Chapter Twenty Nine: Destinations Reached
Maybe this means we’ll actually get some answers!
Four men walk in a room, and one of them tosses a pouch on the table.
The man seated at the table emptied the pouch absently, obviously displeased at the interruption (page 324).
Yeah! Doesn’t it suck when you’re interrupted by paying customers giving you money?
The man bitches about this is only entry fees, not burial fees. The standing man says they don’t intend to be buried, but gives him the burial money anyway. Apparently they’re late to the competition, but the seated man can fit them into the “sparring rounds”, which I guess is supposed to not be a good thing. They give the seated man some obviously fake names, except for the last one, who says his name is Seth. I take it Elves aren’t that great at subterfuge.
The caravan is arriving at Gregortonn in the Southlands and things are weird here.
Now they could begin to do what they had set out to do (page 326).
We still don’t know what that is. Unsurprisingly.
A king cat approaches and Ebony Lightning rears. The king cat is…a large cat. That has a rider.
Emel chats with Faylin Gerowin, who is…well, I have no idea, actually. First time I’ve heard of him. Checking the glossary at the back…he doesn’t appear. Well, we know he rides a horse and knows Emel. Guess that’s enough. Emel asks Faylin if King William will listen. To…whatever message they’re bringing, I guess? Faylin says William isn’t a fool, and he’s come a long way since his father bit the dust. Emel is surprised, and asks Faylin if he knows the king personally.
“Emel, my friend, I am King William.” So saying, he spurred his mount and raced off, leaving Emel to wonder whether he was joking or telling the truth (page 329).
We rejoin the group competing in the fighting competition. The four competitors are Bladesman S’tryil, who you remember from not actually being in this book, Prince Valam, Captain Ansh Brodst, and Seth. They’ve encountered a few minor wounds but are otherwise fine.
They debate whether to skip a round or not. It’s not interesting. After a bit there’s a knock at the door. It’s someone looking for the false names they gave. S’tryil (how are you supposed to pronounce that?) recognizes him and lets him in. The man explains there’s a plot to kill Prince Valam.
“This news is fresh,” the man said, looking directly at Valam. “You must not continue. They plan to poison the blades. Dragon’s milk. One scratch is all it takes.” (page 331)
Valam thanks the man, but says they have to continue regardless. The man leaves, but gives something to S’tryil before he leaves. S’tryil says that the object is proof.
Chapter Thirty: Finding Truth
He walks along next to the king, as an aide explains the history of the palace, which is super interesting, so let’s skip past it. Emel wonders whether the rumors about King William being part Elf are true.
We learn that Faylin Gerowin was, actually, King William. Emel asks why the secrecy and disguise. The king explains he needed to speak directly with King Andrew. He seems about to say something important, so naturally, he’s interrupted by the entrance of Galia Tyr’anth, the kingcat rider they met in the streets earlier. It feels like Stanek has no idea how to use apostrophes in names.
King William says Galia will accompany Emel to the south and dismisses him. Emel asks if the alliance is broken. William says that he will not let the past repeat itself, which is not an answer.
“And the elves?”
“The book?” Galia interrupted.
“Yes, the book,” the king said, moving to the throne (page 336).
You’d think after 700+ pages of this I’d be immune to Stanek setting up scenes where characters are about to reveal interesting information only to be suddenly interrupted by other characters referencing random pieces of information that are never elaborated upon or explained in any way.
They’re continuing to win and advance in the sparring competition, which I guess is a good thing. Yes, I guess we’re never going to find out what “proof” was alluded to in the last scene. What, Stanek just ended a scene on a cliffhanger and then never mentions it again? That’s never happened before!
S’tryil thinks back to when he was chatting with a young boy on these same competition grounds. That, of course, was his scene with Vilmos, which happened about 280 pages ago, in case you’ve forgotten.
They watch a fight and chat. There’s a man named Lord Geoffrey watching from a balcony, who’s supposedly very good. He competed last year and was defeated by Captain Brodst. They talk about the guys fighting who they’ll probably have to face in the championship match.
“The man in the middle is the Lord’s son, Nijal – the test of steel lasted six days for that one, a record.” (page 338)
Uh…six days? Do they mean fighting for an hour per day with resting in between, or are they seriously suggesting six straight days, which is so ludicrously impossible that I bet that’s what Stanek is suggesting.
And finally, at long last, we learn their plan:
Hope for him and his people. If they could win. If Seth could reveal himself. If men could accept that he wasn’t of the same darkness as those before him (page 339).
