Chapter Thirteen – To the Gates of Neptune
Now that Token has killed the giant squid, everyone is filled with confidence. Val talks for a bit about how people will be singing songs of Token’s deed for many ages. He leaves out the bit that that’s only going to be if A) they don’t die before they can tell someone, and B) the ensuing war doesn’t wipe out all of Atlantis.
They get ready to head to Mount Tor, which is an old volcano that sticks out of the water. Sarah has a little moment of weirdness with her sea beast:
“You’re an ugly thing, but you’ve been the best thing for me at this time.” (page 111)
Always good to tell your giant shark that it’s ugly. And how has it been the best thing for Sarah at this time? Because she needed something to ride that was…ugly? It doesn’t even make sense, even as an unintended sexual reference.
Morris tells us that the journey to Mount Tor was dangerous. Even though exactly nothing happens and it takes three sentences to get there – one sentence of which is telling us that the journey was dangerous. But Sarah sees the mountain, and we get yet another ridiculous quote:
It rose steeply out of the water, much like a mountain Sarah had once climbed in Washington State. But, she thought, it’s much easier to climb on a sea beast than it is to pull yourself up by your fingernails (page 112).
Why yes, Sarah, it is indeed. Why you were pulling yourself up a mountain by your fingernails, I don’t know. What this quote means, I don’t know, but I’m suspecting that either Sarah or Morris was smoking too much weed during this chapter.
They stop in a little harbor and climb onto dry land. They feed their sea beasts with concentrated fish cakes. Sounds exactly like what a shark would want to eat. And then they strip off all their diving equipment and walk around. They look down the crater, which disappears into blackness, and finally decide to make a fire before it gets dark. They make a fire out of the firewood that is lying around the barren rocky quarter-mile of mountaintop that sticks up from the sea, and Val draws a map in the dirt of their location and the Citadel of Neptune. Josh asks how far it is. No wait – he demands how far it is. Why this situation requires demanding, I don’t know.
Val explains that the Citadel only has one gate. Which is heavily guarded. Josh suggests they sneak in while they’re changing the guards, because hey! it worked last time. Val says this might get them to the gate, but it will never get them through. And so everyone argues for a bit and finally Val says that he never expected them to even get this far. Sarah smiles and says he’ll think of something. And Josh gets pissed and walks off. Sarah goes after him and asks him what’s wrong. After Josh says nothing, she says that she knows Josh well enough to know that he’s jealous. Oddly, this doesn’t improve Josh’s mood, and he points out that she thought the exact same thing about Abbey and has better things to do that follow her around all day. They argue for awhile more and finally Josh storms off.
Val comes up and asks if her boyfriend is mad at him. Sarah says that Josh isn’t her boyfriend. Val says that Josh thinks he is. Which is quite possible, considering that Josh and Sarah have shared pretty much every deep, heart-to-heart conversation these books have had and Morris has set them up as Designated Love Interests.
Val suggests the Sociopaths wait there while he goes back to Atlantis, gathers a strike force, and they’ll attack the gate. Sarah says that that isn’t what Goel said to do. Yes, and neither was taking Val along with you. But Dave walks up and says they should just wait for tomorrow, and maybe something will come up. You mean…like a random bit of Deus ex Machina to bail them out of their impossible situation? No…Morris wouldn’t stoop to that level, would he?
The next morning they eat breakfast and Josh is gone. Sarah is worried. Val is not. They sit around for awhile and finally Josh appears. Sarah runs to greet him and he smiles and says that everything is going to be fine. He explains that there’s a ladder inside the crater, down at the bottom. And at the bottom of the ladder is a tunnel heading northeast, towards the Citadel of Neptune. How Josh knew what direction it was heading without a compass or directional system, I don’t know. But Val is excited. He exposits that Aramis probably built it as an escape tunnel. Right. Or as a convenient way for people to get inside your impenetrable fortress? Still, Aramis is a sharp guy. A tunnel like this will probably be heavily guarded, right?
Val says that he’ll go through first and check stuff out, and then come back for them. He draws a map of the inside of the Citadel and tells them to study it, and then heads down the tunnel.
Jake asks Josh how he knew there was a tunnel at the bottom of the crater. Josh says that he was crazy enough to try anything, and when he saw the ladder, he decided to go down it. Okay. Reasonable, I suppose.
“We’re lucky to have you with us.” Jake grinned. “It takes a smart fellow to figure out a thing like that.” (page 118)
We get it, Morris. Josh is the Hero. You don’t need to constantly have everyone around him blow smoke up his ass. It doesn’t take a smart ‘fellow’ to walk down to the bottom of a volcanic crater, see a ladder, and decide to go down it. But Sarah gets in on it as well, and tells Josh that she’s proud of him. And that he did ‘fine’. And Josh turns red, because he just can’t take those kind of compliments.
