Chapter Three – Two Guides
Josh gets up and looks around at the encampment, which is swarming with activity:
Weapons were sharpened and burnished (page 27).
Burnishing means to polish or smooth something. Why are they polishing their swords? They don’t need to look pretty. They’re not going to use them in a parade, they’re going to kill people with them. It doesn’t matter what they look like.
Goel calls Josh over. They sit next to a stream and watch the water flow along for awhile. It’s not like the Dark Lord is making preparations to kill you all. You have plenty of time to spare.
They talk for awhile and Goel blows smoke up Josh’s ass. Finally he gets on topic and says that every sword counts and that’s why it’s important that they go and see these three tribes. The first tribe is in the Land of Ice. These people already love Goel and would drop everything and fight for him, except they don’t know about this battle. So why is he bothering to send the Sociopaths? Why not just send the guide with a letter that says “Plz come, XO Goel”?
After that, they’ll go to the Land of the Centaurs. Apparently the nuclear war fused men and horses together. Or men started having sex with mares, and the radiation changed the sperm and eggs so it produced centaur children. You know, I’m giving this way more thought than Morris did. They have to talk the centaurs into coming, which shouldn’t be hard. The real problem will be the Magicians. Although they’re not really “magicians”. More like “wise men”. Actually, as the book will later prove, they’re more like “magicians”. Anyways, some of them like Goel and some of them hate him, so they have to talk the magicians into coming and helping out.
Goel has two guides for them. Trustworthy guides. However, we know from the back of the book that one of these guides is actually the evil informant. Which means that once again, Goel, who can look into people’s hearts and know what they’re thinking, who can see the future, and who is pretty much God, is giving the Sociopaths a guide who HE KNOWS serves the Dark Lord and will kill or betray them at the first opportunity. It also means that this guide is a total idiot, since they’re not going to simply cut the Sociopath’s throats at the first opportunity.
He introduces Josh to the first guide, an attractive blonde named Glori. She’s going to guide them to the centaurs and then to the magicians. He then takes them over and summons a short, angry-looking dwarf named Beorn. That name sounds awfully familiar. Beorn will take them first to the Land of Ice, and then accompany them as Glori leads them the rest of the way. Beorn instantly makes my day:
Beorn looked at Josh and his nostrils flared. “This one is weak,” he said bluntly. “It will require a stronger than he to get through” (page 32).
I’m not sure what “a stronger than he” means, but anyone calling the Sociopaths weak is okay in my book. Of course, immediately Glori jumps in and says this is the famous Josh of the famous Seven Sociopaths.
Josh takes them back and introduces them to the rest of the Sociopaths. Glori smiles and shakes everyone’s hands, while Beorn stands there and ignores the proffered hands. Finally the dwarf asks them if they’re going to sit around talking or are they going to obey Goel?
They head out of town. A short distance later Beorn asks Josh where he’s going. Josh stops and asks what he means. Beorn points out that he’s walking in the wrong direction and he is the guide, not Josh. He then heads off at a right angle from where they were heading.
The Sociopaths band together with Glori and talk about what a jerk Beorn is. They decide to show Beorn that they can keep up with him, and proceed to fail dramatically. Later that day Abbey starts to develop a blister. You would think that after walking everywhere for TWO YEARS the bottoms of the Sociopath’s feet would be covered in thick calluses and immune to blisters. Reb goes up and asks Beorn to slow down a bit, since the ladies aren’t as strong as the rest of them. Beorn laughs and says that none of the Sociopaths are strong. This pisses Reb off, and a few insults later he tackles the dwarf. Beorn proceeds to throw Reb to the ground and hold him there while Reb kicks and screams. That’s a perfect way to show how strong you are, by having a temper tantrum.
Glori intervenes and tells them to knock it off. She insults Beorn, who ignores it, and on they go.
That night Glori talks to Josh and says that Beorn is dangerous, doesn’t have any judgment, and will probably end up getting them all killed.
So let’s see here. Two guides, one of them evil. One guide who is gruff and ugly and thinks the Sociopaths suck. One guide who is beautiful and polite and friendly and tries to get the Sociopaths to not trust the other guide. My, who on earth could the evil one be?
Chapter Four – Land of Ice
Yes. We have now reached the legendary Land of Ice. The entire journey from Dothan to this place is summed up in one sentence that gives no indication of any character development or anything that’s happened since then.
The Sociopaths are dressed up like Eskimos with gear they bought in some little village. Josh can’t see anything in the blinding glare, so Beorn gets out some sunglasses – not really, but that’s what they amount to – and passes them out. On they go. Awhile later discussion of food comes up. Beorn mentions it’s three days to the village, and Reb points out that they almost have no food left. That was good planning. So Beorn heads off to find food.
