Sunday, September 29, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--chapter 34-38

So most of the next chapter is basically moping shit up. Albron and Astarell get married. Bheid has a mental breakdown because he killed a man and this is apparently a bad thing (his hiring of assassins notwithstanding). The Arums decide to invade Kanthon and make Andine the queen of that region too and...uh...Andine gives a speech:

“With all of Arum at my back, I could ride roughshod over Kanthon and impose my will upon her citizens, but what would that accomplish—except to arouse eternal enmity? I watched with astonishment this day when the most warlike people on earth bowed to reason and averted a return to the clan wars of antiquity. I am but a foolish girl, but the lesson you have presented this day has impressed itself upon me indelibly. Therefore, I go to Kanthon not as a conqueror, but as a liberator. We will not burn Kanthon, nor will we slaughter the citizens, nor loot the city. Sweet reason shall be our guide—even as it was your guide in your discussions this day. I will follow your example, my brave warriors—braver still in that you chose not to fight this day.”
One: humility is good. Humility in a leader is better. THIS IS NOT HUMILITY. This is self-abasement to appease someone who doesn't approve of the role you've taken. I fuck up a lot, kids. I just learned not to talk about it on the blog. I will absolutely be the first person to say "I am sorry I should not have done that". I've just also learned that "I'm sorry I should not have done that" is not something you do in public because it doesn't actually mean anything to the people hearing it. And like I said, having the leader of a fucking country talk about how stupid and small and slight they are IS NOT A HEALTHY THING FOR A LEADER TO DO. Healthy is to shut the fuck up about their capabilities and just do what needs to be fucking done. Don't say "I'm a good leader". Don't say "I'm a bad leader". Just do it and let the people around you come to their own conclusions. They're gonna do it anyway.

Second: And that's, like, the dialogue for every hateful dictator ever. I'm pretty sure Hitler said, multiple times, that he was saving Europe.

Leitha is also having a nervious breakdown, mostly because she knows she's got to do something awful and she can't draw streingth from Bheid anymore. And it's that latter part, not the former part. She's known she's had to do something since she read the Knife, but she's been using Bheid as her life support and now that he's fractured, she's shattering.

Andine takes over Kanthon. Althalus helps everybody buy food because they burned most of their crops during the invasion, because wars are actually a pretty shitty thing to have happen.

Something religious in nature starts happening over in Peraquaine. Ghend is behind it, but everybody is more preoccupied with buying grain and getting various secondary characters married off.

Also: David Eddings is about to try on Social Justice, just to see if it fits. It's kind of precious.

“There’s a certain amount of unrest among the peasantry, I’m told, but that crops up every ten years or so. It’s the fault of the property owners, when you get right down to it. Perquaines tend to be egomaniacs who spend millions building palaces. The peasants live in hovels, and the differences between ‘your palace’ and ‘my hovel’ are very obvious. The notion of ‘comfortable but not showy’ hasn’t occurred to the Perquaines yet. The property owners show off, and the peasants resent it. There’s nothing new about that.”
And just in case you think that maybe I'm blowing it out of proportion, the words "social justice" appear in the text just a few pages later. It turns out Argan, Ghend's pet priest, has introduced Red Robes to the White, Black and Brown combo Dweios uses. Bheid is a black robe, if you remember, the white robes, lead by White Guy, were in charge of the Shephards, and the Brown Robes are in charge of Peraquaine...and they ain't exactly St. Francis.

Hey, let's take a break to let Khalor marry Eliar's mother. I mean, we've had all these unattached strapping men running around being heroic. We need to get them settled down with a door prize or three.

Leitha finally has an emotional breakdown in Althalus's arms, and Al decides the best way to react to that is to go beat sense into Bheid so that he'll get off his ass and go take care of his woman.

Dead serious.

 This is all beside the point, though. If you don’t open the door to your mind to Leitha, I’ll do exactly the same thing to that door as I did to the one to this room. Your silly wallowing in guilt and self-pity’s destroying Leitha, you blithering idiot. I don’t care how many people you kill, Bheid, but if you hurt Leitha anymore, I’ll reach down your throat and jerk out your heart!”
This puts Bheid back together long enough to preform a wedding, and then he goes back into hibernation. Althalus gives up and tells Albron to keep Leitha and Andine in his house for a little while so that Al, Bheid and the other men can go take care of business.

Our heroes.

Bheid and Dweia start explaining the politics in Periquaine to Althalus and Khalor. And it's bad. We've got forced labor and starvation:

“There are agitators out there, Alkos,” the noble said. “We’re going to keep our peasants so busy that they don’t have time to listen to speeches.” “Ah,” the overseer said. “I guess that makes sense. You’re going to have to feed them a little more, though. I’ve had a dozen of them collapse today.” “Nonsense.” The nobleman snorted. “They’re playacting. That’s what your whip’s for, Alkos. Keep them moving until dark. Then let them go eat. Tell them to come back at first light tomorrow.”

“Why don’t I just tell him that you’ll evict him from that stick-and-wattle hut of his unless he hands his daughter over to you? It’s winter now, and his whole family will starve—or freeze to death—without shelter or food. I think he’ll come around.”
And basic theft of property:

“Can we actually get away with that, Brother Sawel?” the Baron asked dubiously. The priest shrugged. “Who’s going to stop us, my Lord?” he asked. “The aristocracy controls the land, and the Church controls the courts. Between us, we can do just about anything we want to do.”
Dweia shows them examples of all this through one of her magic windows, and that's all it takes to make the gang gung-ho for killing every noble in Peraquaine. Dweia talks them into simply finding a non-murdery solution to the problem.

Which, of course, starts with Althalus conning the entire Brown Robe clergy.

He's posing as a duke with a great deal of money who is having terrible nightmares. He wants the Brown Robes to clean up his dreams--which he swears are about Hell AKA Daeva's version of the House at the End of the World. This gives the leader of the Brown Robes--now known as Brown Guy--a problem. Althalus offers them a lot of money to clean up his dream-life, but he'll only pay after his dreams are nightmare-free. Which the Brown Guy can't do. And he knows it.

And then Dweia drives the brown guy totally insane.

Our heroes.

End of chapter.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--chapter 33-34

Chapter thirty three opens with Althalus staring at Dweia.

“You’re staring again, Althie,” she said, not even looking up.
 “I know. I’ve got a permit, though. You’ve got very pretty arms, did you know that?”
This is not fan fiction. A grown man wrote that. Expecting it to be romantic.

Admittedly, it's the Althie I have issues with.

Dweia then has Althalus summon everyone to the tower in the House, even though she could do it herself. Andine brings up that this is kind of her kingdom being invaded, she probably should be spending time in her palace. Dweia basically says "I'm a Goddess, I can handle it" and pats Andine on the head.

I liked her better when she wanted to gut Eliar.

Dweia is more irritated, however, with the assassins that Bheid hired. When and where he'd have a chance to hire them, I have no idea, but he did. Apparently the worship of Deiwos requires an underground system of paid irreligious assassins. Who knew?

These assassins could upset the prophesy-dream's timetable, and Dweia wants him to tell his hired guns to wait until after Andine surrenders to start killing people. Oh, and the target is Andine's alternate, Pheglat, Aryo of Kanthon. The dude that hired Eliar way back in the beginning, in the civil war that got her father killed.

“Let’s establish some rules right here and now,” Dweia said sternly. “No murders, no armies out of nowhere, no rounding up of spies, and no mutinies among the Arum clans until after Gelta enters Andine’s throne room in Osthos. You will do nothing to interfere with that dream vision. If any one of you slaps me across the face with a paradox, I’ll be very cross with you.”
You know, it's kind of sad when you have so many gods in your machine that you have to actively tell your characters not to use them. Yes, we do have a magical not-tardis full of crack troops, but we just can't use them right now because that'd make this book too short.