What a splendid job Morris does with his chapter titles. With a chapter title like ‘Betrayed’, why, it gives you just the right amount of tantalizing information without spoiling anything. I wonder – out of all of the people here with dubious loyalty, who is in a position to betray them? Who could it be?
Everyone is moving along the underground tunnel with Val. So I guess he’s already returned and told them everything is safe. The walls are covered with luminous rock so they can see. Sarah and Val are at the front talking about trust. Val explains that he’s been brought up to trust only himself, and that’s the way it is with royalty.
So Sarah quotes some Shakespeare: Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown. Because most modern fourteen-year-olds know enough Shakespeare to randomly pick out quotes that apply to the topic of conversation at hand. If Morris had mentioned anywhere about Sarah being an exceptional student or being a fan of Shakespeare, I wouldn’t even mention this. Instead, it’s another checkmark under Author Incompetence. But Val agrees and tells Sarah that that’s exactly the way it is.
After a bit they reach the door. Val explains that when he went through it earlier, there weren’t any guards there. So I guess Aramis isn’t that sharp. But Val goes on to explain that they should just leave the spear guns here, because they’re not going to be able to fight all the thousands of men inside. And the spear guns will just make lots of noise clanking, and it’s more important to be quiet. So…you want to walk into the fortress of your dire enemy and do it completely unarmed? But finally they all agree and put their weapons down.
Val then says that it might be a better idea if they all waited in the storeroom just across the hall. He could go get Aramis and bring him back. He could probably pass as one of Aramis’ men and bluff his way past the guards, and he could probably talk Aramis into coming back and meeting the Sociopaths. Sarah thinks this is a great idea, as do many of the other Sociopaths. Except Josh. So they go through the door and into the storeroom. Val tells them to wait and takes off. Yeah, this isn’t suspicious…at all.
Sarah sits down by Josh. They share a Moment. Josh says she knows how much he thinks of her. Sarah grabs his hand and presses it against her shoulder [?] and tells him she needed to hear something like that. And then for a long time they wait. Finally they hear voices coming. They get ready to tackle whoever comes through. The door opens, and Val walks in with Duke Lenomar and twenty armed guards. Who’d’ve thought?
Josh is angry. But Val explains that the only way to make an arrangement with Aramis is through Duke Lenomar. Sarah starts to cry. She angrily tells Val that that wasn’t what Goel told them to do, and that he’s betrayed them. Well, Sarah, if we’re talking about doing things that Goel didn’t tell you to do, you’re a bit ahead of Val in this. But then Aramis walks in through the door. So actually, Val did what he said, and brought Aramis to them. So, like Dave, it was a quasi-betrayal.
Val immediately drops to his knees and swears fealty to Aramis. Lenomar tries to convince Aramis to have the Sociopaths killed, but Aramis tells Lenomar to lock them up, and if anything happens to them, it will be on Lenomar. So I guess the good Duke’s mind control isn’t nearly as good as it should be.
Lenomar and his guards drag them off to the prison. Lenomar is angry. He says that he knows they are servants of Goel. Josh says they are, and he knows Lenomar is a servant of the Dark Power. Lenomar says that perhaps they will take that secret to their grave, and leaves.
Sarah starts to bawl. Everyone is concerned. She admits that she lied about Goel telling them to take Val along. Everyone is shocked. Abbey asks why she did it. Sarah says that she’s crazy and stupid and liked him and trusted him – and then she suddenly has a moment of realization and recalls what Goel said to her at the end of the last book, about those she trusts the most betraying her. Ah-hah! It’s all starting to make sense now. Goel cursed her. If he hadn’t said that someone was going to betray her, Val wouldn’t have betrayed her. It’s all Goel’s fault!
Sarah sits and cries some more. Eventually Josh sits down and says that none of them hate her, anyone could have made the mistake of lying about Jesus’ very specific instructions which he gave her in a face-to-face meeting. I’m not sure how he knows that none of them hate her. But okay. He then points out that nobody is better or more loving than Goel, so he’ll probably forgive her as well. Sarah is astonished, and asks Josh if he really thinks so.
“I know so. […] After all, he’s forgiven me worse” (page 127).
Like what, exactly? Josh has done a great of stupid things, but nothing like lying about Goel’s instructions. He’s been a reasonably incompetent leader, but that’s Goel’s fault for choosing him.
A few hours later Duke Lenomar pops in and says they have forty-eight hours to make their peace with whatever god they serve, because in exactly two days they’re going to be tossed into a tank filled with hungry sharks that are used to give traitors and rebels as an offering to the Dark Lord.
Ah yes. Two days. Instead of, say, just dragging them off and executing them right then, which would solve all of Duke Lenomar’s problems. But no. They’re the Heroes, and as such, they need to be given time to escape.
Because, y’know, they can’t die.