Part Three

Chapter Six – Another Fine Mess

Merle has told them about the feared tiger, so the Sociopaths discuss tigers. Sarah asks why a tiger seems so much worse than a lion. I would guess depictions in popular culture (notably Shere Khan and Simba). However, Jake, who is a veritable cornucopia of incorrect information, pipes up.

“Well, they’re bigger, for one thing,” Jake said. “A lion won’t weigh over two hundred pounds or two fifty, but a tiger can weigh four hundred or even more” (page 61).

Male lions generally weigh between 330-550 pounds, while females are between 260-400 pounds. Tigers, generally speaking, are a bit larger, with males of certain breeds ranging from 450-500 pounds, while females often clock in at under 400. So while on average tigers are bigger, the difference isn’t large enough to make much of a difference in people’s minds. Also, Jake is completely wrong.

Merle tells them that they can’t make it back that night, and so they’ll have to take shelter before the tiger comes. She leads them to a cliff and they climb up into a cave. I’m willing to bet that if the Sociopaths can make it into there, a tiger could make it as well, but whatever. They build a fire, and start frying meat. Mmm, meat.

Merle is surprised that Sarah cooks. They ask her, and Merle says that the daughters of Fedor do not cook. File this one as well under obvious foreshadowing. I have to say, Merle’s coming across as a bit of an idiot. I don’t think I’ll be giving much away to tell you that she’s an Amazon warrior from a tribe where the men do all the domestic duties and the women fight and hunt and are in complete charge. So it makes sense for Merle to be used to that. However, she has obviously been in different places, and as we will soon learn, she knows that elsewhere, the roles tend to be different, so she shouldn’t be surprised at all to find out that these travelers do things the other way. Unless she’s as dumb as a rock.

Over dinner, Josh launches into the history of the Sociopaths and Goel. Merle has never heard of Goel. She says that they serve Maug.

“Maug?” The name had an ugly sound (page 64).

Yeah, Maug’s evil. If the name sounds ugly, it’s definitely evil.

Sarah offers Merle one of their extra blankets. Merle refuses. They go to sleep. The next morning she watches Abbey put on makeup (sigh) and asks her why. I have the same question. Jake says it’s because it’ll make her look attractive to guys. Abbey offers some to Merle, but Merle refuses and says that their women don’t care about being attractive to men.

Later, the subject turns to Maug. The tribe that captured Merle were going to sacrifice her to their god. Josh asks Merle if she’d sacrifice one of the other tribe to Maug. Merle says of course she would. She asks if they sacrifice their enemies to Goel. Josh says no. She says that Goel must be pretty weak. And suddenly a bunch of Amazon chicks materialize from the foliage and level spears at everyone. They all are dressed just like Merle. So basically, Amazon warriors dressed like Princess Leia in gold bikinis.

This book is awesome.

Chapter Seven – Male and Female

The Amazons take their weapons away and herd them along at sword-point. Josh tries to tell Merle that they might deserve a shade more respect – after all, they did save her from being burned alive. I have to agree with him. Merle ignores this and tells Sarah and Abbey to walk alongside her, and have the men go last.

After a bit, they arrive at an attractive little village. I’m not making it up, that’s exactly how it’s described. Inside, they see some men, but they all are unarmed, have a beaten, cowed look about them, and – importantly – are smaller than the woman. More on that later. For now, it’s time for a quote that really sums up this chapter, this book, and this series:

…they had come into an open space where a platform was built about two feet off the ground.

On it sat a woman in a chair made of carved, dark wood. She was blonde like the others, with blue eyes, and was obviously tall. She wore a headdress composed of feathers with some sort of green stones in the band. Josh realized at once that she was not young. There were scars on her arms, and her right leg was twisted, as though she’d been injured at one time. He decided this was no one important (page 70).

…I’m sorry, what? You see a woman sitting on a throne wearing a fancy headdress and you immediately decide that this is no one important? How dense do you have to be? Yes, Morris, we understand that the Xena, Amazon princess is foreign to the Sociopaths, do you really have to go out of your way to make them have the IQ of a sheep?

Merle immediately goes up to this chick and calls her Queen Mother. Josh realizes that he’s an idiot. The queen, called Faya, asks them what they’re doing on Fedor land. The really obvious answer would be that they were heading in this direction, rescued her daughter from a certain and very painful death, and her daughter then led them into their land. You then instantly give yourself credibility, destroy her argument against you, and can then segue into how you’ve been sent by Goel, thus giving yourself even more credibility and helping establish via actual evidence that Goel is a good chap.

Of course, Josh doesn’t do this. Instead, he says that Goel sent them, and begins explaining how Goel will deliver them all from the Dark Lord. As soon as he says the words “Dark Lord”, the tribe’s witch doctor leaps out of the woodwork. She screams that they’re enemies of Maud and that the queen shouldn’t trust them. The queen says she doesn’t, and asks Merle how she found them. Merle says that they rescued her from Ulla’s tribe, came here with her, and now are their captives. Which positively reeks of douchebaggery, but if the tribe simply accepted them because the Sociopaths had done them a good turn, we wouldn’t have a story. Seriously.