And what this chapter is all about--dragging feet until we get to the actual surrender scene. Only instead of making it interesting with front-line fighting, we're jumping from one unimportant thing to another. Argan finds the note about the traitors that Althalus wants dead. Great. Bheid tells his killers to wait. Fantastic.

Oh, hey, street-to-street fighting in Poma. Yeah, that's kind of plot related.

Twengor is having a lot of fun burning someone else's city down. Althalus and company drop by just as he's smoking out a sniper--literally. He sets the building next door on fire because the archer in an upper window keeps trying to part his hair with an arrow. It'd take a lot to fuck this up. I mean--

Go tell Khalor that I’m still sober and that I can drive the enemy out of town at a moment’s notice. Isn’t that more or less what he wanted to know?”
Yeah, because the hard part about being a recovering alcoholic is the getting sober part. It's not like he has to re-learn basic things like socializing and relaxing and IDK fucking sleeping. Yeah, boys and girls, an alcoholic becomes so used to drinking until they pass out at night that going to sleep is now this strange foreign activity that they do not understand. Everything an alcoholic has revolves around the booze. His ideas of socialization. His hobbies. His family. The word "co-dependent" was coined by people working with alcoholics when they realized that otherwise sober families become just as dependent on the booze as the drinker. They know how to cope with a drunk Mom or Dad or Daughter, but they've got no fucking idea how to relate to a sober one. Healing from alcoholism is hard.  The process of recovery, as I have said before, is not a one-time process. It's an every day thing. And the reason why AA is so big on "one day at a time"? It's because thinking further than today is fucking impossible. If you think about going a week without drinking, it feels like climbing Mt. Everest. Recovery very often boils down to "I'm going to make it through the next minute without having a drink. Okay. Now I'm going to make it through the next minute. Okay." And meanwhile your family is still in "Daddy is a Drunk" mode, and their usual hyper-vigilance, which you didn't notice before because you were too fucked up to care, now simultaneously gets on your nerves AND triggers your massive guilt complex.

And most alcoholics love booze. They love being drunk. If you offered an alcoholic the chance to get drunk one more time without repercussions? They'd take it. My dad once talked to one of the kids in the foster home about booze. He can't remember things like when he went on his first date and his first car, and even the memories of when me and my brother were born are a little blurry, but he remembers his first beer. He remembers how his first beer tastes. He remembers how the condensation dripped down the side. And he really likes talking about it.

And apparently in this universe you can forget all of that no problem.

So team Althalus moves on to the other walled cities, given that Poma is now less "walled" and more "smoking ruin ringed round with rubble."

One of the other clan cheifs makes the following observation:

“This particular enemy has more than pure stupidity working against it,” Koleika added. “One of their Generals is a woman.”
Thanks bunches, Dave.

Meanwhile, the duke Koleika is trying to keep alive has been having fun developing new toys for war. This does not end well for Gelta's men.

“I saw right off that one spear would only kill one man,” Koleika replied modestly, “and only if it happened to hit him. I suggested to Nitral that replacing the steel points with earthenware jugs filled with boiling pitch might be an improvement.” Then he made a wry face. “You’ve got to be careful about making suggestions to Nitral. He takes a good, sound idea and immediately starts to expand it. He went me one—or maybe three—better. He liked the pitch idea so much that he added naphtha, sulphur, and something his brewers boil out of good strong beer. One spark is all it takes to set fire to that mixture, and you probably noticed that each spear had a burning rag tied around the shaft.”

Well, it looks spectacular, at any rate.

So Finally Andine sends Althalus out as her negotiator. And while you'd think that'd work out like a Bruce Willis movie, he actually pushes the bland and boring envelope as far as it'll go:

“Madam,” Althalus said coldly, “this is neither the time nor the place for threats. Circumstances have given you a slight advantage, and my Arya has instructed me to inquire as to your terms.” 
“There are no terms, you silly fop!” Gelta flared. “Open your gates to me, or I will destroy your city!” 
“Try to maintain your perspective, madam,” Althalus replied. “Take a moment, if you wish, to go outside and have a look at the walls of Osthos. Our city will stand, no matter what you throw at those walls. A prolonged siege, however, would inconvenience the citizens slightly. To put it to you bluntly, how much will you take to go away?”
...I kind of like that.

Anyway, they agree to let Gelta and her troops sack the city for one day...which just so happens to be their best guestimate for the prophesy dream's date. Oh, and they're going to let Andine do a ceremonial surrender because it's not like Ghend knows she's on Althalus's side (He totally does).

Gelta confirms that the day is right and Althalus goes running off to tell Dweia all about the new plan. They spend the night evacuating civilians from Osthos, and spend the dark hours of the morning trucking in thier own troops because god forbid the enemy put up a fair fight.

Once again, our heroes demonstrate their honorable moral fiber.

“You’re being obvious, Khalor,” Gebhel growled. “What do you want me to do with them after I’ve rounded them up?” “I couldn’t care less,” Khalor replied. “You’ll have about ten thousand prisoners on your hands. Maybe you’ll get lucky and come across a slave trader.” Gebhel’s eyes brightened. “It’s a thought,” he said. “I get twenty percent,” Khalor advised him. “Don’t be ridiculous. Five at the most.”

Meanwhile, Andine, the trained orator and great leader, is biting her fingernails because she's so nervious about surrendering her sovereignity to the forces of Satan.

Gelta, however, spokes the wheel by bringing more troops than she ought to have, making the mock invasion very real. Andine is very meek-seeming and quivering, and Althalus is panicking inwardly because holy fuck, that's a lot of soliders out there. Andine does the whole kneeling-on-the-floor thing and Gelta puts her boot on Andine's neck.

Althalus is still panicking.

Argan, meanwhile, decides that the very best thing he can do, now that Gelta is occupied and Althalus has lost his marbles, is order one of Ghend's scary underlings to kill Bheid. The scary underling tries to, but Salkan the Shepherd gets in the way mostly on purpose, and dies.

Bheid goes fucking apeshit and pins the scary underling to the wall with a broadsword. With him dead, the soldiers vanish, and Andine reverts back to form:

“Get your foot off me, you stinking hag!” Andine’s soaring voice broke through the stunned silence that had fallen over the throne room, even as the wild wailing faltered and the song of the Knife soared.
They show Gelta the Magical Will Stealing Knife, which makes her start screaming in agony, and then they dump her into a room in the House that has no doors. We never see Gelta again.

Our heroes.

End of chapter.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Redemption of Althalus-31-32

When everything's arranged with Andine's people, Khalor goes off in the not-Tardis to go look at Gelta's troops. Salkan the Shepherd is still around, off playing with Gher somewhere. This becomes important later. Dweia sends Althalus to go get Gher and his new best friend.

"...It’s almost suppertime anyway, and Emmy can cook much better than Sergeant Gebhel’s field cooks can. Let’s go have a decent meal, shall we?”

...stay classy Al. Stay classy.

Khalor finds out that Gelta has second class mercs on her side, and that Daeva gave her a bunch of his non-human footsoldiers to make up for her army basically sucking. Eliar shows up--apparently the ladies are talking about clothes again--and says that the Knife just told him Ghend is down with the troops. Khalor, of course, zooms in on the enemy general, who is rather pissed that his paid for traitors seem to be helping Althalus out an awful lot.

So basically everything's going according to plan there.

Argan and Ghend also let slip that they've got something religious cooking, and that Daeva's nonhuman soldiers are supposed to be a suprise for later, so Don't let Althalus know about them, whatever you do.


Khalor is irritated because they have to let the traitors out of the House eventually, due to their having no good reason not to. Gher asks why they can't just lie and say that Argan is a hired killer, and show the traitors a picture to prove it, and explain that they're putting the traitors into protective custody...oh, and they'll kill Ghend's messenger on sight, seeing as how he's a "paid assassin" and all. Althalus thinks this is a wonderful idea and heads off to tell the traitor's generals that someone is trying to kill their cheifs.