So let me see if I have this straight. Their plan is to enroll in fighting competitions where 90% of the competitors seem to end up dead – which is a ludicrous and unsustainable system, but let’s ignore that impossibility for now – because these competitions are a Big Deal (even though there’s been zero evidence thus far that this is the case) so Seth can compete, win, reveal himself, without guards, in front of an enormous bloodthirsty hostile audience who HATES Elves, with the hope of winning their favor and mustering popular support for the Elves’ cause?
Even though this is a dictatorship and while popular support is helpful, it certainly isn’t needed.
Even though this is one of the worst ideas in a long, sad history of bad ideas.
And he’s left the city. They’re climbing through the mountains. He asks Galia about the book. Apparently Keeper Martin showed him the book, but Emel doesn’t know what’s in it…did he only get to see the outside of the book?
She continued, “It holds truths no few wish to know.”
“Or lies,” Emel shot back.
“Subject to interpretation, yes.”
“Whose interpretation?” Emel waited. Galia smiled, didn’t reply. He could tell she liked this verbal sparring (page 340).
Sparring implies a fight. This is like a pair of toddlers trying to whack each other with dandelion stems and missing.
Naturally, Emel changes the subject without waiting for a fucking answer and asks whether she knows about the Elves. Galia says there’s little she doesn’t know. Then he asks what she thinks about William. Galia asks what HE thinks about William. And…we have successfully filled half a page of this book and learned absolutely nothing.
Emel rides away because that’s what people do when they’re trying to learn things. He thinks about Adrina and Myrial. He’s always wanted to marry Adrina and considers Myrial a loyal friend. Welp.
Chapter Thirty-One: Losing Touch
Myrial wakes up and feels like something is…off. Nobody is where they should be. She runs to Adrina’s room and finds her missing, which seems…fairly typical, for Adrina. Then…she realizes that all of this is a dream. She’s in bed and there’s a man on top of her with his hand over her mouth. Sedrick Bever. You probably recognize the name because it’s never been used before in the past 700+ pages.
The text references him as the former house master. Okay. I barely remember this, but around 500 pages ago Adrina fired the housemaster and put Myrial in charge and now I guess he’s decided to exact his revenge?
Sedrick drags Myrial out of bed, choking her, and bashes her head repeatedly against the floor. A glorious scene for any children’s book.
Sedrick clamped a hand over her mouth, made her swallow the vomit. Her throat burned as the sour liquid slid back down.
She threw up again. The vomit wasn’t allowed out of her mouth. He seemed to enjoy the moment (page 344).
Myrial begs him to kill her, and he says he will…in time. Holy fuck.
The duels are ongoing. Everyone knows now that it’s Prince Valam competing, so there’s tons of spectators. They fight for a bit, and S’tryil is wounded, and Valam wounds an opponent, so they sub some people out: Seth comes in for our heroes, and Geoffrey comes in for Dark Side.
As soon as he steps in, Seth takes off his mask. The crowd almost riots. Military reinforcements come pouring in. Several hundred people die. Valam raises Seth’s arm and says that anyone who wants to kill him must come through him first. Uh… 200+ people have already been killed, I don’t think one slightly-above-average fighter is going to make much of a difference.
Several people in the crowd attack, and Brodst, Valam, and their opponents step up to fight the attackers. Seth is surprised by this, as am I. As they fight, Geoffrey asks Valam what the fuck is going on. Valam says the Elves aren’t their enemies. Geoffrey asks for proof. Valam says for now, they’ll need to take his word. Geoffrey says he thinks Valam’s bewitched.
It was the thought of Adrina in danger that Myrial clung to. It was what kept her sane as Sedrick did what he did (page 347).
First of all, we’ve established it was just a bad dream and Adrina isn’t actually in danger. Second, that’s a pretty weird thing to be thinking of during what I can only assume is a rape scene
This is a book for children.
After he finishes, Sedrick stomps on her, breaking her right leg [!]. Myrial crawls away from him. He chases her, monologuing about Adrina. From this, Myrial guesses he’s one of the whisperers.
The fighters have a break and reconvene. Three against three. Team Valam does a bait and switch on their opponents and start fighting. Seth uses telepathy to warn the others about attacks.
While it seemed an unfair advantage to use his powers, it wasn’t. Seth was not as skilled in defensive plays as the others and they needed anything that could give them a slight advantage (page 351).
So, it is an unfair advantage. Their opponents are relying on their strength and skill to support them, our heroes are using Magic. The fact that Seth sucks is irrelevant.
Geoffrey hits Valam in the chest. He goes down and is carried out. Valam telepathically tells Seth to stop holding back. Valam thinks he sees a familiar female face. And then he does see an actual face – Keeper Martin, who is here because reasons.