Chapter Six – Permission
Adrina looks out the window down into the castle courtyard. She’s waiting for Emel to get back with news from the Ridemaster. Emel’s late, at least according to what he told her when they parted. I’m not sure why they parted. After all, the last time we saw her, Adrina wanted to go with Emel right then and there. I think that was the point to saying “My horse is already saddled” (page 77). If it wasn’t, then it means she saddled a horse a full day before she knew there was any chance of her leaving, which makes her an idiot.
She hears the sound of a trumpet, and recognizes it as the call to arms. She turns white. Someone’s in trouble, and Emel’s out there with a bunch of half-trained guards. She mutters a prayer:
“Please Great-Father not Emel. He may be brash at times, but he is brave and true as any. The truth is, I would miss him dearly.” (page 99).
Ah, honesty. You can just see the deep friendship between the two of them. Let me paraphrase this, to pull out the meaning:
Please God, not Emel. He’s a jerk sometimes, but he’s kind of a decent, average person. The truth is, if he died I’d miss him.
Adrina worries for a bit and then goes to sleep. She wakes up to the attendant rebuilding her fire. The attendant apologizes for letting the fire go out, but she didn’t want to disturb her. So…we have an attendant whose job is to make sure the Princess doesn’t freeze to death, and she lets the fire go out because she doesn’t want to wake the Princess. Then after awhile she arbitrarily decides to rebuild the fire, which wakes the Princess anyway. So the point of all this was…to take up a half-page of space, I’m guessing.
A bit later there’s a knock at the door. It’s Emel. She almost runs to give him a hug, but Lady Isador’s warning about remembering her station stops her. So she doesn’t hug her best friend who she was afraid was going to die because of a warning from someone she dislikes and whose advice she ignores at every opportunity? Yeah. That makes sense.
I do wonder why Emel can waltz right into the princess’ bedchamber. It was usually for reasons like this that princesses had bedmates. And ladies-in-waiting. Yes, Emel is a palace guard, but still.
Noticing how handsome Emel looked in the pale light, Adrina stared – here before her was twice the man the son of Klaive was (page 101).
This is what Stanek thinks is subtle foreshadowing. It’s also funny, because every time Emel is pictured he looks like a twelve-year-old boy. Stanek isn’t very good at depicting age. Which is probably why Adrina alternates between looking twelve and eighteen.
Emel explains they were out riding and a lowland cat popped out. I’ll assume that’s a cougar-like creature. The Ridemaster was flung from his horse and broke his leg and most of the recruits scattered like the untrained wusses that they are. Later, they found the trumpeter who totally freaked out and was standing waving his sword around blowing calls to arms on his trumpet. Wow, these people really are incompetent. Anyway, despite the Ridemaster’s accident, the journey to Alderan is still on, it’s leaving tomorrow, and Emel’s father, Captain Brodst, is leading. Emel feels the need to point out that Captain Brodst is his father. Adrina knows who Captain Brodst is. Really, Stanek? You couldn’t find a more subtle way of reminding the reader of their relationship?
Emel leaves. Afterwards Adrina can’t sleep, because she’s thinking of a way to go along. She’s talking to herself and Lady Isador shows up. Adrina says that it feels like the world is passing her by. So Isador has some helpful advice.
“You’re talking about the departure today aren’t you.” (page 104).
It’s a question, Stanek. You denote a question by putting a question mark at the end of the sentence. See?
Isador talks about wanting to leave herself, when she was young and foolish:
“You see, home is the place you try so very hard to get away from only to miss dearly when you are gone” (page 104).
Speaking as someone who spent most of his last two years at home wishing he could leave, and also as someone who has lived away from home for several years without missing it at all, I never want to live there again. Just saying.
She asks Adrina if she’s just asked her father. I don’t know why, because Adrina didn’t tell her that she wanted to leave with the company that’s leaving, and Isador doesn’t seem to be the kind of person who understands Adrina all that well. I also don’t understand why Isador is encouraging Adrina to rebel and go off and see the world when she’s supposed to be teaching her how to be a proper princess. Eventually the topic comes around to Adrina’s betrothal:
“…the Barony of Klaive is not far removed from Alderan City.”
Adrina winced. “I do not want my life decided for me like father tried to decide Midori’s.”
“Your sister’s betrothal to King Jarom was purely a matter of state and for the good of Great Kingdom,” Isador said with a stern tone (page 105).
Hopefully you’ll remember this because it’s pretty much the only reference to the fact that Midori was betrothed to King Jarom. It’ll become important to the plot later, so Stanek throws it in as a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it reference like most important information in this series.
They talk for a little while longer and then we jump cut to Adrina in front of her father, asking permission to go.
Captain Brodst advises against it, but Father Jacob says they should let her come. Finally the king gets up and starts talking about the queen’s death and how it grieves him every day.
“Each day I also see this pain mirrored in your eyes” (page 106).
I have many problems with this line.
First: Adrina has thought of her mother exactly once, and it was to be mad at her mother for leaving her. She hasn’t thought of her mother since then. It doesn’t affect her day-to-day life, it doesn’t influence her decisions, and it certainly isn’t her driving reason to want to leave the castle. Maybe Stanek intended it to be, but there has been no evidence of this, and we’ve spent an awful lot of time inside Adrina’s head.
Second: Why does the king think that letting his daughter go off on a dangerous journey will solve the pain that she feels over her mother dying (which he clearly does)? Yes, you’re letting your daughter do something she wants to do, but how are these things related?
Third: It’s been three years since the queen bit the dust. You’re telling me that King Andrew has been looking into his daughter’s eyes and seeing pain every single day for three years and only now is he getting around to doing something about it?