Their reaction is less than what Althalus would have wanted:

“Let him,” Gelun said flatly. “I’ll even lend him my knife if he wants to kill them that much.”
Althalus quickly talks them into letting him protect their bosses for a while.

We then take a break from all the fighting to establish that Andine and Eliar are now dating. We really needed to know this.

They start installing the armies in their respective cities. They get the more mundane one taken care of before Andine has a meltdown over the whole "surrendering my soveriginity" thing. Gee, I wonder why a trained-from-birth ruler would have issues with being pressured to leave her throne due to a prophetic dream.

Althalus, of course, cons her back into line:

“When you’re setting a trap for an animal, you have to bait the trap, little Princess. If you’re trying to trap a bird, you use seeds for bait. If you’re after a wolf or a bear, meat works fairly well. Gelta’s a different sort of animal, so you’ll have to use a different bait. We do want to have baked Gelta for supper, don’t we?” “That’s disgusting, Althalus!” “I was speaking figuratively, Andine. You’d need a lot of spice to make Gelta edible. The bait we’re going to use to trap her has to be so alluring that she won’t be able to resist it. That’s your job. Be irresistible, Andine. Be soft and tender and delicious—right up until she touches you. That’s when we spring the trap and send her off to the bake oven.”

They check on their cavalry for a minute and then head on over to go stick Twengor into Poma.

This book's been low-level awful for a while, but it isn't doing anything actively dangerous. Let's change that, shall we?

See, Twengor's big problem is that he's an alcoholic. A very long term, very active, constantly drunk alcoholic. Somewhere between "late stage" and "yellow eyeballs". Althalus decides that it'll be much faster to put the drunk soldiers to sleep, march them through a door that somehow fastforwards their time by three weeks, and have them wake up sober.

“Time’s the only thing that’ll sober a drunk man up, so I’ll need a week at least. I’m going to start our sodden friends here to walking in their sleep. Then I want you to lead them into last week and back. Then we’ll take them through the Poma road door...Twengor and his men will go to last week and back while they’re passing through the doorway. They’ll be drunk as lords here, and sober as judges there, because they’ll have had two weeks to get sober during that single step through the doorway. And, since they’ll be walking in their sleep, they won’t really know what’s happened.”

I spent a very long time deciding how to react to this, and I decided to go with my first one.

Yeah. There's an idea in most circles that if you're a drunk you can, you know, stop fucking drinking and everything will be fine. This is technically true IF the person is still a casual drunk and IF the withdrawals from alcohol aren't too bad. When you're drinking large amounts of booze every single day? You can't just stop drinking. If you are a long term, late stage alcoholic and you cold turkey on booze you can die. If you are drinking from the moment you wake up to the moment you pass out, and your hands are shaking? You WILL die if you try to stop drinking on your own. Alcohol is one of the hardest chemicals to detox from because the process can be fatal if the addiction is too severe. The list of alcohol withdrawal symptoms reads like something out of a zombie movie. If a late stage alcoholic wants to sober up they absofuckinglutely posifuckingtively have to be under a doctor's supervision.

See, the myth is that what's causing the withdrawal symptoms is the loss of that chemical, and that you only have to suffer through the entire metabolic process--that once the chemical is completely gone, you're going to feel okay. This is not what's happening. Addiction only occurs when the chemical has replaced another, natural chemical produced by the human body--this is usually something in the brain. You've taught your brain that it doesn't have to make its own supply anymore, because you're giving it the fun, artificial version. So when you stop taking the drug, your body no longer has either the natural or the artificial chemical in its system, and the worst symptoms occur while your body is trying to re-learn how to make itself work right.

And it isn't like the people in this book wouldn't understand this. Dweia jury-rigged antiseptics and neurosurgery to save Eliar's life. She could take the three or four seconds required to explain to Althalus that the human body does not work like this.

Twengor has spent decades being boots up in a wine barrel, and he just had all that alcohol pulled out of his system instantly. That's not a detox. That's a death sentence.

It's also really careless, because it re-enforces the misinformation that your long-term drunk friend could get sober if they really really want to. That might have been true ten years ago, but it isn't now. Yes, they dug the hole. It's deep enough that they cannot get out of it on their own, and placing the expectation of self reliance on someone when the only self reliant solution WILL kill them is fucking wrong. Implying that the solution to long-term alcoholism is unsupervised cold turkey is like implying that the solution to Ebola is an atomic warhead. This is the kind of misinformation that gets people killed. This is it. Right here. This is what actively dangerous writing looks like.

Anyway, after surviving the biological equivilant of a nuclear holocaust (and that's not hyperbole) Twengor starts throwing the badly-constructed city around like it's a brand new castanet. I don't think it's going to end well for the city of Poma.

Althalus discovers that Argan is still trying to get to the Traitors, and that Gher left a note in the tent they're supposed to be in confessing to full cooperation with Althalus. So basically they've set up their enemies to get murdered.

Our heroes. Putting allies' lives in danger and setting up the murder of their enemies every damn day.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--chapter 29-30

So we wrap up the entire battle with lots of quick explinations for things that we had already figured out through the subtext.

The most important plot element introduced is a girlfriend for Cheif Albron, because letting anything male be unattached is a huge no-no. They decide to stow her in the house for safekeeping, kind of like a side of beef.

Hey, wasn't there another kingdom being invaded at the moment?

Well, yeah, but it's a female leader in trouble so it takes an entire chapter of Althalus conning various people and Albron looking doe-eyed at his door prize for us to get there.

When we do, we get a very quick run down of what the emergency is:

Dhakan nodded. “The walls of Kadon and Mawor are quite substantial, but those around Poma have sort of fallen into disrepair. Technically, those three cities are a part of the Osthos Alliance. They were independent city-states some centuries back, and when the Kanthons began having imperial urges for the first time, we all joined together to repel them. The Dukes of those three cities still maintain the fiction of independence, but when you get right down to the bottom of things, they take orders from Osthos.”
Andine, however, is a little more gobsmacked by another factor:

“That’s idiocy! The peasants don’t have anything to do with the wars between the cities! Nobody’s ever killed the peasants before. They’re an asset. If you don’t have peasants, who’s going to grow your food?”
This, by the way, is not treated as ignorance on her part.

And of course, since this is Andine's problem, the person at the helm is once again Gelta. It's girl on girl.

And then Ghend hands Althalus a big chunk of Edding's outline for the rest of the book:

“Submit unto me, frail child,” the dark Queen commanded, “and should thy submission please me, mayhap I shall spare thy life.” And the haunted wail filled the room. And Arya Andine knelt to signify her submission. “On thy face!” stern Gelta commanded. “Grovel before me that I may know that thy submission is absolute!” And, weeping, did Arya Andine lower her face to the very stones of the floor. And the heart of Gelta was full, and the taste of victory on her tongue was sweet, sweet. And placed she then her rough-booted foot upon the soft neck of groveling Andine in exultant triumph, declaring, “All that was yours is now mine, Andine, yea, verily, even thy life and all thy blood.” And the triumphant cry of the Queen of the Night echoed down the marble-clad palace of the fallen Arya of Osthos, and the despairing wail echoed also.

However, this dream is different. This dream is not a past-dream, which makes things that didn't happen happen even though they haven't really happened. Nope. This is a future dream, so letting it not happen would create a paradox and that would be bad. So now the good guys absolutely have to let Gelta into Andine's throne room so she can stand on Andine's neck. Dweia's orders.

This has never made any sense to me.

Dweia elaborates on it a little tiny bit:

“I don’t think he’d dare, Sergeant,” she replied. “Part of the danger of jumping around in time in a dream vision is the possibility of paradox. If two entirely different things happen in the same place at the same time, reality starts to come apart, and we really don’t want that to happen. Changing the past is fairly safe—if you don’t go too far. Changing the future is an entirely different matter.”
Except this is a dream. The past-dreams made a little sense because they were sort of brainwashing--like trying to convince the world that John McCain won in 2008 instead of Obama so that when we woke up the next morning with him in the White House nobody would freak--but this future dream shit is like...uh, HELLO. DREAMING. But we never get more concrete information than this.

