Chapter Three – The Squire
Chapter three opens up opposite a black-and-white illustration. It shows a young boy (ostensibly Josh) shooting a bow and arrow, with a hideous man crouching behind him (ostensibly Crusoe). Unfortunately Crusoe is giving off intense Gollum vibes, and he looks remarkably similar to a drawing that was done by John Howe. It’s heartwarming to know that there are hints of plagiarism even in the stuff that wasn’t done by Morris.
At any rate, Josh basically sits around for the next few days, eating and sleeping, and while he’s awake, he listens to his father’s tapes. Sometimes his dad’s voice makes him feel sad, sometimes he feels comforted. He also reads his mother’s journal, which comforts him. Typically, Morris skips completely over an area that would allow character development, and show Josh slowly coming to terms with being alone. On the rare occasion, Morris mentions that Josh feels sad, but he never shows us. There isn’t the slightest bit of empathy.
There’s also a bit about how the journal is underlined on every page and has lots of notes written in it. Which, considering that a journal is usually handwritten anyway, is odd to point out. Why did his mother go back and underline portions of her own journal? Why would she add notes? And will this ever become relevant to the plot? I’m guessing not.
He also finds a map in the case with numbers running along the top and side, which is the map that’s at the beginning of the book. Grumpy tells him that the map is from Oldtime, which should mean that it’s from before the nuclear war – and a quick glance at the map shows that it’s obviously not from before the war, which means that either Grumpy is an idiot or the person who drew the map wasn’t thinking, which actually means it fits in rather nicely with the rest of the book. Grumpy’s explanation for the numbers are that they represent latitude and longitude, proving that he knows nothing about either of them. And since latitude and longitude are never mentioned again in the series, and there is a noticeable lack of technology, how does he even know about latitude and longitude?
Grumpy asks where he got the map, Josh says his father gave it to him. Interesting, because Josh’s father never mentioned the map when he put his son in the coffin. Grumpy wonders if it shows where the other sleepers are, and Josh thinks the same thing.
Later, Happy comes by while Josh is listening to the second song on the tape:
Far from the ocean tides – yet the sleeper lies
Where even sunlight seems to fail, in the belly of the whale (page 34)
Josh admits that he doesn’t know what it means. I think it means that Josh is unnaturally dense. His parents have admitted to working on a top-secret government program that would put kids to sleep in coffins deep beneath the surface of the ground. His dad recorded a bunch of songs which blatantly refer to “sleepers” and a lack of sunlight. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to realize that these things are probably related.
At any rate, Josh gives Happy a copy of the poems on a piece of paper, and continues trying to figure out how to find the other Sleepers. Finally he goes to find Crusoe, but can’t find anyone else in the silo. He notices that the door appears to be unused and heavily locked, but opts to go through it anyway.
Outside he finds nothing he recognizes – no highway, which apparently was located mere yards away from a top-secret government facility. You’d think that big secrets like this would be located away from the public eye, maybe inside a giant empty area with a big barbed-wire fence around it and posted signs keeping people out, especially if this used to be a missile silo. But no, a public highway apparently ran right past it.
He sees some ugly trees and rocks and nothing else. He doesn’t start shouting, happily, because he remembers that Grumpy told him there were dangerous people, and yet he still walks for three hundred feet before finally turning around. But then, out from behind a large rock, comes a giant. It’s ten feet tall, ugly, and evil-looking. Josh tries to run, but the giant grabs him and carries him off, covering his face with its hand.
After a bit they stop and Josh sees that they’re inside a cave. He freaks out a little, and recalls reading about cave trolls and other monsters, but knows that that knowledge isn’t going to do him any good. And then, just when it seemed that we would lose probably the sorriest hero to ever grace the written page, he hears Crusoe’s voice. The giant puts him down and he runs crying to Crusoe. Crusoe, naturally, laughs, and the giant joins in. Josh, typically, gets angry, and starts yelling at Crusoe and tells him that if it’s a joke, it’s not very funny. Crusoe asks him why he left the shelter, didn’t he know it was dangerous? I want to reach into this world and beat some sense into these people. If it’s dangerous then why the hell didn’t you tell him not to go outside over the past two days, you idiot?!
