Chapter Twenty-Two – Alderan
Vilmos stepped protectively across Xith’s prone form and waited for the assailant to make his next move. He was angry and magic raged unchecked through him.
“We are friends, not enemies,” Vilmos said. “I don’t want to have to kill you.” (page 283)
Vilmos sounds remarkably calm. Someone just stabbed his master, the one person on this side of the world that he knows. You’d expect him to be throwing fireballs, or at least trying to. When did Vilmos get diplomatic?
Vilmos and Emel exchange a few minor threats before Xith intervenes and uses the Voice to try and calm people down. He tells Vilmos to bring him his bag of rocks. Xith makes everyone gather round. I’m not really sure why. And a series of random, disjointed things happen, which is fairly typical in Stanek’s writing:
- Xith mentions that their friend there has had a difficult trial, and he shouldn’t have tried to connect to his mind without blocking the feelings. The friend he’s referring to is the corpse on the beach, who happens to be alive, and who happens to be Seth. So Adrina and Emel mistook a pointy-eared, long-haired Elf for Prince William, and they also mistook a live body for a dead one. My god, they are stupid.
- This also means that when we last left Seth and Galan they were floating in the middle of the ocean and now Seth’s body has washed up on the shore. Hooray for off-screen action!
- Vilmos gets lost in Adrina’s big brown eyes. Romance?
- Xith mentions that they were all drawn to the same place for a reason, because they have a part to play and nonsense like that. I hate Destiny.
Then there’s this exchange:
“How do we know we can trust you?” Emel asked.
“Emel Brodstson, even the lady of the night knew the way of your heart.”
Emel’s face flushed red (page 284).
Emel’s original question makes perfect sense, even though he should have asked it half a page ago. Xith’s reply doesn’t. The only person the ‘lady of the night’ could be referring to is the woman who Adrina and Emel met in the forest. I’m guessing Xith is in cahoots with her, which is how he knows they’ve met, but during that scene the lady in the night doesn’t give any indication that she knows the way of Emel’s heart. And setting all that aside, it’s pretty obvious Emel has the hots for Adrina and that’s the way of his heart. How is this remotely related to whether they can trust Xith?
Editors: this is why they exist.
Xith says Seth was ambushed and only two have survived. If that’s true, where is Galan?
Suddenly Father Jacob walks up and greets Xith. It’s been twelve years since they saw each other. They joke around a little bit and Adrina asks Father Jacob if he knows Xith. Uh….it’s pretty fucking obvious he knows Xith. A better question would be how he knows Xith.
“Of course I know the…” (page 286).
That’s as far as Jacob gets before Xith shuts him up. Apparently Xith is hiding some deep dark secret about his identity. Color me shocked.
“Do you wish to inquire about my lineage now?” asked Xith of Emel who still had his sword drawn, “Or do you wish to know of the fall of Alderan?”
Princess Adrina’s eyes went wide. She turned to Emel and glared at him. “Fall?” she asked.
Father Jacob waved Emel’s weapon away. Emel sheathed the sword then said, “All is well in Alderan.”
“All appears to be well in Alderan, because that is what was meant. Do we argue now, or do we ride for Alderan?”
“Yes, we ride!”
“To Alderan,” whispered Adrina (page 286).
It’s very dramatic. I take it Xith’s question about whether Emel wanted to know about the fall of Alderan wasn’t really intended as an actual question.
We jump forward. They’re in the foothills outside of Alderan and holding a powwow. Xith begins to provide exposition.
- King Jarom is the ruler of the four kingdoms in the south in everything but name.
- He has spies and men loyal to his cause everywhere
- King Charles was the only one brave enough to stand up to him, and of course Charles is now dead
- If Jarom can kill Adrina’s brother, Prince Valam, he’ll be able to take over the entire south
- Using his deceptive powers, Jarom has lured the garrison out of Quashan’. Because of this, as soon as he finishes killing Prince Valam, he’ll take Quashan’, and then everyone will be totally fucked.
- Alderan has been captured, probably without a fight
Xith says “This is what we’ll do…” and trails off so we don’t get to read it.
We cut forward. They’re waiting in the forest outside of Alderan and have been waiting for a few hours. Adrina feels nervous.
She glanced to the strange wise man that had told her to stop calling him Watcher. “My name is Xith,” he had told her (page 288).
Adrina has never called Xith ‘Watcher’. Nor would she have any reason to.
Emel comes by. He tells Adrina to wait with Father Jacob, and if they’re not back by sunup, to run for it. Adrina angrily tells Emel she’s going with them, since, after all, she’s as good with a sword as he is. Which is great and all, but when are we actually going to see some evidence of this? Thus far, all we’ve seen is Adrina getting herself into messes and screaming and Emel running up with his sword drawn. But Xith makes them shut up before the argument really gets going.