Althalus now has to shove Gelta into Andine's throne room six weeks from now.

Andine is less than happy about this:

“No!” Andine’s voice soared. “I will not bow down to that pock-marked cow!”
I love how they take even her defiance away. It's not her protesting being railroaded into surrender. No. It's her voice that's doing it.

Everybody reminds her that the Knife told her to obey. She basically tells them all to get fucked, it's her country, she's not giving it up because of some stupid prophetic dream.

Althalus decides he's going to let Dweia try to talk Andine into surrendering her sovereignity, and he heads off to go meet with their pet traitors.

Yeah, two of the clan cheifs of the mercenaries are in Ghend's pocket, and Althalus has been keeping them in the House because the longer he does, the more likely Ghend is to kill them when he finally lets them out. And he's going to be using their troops as his first line of defense.

They're about to explode. The only reason they're still alive is their clan would be more-or-less obligated to kill whoever kills them, and Althalus quickly figures out that "obligated" is the operative word. these clans hate their leaders, and they're pretty much ignoring them as much as they can. Althalus hunts down the guys who are really making all the decisions and tells them what to do. He also drops hints that he'd really like to be free of the traitors, which the two good guys pretty much agree with.

Leitha picks up hints that one of Ghend's other henchmen is playing with religion. This comes into play later.

She also starts calling Althalus "Daddy".

It's exactly as creepy as it sounds.

Khalor inspects the cities they need to defend, so he knows which clan to stick where. One place is nice enough, though their Duke is more worried about harvest and profit and when everybody can get back to work than he is about, you know, war. They decide to stick a cheif named Laiwon in there.

Poma is basically a falling down heap of rocks run by a Duke too scared to tax his merchants.

Bherdor was hardly more than a boy, and he had a weak chin—and a disposition to match. “I know that things aren’t quite up to standard, Lord Althalus,” he apologized tremulously when Althalus took him to task for the condition of his city walls, “but my poor, poor city’s teetering on the brink of total bankruptcy. I’d raise taxes to repair them, but the merchants have all warned me that a tax increase would send the local economy into total collapse.” “What is your current rate, your Grace?” Althalus asked. “Three and a half percent, Lord Althalus,” Bherdor replied tremulously. “Do you think that’s too high?” he added with some apprehension.

They decide to stick  Twengor, the raving drunk clan chief, into this pigstye. Mostly because the wall can't be defended and Twengor is the only person who will know how to sucker the enemy in and make sure they never get out.

He's also the main reason I decided to review this book. Holy shit do I have a big problem with him.

The last city apprently has very pretty walls that will never, ever, ever come down. Apparently the duke in charge of that city is an archetect, and he's using his city as his own personal hobby. This is actually the best of the lot:

If we put Koleika Iron Jaw here in Mawor, Gelta might lay siege to the place, but she won’t get into the city, and she won’t be able to leave.” “I don’t quite follow that,” Althalas admitted. “As soon as she turns around to leave, Koleika’ll come blasting out through the gates and cut her army all to pieces. He’ll lock them in place right here.” Khalor squinted. “It sort of matches what Leitha told us about what Gelta was thinking in that dream. There was something that was preventing the invaders from marching on Osthos, and I think it might just have been the combination of this fortress and Iron Jaw. Put those two together, and this is a natural trap. The invasion stops right here. They won’t be able to get in, and they won’t be able to leave. It’s perfect.”
Khalor then decides he needs to have a talk with Andine's generals. Okay, apparently she does have an army. That she never uses.

I have no idea why.

Khalor promised with a bleak smile. He looked at Andine, who was sweating in her robes of state. “Would it bother you very much if I broke up some of the furniture, little girl?”
Yeah, that's really respectful. Basically he chops furnature into kindling until the generals start listening to him, and he tells them they can all take their toys and go home.

In most universes this would cause another civil war. In this one, it makes Khalor a genious orator.

Andine's entire contribution to this is snuggling with Dweia in cat-form over in a corner.


End of chapter.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--chapter 28

So the updates have been sporatic and that is entirely my fault. Depressive cycles suck. I know what this one is, I'm trying to handle it sanely. Having my first reaction to the blog be "Fuck that shit" is not helping but I am working on that.

So. Where were we?

Eliar is blind and we're violating the personal boundaries of a woman in order to fix that. Great.

A sudden look of revulsion crossed Leitha’s face. “You don’t know what you’re asking, Dweia!” she exclaimed. “I can’t do that!”

Dweia, being the goddess of mothering--not motherly love. mothering--does not give one flying fuck what Leitha wants.They go back and forth for a while, and then Dweia drags Althalus into things. Being the consummate man of honor that he is, he promptly cons Leitha.

“I rather thought you might see it that way, Leitha,” he said. “I’m sort of following up on something you said earlier. We are a family of sorts, and that means that Eliar’s your brother, and you’re his sister, doesn’t it...And isn’t Andine also your sister? And there’s a link there as well, isn’t there? ...Then why are you making such a fuss about something that’s already in place? You’re already locked to Eliar, and you have been ever since we all left Kweron. All you’ll be doing now is bringing it out into the open. We might even want to expand that later and bring everybody into this family get-together. It might just be very useful. Love’s a nice sort of thing, Leitha, so don’t be afraid of it.”
I cut out most of Leitha's "uh huhs". And her response after all this is basically "I think I've been manipulated". LEITHA. YOU READ MINDS. YOU SHOULD NOT BE FALLING FOR THIS SHIT.

Also, once the merger happens?

“It’s not really that significant, children,” Dweia told them. “Those are just physical differences. They have very little to do with who you really are. All of us are aware of our physical bodies all the time, and that awareness shouldn’t bother you.”
Yeah, it's genitalia that concerns them. Not, you know, not having their minds to themselves anymore. Nope. Our bodies are all we should give a fuck about.

They do a bunch of tests to prove that Eliar and Leitha's senses are linked now, and then Leitha puts her face up close to Eliar's until they find the door. Why Dweia couldn't be doing this, I have no idea, but that's how this works. Eliar, Leitha and Andine go through, AAAAAANNNNNND the door closes.

So now Althalus is down his magic house, his pocket goddess, his money hole AND his mind-reader. That just leaves him with Wonderkind Gher for future DEM moments. Which will happen.

Meanwhile, Khalor wants to know when he'll get the mind-reading girl back because she was really useful on the front lines. NO SHIT SHERLOCK.

Althalus is all like "Uh...later." And given how much later it takes the not-Tardis to heal Eliar when it basically has a pause button, there's absolutely no reason that Eliar couldn't have just popped back in a paragraph later, fully cured. I'm glad he doesn't, because that would end the military stuff too soon, but that's how the not-Tardis should be working. It's a freaking time pause button.

Anyhoo, Khalor realizes that without Althalus's pocket miracles, they need to fort up in a better position. He asks Salkan to take him to the nearest hill, which turns out to be a several hundred foot high sheer cliff jutting out an otherwise flat field. It has its own freshwater supply.

It makes no geographical sense, which every character points out repeatedly. We're rolling with it.

They stick things out for one more good rush, and use sheep to hide their thoughts from Ghend's mind reader, which works pretty well for defense and offence, as the damned things stampeed the second the battle starts. Then everybody heads out for the geographically impossible cliff for some RnR. Althalus magics up some food and he and the troops start planning for a long, long seige on the mountain.

Gher points out that Ghend's hencman will probably open a door on the path up the cliff, if not directly in their camp (why this never actually occurs to either side mystifies me. Open door at rear of camp, take out most of the supplies and support, and then attack the front lines while they're distracted. It's classic and you don't have to bother with all the hiking. Having a couple hundred enemy soldiers appear in the middle of my camp followers would really ruin my day) so Althalus has the shepherds start rolling rocks down the pathway.