The giant introduces himself as Volka, and we get another bit of idiotic description:
“Though his body resembled a slab from the Grand Canyon, his face was more like that of a huge toy bear.” (page 37)
So his body looks like a chunk of rock, and his face looks like a teddy bear. You can’t make this stuff up.
Volka explains that a priest of the Sanhedrin was coming directly towards Josh. Josh doesn’t understand why that would be dangerous. It’s not actually explained until much later, but I’ll sum up the basic idea here. Basically, the Sanhedrin were the high council of the Jews way back when. More importantly, they were responsible for KILLING JESUS. And since this book is Christian literature, that means that they are bad. Never mind that there might be a perfectly good reason for the survivors in a post-apocalyptic world to name their government after an ancient Jewish council, the fact that they’re named after the people who killed Jesus means that they are Bad.
One might wonder what a priest is doing wandering around in what is obviously the middle of nowhere, and why they haven’t adequately investigated the silo. But then, one wonders at a lot of things.
Crusoe tells Josh that it’s time for his education to begin. And I can only say, thank God.
They go inside the silo through the hidden back entrance, with Volka, and into what appears to be an old classroom. Wow, this research lab/missile silo has everything. Crusoe says that there are decisions to make. Grumpy immediately says that he’s against whatever Josh wants. Happy says he’s for it. Har har har, aren’t they funny?
Crusoe explains that he’s heard about the Seven Sleepers for years, and now one of them has awakened. And Josh has heard something that means the others must be awakened. (?) And so, the Quest (yes, it’s capitalized and everything) rests on him. Who’d’ve thought?
Josh says that he didn’t even make the football team, so how can he do this? Because only football players can go on Quests. Crusoe responds that he thinks he’s been chosen…by Someone. And then he tells Josh that there is some good news – he’ll go with him. That’s great Crusoe, because you’re doing a bang-up job so far.
Happy immediately says he’ll go, as does Volka, and Grumpy says that he has to go, if Happy does. They all look at Josh, and it’s time for some side-by-side comparison:
“I’ll go – but how will we find the way?”
– Josh Adams, Flight of the Eagles, pg. 38
“I will take the Ring, though I do not know the way.”
– Frodo Baggins, The Fellowship of the Ring, pg. 264
Crusoe says that there’s no worries, because when the time is Right, they’ll be Directed. And in the meantime, he has plenty of things to teach Josh. Because Josh doesn’t even know the language. Josh is surprised everyone doesn’t speak English – since, after all, before the nuclear war, everyone knew English. Although, seeing as how everyone he’s met so far in Nuworld is fluent in English, this is perhaps forgivable. Crusoe explains that the common language is based on English, so it’ll be easy. And Volka mentions that he’s going to have to learn how to defend himself. Josh says that he knows how to shoot a rifle, and they all laugh at him. Happy reaches behind a counter and pulls out a bow and arrows – just what I always leave conveniently around in my classrooms. Josh asks why they can’t use a rifle.
“Because there are none,” Crusoe answered. “After the Terror, most modern weapons were destroyed. The new rulers made it illegal to have any modern weapons or to make any. I think they believe that rebellions are less likely if weapons are crude.” (page 39)
Two words: Bull. Shit.
If anything can be said about powerful and obviously Evil governments that are doing their best to impose their will on everyone else, it is that they would never, ever limit their own power. Banning anyone except for their own agents from owning guns – yes, absolutely. Preventing even their own priests from carrying guns, if guns were available? Not a chance.
It’s also worth noting that there doesn’t seem to be different governments in Nuworld. There’s the Sanhedrin, and they rule pretty much everywhere. And they’re all Evil.
Morris’ reasoning is pretty clear here: it’s a fantasy, he wants it to be bows and arrows and swords, because that’s what fantasies have. And this was the best reason he could come up with. Why he didn’t just say that they lost all of the technology during the war, I don’t know. Oh right – he’s an idiot.
