Chapter Fourteen – Rest’s End
We’re back with Vilmos and Xith. Xith’s wounds are healing and they’ve arrived in South Province. Xith teaches Vilmos how to magically start a fire.
They find an inn out in the middle of nowhere and stop there to rest. I don’t really know why there’s an inn out in the middle of nowhere without a town or village in sight. And they don’t seem to be traveling along a road or anything. How is this inn staying in business?
Xith and Vilmos talk about nothing for a few pages the next day and settle down for another night. Later, Vilmos wakes up alone. He sits in bed and sets a candle on fire with magic and then blows it out. He keeps doing this, over and over again. You know, I distinctly recall being told that the repeated use of magic would attract the priests who kill magic-users.
After awhile Xith comes back. Vilmos hears him saying goodnight to the innkeeper, whose name is Misha, and then Xith tries to sneak inside the room, ostensibly because he thinks Vilmos is sleeping.
Vilmos was waiting, and Xith could only smile as a child caught in the act of doing something he knows he’s not supposed to be doing (page 194).
Except this metaphor doesn’t work at all, because Xith isn’t doing anything untoward. Xith can do whatever the fuck he wants. Why would he be embarrassed about going out to talk to the innkeeper?
The next morning they pack supplies into the innkeeper’s wagon which he’s lending to Xith and they take off.
Seth flounders in the water. Eventually he grabs something solid and hangs on. He can’t remember how he got in the water. One minute he was standing on the deck ready to fight and the next minute he was in the water. That seems a little unlikely unless their ship exploded, so I’ll assume that’s what happened.
He hears Brother Br’yan’s voice. Br’yan pulls him up onto some floating wreckage. They mentally converse about what happened, which isn’t interesting because neither of them seem to remember. Everything was a violent blur and then everyone went into the drink and they don’t know who lived and who died.
Suddenly Seth senses Galan. They paddle around until they find her, holding Everrelle’s head out of the water. Stanek doesn’t mention if they pull them out of the water, but I’m assuming that they do.
The next day Seth bandages wounds with strips of cloth from his robe. Then he swims around to various bits of debris floating in the water and is lucky enough to find a half-full water bag.
Days pass. Everyone is sick and delirious. Seth spends time in cleansing meditation, trying not to focus on questions like how King Mark and Sathar the Dark knew where to ambush them. The only convincing explanation is that there’s a traitor in their midst, which is probably something you would want to think about, considering it might still be a problem, but Seth doesn’t want to think about that. He’s a sharp one.
He and Galan mentally talk about what the land of Men is like. It’s not interesting. Seth says the Men will help them out once they realize what’s going on and that it’s in their own best interest.
After a few pages some creatures called krens attack the raft. There is tense moment that lasts half a page until the krens decide that it’s not worth it and swim away. Wow, that was exciting.
After awhile, Everrelle dies, and everyone goes back to sleep. I’m not exaggerating at all. Everyone sort’ve just shrugs and goes back to sleep.
Captain Brodst worries. If Adrina dies, King Andrew will probably have his head. Father Jacob’s working on her, trying to get her to regain consciousness:
Although a male, he knew the art of healing well and had attempted to work its miracles on her almost immediately (page 201).
This is the kind of thing that would make more sense if we knew that in this world, traditionally the doctors, nurses, healers, and what-have-you are nearly all female. This has never even been hinted at.
Father Jacob starts a special chant and incantation to the Great-Father. Up until this point, all normal remedies had failed, but suddenly Adrina regains consciousness and starts choking and spitting up water. When she’s done, she starts hugging Father Jacob and crying and saying she’s sorry. Sorry for what, exactly? After all, she hasn’t done anything wrong. Is it a crime to feel an evil spirit strangling you and then have your horse fall on you? I mean, it makes you a shitty rider, certainly, but that’s not really Adrina’s fault.
They get some blankets for Adrina while Father Jacob looks around. He senses evil.
The men grew uneasy. “We cannot just bed down here surely,” came a grumble from a mixture of voices (page 208).
Stanek could instantly win my undying respect if the next line was “We can. And don’t call me Shirley.” But instead it’s just another poorly phrased line in a poorly written book.
The company stands around while Adrina sits next to a small fire. All the wood is damp and the fire isn’t going to last long. It’s pretty obvious they can’t just stop here, and Adrina needs a warm bed and a fire, because she’s a princess, and a girl, and therefore Fragile. Of course, since everyone here seems very clear on the fact that they’re not going to spend in the night, and no one is even casually considering spending the night here, I’m not really certain why someone would be grumbling about it. Why grumble if no one is even considering it?
Captain Brodst gives Captain Adylton the command and tells him to get the soldiers to the castle. He then mounts up with a small group, holds Adrina in his arms, and they take off for Fraddylwicke Castle.
I’m not making that name up.
Stanek talks about how they’re in a race against time and the bone-chilling dampness, and how all of the soldiers would have willingly given their life for Adrina. And yet they let her gallop off into the forest by herself with only Emel. Right.
Captains Brodst and Trendmore talk. They’re worried about not arriving on time to Alderan. I’m not sure why it’s so important. Maybe if we knew what the fuck everyone is doing and why it mattered I would actually give a shit.
Father Jacob comes up to Brodst with some words of wisdom:
“Try not to jostle her so. I know you wish to move swiftly, but you must exercise caution. I do not know what bones she may have broken.”
“Thank you, Father Jacob, I will try to remember that.” (page 211)
Try to remember that? Please, Brodst, you can do better than that.
