Chapter Nine – Worms!
We cut forward to them reaching the edge of the kingdom. There’s some mindless banter that’s basically there to fill up the page and finally Beren points at a pile of rocks. They begin to clear them away with Volka’s help, revealing a small entrance. Fortunately, this small, hidden entrance that only a few people know about is big enough for a giant to squeeze through.
Beren tells them to watch out for the worms. These worms are twenty feet long, poisonous, and quite fast. If they stab you with their poisonous horns, you’re screwed. This is actually just hyperbole, as we’ll soon see, but it sounds ominous.
They light torches and head inside. Sarah, apparently, is afraid of being underground. One would think this would have been mentioned before, in other instances where the Sociopaths had to go underground and where Sarah had no problem with it.
One would also think if you’re going to build a secret tunnel that you’d only use in dire emergencies, that you wouldn’t build it to go right past the worms’ favorite hunting ground. One would think. Obviously Morris didn’t. And so the worms attack. Everyone whips out their swords and start fighting. It goes on for awhile, blah blah, Dave is suddenly the best swordsman in the group, he fights valiantly and gets shanked by a worm and falls to the ground. Shortly afterward, the worms beat a hasty retreat.
Beren says they’ll have to draw the poison out. He pulls out a thing that looks like a rubber bulb and begins using it on Dave’s arm. I have a hard time imagining how something like that would work.
Volka carries Dave along for awhile until they’re out of worm territory, at which point Beren forces some medicine down Dave’s throat. And on they go for hours. Finally they reach a river that’s supposedly full of blood fish – basically piranha. And they have to swim. He asks them if they can all swim, and it’s noted that all of the Sociopaths can swim. I do recall back in book #2 where it was specifically said that none of them except Josh know how to swim, but it’s been a year and I’ll accept that they could have learned. And the chapter’s nearly over, but we still have time for an idiotic quote:
As [Token] crept slowly into the ice-cold water, he told Reb, “I’d just as soon be at McDonald’s eating a chocolate ice cream.” (page 90)
Being a writer, I know the difficulties that surround writing dialogue. Most good authors, as it happens, will say all their dialogue out loud, because frequently you’ll write something that looks decent on a page but would just sound utterly moronic when said out loud. And good dialogue actually sounds like something that would come out of someone’s mouth. With Morris, on the other hand, it looks ridiculous down on the page, and even more so when you say it out loud.
Unfortunately, it seems like the blood fish are all asleep. They make it safely across.
Chapter Ten – A Desperate Venture
After awhile they reach a cavern. Beren introduces them to his mother, Laiona:
There was a graciousness about her, and even though she wore rags and her face was lined with care, the Sleepers immediately recognized nobility in her (page 93).
I don’t think I’ve mentioned this before, but there are few things I hate more than the ridiculous notion of ‘right’ to rule. The idea that someone who was fortunate enough to be born to a certain set of parents is somehow instilled with the mystical ‘ability’ to be a perfect ruler is nearly as stupid as the idea that you can recognize nobility in them. Whether they believed they had the divine right or not, rulers were made by whoever had the power to seize the crown and keep it. If someone killed them and took it, they effectively have the ‘right’ to rule.
They take Dave in and put him in a cot, and then Beren shows them around. They’ve been living in an old mine shaft, basically. In the few short years since they were overthrown, they managed to hollow living quarters, beds, and ventilation systems out of solid rock. There’s no explanation given for why Laiona is here, since Beren earlier told the Sociopaths that the Royal Family was kept in prison. Still, nothing here really makes sense. At all. Stupid quote, to illustrate:
“…we wait here until by some miracle we regain the kingdom.” (page 94)
Yep. Just chilling. Not gathering an army, or making plans, or digging tunnels in to arrest Fareena and Lothar. Just sort’ve waiting. For no reason, as will become abundantly clear.
A chap gives them a drink that tastes like Coke. Exciting.
Later, they go back in to see Dave, and he’s been completely healed. He’s sleeping soundly with rosy cheeks. Seriously, I’m not making this up.
…the deadly pallor was gone from his face. His cheeks seemed almost rosy, and he was breathing evenly (page 95).
Apparently the worms weren’t so deadly after all.
