Part Nine

Chapter Seventeen – A Bright and Shining Time

I might as well note that while the title doesn’t give anything away, it also, taken within context of the chapter, doesn’t make any sense. At all.

Camelot’s besieged. During the daytime, Melchior’s archers launch so many arrows they seem to darken the sky. Somehow, I have a hard time believing Melchior has that many soldiers, let alone that many arrows. During the night, they shoot flaming torches. Now if it were me, I’d shoot black arrows at night, so the defenders wouldn’t see them coming and duck underneath their shields. And I wouldn’t really have a problem shooting flaming torches during the day, either. But that’s just me.

Sarah and Abbey have been helping to cook and clean and dress wounds. Even though there’s no evidence that they know how to do any of these things. Sarah glances over at Abbey, who’s filthy, and mentions how this is the first time she’s ever seen her get dirty. They have a little bonding moment and we’re further reminded of how shallow both of them are – Sarah in her jealousy and Abby in her whorishness.

Josh wanders past and exposits about how they won’t be able to hold out much longer. Suddenly the south wall is attacked and Josh runs off, and Elendar follows him. And we get the first in a series of increasingly stupid quotes:

Time after time it had been Elendar who rallied the defenders (page 159).

I’m sorry. Elendar? He’s the king’s seer. He’s old. He has white hair. Nowhere has there been any mention of his military prowess. Why is he rallying the defenders instead of, say, Sir Gwin? Sir Nolan? Hell, even Josh? Oh wait….Elendar’s basically Gandalf, with a little Aragorn thrown in. Okay.

Elendar picks up a battle-axe and turns into berserker mode, slaughtering bad guys left and right. This sight inspires all the men, and they manage to beat off the attack. Melchior’s soldiers retreat out of range. Josh comes up and tells Elendar to get his gashed hand looked at.

“I will when I have time.” Elendar was short-spoken, for he alone knew how serious the matter was (page 159).

You have time, Elendar. The soldiers just retreated out of range. That’s the very definition of ‘having time’. And I’m pretty sure every single person in Camelot knows how serious the matter is – unless Morris is referring to something else besides the fact that they’re surrounded and heavily outnumbered by people who want to kill them. And he isn’t.

Elendar goes down to talk to the king and the prince. Prince Loren says they should have a surprise attack. On the enemy. Who are outside the walls. But the king says that a trick like that would only work once, so they’ll need to wait and catch the enemy completely off guard. Sounds brilliant, and Elendar agrees:

“You haven’t lost your sense of tactics, Your Majesty” (page 160).

I’m not sure which is funnier: that Elendar feels the need to compliment King Dion on a plan that, if it isn’t completely suicidal, is certainly not anything special; or the unspoken insult in the compliment: what else has Dion lost?

They go on to talk about Reb and how the wounds of the flesh have already healed but the wounds of the soul haven’t. And then Elendar goes off to take a rest. Still without having his hand looked at.

We then cut over to Reb. Basically, he’s afraid to leave the room. Every time he gets near the door he’s suddenly overwhelmed by paralyzing fear. And I actually don’t have anything witty to say about that. It’s a pretty intriguing bewitchment, one that would be quite interesting to see Reb struggle against, and slowly, with the help of his friends, faith in Goel, and complete rejection of the Dark Lord, finally overcome.

Unfortunately, that would be both interesting to read AND difficult to write. So it’s not going to happen.

Elaine comes in. Reb feels ashamed. Elaine tells him that she knows it’s just a spell Mogen put on him. Reb says it’s just because he’s a coward. Elaine leaves and the entire conversation is pretty much pointless except to Dramatically Ratchet Up the Tension. Or not.

Reb sits down and angsts for awhile. And then Goel appears. Reb feels more ashamed. Goel tells him that it’s good for him to learn about his weakness – which is pride – and overcome it. Which is wrong on so many levels at once, but I’m going to talk about that later. Reb cries and Goel hugs him. And yeah, it’s kinda weird. Finally he finishes and Goel tells him that Reb’s not going to see Goel anymore – but he needs to learn that even so, Goel still’s with him. Goel tells him to get out there and help fight. Reb grabs his sword, and charges out the door.

We cut over to Reb and Josh on the wall during a break in the action. Reb’s taken off his helmet and put on his cowboy hat. Now there’s a brilliant decision.

Reb talks about how the enemy always charges out of a certain grove of trees, because the trees are close to where the wall is weakest. Or something. Reb thinks they should do what Stonewall Jackson did at Second Manassas – he let the Yankees go past, then hit them in the rear for a decisive victory. Which is true – except it wasn’t Jackson, it was Lt. Gen. James Longstreet who came in and hit the Yankees from behind. And there’s also the fact that the South lost the war. But oh well. They go and talk to the king. Dion agrees. And so Reb and the prince sneak a group of men out the back of Camelot. Yes. They’re under siege, which generally means they’re surrounded. But Melchior’s forces just camped out front and forgot that Camelot has a back door. So they sneak around the sides and wait until Melchior’s forces charge the wall and then run out and catch them up against the wall and slaughter them.

Melchior himself is there. He charges at Reb, yelling to no one in particular that if he kills Reb everyone else will run. And Reb hands him his ass in two seconds.

I kid you not. A fourteen-year-old kid beats the biggest, strongest, meanest, most powerful knight in the kingdom in hand-to-hand combat in two seconds and knocks him flat on his back. And then Reb pulls off Melchior’s helmet and the other Sociopaths put the points of their swords against his neck. Melchior surrenders. Immediately the rest of the knights surrender and Camelot wins.

