Chapter Four – Trial by Combat
Have I mentioned just how much I like Morris’ chapter titles? They are ingenious, aren’t they, fully removing any semblance of tension from the chapter itself. See, a title like ‘Meeting the King’, while being rather boring, does not give anything away: from the last chapter, we know that we are about to meet the king. Trial by Combat lets us know that they meet the king, what happens between them, and what’s coming next. It basically removes any need for the chapter itself to exist.
Elendar comes the next morning and takes them to the throne-room. By himself. One old man against seven suspected spies. He doesn’t bother to bring along any guards or anything like that. Josh asks him if he’s talked to the king. Elendar says he has, and told the king they’re to be trusted, but the king’s stubborn and wants to make up his own mind. So in other words, the king employs a seer, a guy who has the ability to look into people’s faces and instantly tell whether they’re good or evil and what their intentions are. And he doesn’t trust what the seer tells him. Awesome.
They enter the throne-room, which is sparsely decorated. The windows have red draperies with the writing ‘Camelot’ embroidered on them. Sounds very medieval. There’s only four people in there – the royal family. And the guards are outside. So the entire room consists of the ancient king, the ancient queen, their two young children, and old guy, and seven suspected spies. No guards. No advisors. Let’s not forget that none of these suspected spies are in chains or restrained in any way. To be perfectly honest, I think the Sociopaths should just give up now, because Camelot is screwed.
So there’s King Dion. And Queen Mauve. And, keeping with Morris’ utterly idiotic naming traditions, their kids are Prince Loren and Princess Elaine.
Dion points out that they have no evidence that Goel sent them. Josh replies that this is true, but they hoped to meet him there, and they think he’ll come eventually. I guess Goel left out this subtle detail when talking to them about Camelot. Dion says ordinarily this would be sufficient, but these are not normal days. Mauve says they have honest faces. Prince Loren, who has red-hair, and is thus fiery (like Jake) says they should prove themselves. Dion likes this idea, and says there’ll be a trial by combat. Elendar protests and says that they’re not trained. This doesn’t bother the king, so he says to train them, and the trial will be in two days. And oh, the problems with this.
First of all, according to Goel this king is supposed to be a decent enough guy. He’s now forcing them to prove themselves in a duel. Let’s not forget that these are kids, the oldest of whom is fifteen, and these aren’t even teenagers who would have the benefit of growing up in this world and thus squiring and having some experience. He’s not letting them have a champion of their own. Sending one of them up against a full-grown knight is more or less sentencing them to death, and the idea that giving them two days to ‘train’ will make the slightest difference is downright idiotic. Which basically settles it: whatever Goel said, the king is a bastard.
Second, why trial by combat? The general idea being that in a trial by combat, the one who fought on the side that was right would be divinely powered by God to win, but these people don’t seem to have any Gods, although they do believe in Goel. However, there’s no reference to any of this at any point, so maybe they just believe that whoever’s in the right will feel that way and this will give them the adrenaline needed…you know what, I’m giving this way more thought than Morris ever did.
Elendar takes them off and shows them to their new quarters. Apparently as they’re awaiting their mockery of a trial, they get better rooms.
Token points out the obvious problem of them being unable to fight knights, and Elendar says that he might be able to help. We then cut forward to Sir Nolen, who’s a friend of Elendar’s, dueling Reb. He makes Reb look like his bitch a few times, and Sir Elbert mocks them, and everyone talks about how screwed they are. Finally Reb says he has an idea. He says he hasn’t seen anyone who can ride any better then he can. Sir Nolen points out that jousting is harder than swordplay, but Reb says that if it involves horses, he’ll take his chances. So Sir Nolen takes Reb along and puts him on his horse and gives him a lance and Reb rides along and can put the lance through a six-inch ring.
NO FUCKING WAY!
Granted, Reb’s probably an excellent rider. I’ll give Morris that. But he has never, up to this point in his life, done anything resembling holding a long pole and trying to put it through a tiny ring. That is really fucking hard. Even Sir Nolan points out that men who have been jousting for years who can’t do that. But Reb can. Immediately after the first time trying. Because he’s Just That Speshul.
Sir Nolen talks about holding the shield and guiding the horse with your knees, blah blah blah, and finally they put on armor and try it for real. They gallop at each other and Reb tilts his spear up at Sir Nolen’s head. This makes Sir Nolen flinch and pull away and Reb hits him and knocks him off his horse and wins and Sir Nolen gets up and tells Reb that it was a brilliant trick and exactly what he should use the next day against the king’s champion. Wait, so an inexperienced 14-year-old kid defeated a fully trained knight during the first practice joust of his entire life?
Okay. Morrisland. Yeah.
Cut to the next day. The knight Reb will be facing is one of the best jousters in the kingdom, Sir Hector. So I guess “trial by combat” means the same thing as “trial by joust”. And we get a stupid quote from the king:
“If you can survive Sir Hector, I will believe you are who you say” (page 44).
Elendar stands next to Reb telling him to be brave and trust in Goel and stuff like that. Reb looks back, and gets an idiotic quote of his own:
“He may spit me like a chicken for a barbecue, but he’ll have to kill me to do it!” (page 44).
…I’m actually a loss for clever things to say. But whatever Morris was smoking when he wrote that line, I want some of it.