While he’s gone, Glori wonders aloud what would happen if he just left them there. Well, they’d all die, for one. Glori talks about how untrustworthy dwarfs are, prone to abandoning people if they see something shiny. Hmm. Sowing seeds of distrust. Awhile later, though, Beorn comes back, dragging a seal, part of which he calmly eats raw. He then lays down and instantly falls asleep. The Sociopaths, being good, accepting Christian kids – and having a great deal of experience with different cultures – react with grace:
“He’s like an animal,” Sarah whispered. “He can just go to sleep anytime he wants to” (page 42).
Yeah. So can my dad. It’s unusual, but not really that weird, and certainly not worthy of deeming someone an ‘animal’.
Three days later they arrive at the village of the Aluks. They walk in and tell the chief that Goel needs their help. The chief says “Okay.” The next day they leave and head towards the Centaurs. Like I said, carrier pigeons.
Later, Beorn turns to Reb and says that he’d make a good dwarf.
Reb stared at him. “I’d rather be anything than a dwarf” (page 43).
Exactly how you should respond to people, I think. Not only are you deflecting a compliment, you’re insulting them and their entire race.
Beorn ignores the insult, showing remarkable restraint. He tells Reb that he’s tough and he admires this. Which, while it’s technically true, Beorn has seen nothing that would indicate that Reb is especially tough, at least not on-screen. Beorn then strolls off, leaving Reb somewhat softened.
No journey would be complete without one random near-death experience, and this one comes in the form of a polar bear that just appears out of nowhere and charges the humans, like polar bears are prone to do. And, as people are prone to do in near-death experiences when they only have a few seconds of wide-eyed terror, Josh thinks about how large the bear is. Twice as big as any bear in Oldworld. Around a thousand pounds. Which is odd, because male polar bears weigh between 900-1500 pounds. So actually this is a pretty small bear. Josh continues to have an internal running commentary about how the only chance to harpoon-kill a bear like this is to nail it right inside the open mouth and up into the brain. I disagree. That might be the quickestway to kill a bear, but it’s also the most likely to fail. At any rate, Beorn readies his harpoon and gets it right into the mouth. The bear whacks him with a claw and then falls over dead.
Beorn has some scratches. They set up a tent and Abbey takes charge for some reason. Josh thinks about how she’s good with minor injuries. I’m sorry, but we have never seen any evidence of this. The only person who ever tends wounds is Sarah. But Abbey gets out a needle and thread and sews up Beorn’s chest. The next day Beorn looks at it and complements her on her stitches. I really doubt Abbey even knows how to sew.
Later, when Abbey is changing Beorn’s dressing, they start talking and Beorn reveals that his wife and children were all killed by the Dark Lord. Afterwards, she tells Josh about it.
“I feel bad,” Josh said. “We haven’t been all that friendly to him. I guess we never understand why other people act the way they do” (page 48).
And you don’t really try, do you Josh?
After a bit, they reach the edge of the Land of Ice and Glori takes the lead. She tells Beorn that they don’t need him anymore and he can leave if he likes, but Josh says that Beorn is one of them. Beorn says he’s sticking around and on they go.
The Sociopaths are traipsing through a valley when suddenly an arrow whistles out of nowhere and hits Josh in the shoulder. A bunch of men appear at the top and start shooting at them, and then a group of soldiers pounce out from behind a bush. Yes, that’s the exact word Morris uses. Pounce. This reminds me of a kitten. It’s not even remotely threatening. In fact, I’m not sure it’s physically possible for a group of soldiers to pounce out of a bush.
They fight for a bit but they’re outnumbered and so they retreat – leaving Josh behind. Why? No reason, really. Morris doesn’t even bother giving an excuse, like a group of soldiers got between them and Josh. The Sociopaths just retreat and then Sarah starts bawling about how they lost Josh. Glori says they’ll go back and get him. Beorn disagrees and says the priority is their mission. They argue and Glori wins. Their attack fails, everyone is wounded, and they are again “driven back”. It’s not really explained how they’re being “driven back”. After all, if the Sanhedrin outnumber them, and they have orders to capture the Sociopaths, why wouldn’t they simply keep chasing them and fighting until they’ve won? Why do the Sanhedrin simply give up and let them escape?
Because the plot demands it, I guess.
Sarah is sad and cries. Beorn comforts her. And wonders, quietly, just how the Dark Lord’s minions found them…