Andrew says that he understands she’s going to visit Klaive when she turns. Or possibly on the return journey. I don’t know how he knows this since it hasn’t be brought up. But he’s pleased because Klaive’s son is the chap they want Adrina to marry.
“When you announce your betrothal to him you will have made a wise choice, my daughter” (page 106).
I was under the impression that princesses really didn’t have a choice over who they were betrothed to. That’s kinda the point. The father picks a politically beneficial marriage, and the kid has to deal with it. If Adrina has a choice in the matter, then it stands to reason she doesn’t have to choose, or can pick whoever she likes. Either way, this doesn’t make sense.
Adrina and Isador pack her things, and then she leaves. She thinks for a bit about how she’ll miss the city and the people in it, and off she goes. It’s very dramatic.
Chapter Seven – Meeting
Slowly, Vilmos’ senses return. I wasn’t aware they had gone.
When we’d last left him, he’d awoken from a horrible dream and crawled over into a corner. Now he’s in the same corner but he’s waking up again. From the dream that he already awoke from. He didn’t have another dream, Stanek is just writing his waking-up scene twice.
Vilmos looks over and sees Midori sitting next to the bed, with a look of understanding on her face. Apparently she’s been there for the entire time. Which means Vilmos woke up from his dream, got out of bed, crawled over to a corner, and lay there for awhile without realizing that Midori was sitting on a chair right next to the bed.
They talk. Midori says she knows that Vilmos wasn’t sleeping. She says she’s here to help him. Vilmos asks if she’s going to take him away, and she says that no, she’s not. She tells him that he’s Speshul, and gives him a healing stone that magics away the pain in his hand. And then…she takes him away. No seriously. She talks him into it, but she tells him that he needs to come. Vilmos has the feeling that if he goes, he’ll never return home again. In other words, she’s taking him away, right after saying that that’s not what she’s going to do.
Once they get outside the village, they hear drums, and so they start to run. I have no idea what the drums mean, but I’ll guess the priests are on their way.
Several times he tried to speak, though no words ever escaped his lips (page 112).
…why, exactly? Generally speaking, if you try to do something, you actually accomplish it unless something is preventing you. Nothing is preventing Vilmos from talking, so why isn’t he saying anything?
They walk for a long time. It gets dark. They climb up some hills and suddenly find themselves at the edge of the valley in Vilmos’ imagination. A voice says hello. Judging by the paragraph of descriptive text, I’m guessing this character is important. I’m also guessing Midori isn’t, seeing as how we haven’t had a single descriptive sentence about her.
His skin was the color of rough leather; the face deep set with wrinkles that covered its entirety was the best indicator of his great age; hair long and black with whispers of gray neither accented not subtracted from his appearance of age and wisdom (page 112).
Outside of The Eye of Argon, I have never read a sentence more hideously written than that one.
The guy introduces himself as Xith, a shaman, the last of the Watchers. Vilmos says there are no such things as Watchers, that’s only legend. For a kid who encounters the Dark Lord in his dreamworld, he’s remarkably close-minded. Of course, a second later he decides that he won’t be so quick to judge people so hastily. This isn’t really judging, but whatever.
Vilmos and Xith exchange some quotations from the Great Book that don’t really tell us anything, and Vilmos asks why he’s here. Xith says Vilmos already knows the answer.
“Huh? I do?” said Vilmos without thinking. He slapped a hand to his mouth and raised his eyebrows (page 114).
This never happens in real life.
Vilmos says that Xith was in his dream last night. Xith says he was. We don’t know which voice was Xith’s, but I’ll assume it wasn’t the Dark Lord. Xith tells Vilmos he’ll answer his questions tomorrow, conjures up a fire, and then uses his Voice (which is a little like Saruman’s voice) to order Vilmos to go to sleep. After Vilmos falls asleep Xith turns to Midori:
Xith’s silver eyes glowed with joy in the firelight. He was obviously pleased at how Midori had grown. The years had surely developed her (page 115).
…I really don’t know of a way to read that and not think that he’s pleased with how her breasts have turned out.
They exchange some pleasantries about how he hasn’t seen her since she was a child (reinforcing the above statement) and how she respects him the most out of all her mentors and how he’s very proud in her achievements. If they haven’t seen each other in a very long time, how does he know about her achievements?
“You have grown into a fine woman and have learned very well. I am proud of you,” said Xith matter-of-factly.
Midori’s lips rose in a knowing smile (page 115).
Pleased smile, Stanek. Not knowing. She is PLEASED.
Xith explains that he has to take Vilmos and journey to the secret city, for some reason. Midori needs to return to the council – whoever they are – and explain that Xith was wrong. Wrong about, what, I don’t know. I’m guessing that we never actually find out.
They talk about nothing for a little bit, then this:
“A great change is sweeping across the land. Great events are beginning to unfold.” (page 116)
This statement would probably have more impact if we knew what he was talking about. The only sign there has been of great change or great events has been a guard reporting that apparently there’s a squabble between a couple of kingdoms. And we also know that some Elves are being sent somewhere to do something. Sounds like just another day to me.
Xith gives Midori three scrolls and tells her to get the first to Master T’aver, whoever he is, the second is for her to open after she speaks to the council, and the second one will tell her when to open the last scroll. Midori takes the scrolls and leaves. Xith looks up.
Nestled among a few shining stars under an otherwise cloudy sky, a pale and somber gibbous moon shone down (page 117).
Generally speaking, the moon isn’t “nestled among” stars on the sky, because it’s difficult to see stars right around the moon because there’s too much light.
117 pages in and I still don’t know what’s going on.