The trumpet sounds. They ride out and face each other. Reb’s world contracts and suddenly he hears a voice that tells him he’s going to succeed. Hooray, Deus ex Machina! They gallop at each other and he does the exact same thing he did with Sir Nolan and it works perfectly and dumps Sir Hector, the champion jouster, flat on his back. The crowd is silent. The Sociopaths cheer. Reb flips off his helmet and shouts “Goel forever!” The rest of the Sociopaths run down and congratulate him and Reb delivers a line or two about Goel helping him and how he’s never going to doubt him again.
I think this chapter alone would put Reb off the charts on any Mary-Sue litmus test. In fact, I think I’ll do that now. *goes*
Okay, I’m back. Still with me? Good. I had to guess at some of them, but based on how Morris treats Reb and taking it a bit conservatively on a few other angles, Reb scored a 78. The legend:
50+ Kill it dead.
Appropriate, I think.
Chapter Five – Basic Training
Elendar and some of the Sociopaths chat. Apparently there’s a knight called Melchior who’s fallen under the power of the Sanhedrin. Melchior doesn’t remind me of Melkor at all. But apparently King Dion doesn’t understand why he can’t trust Melchior anymore. Elendar says he thinks that Elmas has clouded the king’s mind.
“Why, that’s just what happened in Atlantis!” Josh exclaimed. “It wasn’t the king but one of his followers who got sort of hypnotized there” (page 47).
Why yes, Josh. It is just like what happened in Atlantis. It’s almost like Morris has a cheap formula that he’s going to use for each book with a few minor changes here and there.
They talk for a bit more and then it’s Reb’s turn for a stupid quote:
“I’m just a good old country boy from Arkansas, but what is it Melchior does that is so bad?” (page 48).
I dare you to picture a 14-year-old saying that line.
Elendar, however, is unable to explain why Melchior is evil. He says that Melchior’s very popular with the knights and noblemen, and promises them great things. And apparently that’s bad. Would it have been so hard to insert a line about how he’s afraid Melchior will rise against the king or something like that? They talk for a bit about power, and Elendar quotes the line about absolute power corrupting absolutely. Now, this could almost be a really cool bit, about how certain sayings have lasted even through the nuclear war, except up until this point there has been no evidence that anything, not even the slightest shred of knowledge has come through. Aside from the Sociopaths, no one has had the slightest inkling of what life was like before the nuclear war fifty years ago.
We then cut forward to Dave and Josh practicing their fencing with Sir Nolen. Whenever they lag Sir Nolen whacks them across the ass with the flat of his sword. And while I have no problems with the Sociopaths being beaten up, I think I should point out that that’s not really an effective training tool.
Apparently they’ve been learning every single hand-held medieval weapon for the past few days. Why is never explained. I’m guessing because they also were trained in weaponry back in Atlantis. Apparently Reb is very skilled at most of this and is learning fast, Dave and Josh are average, and Token and Jake are terrible. Jake manages to put a dagger through his leg. Wow. That’s quite a feat, for one thing, and a rather bad injury, for another. One that would take awhile to heal. However, this injury will never be mentioned again or affect Jake in any way.
Sir Gwin comes up and leads them off. They talk for a bit and Sir Gwin doesn’t know what a fork is. Hilarity does not ensue. They get inside, meet the girls, and…
“This lesson will be in the more civilized things. For example, every nobleman of breeding must know how to dance” (page 50).
Our Sociopaths? Noblemen? Of breeding? Excuse me for a moment.
Okay. Back. They dance for a long time and all the guys suck at it and complain. Then Sir Gwin explains the other ‘niceties’ of knighthood. Helping the weak, treating women with courtesy, the code of chivalry, stuff like that. He talks about knights carrying a woman’s favor in battle and it’s very heroic and dashing. And we get a gem:
“But true knights would never take advantage of a woman in any way” (page 52).
Unless, of course, she was a peasant. Or the spoils of war. Or if a knight really, really wanted to have sex with her.
Finally they go back to their rooms and Josh is upset. And we get another quote, this time from Josh:
“I never heard of such! Goel sends us here to do a dangerous job, and we learn to go around kissing a girl’s hand. Disgusting!” (page 52)
Sentence #1 would never leave a teenager’s mouth. They don’t talk like that. Goel didn’t send them to do a particularly dangerous job, in fact, as we’ll find out, he didn’t really send them to do any sort of job at all. He basically said “Go to Camelot and help save the kingdom from the Forces of Evil.” Nothing specific at all, which leads to the Sociopaths sitting around learning chivalry from someone with the rosiest view of knighthood outside of Brienne of Tarth that I’ve ever seen. And finally, speaking as someone who has, in fact, kissed a girl’s hand, I can safely say that it’s not disgusting at all. I stopped thinking that around the same time I started noticing girls which was probably around age 10 or 11. Josh is 14 and we know that he notices girls, so it’s really an extremely nonsensical statement.
Dave says that he didn’t think it was so bad. Josh calls him a ladies’ man. They talk to Reb about him being their hope, since he’s the only one who can stay on a horse. Hope for what, it doesn’t say. And the chapter ends with another idiotic quote, this one from Reb:
“I’ll – I’ll do the best I can – and that’s all a bluenosed mule can do!” (page 53)
Unfamiliar with Arkansasian lingo, I Googled ‘bluenosed mule’. Only two results, and one of them, oddly enough, was from a book Gilbert Morris wrote called ‘The Homeplace’ where another character says that she’s as stubborn as a bluenosed mule. Either way, it doesn’t make sense. Par for the course, I’d say.