Gher and Althalus also start planning to set fire to the grass around the cliffs, now affectionately known as God's Tooth. This whole sequence annoys the fuck out of me. Dweia can't talk to Althalus, so she talks to Gher instead...because we never find out why, that's just what happens because we need artificial suspense instead of, IDK, shooting three or four of our DEMS and having actual suspense.

Gher tells Althalus which words from the book to use. Because that's what Lord of the Rings needed, you know. Having Gandalf be coached through his spell-casting by a random orphan from Rohan. Having been handed the difficult spell of "making wind" handed to him on a silver platter, he gets the shepherds to set random fires. Gelta attacks with cavalry, and Althalus lights her horses on fire.

Khalor starts building another tower inside their camp on the cliff, because I guess Eddings wanted to do a re-enactment of Helm's Deep.

 Things move on predictably.

By late afternoon, Gelta’s Ansus had returned across the fire-ravaged grassland and totally encircled the tower. Gebhel’s men soon discovered that a boulder rolled off the edge of the tower onto the rocks a thousand feet below bounced a long way out from the base of their fortress. They found that to be enormously entertaining.
Gher then suggests that they build a moat inside their own camp. I guess because being able to pull your front lines back inside your fall-back position is for suckers. Althalus spends a lot of time fishing for words again. Dude, you spent two thousand years studying that fucking book, you'd think you'd remember to bring a crib sheet with you, at least.

Ghend finally remembers that he has doors and how to use them. He dumps his troops on the path towards Khalor's camp, rather than, you know, inside of Khalor's camp.

Khalor dumps a bunch of rocks on Ghend's men then retreats into the main cave. The top of God's Tooth now belongs to Ghend. Althalus, however, pulls magic directly out of his ass and starts an earthquake. Apparently there was a very deep crack in this geological improbability, and this opens up a ditch. Althalus dumps water into it and all of Ghend's horses and all of Ghend's men go flying off either side of God's Tooth, caught in Althalus's brand new waterfall.

And that is what "I've written myself into a corner" looks like when you drag the solution directly out of your ass. Though I have to admit the double-ended waterfall is kind of metal.

Though I probably ought to call it Dweia's waterfall, seeing as how she had to hold Al's hand every step of the way.

And then we have RANDOM FUCKING CAVALRY. Yep, the cavalry soldiers Khalor and Althalus hired several chapters ago come racing out of the cave with Eliar in the lead. The cavalry smash Ghend's troops while Eliar and Pekhal enter single combat. Eliar waits until he's got Pekhal on the ropes before showing him the magical will stealing knife. Pekhal, of course, screams like a vampire doused in holy water, and Ghend rescues his underling before Pelhal can do much more than wet himself.

We never see Pekhal again.

End of chapter.

Oh, and the next  chunk of book? AKA section five? Yeah, this is Andine's section.

Brace yourselves.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--chapter twenty six

It's a warfare chapter. I'm mostly happy about this.

I have no idea why I love war books. It seems to tickle the same part of my brain that likes con movies (Okay, nerd-gasm moment: If you have not watched Now You See Me yet, GO WATCH IT RIGHT NOW. And when the opening sequence tells you to pick a card, pick a motherfucking card, mkay? I will spoil nothing, but you are definately supposed to participate in the opening sequence) and Sherlock Holmes adaptations. It's probably the idea of two sides trying to outthink the other one. Bonus points if one or both sides has a "do NOT fuck with me" leader (HONOR HONOR HONOR HONOR HONOR HONOR) (And Thomas Theisman to be honest, but Honor's more kickass and she comes with a treecat. Whose entire species is, by the way, now an integral and useful part of the plot. Having a telempathic sapient critter on your shoulder helps an awful lot when the other side has mind-stealing assassin nanites.) and triple points if both sides are equally matched.

That is, uh...not the case here. We got kind of close to it now that Eliar and the House at the End of the World are out of the equation, but we still have a bunch of war-weary mercenaries squared off against a race of people (a brainwashed race of people) a few steps above stone-age tech. And they still have Leitha. They're not using her, but they've still got her.

However, Al and company have a problem. The bad guys are still in the cave--meaning that Leitha did not just walk Eliar into a trap, Ghend reacted to her discovering his main plan, and there's no reason for her to not still be in play--and they're gonna attack sometime soon. But Ghend has a bunch of soldiers putting on a big show that basically means "We're trying to get your attention so we can attack way the hell over there," which means that Gebhel, the guy in charge of everything, has all his men in the wrong place.

Me being me, I would probably let that attack go off, but I'm a sadistic bitch (It's my word, kiddies, I can point it at me) who likes to throw my side a couple losses before we scrape out a decisive win. This one would, in fact, be so catastrophic I probably wouldn't have to pull another one. And given where the plot's going, having Al and Company be handed their asses in a carpet bag would actually make sense.

But that would expose Althalus to this little thing we call humility and humanity, so we're not going to do that.

Instead, Gher takes over the Deus ex Machina role and suggests that Althalus or Dweia create a fog bank in front of the cave where the troops are hidden, and then tell Gebhel that there's smoke over there, they need to stick some more men on this end of the line. Okay, great suggestion. Let's move on. Please. Let's--

Sergeant Khalor squinted off at the eastern sky, scratching thoughtfully at his cheek. “This boy’s a treasure, Althalus,” he said finally. “Stupid blunders like the one he just described happen all the time in wars,
Take a break to kiss your self insert's asses. And then they do what Gher suggests, and the whole "My dudes are out of place" thing becomes a non issue.

You know, one thing I really don't get is this whole "Let's not let our characters get hurt" thing. I know there's a certain amount of self-insert-ery going on, but for fuck's sake, this is fiction. It's supposed to be interesting. If your main characters win every single fucking time it's not interesting. Even if you throw them a curve ball, it's not interesting. Interesting is when your characters keep losing, because it makes the final win in doubt. Why introduce a curve ball like Eliar getting bashed upside the head if you're going to solve all the issues you bring up within a couple of paragraphs of planning? If there's a big flaw in the plan, exploit the fuck out of it and let the bad guys kick the stuffing out of your main characters for a little while. And if you don't want to do that don't bring up the flaw.

(It also bugs me an awful lot that the same "We're not letting our characters get hurt/lose" crowd are sometimes the ones who set up their female characters for a shitload of abuse. Seeing that combo together makes me feel really, really uneasy.)

So they spend a few pages doing the usual battle preliminaries--posturing and shouting from the Ansu's side, rocks and boiling pitch from Althalus's side--and then the guys in the cave make their assault. Which mystifies Kahlor until he finds out that Gelta is in charge. Apparently women are more elementary than men and they make dumb battle decisions all the time.

Does she have any sort of plan at all, Leitha?”
 “Nothing very coherent. She’s going to lead her forces to the top of that hill over on the other side. Then she’ll wait until they’re all lined up out in plain sight. She’ll order her trumpeters to give us a little concert at that point, and then they’ll charge down the hill.”

So the Ansus charge forward on their horses and meet a bunch of booby traps. The shepherds and their slingshots kind of put an end to the rest of the charge, and the cave people are now officially a non issue.

Kahlor, however, is worried that the other side hasn't followed up with any foot soldiers. He tells Leitha to keep an eye out. Gelta keeps sending her men up to clear out the barricades and booby traps--mostly by running into them at a full tilt) and then screaming at them when they die. Gebhel keeps putting the blocades and booby-traps back when he has breathing room. This goes back and forth until Eliar wakes up.

Everybody crowds around the tent. As soon as he's awake, Dweia's taking him to the house so he can do all his recovery in a couple seconds...which is promptly derailed because Eliar's injury has blinded him. He can't see a damned thing.