Later, King Dion tells them he owes them a huge debt and they’ve saved the kingdom, blah blah blah. He asks how he can repay them.

Smiling, Josh nudged Reb and whispered, “Say something, you bonklehead!” (page 167).

Heh. Bonklehead. That’s such a witty insult. I’m going to use it to mock my friends. They’ll be crushed before my verbal onslaught.

Reb says that if he couldn’t serve under Stonewall Jackson, he’d serve King Dion. Which sounds reasonably impressive if you know Reb well, but to the King, that’s basically saying “Well, if I couldn’t serve under someone I liked more, I guess I’d serve you.”


Chapter Eighteen – Goodbye to Camelot

There’s a big celebration. Lots of food. The Sociopaths are all sitting at a special table and they each have a gold chain and a medallion with the seal of Camelot around their neck. Reb apparently has no problems wearing this, so I guess he’s completely recovered and forgotten everything.

The Sociopaths talk. Jake is explaining to Sarah and Abbey how if he ran the kingdom, he’d make the king an elected position. It’s rather pointless and only serves to make me dislike Jake more. Finally Josh gives up to give a toast:

“Never have I found hearts so true as I found in this place. To Camelot – may it always be as it is now” (page 170).

Never found truer hearts. Not even your father, or Grumpy, Happy, and Volka, who risked their lives for you multiple times? And yes, let’s keep Camelot the same way always – a sexist monarchy ruled by a feeble-minded king, filled with corruption, who forces children to fight against grown knights to defend themselves in a trial of combat, and who dismembers peasants who kill deer to feed themselves. Yeah, because Camelot’s such a frakking awesome place.

Later that night everyone is heading back to their rooms. Reb bumps into Elaine and promises to go riding with her the next morning. He gets inside his room and finds Goel there. Goel says to gather up their crap, because they’re leaving. Reb’s sad, but he does it anyway. And an hour later they’re gone, riding away.

Reb talks about how much he liked it there – better than anywhere else they’ve been. He feels like he belongs there. And the book ends on an utterly delicious quote:

“Don’t be afraid of the future, Sir Reb,” Goel said. “I have the feeling that one day, when the world is rid of the Dark Power, you will be back in Camelot” (page 172).

I’ve read the entire series, and the last book. Reb never returns to Camelot. Ah, Goel. You’re such a manipulative bastard.

That’s it. End of the book. But not the end of this sporking, because I still haven’t ripped Morris a new one about just how much this book fails on everything it attempts to do.

This book is obviously intended to be about pride. Specifically, Reb’s pride. Now, if it were keeping this in line with Canned Morals, there are several things Morris needs to accomplish:

First, he needs to show how Reb is prideful.

Second, he needs to show how this pridefulness is detrimental to Reb, because if nothing bad happened, that would be showing rather the wrong message, wouldn’t it?

Finally, he’d need to show Reb overcoming his pride (or at least realizing his weakness and deciding to change).

So let us examine Reb’s journey throughout this book, and how pride goes before a fall.

At the beginning of the book, he’s just ordinary Reb. Circumstances thrust him into a no-win situation: the trial by combat. He’s hopelessly outmatched and is obviously going to lose. However, Goel comes through in the clutch and gives him a miraculous victory. This causes no discernable change.

Next, he’s out hunting and they’re attacked by a wild boar. Through a series of implausible contrivances, the royal family is threatened. Once again, Goel helps him out, giving Reb a miraculous victory and a knighthood. This makes Reb a little prouder.

Next, he’s challenged to a joust by Melchior, the best knight in the kingdom. He accepts this joust because of his pride. He’s hopelessly outmatched and obviously going to lose. And Goel bails him out again – effectively reinforcing in Reb’s mind that he’s an awesome guy and better than everyone else. By this point, I think it’s fairly safe to say that Reb’s entire problem with pride is caused by Goel’s interference, and thus no blame should be attributed to Reb himself. Or at least, not very much.

He then meets Mogen who puts a spell of mind control on him. As such, everything he does while under the spell – basically, the rest of the book – is not his fault either. After all, he had no good reason to distrust her. She said she was from Goel, after all. And while you’re being controlled by the Dark Lord, you can’t really be held accountable for your actions.

It’s funny, because this book’s plotline is more or less identical to that of Book Two: Kingdom under a threat from rogue agent. A Sociopath screws it up through their trust in someone they have the hots for who is actually evil. The princess of the kingdom saves them at the last minute. However, in Book Two, Sarah, at least, actually screwed up. She lied about what Goel said, and made mistakes based on her own inadequacies as a person. Stuff that could actually be blamed on her. In this book, however, Reb really doesn’t do anything wrong. Sure, he makes a couple of stupid mistakes, but nothing he needs to really be forgiven from. Nothing like Sarah. Not to mention that all of his problems can be directly traced back to Goel’s interference. Which is hardly the message that Morris should be trying to spread.

Finally, I think I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that like the previous novel, the Sociopaths didn’t really fix anything. They were sent here because Camelot was threatened by the Dark Lord. The dragon was killed by Princess Elaine and Melchior was defeated through a plan conceived by Prince Loren and the king. Ultimately, our saviors did nothing but muck things up. Which makes them 0 for 2 in their two quests, although they’re 2 for 2, according to Goel.

Then again, we know how low his standards are.

Previous……………………………Home……………………………Book IV