Time for my second favorite chapter! (The first, if you recall, was the one where Raoden led Karata to the king's palace.)
There are so many things going on in this chapter that I don't quite know where to start. I guess I'll begin with the Mysteries. I drew part of this religion, including the name, from the mystery cults of ancient Greece. I added the ritual sacrifices to give them a bit of zing. You'll get a little bit more of an explanation of the Mysteries, and why someone might decide to join one, in a later Sarene chapter.
As I've noted before, religion–especially its dark side–is a theme in this book. I don't think I could have covered this subject well in the book without including a look at cult mentality. Now, I'll admit that "cult" is a word we bandy about too frequently in religious discussions. It has been noted that Christianity started out as a kind of cult, and it seems that many consider any unorthodox religion to be a "cult."
To me, however, a cult is something that twists who you are, changing you into a shadow of what you used to be. I firmly believe that you can judge a religion by the effects it produces in its practitioners. Does it make them better people? If so, then there's a good chance that the religion is worth something. Does it turn them into people who sacrifice their own servants in an effort to make evil spirits come and kill their daughters-in-law? If so, well. . .you might want to stay away from that one.
Anyway, the Mysteries were–in my mind–a natural outgrowth of the Mystical Jesker religion. Like Galladon is always saying, they're NOT the same religion. The Mysteries are a perversion and simplification of Jesker teachings. Jesker looks to the Dor–the power behind all things–and tries to understand it. The Mysteries treat the Dor like some kind of force to be manipulated. (Which actually, is what AonDor does. . . .)