Part 11: The Deadly Index Finger

 
Chapter Thirty-Two – The Death of the Sorcerer

 

There’s a pretty graphic picture here of a man holding himself up with a sword stuck clear through his torso.

Not that I have anything against violence, but I’m surprised the Tesches thought it was a good image to include in a book marketed for ages 8-12. Then again, this also has multiple characters cursing. So clearly they don’t give a shit.

On another note, why is the sword just left there? If you stab someone, generally speaking you pull the sword back out afterwards. Two reasons: one, if you don’t you’re left weaponless, and depending on where you stabbed them, they might be very pissed off and want to kill you. Second, pulling your sword back out leaves a decent-sized hole that blood can come out of and speed up the death process.

Maya meets Joey at the camp entrance, and they walk into a camp that, considering they only started setting it up a few hours before, is pretty badass:

They entered into a well organized camp with stables for the horses, supply places, sleeping accommodations, water accesses and equipment storage and a huge kitchen grill in the middle of the camp (page 206).

Let’s not forget that this is a ragtag army patched together from groups of peasants and poor villagers. They don’t have a lot of supplies, as evidenced at the end of the previous chapter where the mermaids were giving them a bunch of food. I also feel it would be remiss to point out that when you set up a temporary camp for your army you don’t create stables for your horses. The likeliest outcome is picketing horses here and there or on the outskirts of the camp. At the very most, the army might throw up a very simple corral.

I don’t know why she says ‘sleeping accommodations’. If they’re lucky, it’s tents, and if they’re unlucky, it’s bits of grass without too many rocks. And equipment storage? Water accesses? Supply places? A kitchen grill? What does any of this even mean?

Maya and Joey walk past the grill and find a dead man lying there, drenched in blood. Naturally, they ask what’s going on. A captain named Yuma steps forward and starts explaining. Some people figured out that Dimitry was a sorcerer and because of King Astrodoulos’ decree, all sorcerers need to be whacked. So a chap named Goran, who is black – Tesch specifically mentions this, I don’t know why – publicly accused Dimitry, and then I guess he killed him. It isn’t explicitly stated but that’s the impression given. Anyway, the people of Dimitry’s village are now all pissed off at Goran and so it’s up to Joey to keep the peace.

“Men of the ‘Valley of Imma’, I know that you want to fight for a noble cause but on the other side you want to kill Goran who carries responsibility for all of us and for our security and points his figure on a spot of pestilence which could intoxicate all of us.” (page 208)

I’ve read a few sentences worse than this one, but not many. There are so many things wrong with it that I could spend an entire page ranting about it, but it wouldn’t be that interesting.

Joey’s solution is to give everyone in the entire camp a vote, for and against Goran. If more people vote against Goran than for him, he’ll be killed in the same manner as Dimitry, because even though he’s the village prosecutor for his own village, he can’t just murder people suspected of witchcraft. Now, Joey has a point. You don’t want your soldiers killing each other because someone is talking funny or has a pointy hat. I don’t have a problem with that part of it, although I do wonder why a small peasant village needs a full-time prosecutor. But putting it to a majority vote is a terrible idea. In the first place, this is the military, you do not decide things by a democratic vote. You have a chain of command and you give orders that are decided on by a few people at the top. If you start opening things up to a vote, anything that isn’t decided on by a group vote will have soldiers bitching and whining because they didn’t get to vote on it and spreading dissent throughout the army.

Second, it’s not possible for everyone in the camp to even have a clear idea of what happened. Aren’t you going to call witnesses? Ask multiple people what actually happened? Elect a jury of his peers or create a tribunal of captains? Allow Goran to speak in his defense? All of these are things that should be done before deciding whether to let him go without punishment or to execute him, which are also both rather extreme responses. Depending on King Astrodulous’ proclamation, Goran may have been entitled to kill Dimitry himself if he had good evidence that Dimitry was a sorcerer. Alternatively, you might not want to kill Goran, but maybe you should publicly reprimand him and give him a token punishment – a few lashes, for example – to discourage further killings.

All of this is further proof that Joey is a truly awful leader and Gloria Tesch is a shitty writer.

Anyway. Everyone votes and it’s pretty strongly in Goran’s favor and that is that, he gets off scot free. Even the men who voted to execute Goran are satisfied with the decision. Which of course is bullshit. If you cast a vote to have someone killed because you believe they’re guilty, the fact that the majority of other people disagree with you isn’t going to magically change your mind.