Leitha discovers that tomorrow morning the bad guys are going to attack the trenches from the front and the rear, via Ghend's version of the doors. Gelta gets the useless job of running up the booby-trapped hill some more, while Pekhal the cannibal (not as nice as Hannibal, is it?) attacks from the rear. Well, it took you guys long enough to figure that out.

Then Dweia decides the best way to fix Eliar's eyesight is to violate personal boundaries.

A lot of them.

She decides that the best way to get Eliar's eyes back is to have Leitha go so deep into his mind that both their minds merge together, basically the same way that Dweia pushed into Althalus's head. And she doesn't plan on giving either party the full disclosure or much of a choice in the matter:

Oh, and the main concern in all this? No, it's not personal integrity or mantaining a good sense of self or personal identity or human rights. It's sex.

It's always sex.

Exactly, and that link might alter certain boy-girl arrangements that she wants to stay exactly as they are. We can hope it doesn’t come to that, but getting Eliar’s sight back outweighs everything else right now.
End of chapter.

Aren't our heroes nice?

Friday, September 20, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--chapter 25

Okay, updatey-things.

Everything has gone wrong this month. Everything.

I'm about halfway through the Gray Prince book. Due to unforseen circumstances which I should have foreseen, I'm going to have to delay the third part of Dragon Breath (these circumstances being money shenanigans) (Unless you guys are okay with the last third being unedited. You probably aren't) until I have the editing money saved up. Pretty much the only thing I've finished in the last few days is formatting a print book.

I'm sorry guys. Next month will be better and cool and things.

So when we last left our "heroes" Eliar was flattened by a stray axe. Well, now they've lost the Not-Tardis (and by extention, the Money Pit) so things should be getting better no--

No!” Andine shrieked. She rushed to Eliar, fell to her knees beside his limp body, and clasped him to her, weeping uncontrollably.
 Get her away from him, Althalus! Dweia’s voice crackled inside his mind. She’ll only make it worse!
Dave. Can you stop being casually awful to your female characters? Please?

Dweia shows Leitha how to look into the physical parts of Eliar's brain. Somehow. Leitha reports that Eliar is bleeding internally. The fact that he got bashed with an axe and is lying unconsious would have been your first clue. Unfortunately the axe didn't break Eliar's skull and the pressure is building up.

Also: Apparently Dweia is well trained in twentieth century medicine.

Meanwhile all the characters are screaming "We're screwed" like they aren't bloodthirsty mercenaries who spend their whole lives doing war WITHOUT the aid of a not-Tardis. Althalus and Khalor get Eliar to a tent.

Hey, we haven't been awful to Andine for a couple pages.

“Good. Dweia wants you to shave the back of Eliar’s head.”
 “Althalus!” Andine protested. 
Put her to sleep, Althalus, Dweia said abruptly. Use “leb.” She’s just going to be in the way, and she doesn’t need to watch anyway.
So glad we could fix that.

Althalus drills into Eliar's head whenever Leitha points out a bleed. Dweia has Salkan the Shepherd bring her some herbal remedies that borderline on herbal homicide, and they mix together a surgical antiseptic and make Althalus wash his hands with it.

I'm serious.

This isn’t permanent, is it, Em? Althalus asked, looking at his hands after he’d washed them in the peculiar syrup they’d concocted from several different ingredients. I might have a little trouble explaining how I came to have green hands. 
It’ll wear off in time. Now swab the back of Eliar’s head with it, and let’s get started.
Then Althalus drills into Eliar's head with magic. Eliar promptly shoots blood at him.

Don't ask me. This isn't my book.


It’s an astringent, dear. It constricts the blood vessels. It’s something on the order of the way sour fruit makes your mouth pucker up. That’s why we needed the greenberries. They aren’t really all that poisonous, but they’re so sour that people believe that they almost have to be deadly.
PLEASE TELL ME WHAT TIME PERIOD THIS IS. I can buy that Dweia would know where to find naturally occurring astringents, but would the word "astringent" exist in Althalus's vocabulary?

So after the magical jury-rigged surgery using magical jury-rigged surgical antiseptics and a magical jury-rigged astringent, we get a jury-rigged time dosage device.

“No, it’s a little more precise than that. Eliar needs very small doses at regular intervals. That’s what the glass tube’s for. There’s a line around the tube to show you just how much to give him. You take the tube, dip it into the medicine as far as that line, and then you put your finger over the upper end of the tube. Then put the tube in Eliar’s mouth and lift your finger. That lets the medicine drain into his mouth. Try it once, so that you’ll know how to do it.”
And the person she's talking to is, naturally, Andine. Because what could the trained-from-birth ruler of a country constantly at war have to contribute to a front lines battle where the general plan just got flushed down the tubes?

We also compare controlling the flow of blood to the brain with tuning a lute.

Althalus then calls Dweia and talks at her for a while. I'd love to say "Tries to co-ordinate a battle strategy" but he pretty much ignores all the potential of having a goddess in a time-traveling house at his beck and call and tells her to do things she'd be able to do on her own, like spy on the bad guys for them.

Leitha is worried that Ghend and Gelta are using her gift against her, so instead of trying to spy and potentially getting another member of her team hurt, she stands near the main tent and chants random numbers under her breath so the other side's mind-reader can't pin down anybody else's thoughts. I guess mind reading is kind of like counting--somebody else shouting numbers at you will ruin the whole game.

Eliar starts getting better, so Althalus decides to do the very best thing a good guy can do, and lie. He tells Salkan that Eliar is dying so that Salkan will think about it real hard and convince Ghend his plan worked. Great.

The chapter ends with Althalus and Leitha discussing how very much Salkan wants to murder all the Ansus. Mission accomplished.

Yeah, I think I am officially disgusted by everyone in this book. I can't bring myself to hate them, but I'll definately fling cow-pies at them for a good long while.

Redemption of Althalus--chapter 24

So they bring Andine back to Othos, and everyone is like "Huh. Our missing ruler has returned in the company of that random slave trader and the dude that murdered her father. Hi, guys. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN YOUNG LADY."

Because the rulers of a kingdom need to be babied like that. It's not like you're giving them any real, significant power or anything.

Oh, and if you ever want to know what Stockholm Syndrome really looks like...

“I think the word is ‘abducted,’ Althalus,” Dhakan corrected.
“It wasn’t his fault, dear Dhakan,” Andine told him. “He was acting on orders from the one we both serve now... I was a monster. Would you be willing to accept a blanket apology for all the trouble I caused you after I ascended the throne? Your patience was almost inhuman. You should have turned me over your knee and given me a good, sound spanking.”

Yeah. It's that. As for resolving the issue of Andine's kingdom being invaded by Daeva AKA Satan, they advice her advisor to basically get everybody behind a big wall and stay there until Team Al can be arsed to rescue them. Because it's not like Andine has her own army or anything.

...seriously. I don't think she does.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch front lines, things are actually getting kind of interesting.

Remember, Ghend has doors and a mind-reader of his own, and now that Al has shown you can stick your entire invading army into your Not-Tardis, Ghend is probably doing that too, and he's stocked the front lines with soldiers who have completely contradictory orders. So they need to have Leitha picking everybody's minds so that she can tell Khalor where to put the troops, but they can't bet on anything she picks up being accurate until right before zero hour, because Ghend can basically put his troops wherever he wants them.

So they drag her out to start evesdropping, and of course we have to make it very rapy.

“Try to keep them out from underfoot.” Then Khalor looked at Leitha, who was still garbed as a soothsayer. “You might want to keep your hood up,” he suggested. “Princess Andine looks like a page boy, so she won’t attract too much attention, but Gebhel’s troops might get excited if they catch a glimpse of you.”
You know, I was reading just last night about a princess who lead an army in combat that had a strict no raping or pillaging rule, and it was part of what won her the country. That country being China. Yeah, this horseshit is so old it's got dynasties telling it to get fucked.

