Chapter Eleven – The Sign
The Sociopaths (four of them) file into the council-room and nervously await their fate. Deormi says that the council is deadlocked. Yanto gets up and launches into a long and boring speech about considering things carefully which isn’t really that interesting. The Sociopaths mutter together about how he looks untrustworthy. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could just tell who was untrustworthy by looking at them? Isn’t it nice that we have books telling kids that you can judge people based on their appearances? And you’ll always be right?
Yanto finally says that the council is deadlocked six to six. This is why you have an odd number of people on your council. Yanto says that people aren’t going to change their minds unless they receive more information. Deormi asks the Sociopaths if they have anything they’d say. There’s a moment of silence, and then Jake gets up. He says that sometimes when you have a lot of choices it’s really difficult to decide – but in this case they only have two choices: serving Goel or serving the Dark Lord. Yanto yells at him and says he’s just a child and doesn’t know shit. Which, if I were Jake, I would calmly point out that he just asked to hear my opinion. Jake is stupid. Jake does not do this.
They argue for a bit. Yanto finally says that the war would be won not by swords and spears, but by spiritual powers (note from the future: it won’t). He then asks the Sociopaths to see a demonstration of their powers. After all, in their country even the very young learn how to make things levitate and stuff like that. As an example, he makes Sarah’s chair float up in the air, with her on it.
Everyone argues for awhile longer. Yanto (off-screen) counters all their arguments and destroys their evidence and finally says he has one final thing to show everyone. He yells out, and Josh walks through the door. Everyone looks at him suspiciously. He looks rather tired, his eyes are a bit too bright, but otherwise he’s the same old Josh. He even asks about Token and Dave right away. The Sociopaths are suspicious, but finally Josh opens his shirt and is Mark of the Beast-free. Yanto then asks him about their mission. Josh explains that Goel appeared to him and told him that he wants the magicians to stay where they are – and the Sociopaths to stay with them as well.
The Sociopaths are more than a little surprised. Sarah immediately detects that something is not quite right about Josh. Usually Josh is very humble, and now he’s suddenly giving orders and acting like he’s in charge of everyone. So they debate things for a bit and finally ask for a recess to talk amongst themselves. The Sociopaths go back and meet with Dave…and they don’t really talk about the topic at hand.
Chapter Twelve – The Real Josh
Sarah walks around thinking about things. She’s very confused. On the one hand, it’s obviously Josh’s physical body. On the other hand, there’s very clear and convincing evidence that his mind isn’t right and he’s under some kind of spell. And she doesn’t know what to do. Well let’s see. Josh has been living in a land full of magicians who are probably quite capable of warping people’s minds. You have clear indications that Yanto is probably evil and that Deormi is someone who trusts in Goel. It seems like a pretty obvious first step would be asking Deormi to take a look at Josh and see if he’s currently being controlled by someone.
Instead, she walks around Celethorn asking Goel to help her. He doesn’t. She finds a stray cat and picks it up and carries it over to a fishmonger’s and asks for some fish. He gives her a funny look. She tells him to put it on the bill of Deormi. I wasn’t aware that Deormi had given them unlimited credit to buy fish for stray cats, but she seems like a nice person, so who knows?
After she feeds the cat (this event is not important to the storyline in any way) she heads back into the palace, muttering about how there’s no sense walking about in the streets. Which makes sense…since she just came back from doing exactly that. She bumps into Beorn, who tells her they need to talk and pulls her into a closet. They talk. Both suspect Yanto has put some kind of spell on Josh. Sarah makes up her mind. She summons all the Sociopaths except Josh and they meet outside the palace because there might be hidden microphones inside [?].
“Meeting outside is a smart idea,” Jake said. “It’s time we started showing some sense” (page 128).
So, so true.
Sarah talks about how Josh is different, and if you look into his eyes now you see nothing but coldness. Everyone suddenly realizes that she’s right, and asks what they’re going to do. Sarah says the only thing they have is Goel, and love. And she has a plan…And I really hate it when people say here’s what we’re going to do dot dot dot and then the author doesn’t explain. If you don’t want to let the reader know what’s going to happen just cut away.
The next day they meet with the council. Yanto asks if they’ve made a final decision. Josh says they do, and that they’ve – suddenly Sarah interrupts. She orders Josh to come back from wherever he is, tells him that the Sociopaths love him and he needs to come back. Josh starts twitching and tweaking out. Yanto tries to intervene and have Josh taken away, but Beorn pulls out his knife and stops the guards. Finally Josh collapses to the ground, and when he opens his eyes – he’s himself again. Whew. Close one. It’s a good thing that these powerful magical spells can be broken by your friends just wishing that they would break.
Josh gets up and says that Glori told the Dark Lord’s soldiers to take him here, and then she and Yanto put a spell on him. Wait, how? When the Dark Lord captured them, Glori was with the rest of the Sociopaths. Was she communicating telepathically? And then when he arrived in Celethorn, Glori would have been many miles away. Oh well, it doesn’t really need to make sense. The point is, Glori’s evil.