Joey calls Goran in to see him afterwards. Goran bows down and tells Joey what an awesome Commander he is and commends him in his brilliant solution to the day’s problem. Which is a pretty high complement to someone who just put your life up to a general vote of a bunch of people who had no idea what was going on. Joey, however, has another of his Brilliant Ideas:

“I need a right hand to assist me and somebody who the men trust. Today’s vote showed me that you could be the man. I appoint you as my standard officer over all my troops!” (page 210).

Murder someone you suspect of sorcery, escape without punishment, and get promoted to ‘standard officer’ (whatever the hell that is supposed to mean) over the entire army? This is not really the example you want to be setting for your troops.

Maya is watching and continues to be impressed by how much wisdom and maturity Joey is showing, which makes me gag. They talk for a bit. Joey thinks they’ve passed the last test, but Maya says she thinks the last test is still to come and she feels Something in the Air.

So yeah, the last test is still to come. I love the subtle foreshadowing here. It’s like being bashed over the head with a copy of this book.

Drinks: 22

Chapter Thirty-Three – The Human Sacrifice Offering

This is awesome.

Libertine shows up but she only has one dove with her. She explains that the other doves are out scouting and they need to bust ass to get to King Astrodoulos in time because Abbadon will be released soon and he’s pretty pissed off already.

Libertine had just finished her statement when one of the doves from the outpost arrived and reported that she had heard a dreadful noise like a marching army of thousands of warriors. “I didn’t want to investigate any longer because I wanted to come back and give you the report.” (page 212).

That dove is a terrible scout. You don’t waste a lot of time reporting loud noises, you find out exactly what the loud noise is and then you report it. Libertine tells her to fly back and find out.

Then other dove arrives and says the ground is shaking and she thinks there’s a huge army coming and Gertrude and the fairies are up to something. He wants to know what to do:

“Fly back to your post and return to us as soon as you have new inside!” (page 212)

I think you mean ‘insight’, Tesch.

A third dove arrives and says she heard an explosion and a flash of light and then she saw warriors ascending out of the ground. And then some more doves show up and say that the fairies of Apollyon are coming with an army of ten thousand warriors. Holy shit, it’s a real crisis! A perfect time for Joey to display his leadership skills:

“The question is what should we do or what can we do?” (page 213)

Maya, of course, has a brilliant response:

Leadership, Joey, is not a right…It is a responsibility and real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination. The first rule of winning this fight is…‘Don’t beat yourself’.” (page 213).

Uh. Be that as it may, it still doesn’t answer the actual question. So Maya turns to the person they really need to be asking for advice: Libertine. The dove tells them to be strong and it’s their time and their leadership and stuff. So, nothing, except for a bit of a pump-up. See, this is why kids shouldn’t be in charge of armies.

They call Goran in and explain the situation, and have him call the army together at the kitchen grill (which still makes me laugh) and start preparing for battle.

Everyone gathers. Joey puts on his sword, which he took from Justin. So. He stole a dead man’s sword, essentially. More importantly, he’s using a sword that was being used by a grown man and he’s fourteen. I’m pretty sure he can’t even swing that thing.

Anyway, Joey gets up and starts rambling and trying to pump everyone up. It’s not a terrible speech, per see. He then goes on to say that they’re basically screwed if they don’t get some help from the kingdom of light so they’re going to fight and hope for a miracle. That sounds like a brilliant battle strategy. But you know what would have been even more brilliant? Not sending half your army away for no reason.

Anyway, a giant dark cloud is coming closer, and with it an extremely loud noise. It stops a thousand yards away from the camp. Maya and Joey and Goran get up and stand on the grill.

A few men fall over dead. Then the black wall opens and the army comes out. They form a giant circle around the entire camp. Everyone gets kinda nervous. Joey looks up at the sky and says that it looks like they aren’t getting any supernatural help. Goran says that they’re screwed and even with Maya and Joey around, they’re no better off. Heh. He has a point. Maya, however, has to slap him down:

At this Maya said, “Goran, you are a good man and you have sight but you have no vision. […] Don’t be afraid! We are not doomed. Provision will come. I don’t know when and how that provision will come but it will come!” (page 219-220).

Of course, in a couple pages Maya will have completely lost faith herself, so she’s just being a hypocrite here. Also, I have no idea why Tesch keeps using ‘provision’.

Then Gertrude and her sisters, Lorris and Ceara show up. And get ready for possibly the greatest showdown in literary history. You know how annoying it is when villains have the heroes trapped and at their mercy, and then launch into a long expository monologue and explain all their plans? Yeah, Tesch takes that to an entirely new level here.