They talk to Laiona. Apparently Fareena came saying she was from Goel and stuff, deceived lots of people, got their minds into her control, then took over their kingdom in a quick, effective, and reasonably bloody coup. And now she’s trying to capture the Sociopaths and turn them over to the Dark Lord because they’d be a mighty weapon. I doubt that, but okay. Laiona says they have a spy system, and names Luna as one of the spies who reports on Abbey. Apparently Abbey’s mind has been ensnared by the empress.
BUT…Beren has a plan.
Cut forward. There’s a lot of bickering between Happy and Grumpy, mostly to remind us that they’re there and to make me wonder why Morris even bothered putting them into the story. So far, they haven’t affected the plot. At all.
Beren explains that there’s a secret passageway that leads into Abbey’s room. Which is where they’re going. They reach the doorway. Beren opens it, revealing a fancy room, and Abbey lying on a couch.
Now. Our noble heroes know – for a fact, because of Luna the spy – that Abbey is under the Empress’ powers. She has almost certainly been conditioned to believe that her friends and particularly Beren are dangerous. In fact, anyone reasonably intelligent would assume she’d also been instructed to sound the alarm if anyone tried to make her leave. Thus, I think it’s reasonable that in any plan to rescue someone like this, one would assume that force is necessary. My plan would go something like this:
- Ninja my way into the room
- Punch Abbey in the head
- Gag her
- Tie her up
- Toss her over my shoulder and beat a hasty retreat
Later, when you’re safely back home, there’s time enough for rehabilitation. And if not, you’re really no worse off than you were before. Instead, they walk in, and Josh immediately yells “Abbey!” across the room.
She wakes up and looks at them. They talk for a few seconds, and then she explains that she’s found the truth, and how they all need to renounce Goel and join the true people.
“You can’t be serious!” Sarah cried. “What’s wrong with you?” (page 100)
Remember the mind control that we were just discussing in great detail? The stupidity, it makes my brain hurt.
Abbey grabs a cord and pulls it, which sounds an alarm. Beren yells at them to run and bolts through the tunnel door. One would expect the Sociopaths to be able to grab Abbey and drag her through the tunnel door in very little time. Instead, um…
But the [Sociopaths] could not leave Abbey. They gathered around her. Josh said, “We’ll just have to take her.” (page 101).
Please, someone kill me.
The door bursts open and soldiers leap into the room and block the way through the tunnel. The Sociopaths surrender.
Chapter Eleven – Abbey Makes a Plea
Lothar and his mom argue. Lothar’s in favor of killing them all immediately. I agree. The Empress, on the other hand, is ambitious. She figures that her best bet is to ignore the orders of the Dark Lord by leaving the Sociopaths alive and corrupting them to the Dark Lord’s ways. Once this is done, the Dark Lord will be so pleased that he’ll put Fareena up as his right-hand woman!
Or, y’know, not.
They go in to talk to Abbey. She’s upset that her friends were dragged away by the guards. Fareena does her song and dance with the incense and finally Abbey has no pupils left and agrees to go talk to the Sociopaths.
Once in their cell, she drones on and on about stuff. The Sociopaths watch her, aghast.
Reb whispered to [Token], “That’s not Abbey. That Empress has put her under a spell.” (page 106).
Token whispered back, “No shit, Sherlock? Sorry, I just wasn’t paying attention to everything that’s been going on.”
Sorry, fantasizing again.
Sarah sits Abbey down and spends half an hour talking her, to no avail. The others try fruitlessly, and finally Abbey says she’s going back to the Empress. She leaves and the Sociopaths talk and theorize that the Empress will probably try the same thing with the rest of them. Josh says they’ve got to keep their minds fixed on Goel and what he’s done for them. Shortly afterward, a guard comes in, grabs Josh, and hauls him off. An hour later, the door opens and Josh walks back inside. He’s a bit twitchy. They grab him and sit him down and ask him what happened. He explains how the Empress lights incense and starts talking and all of a sudden you find yourself….agreeing with her. And he was only able to resist her by thinking about Goel.
Awhile later a guard comes back and grabs Sarah. Ah well, I’m sure she’ll be fine.