And then Gher points out something rather beautiful:

“Well, maybe.” Gher looked at Eliar. “You can put one of your doors anyplace you want it, can’t you?”

“To within a half inch, Gher. Why?”

Gher reached out and laid his hand on the ground just above the front of the trench. “How about right here?” he asked.

Yep. Everything Eliar can do Ghend can do better, because his crew has had two thousand fucking unnecessary years of practice (You have no idea how unnecessary it all was.)

Of course, Eliar immediately defuses it and this never actually happens. I think this was an editor's note, actually, and not an actual plot point (yet)

 They start running Leitha back and forth across the enemy lines, and she almost misses the bad guys. They're hiding behind a drunken party. Score another point for Ghend. Leitha points out exactly where the bad guys are and where their main force is going to invade.

And then all the shit hits the fan.

A door opens and Gelta appears right behind Leitha, Althalus and Eliar. Eliar is the only person who can use the doors, or even see them outside of the House, and Gelta literally bashes his brains in with her axe. He drops. Ghend chortles that he's just beaten Althalus, and the Not-Tardis is out of commision for the forseeable future.

End of chapter.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Redemption of Althalus chapter 23

So Team Althalus discuss the dream, and decide there are two proper responses

The first is to dress Andine and Leitha up as men and take them along for the fun (FINALLY). Andine, naturally, has to point out the so-called flaw in this plan:

“Gher,” Andine said gently. “Girl people don’t look exactly like boy people. We have slightly different shapes.” She drew in a deep breath to make her point. “You see what I mean?” she suggested, making a vague gesture at the front of her dress.

Yeah, because it is impossible to make a woman look like a man.

 Their second response is to make the not-Tardis even MORE of a Deus ex.

Specifically by making a window that can see and hear everything in the known cosmos, including a thousand years ago, and by making yet another door that can basically do the same thing. So yes. We spent chapters talking about all the doors in all the hallways, and now we're just going to be using this specific door for everything.

Oh, but it's special:

 Make it an arch, Althalus, and give it brass hinges and an ornate handle so that Eliar knows that it’s no ordinary door. Use ‘peri.’ It’s a bit more formal, and we’ll use the word ‘portal’ when we speak of it, instead of the word ‘door.’ It’s important for Eliar to think of it differently. Make the door, Althalus.”
Yeah. The portal thing lasts for exactly one paragraph. I guess even Eddings knew it was stupid.

Eliar and Sargent Kahlor think it's the best thing since sliced bread, and in reality I think Kahlor should be the protagonist for this story. He's the dude that does all the work after all, and his HEA is actually legit.

Anyhoo, Gher decides that the very best thing you can do with the Door to Everywhere is to have it go to "Nowhere and Nowhen"

He almost ends the fucking world. No big.

(Seriously. He almost ends the fucking world)

We DO, however, get one legitimately funny line:

“I wish I had a donkey,” Eliar said, grunting under the weight of the keg he was carrying along the streets of the cow town of Kherdon in north-western Plakand.
 “We’ve got one,” Khalor told him with a grin. “His name’s Eliar.”
Why is this not Khalor's story?

They use the money hole to hire cavalry. The negotiations take place in a bar. Aren't we surprised.

They also introduce the girls into the equation by having them be Cheif Albron's unwanted human baggage. Because that's totally the way to do it. Andine and Gher are his unwanted pages, and Leitha is his unwanted (male) soothseer. They introduce them to Priest White Guy who has no problem with a soothsayer of indeterminate religion being in the same room, even though a few months ago the preists of this religion were trying to burn Leitha at the stake.


And of course, the way to discuss their planning for the male disguises is to talk about Leitha's ass.

I am not kidding. Not even remotely.

“I’m sure you’d have been very convincing,” Andine said, “right up until you started to walk.” 
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
 “You swish, dear.” 
“I what?” 
“Swish. All sorts of things move when you walk. Have you ever noticed that, Brother Bheid?” she asked. Bheid’s face turned slightly red. “I thought I noticed you noticing,” Andine said. “You definitely get his attention when you walk past him, Leitha.”

It is probably pathetic that the thought of Andine saying "Dear" the way Dweia and Leitha do bugs me more than "Hey, let's show off your costume by discussing how it shows off your ass."

But it does.

However, they wander out to the war zone and start talking about all the fun things they're putting together, and have I mentioned I love military fiction yet? Because, in case you can't guess, I totally do.

It lasts for one little section, and then they go back into the house to show us how they're deceiving the armies Althalus slipped into his back pocket when nobody was looking.

These are the good guys.

When they go back to the trenches, Albron has ripped off the Ghost and the Darkness and has the shephards tying bushes to everything.

Nasty bushes.

“That’s no ordinary bush, Sergeant,” Albron told him. “The local Wektis call it ‘the shrub from Hell.’ It’s a bramble with three-inch thorns—almost like steel needles. They grow wild along the river. I accidentally brushed up against one of the blasted things a few hours ago, and as soon as I got the bleeding under control, I thought they might be an interesting addition to our barricade out front.” 
“You didn’t try to order Gebhel to use them, did you?” 
“I know better than that, Sergeant,” Albron said. “I just handed him a limb from one of the cursed things and said, ‘Isn’t this interesting?’ He got the point—six or eight points, actually—almost immediately.”

And this is why I love this book. I like the shenanigans with the not-Tardis, but I absolutely fawningly love the parts that are normal dudes doing what normal dudes do. And you know what? Althalus has lots of fancy shiny toys and he brings them out every chance he gets, but most of the time it's the normal guys who have no fucking clue what's really going on who save the day with perfectly normal stuff. I get this picture of Eddings going "Well, now we need to challenge the characters so we're going to introduce all this challening things and OH FUCK HOW DO YOU WRITE CHALLENGE nevermind I'll just have the Adorably Quirky Deity save the day at the last minute" and somehow managing to have the Normal People just plain not suck at this.

There is more discussion of tactics, and how they plan on handling the Ansu horses (Using the Shrub from Hell to funnel the horses into a killing hall filled with all kind of nasty shit) and who they're going to stick where, and how well and truely fucked the enemy will be.

And then we go back to the house and things start sucking again.

Ghend is doing shit in Othos, which is Andine's Kingdom, which is where Andine really ought to be even with her severe case of Brainwashed. Andine has found out about said shit and demands to be taken home so she can take care of her business.

Althalus refuses. Dweia is, of course, the ever gracious voice of reason.

You’d better do as she says, Althalus, Dweia’s voice murmured in his mind. Things probably aren’t quite as bad as she seems to believe, but you’d better pacify her...Take Andine home so that she can warn Lord Dhakan, but then bring her right back to Keiwon. I don’t want that girl running around loose out there.
Yep. The ruling monarch's concerns for her kingdom in the process of being invaded by Satan must be heeded, not because, you know, SHE'S MOTHERFUCKING RIGHT, but because she has to be pacified. 

 End of chapter.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--chapter 22

So Albron tells Althalus that they have to tell Kahlor about the Not-Tardist. They make some noise about Dweia not being pleased, but it's fine with her, so they do. So now we can add Kahlor to the permanent roster, even though he never has serious opposition.

Convincing him takes a while, and requires a lot of randomness.

What's far more interesting is when one of the shepherds, Salkan, meets Kahlor. It seems that the Ansus have been killing the Wekti shepherds' sheep, and the Wekti shepherds aren't too pleased about it. Basically, all these poor little meek baby boys nobody wanted to protect because of Meekness? Yeah. They're all fucking David. You know, David and Goliath? Slings? Salkan straight up killed the soldiers with his, and is pretty pleased with avenging his sheep.

Kahlor and Althalus quickly revise their plans and start hinting to White Guy that the shepherds might want to start defending themselves. Because. You know. THEY ARE. 

 Also: Kahlor thought a sling was just a child's toy, but Althalus knew all about them. Yes he did. He even used one to kill a man once, and he had the most perfect stone for it, too.