I also realize that a number of these quotes sound unbelievable but I swear I’m not making any of them up.

Gertrude starts off with an opening line that makes me laugh:

“Hello Maya and Joey, look at you; you little creepers.” (page 220)

Hehhehheh.

Gertrude continues:

“I brought this time my best friend ‘Lorris’ with me who has the power to turn you to stone with the touch of her ‘Index Finger’ and your heart dies within you.” (page 220).

Why the hell is index finger capitalized, italicized, and in quotation marks? Only Gloria Tesch knows.

“I also bought my other best friend ‘Ceara’ with me. Look at her. She is the most beautiful black person in our kingdom. Look at her how beautiful she is with her curly hair. She is very powerful because power is given to her to breath at anything on earth and it will burn. Sometimes we just call her ‘Dragon’. Whoever on earth is touched by Ceara will be burned to ashes.” Gertrude said.

“Let me show you and illustrate on one of your men how that works!” said Ceara (page 221).

In addition to being rather racist – I see that Tesch notes that Ceara is the most beautiful black person in the kingdom. Not the most beautiful. Just the most beautiful black person. Also, why is she telling them to look at how beautiful she is with her curly hair? They’re standing around waiting to kill you? What is the point of this? It’s not even remotely threatening. Why would you even mention how beautiful she is in the first place? Trust me, the power to breathe fire is a lot more impressive.

Maya asks them why they’re here and what they want. Which is a pretty stupid question. They’ve already started killing your men, they’ve sworn enmity and they want to kill you. I think it’s obvious why they’re there. Of course, I’m partially wrong.

“Now you are talking.” answered Gertrude. “Our visit has several reasons and to be honest with you we want to tell you that we are here to delay your journey!” (page 221).

Why they want to tell them that? No fucking idea. Anyway, the conversation continues. Lorris explains that she has the power to make everyone in camp fall over dead but they’re under strict orders to hold them here and not let them escape. They further explain that Abbadon wants to finish them personally and as soon as he’s freed from Poseidon Rock, he’s going to swing by to whack them.

Goran pipes up to parrot everything back to them, just in case any readers were too stupid to figure it out. Not that it was difficult or anything.

“Look at this little monkey! He can even think and speak,” said Gertrude (page 222).

I quickly ran through my checklist of scenarios where it’s appropriate to refer to a black character as a monkey. This book isn’t on it.

But the exposition isn’t done! They’re waiting for a signal from the mountain-peak. Joey asks what it is, and they laugh at him and say nothing. Wait, sorry, wrong book, actually they explain exactly what their signals mean. Apparently one smoke column means that Abbadon is on his way. Two or three smoke columns means that Abbadon is delayed and the fairies will finish them off themselves.

Everyone stands around for a bit. Then they see a column of smoke. Then they see ANOTHER column of smoke. The fairies huddle and start talking. Then everyone sees a THIRD column of smoke.

Goran exposits, just in case you weren’t paying attention, that what this means is that the fairies are going to kill them. Yeah, we got that.

Ceara stands up and exposits, just in case you didn’t read the previous sentence, that what this means is that they get to kill them. Yeah. We got that.

Joey asks what, exactly, they’re going to do.

Ceara smiled wickedly. “We’ll think of something.” (page 224).

Wait. No, that’s what I would have the Big Baddie say in this scenario. My reason: it’s simple, to the point, and it leaves just what they’re going to do up to the reader’s imagination where it’s sure to be worse than anything I can write. Tesch, on the other hand, opts for a more…lengthy…response:

“We three have all equal powers and there is no leader between us except Abbadon and Abbadon is not present. We have a new situation and we will make our own decisions. We will discuss the matter and consult with each other and then decide how we will kill you.” (page 224).

Someone needs to tell Gloria Tesch that she isn’t getting paid by the word. Someone also needs to teach her how to write menacing dialogue. Fuck it, someone needs to teach her how to write.

The fairies head off into the bushes and start talking. Ceara wants to burn them all alive, which I think is an excellent idea. Lorris, however, is not happy with that plan because the last time Ceara did something like that she left the entire area a wasteland. Apparently Lorris is a conservationist. At any rate, she has a better idea:

“I want to touch them all with my ‘deadly index finger’ and create an area, maybe a park, with statues of stones which will represent our powers for eternities. We could go there from time to time and enjoy the works of our powerful hands.” (page 225)

Ignoring the disturbing sexual undertones of touching someone with your ‘deadly index finger’, the fact that Lorris wants to kill Maya and Joey and use their bodies to turn the place into a park instantly elevates her to my favorite character of the book.