You know how when someone is on the brink of being revealed as a traitor and all they really need to do to preserve doubt and probably get away with it all is stand there, keep their mouth shut, and act like they don’t know what you’re talking about? And then they choose to turn to a fellow conspirator and yell something that gives them away in a mind-boggling display of stupidity that’s one of the marks of a really shitty author? Yeah, that’s what Glori does here. Then Sarah grabs her shirt and pulls.
There was a sound of ripping cloth, and then a gasp went over the room (page 133).
They were well-shaped and perky, with just the right amount of jiggling. Also, there was the mark of the Dark Lord. So with the game up and nearly no chance of success, Glori decides to do something she could have done at pretty much any time, at her leisure: she pulls out a knife and leaps at Josh. Beorn jumps between them and shanks her. She falls down dead. Yanto then starts using his magic, but Deormi overpowers him and his subordinates. They’re led away to prison.
Afterwards, there’s a dramatic silence, and Josh asks what they’re going to do. Deormi says they’ll fight with Goel. So after all that, it turns out Deormi’s just going to make the executive decision and forget that a ‘council’ rules Celethorn.
Also, carrier pigeons.
Chapter Thirteen – Old Friends
And just like that, they’re back at the Plains of Dothan. Apparently the plains are perfectly flat and surrounded on all sides by mountains. Which is pretty unusual. Generally you start to get foothills first, and you only gradually creep up into mountains.
The Sociopaths stayed up most of the night sharpening their weapons. It sounds really good but it’s incredibly stupid. Why not sharpen them the day before, or that morning, and actually get a good night’s sleep before engaging in the biggest battle of your life?
Reb hasn’t bothered to put on armor. Instead, he’s wearing his favorite red shirt, which will make him a bright little target for all of the Dark Lord’s archers. He’s an idiot.
The Sociopaths look around at Goel’s army. Morris name-drops everyone that they’ve ever met in an effort to make their previous adventures seem to have an actual point. We see Volka (but not Grumpy and Happy), Eena (the non-warrior princess who has suddenly become a warrior) leading the cavemen, Beren and his Underworlders, Daybright, who brought his wife with him to die, a bunch of Amazons, and a group of knights from Camelot. And suddenly it makes sense. Goel wasn’t sending the Sociopaths out to save people from the Dark Lord. He was sending them out because he needed recruits for his army!
Dave and Abbey share a Moment. Abbey wants Dave to stay back with the archers because he’s not completely well. Dave refuses and says he’ll be on the front line. They kiss. It’s actually fairly sweet.
Suddenly the host of the Dark Lord has arrived. Just that quickly. No sense of impending doom, no build-up. They’re there and they’re ready to fight. A man dressed all in black rides out and introduces himself as Maulk. He tells them that if they surrender, the Dark Lord will show them mercy. If not, they’ll all die. Goel gets up and tells him there’s no chance of that. He has a similar deal: if they surrender, they’ll be shown mercy. If not, they’ll all die. Maulk laughs. Evilly.
The Dark Lord’s army attacks. Goel’s shoots. A lot of them go down. But they fight. Because they’re evil, they can’t fight as well as Goel’s army, so most of them die, but the sheer numbers take its toll and slowly force Goel’s army back, leaving many of their friends dead. Unnamed, unmourned. So not really ‘friends’.
Two guys attack Josh. Jake yells and leaps into the fray, fighting one of them. Josh kills them. It’s pretty cool how kids with two years of experience can defeat battle-hardened, trained, fully-grown soldiers. He runs back to Jake, who’s lying on the ground with his insides mostly on the outside. He asks Josh to think about him sometimes, and then dies. Heheheh.
They keep fighting, and are forced back against the mountain. Defending themselves is much easier here. Which means that Goel’s a horrible commander, who should have put them in the most defensive position to start with, considering they’re horribly outnumbered.
Finally night falls and everyone takes a breather. Honestly, if I was the Dark Lord, I’d send in a fresh regiment. If I had a hundred million troops against Goel’s fifty thousand or so, you could keep cycling new ones in and not let them have any rest. Eventually, you’d finish them off.
The Sociopaths regroup. Dave is sad. Two of the seven are gone. Goel interrupts and says not two. Three. Abbey is dead. There’s a long silence, and finally Goel has a question for them:
“Your two companions have paid the ultimate price” (page 143).
No. Three. You just said this, Goel. Three. Despite the fact that the leader that they trust, the guy who knows everything and is basically God, gives you guides who actually work for THE DARK LORD and, for some reason, cannot count…the Sociopaths say they’ll keep fighting for him. Not that they have much choice.
Later, Reb and Beorn sit together and watch Josh and Sarah walk off, hand in hand. Beorn says that he had a love like that once.
It might have sounded ridiculous, an ugly, stumpy dwarf speaking of love (page 144).
Why? Because ugly people are incapable of love? Because short people are incapable of love? Because dwarfs are incapable of love?