Part of the garrison takes off and heads for Quashan’. I don’t know how many, because Stanek doesn’t explain it. I think Stanek was trying to insinuate that they met up with part of the garrison led by Captain Trendmore, which doesn’t make sense because Trendmore is a traitor, but Stanek doesn’t explain it explicitly. All we know is that part of the garrison is heading towards Quashan’ and Emel was thinking about going with them but decided to remain. We have random garrisons just riding around the forest without rhyme or reason. No one is commanding them.
But apparently they have about fifty men left who are under Emel’s command, and Xith unveils his plan: they’ll divide their fifty men up into three groups and have them attack the city from three different directions. While this happens, Xith, Vilmos, Adrina, and Emel will sneak inside the city to try and rescue Prince Valam. Meanwhile, Father Jacob will chill out in the forest taking care of Seth.
The Kingdom ridesmen attacked the city from three directions. Xith, Adrina, Emel, and Vilmos made their way to the city from the south. Adrina was surprised to hear the sounds of a raging battle coming from the northern sectors of the city now. One thing she had neglected to consider, as Emel had pointed out, was that Alderan was a Kingdom city and had been a united city even before there had been a Kingdom. Apparently those in the city thought the King’s army had come to liberate them. No true Kingdomer would sit idly if they thought the King’s army was storming the city.
Under this shroud of confusion, the four crept into Alderan. After they had safely passed the city gates, Xith signaled for them to stop and gather round (page 290).
I’m pretty sure “ridesmen” isn’t a word, but that’s not the least of the problems. King Jarom’s troops rode inside the city, and then attacked it and took control of it. That’s an act of war. Which means all his men are going to be on high alert ready for any retaliation. Then you have three groups of eighteen men each attack the city from three different directions, and this throws the city into such disarray that they open the city gates and – wait for it – don’t leave any guards there.
Xith says all of the ways into the keep will be guarded. Somehow, I doubt that. Anyway, Xith explains that once they reach the inner keep, they’ll use Adrina to guide them. Apparently, Imtal Palace was directly modeled after the keep at Alderan. Which does mean there’s actually a legitimate reason for Adrina to be accompanying them on this suicide mission. Even if it is a little convenient.
As anticipated, the southern sectors of the city were nearly deserted (page 291).
You just got done saying they would be guarded, Stanek.
Vilmos periodically freaks out and grabs Adrina’s hand. Which is comforting to her. But she also finds comfort in the rapier she’s wearing. Okay then.
After a bit a patrol comes along. They hide in an alleyway. The leader of the patrol has a confrontation with another man:
Then, to Adrina’s horror, the leader of the patrol set upon the other man. In one swift move, he brought the point of his blade to the other’s throat and plunged it inward. Adrina screamed, which would have brought sure discovery, if Emel hadn’t clasped a hand to her mouth just prior (page 292).
Were these books slightly more well-known, I’m reasonably certain there would be angry essays from people claiming they were extremely misogynistic. And they would be correct. Adrina is the most useless Spunky Princess I’ve ever seen.
After awhile they get to the square. They have to run across it to the walls of the keep. There are archers on the walls. Archers who are watching, presumably, considering the entire city is under attack. It’s a distance of a hundred yards without any cover. Emel, Vilmos, then Adrina run across it, one at a time. No one sees them. Then Xith goes. Halfway across he stops for some reason and starts yelling. The archers wake up from whatever they’re doing and start shooting arrows at him; in response, Xith starts firing blue-white firebolts, which knock some of the archers off the wall and kills them.
I’m not sure why Xith is doing this. I mean, it would be one thing if someone spotted him and raised the alarm and Xith switched from sneakative mode into diversion mode because that was their only chance. But no one saw him until after he started yelling. If he planned to make a diversion all along, why didn’t he tell them beforehand so they could exploit it?
The three kids make their way inside. Stanek uses ‘lead’ when he means ‘led’ again, time passes, they’re moseying along a pitch-dark hallway, and Adrina stops suddenly. The boys bump into her. Adrina asks them if Xith told them where he thought they’d be holding her brother. Emel says he thought Xith told her. Hilarious!
With nothing better to do, they decide to go to where Adrina’s quarters would be if they were in Imtal. When they open the door, they see a man standing with his back to them. Emel grabs him and puts a knife to his throat. And it’s…Prince Valam! What a lucky coincidence that he was in the first room in the entire castle they happened to check! They hug, and Valam tells her that she has to leave immediately as it’s not safe. And then suddenly Prince William walks in and grins evilly. Seriously.
So Valam flings Adrina towards the passageway and charges at the prince. The two princes fight. Emel and Vilmos stand watching. William pulls out his sword. Adrina tries to scream. A couple of guards run in, finally motivating Emel to pull out his sword and start fighting them. Prince Valam deflects William’s sword with his bare hands and punches him in the head, knocking him down. More guards run in and one of them grabs Adrina’s arm and twists it behind her back. Valam grabs him and throws him into the wall, but by now they’re surrounded and backed into a corner.
So they surrender.
Yay, rescue mission.