Lorris and Ceara start fighting. Gertrude jumps in and stops them and says that she has a plan. They’ll give Maya and Joey the ability to choose their death. They’ll tell them that many great leaders have laid down their lives for their followers.

Lorris interrupts and says the plan sounds appropriately evil but to keep it simple because she’s having trouble understanding. Uh. This plan doesn’t sound evil, it sounds downright moronic. Why the fuck would you give your mortal enemies a chance to go out in a blaze of glory, to die honorably and nobly? It would be much more awesome to brutally kill them in a slow and extended manner until they beg for the sweet release of death. Quite a bit more humiliating as well.

Also, how is this plan difficult to understand? It’s perfectly straightforward and simple. I rescind my favorite character status. Lorris is a moron.

Gertrude further exposits that they’ll tell Maya and Joey that all the men will get to go free if they give up their lives as a human sacrifice to Abbadon. But actually, after they’re dead, they’ll take everyone captive and give them to Abbadon. It’s brilliant! But where to sacrifice them?

“Have you seen this big grill in the middle of the camp where the people are roasting fish, bread, and potatoes?” (page 227).

No. I’ve seen a big grill that Maya, Joey, and Goran are standing on. Wait, the grill was on when they were standing on it? That’s…interesting. Almost as interesting as people roasting bread.

Gertrude concludes:

“The best thing is that we won’t force Maya and Joey to give their lives as a sacrifice for their men. They will do this by their own free will.” (page 228).

Again, how is this the ‘best thing’? Isn’t forcing your enemies to do something they don’t want to do a lot meaner than letting them choose? How is this plan even remotely evil?

Ceara and Lorris, however, think that this plan is the best idea since roasted bread. They fall over themselves complimenting Gertrude and then the fairies head back into camp to put their devious plan into action. Joey is rambling about how maybe the time has come for the leaders to carry out their calling or something like that.

“Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo…” interrupted Gertrude, “Most people think that we are the bad ones but basically we bring peace to the world and my two friends and I have agreed to make you an offer which you cannot reject.”

“And what is this for a diabolic offer?” asked Maya (page 229).

What a couple of horribly written sentences.

Gertrude explains that everyone will get to go home alive and happy and with all their possessions…on one condition, and that is that Maya and Joey give up their lives as a human sacrifice to Abbadon.

Joey asks what that means. He really is an idiot. This is a pretty straightforward concept. How many different ways do you give up your life as a human sacrifice? Anyway, Gertrude exposits some more:

“It is very simple and easy. We will put a lot of wood on the grill which your men have built for the preparation of food. You will lie down on that wood, which is laid on that grill. We will bind you with ropes on that altar for Abbadon so that you will not jump down during the ceremony when it gets too hot for you. That’s all!” Gertrude answered (page 230).

I’m not sure what Tesch is going for her. Were she a talented author, I would suspect her of trying to show Gertrude’s sociopath nature and disassociation with death. Although even if I thought she was trying that, she’d still be doing a pretty shitty job of it. Instead, I think her writing is just getting more incoherent.

Maya has her sputtering “That’s all?” moment, and then she and Joey retreat into a tent to talk things over. They immediately start crying their eyes out. Because they’re Encouragers, remember? Joey exposits about how they’re all alone and there is no one around to bail them out of the shitty situation which their foolishness created. Wow, that’s rough. That almost sounds like a realistic conflict that people in the real world have to deal with on a daily basis. Our heroes, dealing with problems that they created for themselves? God forbid. Naturally, this lesson is going to fly right over their (and Tesch’s) heads.

We do get a big dramatic speech from Maya, though:

“I am only fifteen years old. I never had a boyfriend and I will never have one. I will never have a husband or my own children. My parents will never see me again. They will never see or have any grandchildren because they don’t exist. I’m so desperate. I want to talk to my mom. I want to go home” (page 232).

Maya continues in this vein for awhile, and it’s just as stilted and forced as this. I mainly wanted to point out that her parents could definitely still have children when ‘Little Benji’, their little brother, grows up.

Eventually Maya and Joey decided that they have to give up their lives to save everyone else. And they head out to do so. I have a problem with this. Not with the decision that they made – it’s very noble and all that – but in that they made it so easily. Let’s face it, it’s not easy to decide to willingly go to your death. Even if you’re in a no-win situation. It would be terrifying. We see none of this. We don’t see any of their thoughts and none of this emotion comes across in the dialogue.