Crusoe pulls out a sword and explains that Grumpy will teach Josh how to fight, and that Grumpy’s one of the best swordsmen in the world. Wow. That’s convenient. They all run through a list of everything else Josh needs to learn, like riding a horse, hunting, dressing game, reading a map, and how to act a part. Because the Sanhedrin can never find out who Josh is. The Sanhedrin are the courts, army, and the law, and everything else. And they know that soon there’ll be an Uprising (yes, it’s capitalized) and their evil ways will be brought to an end. And if the Sanhedrin figures out that Josh is a sleeper, they’ll all get hung. Or worse.
Josh asks when they’ll start, and Crusoe responds by saying “Right now”. We then segue into the literary equivalent of a training montage: lots of summary. Grumpy beats the crap out of Josh with the flat of his sword-blade, which appears to be a fantastic teaching method. And here we have our pointless quote of the day:
“During these sessions, Josh learned one lesson he would later treasure – to fight back with fiery determination, no matter how great the pain.” (page 41)
Will this “lesson” ever become important or affect Josh’s personality? Short answer? No. Long answer? Still ‘No’.
Happy teaches him to shoot, and Josh quickly starts hitting the center of the target every time. Stu much?
Volka also teaches him how to saddle up his horse, which Josh apparently now has, although I’m not sure where this horse lives. I wonder why they have a ten-foot tall giant teaching Josh how to manipulate small buckles and straps.
At night, Josh stays up and listens to Crusoe talk about the customs in Nuworld. And then suddenly he is a realization! He’s fencing, shooting, riding, and hunting! He’s a squire! He doesn’t have a knight, but what does that matter?
Crusoe says it’s good for Josh to see himself like that, and then we have yet another brilliantly stupid quote (this chapter is a veritable goldmine):
Josh smiled shyly, then shared his deepest secret with the old man. “I always loved stories about knights.”
I don’t remember what my deepest secret was when I was fourteen, but I can guarantee that it wasn’t that I liked stories about knights. Come to think of it, I have no idea why anyone would be ashamed of that fact.
Crusoe points out that he isn’t a knight yet, and besides, there’s more to being a knight than slaying dragons. Because, y’know, Josh killed a dragon. And here comes another stupid quote:
“Knights did a lot of things, but they really had only one purpose. That was to destroy evil and find good.” (page 42)
Yeah. There was also killing people for your lord, fighting wars for less than honorable reasons, and if you wanted to rape a peasant girl, go right ahead, no one is going to care.
Crusoe tells him he needs to think and act like a knight, and this inspires Josh so much that the next day Josh attacks Grumpy during their fencing session so hard that Grumpy loses his sword. Yeah. One of the best swordsmen in Nuworld loses a fencing match to a 14-year-old kid after teaching the kid for ONE MONTH.
Josh lowers his sword and says dramatically “It’s time to begin.” Grumpy points out that it was just luck – which Josh agrees to – but Josh goes on to say that they can’t wait forever. Because, y’know, it’s been an entire month. That’s a long time.
They meet that night in the council room – this missile silo is just full of rooms – and continue to have the same tired argument about how no one knows where the Sleepers are. Josh points out that they have the songs. Which he doesn’t understand. Fortunately, Happy has figured out that each song is split into two parts, and by counting the syllables in each part, he has a set of two numbers for each song, which he’s written down. But he has no idea what they mean. Could it have something to do with the map, the one with all the numbers along the top and side? Of course, none of them think of this. They sit around for three hours trying to figure out what the numbers mean, and finally give up and sit around angrily. And then….Grumpy figures it out. He takes the first song and the 8-14 coordinates, traces along from each line, where they intersect – bam, that’s where they are. See, the first song was referring to Josh, and the poem is cleverly referring to the fact that they’re inside an “empty sheath”, or an empty missile silo.
They then figure out where the “next” Sleeper is. Another bit of idiocy: they go around waking up each Sleeper in order – as in, the order that the songs are on the tape…instead of figuring out where ALL the Sleepers are and then figuring out the best path to take to wake all of them up while traveling the least distance. Instead (based on the helpful map at the beginning of the book) they travel right past Sleeper #6 on their way from #3 to #4, effectively adding hundreds of miles to their journey. Smart thinking, that.
But everyone except Josh freaks out when they realize that the Second Sleepers is located right in the middle of the Forbidden Land. GASP! And on that note, the chapter ends.