A chap named Zuriel, who’s a (male) historian, steps up and says that the Sociopaths aren’t their enemies. The queen tells him to shut up. Then a chick called Marden steps out and says that she claims Dave for her daughter, Ettore, because he’s tall and strong and would make her a good mate. Ettore walks up and feels Dave’s muscles and then tells him to open his mouth so she can see his teeth. I’m not sure why she wants to do this. At any rate, if I were in Dave’s position, this is roughly how my internal monologue would be going:

Holy shit we’re captives now! Geez, that sucks. Well, I guess, since these people obvious don’t respect us as individuals and obvious would have no real qualms about killing us or sacrificing us to their Gods, that I should play it quiet, not put up a fight, and agree to everything they say. That way, maybe they’ll be open to hearing about Goel, and if they’re not, they’ll let their guard down so we’ll have a good chance of escape. Right. I’ll just play it cool.

Instead, Dave shoves her hands away and says that he’s not going to show his teeth to anyone. Ettore slaps him across the face and tells him to keep his mouth shut. She says she’ll take Dave, but immediately Merle jumps in and says that she gets the pick of the litter because she captured them. And she wants Dave. Dave starts to bitch about this but Josh tells him to shut up and play along. Merle also picks Abbey. Then Marden butts back in and selects Josh and Sarah. Another chick says she’ll take Reb and Token. The queen gives a general thumbs-up and dismisses everyone, leaving Jake in limbo. I guess he’s not particularly important.

Chapter Eight – Dave Gets an Education

Chava, the queen’s husband, obviously has no real powers. Or so they think. Dave and Abbey watch him help his wife into the house and notice that he’s very nice and loving towards her.

Merle takes Dave and shows him a little closet that’s going to be his room. Although it does have a bunk and a window. He asks what’s going to happen. She says that he’ll do as he’s told. He might wind up a slave, or a woman might pick him as a mate. Dave says that where he comes from, the men do the choosing. Actually, Dave, marriages are generally agreed upon by both parties. Generally, the men actually ask the girl to marry them, but that’s more tradition. Merle points out that he isn’t where he came from. I say, duh. How hard is this to figure out? Thus far, the Sociopaths have adapted fairly well to new scenarios. I mean, it only took them a minute or two to get over the fact that their parents, all their friends, and everyone they’d ever known had died in a nuclear holocaust, and yet they can’t understand that the gender roles are reversed here.

On the other hand, there might be an extremely sexist reason why everyone is acting this way, but I’m not going to get into that quite yet.

Merle tells him to go to sleep. I’m not sure why, as it can’t be later than noon, and probably earlier. I’ll chalk it down to time inconsistency on Morris’ part.

The next morning Chava, the First Husband, wakes him up and tells him it’s time to make breakfast. They make some cakes and head out to milk the cows. And Dave (finally) has a realization:

Dave realized suddenly that not only did the women of Fedor look like Amazons, but the whole culture was based on that concept (page 80).

No shit, Sherlock?

…deep inside he knew this was too far out for him! (page 80)

Because, y’know, it’s just WRONG.

We cut forward and get exposition. Dave is miserable. He has to do menial chores and Princess Merle orders him around. It sounds terrible. It also sounds more or less like all the same chores my mother would make me do when I was a kid. I have no real sympathy for him. Dave asks Chava if it bothers him, and Chava says it doesn’t. That’s just the way it is there.

Dave asks why Faya treats him like a slave. Chava says that it’s the custom. He likes gardening and keeping house. Plus, he could never go out and face tigers and stuff like that. This actually sounds like a fairly typical tribe. Most of the time, the men have all the power and the wives are their property and have to do exactly what they’re told and the men are allowed to beat them if they like. The women cook and take care of the house and the men hunt and fight. I’m willing to bet if that’s the way things were here, the Sociopaths wouldn’t have any real problem with it, because it’s the culture.

Dave says that he’s willing to bet that he or Reb or Josh could beat any of the women with a sword. Chava says he’ll never get a chance. And then Merle appears and summons him. Dave tells her that he’s not going to put up with this for much longer. I think Dave doesn’t understand the concept of “slave”. They head out to where Abbey’s being taught to fight with a sword, and Merle tells him to wash Abbey’s clothes. Dave refuses. Merle shrugs and pulls out her sword, and tells the other warrior to try and not scar him too much. Abbey jumps between them and pleads with Dave to stop being such an egotistical douchebag and just wash the damn clothes. Honestly, this is getting ridiculous. Had this been a more “normal” society and they’d all been slaves, I’m willing to bet that Dave would have no problem doing anything – much like book 5, where all the Sociopaths were made into slaves. There, they had to do menial tasks and more or less sucked it up and got on with it. Here, it’s only a problem because WOMEN are telling them to do it. And that’s a crime against nature.

Dave succumbs and takes the clothes. At the washing pots, he meets a chap named Gaelan, who’s another captive. They talk. Gaelan says he plans on escaping. He belongs to Merle, and says she keeps trying to break him but can’t. To his amusement.

Dave and Gaelan talk about escape for the next few days. Gaelan says that he’d like to bring along one other person – the queen’s son, Rolf. The name reminds me of the Nazi boyfriend fromThe Sound of Music, which doesn’t really fit in with the jungle theme, but there you go. Gaelan says that Rolf has pretty much been drained of his manhood, but if they get him away from his mother and sister, they could make him into something.

Later, he meets Sarah. She tells him that Josh is being whipped for minor offenses by Marden and Ettore, which confirms that Dave has been getting along just fine and is just a whiner. Also, Reb’s mistress has already asked him to be her mate. Reb, however, just turned pale and was too shocked to say anything. Despite some evidence to the contrary, my theory of him and Token being gay lovers is gaining credence.

The queen and Chava talk. Faya says that Dave might make a good mate for Merle. Chava says that they don’t get along. The queen suddenly says that he’s awesome and she couldn’t have held the throne with him. Could it be that perhaps the queen respects her husband?