Maya and Joey head out and get up on the grill. Joey starts an impromptu speech about how they’re not dying as a sacrifice to Abbadon, they’re dying to save everyone’s lives.

Then Maya started speaking, “I learned in ‘Sunday School’ that a person who wants to win his life will lose it, but the one who loses his life in the name of the kingdom of light will win his life.” (page 234)

This is not the stupidest quote of this chapter, and frankly, that’s saying something.

Maya and Joey lay down. Joey pulls a teddy bear out of his Mary Poppins backpack and starts expositing about how he’s had this teddy bear since he was three years old and how he took the teddy bear everywhere. Which is an odd monologue for a fourteen-year-old boy. Most of them will not admit they own a teddy bear, even if they’re about to be burnt alive.

Joey continues with saying that the bear, Fluffy, is going to die for the freedom of the men. It’s a stuffed animal, you twerp. It’s not going to die. You know who is going to die? Your sister, and it’s your fucking fault.

They start crying, Gertrude starts talking about the sacrifice, blah blah, the evil army cheers, and they set the stuff on fire. And, uh…

When the flames reached the soles of Maya’s tennis shoes and when the rubber of her shoes start smoking and burning, Maya screamed “It is real! This is not a fantasy! This is not a dream! I am burning! I’m dying! They are going to burn us alive!” (page 235).

No shit, Sherlock?

Then the sky explodes.

No, I’m not making this up.

…the sky over them burst open with an explosion of light. The clouds fled from the bright light into all directions of the four winds and hundred thousands of lightnings smashed the army of the darkness to the ground and fire consumed them all (page 236).

No, I do not know what ‘hundred thousands of lightnings’ means.

Anyway, Sagitta shows up with a chap named Dionysus, who blows the fire out. Dionysus then revives up the men who Lorris killed. The fairies, understandably, are not pleased, but Sagitta and Dionysus counter their attacks and the fairies bugger off.

Sagitta tells them to pack up and make for the lands of King Astrodoulos, because Abbadon is going to be following them. So they do just that. And Maya, this time, has the ‘Words of Wisdom’ to put a neat bow on this delightful chapter:

She was thinking ‘A jump through a wall of fire is one thing, but if someone wants to burn you alive on a grill and you had your ‘feet in the fire’ is another thing.’ This ‘death experience’ was sitting deep in Maya’s bones (page 239).

And with that this chapter is finally over.

I guess the moral here is that if you make poor decisions and endanger the lives that are entrusted with you, go along with your mortal enemies’ suicide plan for you, because God will jump out at the last minute and save you.

Drinks: 122

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  • IKB_Bell

    Pretty sure “standard officer” is Tesch’s idiotic interpretation of “banneret”.

  • KaliDiah

    First Apollyon (derived from Apollo) and now Dionysus? Why does this little girl insist on insulting my patron deities so?

  • James M.

    “A captain named Yuma” – as in “3.10 from Yuma”; a rather dull flick, as far as I remember. I fully expect Tesch to introduce us to Houston (John), Wain (Jonn), & the brothers Orrygon & Traill. Led by Miss (Queen ?) Donna Party.

    The criticisms of the text, and the posts on them, are a delight.

  • POB

    “Bravo, Bravo, Bravissimo…”

    She left her Phantom of the Opera recording running. And I’m concerned it was the vastly inferior 2004 soundtrack.

  • Liam

    Maya and Joey are the best examples of Mary-Sues in any book I have ever read.

  • Eliah

    Ok, now I’m 100% sure that Gloria Tesch is German. One, “standard officer” of course isn’t a thing in English, but in German, a Standartenoffizier is some kind of officer who does special important staff, I don’t really remember what. Two, “What is this for a diabolical thing?” – in German: “Was ist das für ein diabolisches Ding?” The “what is that for” part is obviously, painfully, nerve-cringingly German.

  • seahen

    How likely is it that Little Benji was alive when they left, given how little time his siblings have spent missing him?

  • Songstress

    Death experience. Right. Like she hadn’t nearly drowned a couple hundred pages ago.

  • Songstress

    And to be fair, the dove could just legit be a terrible scout. I mean, when would it have had time to be trained? And some people just utterly lack common sense.

  • Darth Advocate

    Caera: Three columns mean we kill you ourselves.
    *they see three columns of smoke*

    Goran: This means the fairies will kill us!
    Caera: This means us fairies will kill you!

    Chapter Nine: This means the fairies will kill them.

    And so it was, this was the Part where the fairies kill them. It’s ‘this part.’