battle on the mountainous heights but Kellhus easily overpowers him. To prove his intent to keep their bargain, he spares Cnaiür’s life.
After a desperate journey and pursuit through the heart of the Empire, they at last find their way to Momemn and the Holy War, where they are taken before the Conriyan Prince Nersei Proyas. Cnaiür claims to be the last of the Utemot, travelling with Anasûrimbor Kellhus, a Prince of the northern city of Atrithau, who has dreamt of the Holy War from afar. Proyas, however, is far more interested in Cnaiür’s knowledge of the Fanim and their way of battle.
Proyas takes Cnaiür and Kellhus to a meeting of the Holy War’s leaders and the Emperor, where the fate of the Holy War is to be decided. The Emperor offers his brilliant nephew, Ikurei Conphas, flush from his spectacular victory over the Scylvendi at Kiyuth, but only if the leaders of the Holy War pledge to surrender their future conquests. Proyas offers Cnaiür in Conphas’s stead. A vicious war of words ensues as Cnaiür spars with the Imperial nephew, but neither side gains an advantage. Kellhus finally manages to sway the crowd to side with Cnaiur. The Shriah’s representative orders the Emperor to provision the Men of the Tusk. The Holy War will march.
In a mere matter of days, Cnaiür has gone from a fugitive to a leader of the greatest host ever assembled in the Three Seas.
As the Holy War marches deeper into Fanim territory, Cnaiür tries to teach Prince Proyas the rudiments of war as practised by the Kianene. Assigned by Proyas to command a cohort of Conriyan outriders, he returns to the camp he shares with Anasûrimbor Kellhus, Drusas Achamian, and the others. He knows that Kellhus now possesses Serwë’s body and soul and decides he can tolerate no more. He refuses to share Kellhus’s fire, and demands that Serwë come with him. Kellhus denies him and Cnaiür relinquishes her, though she continues to tyrannize his thoughts. His madness burns brighter. Some nights he roams the countryside, raping and murdering indiscriminately.
After the Holy War seizes the north bank of the River Sempis, the Lords of the Holy War assign Cnaiür the task of planning the assault on southern Shigek and acclaim him their general for the impending battle. Kellhus comes to him, offering Serwë in exchange for the secrets of battle. Though cinflicted, Cnaiür agrees. He teaches Kellhus the principles of war.
Something breaks within Cnaiür. He leaves Kellhus and the others, abandons his command to collect his prize. But when he finds Serwë, another Kellhus is beating her, demanding information, a skin-spy. He stabs him in the shoulder. The man flees, but not before Cnaiür glimpses his face crack open … Cnaiür seizes Serwë, begins dragging her to his camp. She rages at him, tells him that he beats her because she lies with Kellhus the way he had lain with Kellhus’s father. She tries to cut her own throat. Bewildered and undone, Cnaiür wanders aimlessly through the camp.
Later that night Kellhus finds him at the edge of the Meneanor. Thinking he is Moënghus, Cnaiür begs him to end his misery. The Dûnyain refuses.
Thinking the Holy War doomed, Cnaiür decides to take what compensation he can. He names Kellhus a “prince of nothing.” Only when Serwë is murdered by Cutias Sarcellus does he realize the consequences of his betrayal. Cnaiür flees, and in a moment of resurgent madness cuts a swazond across his own throat.
When Achamian confronts the Lords of the Holy War with the severed head of a Consult skin-spy, he finally grasps their meaning. He follows Sarcellus, who hastens from the assembly to the temple-complex where his brothers Shrial Knights guards Kellhus upon the Circumfix. Knowing he intends to kill the Dûnyain, Cnaiür intercepts him, and they duel before the starving masses gathered about the dying Warrior-Prophet. But the skin-spy is too fast, too skilled. Cnaiür is saved only when Incheiri Gotian demands to know how Sarcellus learned to fight so. Exhausted, bloodied, Cnaiür beheads the counterfeit Shrial Knight. Raising its severed head to the sky, he shows the Holy War the true face of the Warrior-Prophet’s adversary. The hunt for Moënghus need not end.
The Thousandfold Thought
- The Darkness That Comes Before, Chapter 6