So on they go into the fog. Time passes. Suddenly they hit water. The path has been washed out.
“Bring up torches!” Captain Brodst cried out. “Hurry, you louts!” (page 212).
That Captain Brodst. Always knows how to inspire his men.
The captain points to a couple of men and orders them into the marsh to find the path. They go in, getting deeper and deeper into what sounds like quicksand, and getting more and more stuck. The horses start to panic. The men protest. Captain Brodst orders his men to continue. They go in further and get hopelessly stuck and then their torches go out. Captain Brodst points at two more men and orders them to go in and fetch the first two. This lasts for four. solid. pages. Stanek has a knack for writing about what readers care about: people wandering around in a swamp!
The second two soldiers pussy out very quickly, so once they get back, Brodst pulls out his sword and chops their lapels off. They are no longer members of the palace guard. Now, I’m all for firing your men for being wimps, but chopping their insignias off with your sword? Sounds a little dangerous, and further reinforcing my notion that Brodst is not a particularly intelligent man.
Brodst passes Adrina off, mounts up, and heads into the swamp with a rope to rectify his own mistake. After a couple of pages he manages to rescue the men from the swamp he ordered them into and finds a way around the mud-hole. And then suddenly a figure appears from the fog. There’s a dramatic confrontation, and then he asks the captain why he left ranks.
We’re now back with Seth the Elf. He has things on his mind:
Hot, it’s so hot…
Endless waiting played heavily on Seth’s faith. Yet he knew it was faith that he must maintain, for there was nothing else. Only Mother-Earth would carry them to safety or deliver them from life.
Ah, please…please…make the sun go away…make it end… (page 221).
Stanek, as we know, hasn’t mastered the art of showing rather than telling. If I (God forbid) was writing this book I’d probably start this sequence inside Seth’s mind, showing him struggling to maintain his faith against the doubting thoughts that are pointing out they’re floating aimlessly on a tiny raft in the middle of the ocean. Instead, we’re told that he’s having a minor crisis of faith while his actual thoughts are on how hot it is. Now, the heat is probably something that would actually be on his mind, but a crisis of faith carries a lot more character development than whining about the heat. Not to mention it’s a lot more interesting.
Seth opens up the last water bag, gives himself a taste, and then pours a little into the mouths of Br’yan and Galan. Over the rest of the day a single phrase echoes through his head – the last words of the Queen Mother:
Two must survive no matter the cost (page 222).
Now, here is another wonderful opportunity for character development. Personally, in that situation, with the Queen Mother’s words echoing in my head, I would be looking around the raft wondering who else is going to die. I mean, there’s not a lot of different ways to take this.
Later, Seth has a moment of clarity where he starts to wonder what went wrong. Was there a traitor? Could it be Br’yan or Galan? He immediately dismisses this as pure paranoia. None of the Brotherhood would ever betray Queen Mother. I mean, that Sathar chap did, but that doesn’t mean anything, right?
This should make Seth go back to wondering how they were sailing along on a secret mission and ran right into a trap of ships that were waiting for them. That would make me suspect a traitor, honestly. But instead he just dismisses it and goes back to sleep.
He enters a dream-world. Where apparently he can think and make decisions and talk to people. Sort of. He walks around a large palace in the past and looks around at all the Brothers of the Red, telling them that he’s chosen them all and to go down to the harbor to meet Sailmaster Cagan. The last one to leave is Galan. They share a Moment, where he learns that she’s still confused about their kiss.
Seth goes and talks to the Queen-Mother. They share some random dialogue about fate and Mother-Earth protecting them and finally – 225 pages into the book, we get the first random inkling of what the Elves are up to:
We will bring word to the Alder King and persuade him to join our cause (page 225).
The Alder King is Adrina’s father, in case you don’t remember. I wouldn’t be surprised if you didn’t. Of course, we don’t know what the word is, or what the Elves’ cause is or why they want Men to help them accomplish it, but it’s something, at least.
The Queen then prophecies a bit. It’s not overly interesting – fairly standard fantasy tripe about Seth needing to accept what he alone is fated to do. She mentions that two have to survive the journey, because only one will return to Elfland. That…doesn’t really make sense.
Seth wakes up. It’s dark. Time passes. Krens circle around the raft. More time passes. He gives Br’yan and Galan some more water.
Drink, drink, he said to Galan. The supply of water is almost spent, soon we will all be without its life giving essence… (page 228).
Have I mentioned that Stanek has no idea how to write dialogue?
More time passes. Galan and Br’yan wake up and they start talking about death. Galan’s afraid to die. Br’yan said that he died a long time ago. There’s a lot of dialogue where it’s not clear who’s saying what, Br’yan blames Seth for the fact that he’s dying, and then he grabs Seth’s throat and starts choking him. I actually kinda like Br’yan’s logic here. If Seth dies, then Br’yan’s one of the two, therefore he’s going to live. Plus, they can eat Seth’s body. But Seth fights and then Galan attacks Br’yan and they both fall into the sea. Seth screams, and then Br’yan pulls Galan under.
There’s an illustration here. As clearly as I can tell, it shows Galan strangling Seth while she kicks Br’yan in the jaw. Or Galan strangling Br’yan while she kicks Seth in the jaw. The only thing that is clear is that it’s Galan in the middle, because she very clearly has breasts, and it even looks like she’s nipping out a bit. I have no idea what it’s supposed to mean.
But Seth is alone now, and despair is ravaging his heart:
Despair ravaged his heart (page 232).
It’s very dramatic.