Kahlor decides he needs to do some random scouting. Using the house. By basically opening a door and standing in it, looking around. Because it's a not-TARDIS, what do you expect? And Eliar randomy senses Ghend around, and the whole point of this scene is to show that Ghend is afraid of Althalus because he's "moving too fast".

In reality, I think Ghend needs to stay ahead of Al because Marty Stu-Itis is severely contageous, it's already claimed all the protagonist characters and Ghend is terrified he'll be next.

They report their adventures in spying to Dweia. She's not happy:

“You’re starting to make me cross, Althalus.”
Also, Dweia suggests Kahlor stay for supper because with all this war-planning, the ladies are feeling left out.

Right. Because it's not like a mind-reader and a trained ruler would be of any assistance whatsoever in planning a war.

Andine reverted to hovering, and she filled Eliar’s plate three times before he advised her that he was “full clear up to here” with a gesture in the vicinity of his throat.
Yeah. We're still doing that too.

Once again, Gher recommends they put all the Arums in the house, only make them walk in circles so they think they've been marching for months. Althalus loves this idea, mostly because it would mean that he'd only have to pay for real world time, and my issue with this is the discrepancy between the troop's records and their clan-cheifs are probably the kind of disagreements that end in mild genocide. You don't want to cheat mercs out of pay is what I'm saying. It always ends badly.

Althalus decides that Ghend is scared of Gher because Gher has all the good ideas.


Kahlor picks Gweti's troops to go into the feild at Wekti because he's the best at forting up. He lays out his entire plan for the boss and they both cackle at the amount of mayhem this is going to cause.

Gweti tries to cheat Althalus. It doesn't work too well for him.

They get the troops moving, and the chapter ends with another of those lyrical archaic not-dreams:

And behold, stern-faced Gelta, Queen of the Night, did mount the hill astride her midnight horse. And her ax of stone did weep, weep the blood of her fallen foes.
Why. Dave. Why.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Redemption of Althalus chapter 21

So they go back into the House and discuss the situation in Wekti. Apparently Gelta appeared to the Ansus on Wekti's border and claimed to be their long-lost warrior Queen, and Ghend basically pulled an Althalus to bring it home. Random lights, lots of floating down from clouds, lots of manipulative bullshit. You know. The usual.

Althalus doesn't like the other side having fireworks.

Eliar asks Bheid if the Wektis have any army, and Bheid's assessment is less than stellar to say the least:

“Wekti’s a land of sheep, Eliar,” Bheid said. “That’s the domain of the white-robed priests, and the White Robes have elevated ‘meek’ to an art form. The Wekti won’t defend themselves. The apostate White Robes have seen to that.”
Wow. Way to dismiss an entire race based on your own internal religious feudes. Also, please note, the White Robes? Are basically a branch of Bheid's church. We're not even talking Baptists and Methodists here. We're talking Jesuits vs Opus Dei. actually this part is absolutely correct.

The ruler of Wekti gets similar short shift:

He’s a pudgy, balding man of middle years with a mind uncontaminated by thought. He never leaves the palace, and neither do any of his ‘Royal Proclamations.’ The sycophants in his court all tell him how important he is.
Speaking of which, that "mind uncontaminated by thought" is another Eddings C&P. It appears AT LEAST once a book.

Bheid continues that the preisthood is as lazy as the king, the population are poetic wimps, and that said poetry really sucks eggs. Eliar, of course, rouses to the idea of protecting the weak and helpless and--

“Do we really have to get involved with these people, Emmy?” Eliar asked, turning to Dweia. “It doesn’t seem to me that they’re worth the trouble.”
Our heroes, boys and girls. They leave vulnurable populations to Demon Gods precisely because they are vulnurable. 

Dweia insists they rescue the Wektis...because leaving Wekti to Ghend, Daeva and Gelta means leaving their really important places open for attack.

I'm beginning to suspect that Eddings doesn't have issues with women. He has issues with all of humanity. The ones with women just manifest more.

 Finally, Althalus and company decide on the scam they're going to use to get the leader (AKA Excharch) of the White Robes to agree to get help: they're going to impersonate a religious personage. Specifically, one of Bheid's group's upper level members. And Bheid is going to do the impersonation because...why the fuck not, he hasn't accomplished anything yet.

They go to the capital, which is compared to another capital that I don't really remember very well. Bheid asks Althalus for help in how to con properly, and Althalus says "Be an asshole."

Okay, actually that IS really good advice, but it's not like Althalus behaves any other way...

Bheid, however, points out that he's a religious man and he doesn't like lying. And just when you thought Al couldn't dig the asshole pit any deeper, he breaks out the shovel:

“When you get right down to it, this lie comes dangerously close to the real truth of the matter. We actually are offering aid, and this upcoming war is a struggle between good and evil. All I’m suggesting is that you forget to mention a few things that Yeudon’s probably incapable of understanding.
Al would make a great politician.

So they head into the temple--which gets no description whatsoever, and of course Bheid is being holy and beyond reproach and I'm not actually fooling any of you, am I? Yeah, Bheid has no problem being a flaming ass:

“If this fool doesn’t get to his feet immediately, I want you to kill him, Eliar,” Bheid said flatly.
Because death threats are perfectly fine as long as you don't actually mean them.

The Excharch of the White Robes (I will now call him "White Guy" because in another few chapters that will probably be hilarious) invites Bheid in and remains polite and civil. Bheid does to, and gives their mark the pitch: Invading Ansus, Gelta, Ghend, Daeva, lots of Arums in our back pocket. Basically, the only thing he lies about is who is actually coming to their rescue, which so far is like saying "We're the human society, of COURSE we'll help adopt your kitten" when you're actually from PETA.

White Guy swallows it whole. Bheid continues to hold forth about how much more wonderful his side of their religion is:

“We’re the oldest of the orders, your Eminence,” Bheid said rather sadly, “and we’ve had more experience in the real world than the White Robes or the Brown Robes. Your orders are innocent of the innate corruptibility of most of mankind. We Black Robes lost all our illusions eons ago, and a world without illusions is a very bleak place. We see the world as it really is, not as we’d like it to be. Our motives are ultimately as pure as yours, but our methods are sometimes a bit cynical. We’ll use whatever it takes to achieve our goals in an imperfect world.”
...these are supposed to be the good guys.

Anyway, White Guy says he'd like to take lessons in lying from them. Althalus literally says he'll give the White Guys a discount for the privelage. End of chapter.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--chapter 20

I've felt very run down the last few days. I've gotten my writing done, but not much else.

Right. So where were we?

Althalus and Company have begun to hire Arums. Right.

Somebody brings up that the Arums won't want to fight a religious war. Dweia drags everybody back to the Not-TARDIS, AKA the House at the End of the World so they can discuss this without being spied upon.

Why they don't just do this every other time will never be explained.

Anyway, it turns out Andine's brainwashing is coming along quite nicely:

“If you’re looking for a war, Dweia, I’d be more than happy to lend you mine,” Andine offered. “The notion of all the clans of Arum marching on the city of Kanthon gives me a warm little glow.”
Aw. What an adorable little psychopath.  Dweia wonders if Andine is any good at public speaking. She's not shy about it:

“Have you been asleep for the past several months, Leitha?” Andine asked archly. “I’m always speaking in public. Did you really think my dramatic way of speaking was an accident? My voice is the most finely tuned instrument in all of Treborea. I can sing the birds down out of the trees with it, and make stones weep, if I really want to. I probably don’t need those kegs of gold. Give me half an hour and a little room and I’ll mobilize the Arums with my voice alone.”

Eliar than comments that Andine even had HIM believing that he was a horrible monster. You know. For killing her dad.

And yeah, she's still feeding him randomly because Eddings thought it was funny.

Gher then suggests that they expand Andine's list of enemies to include all of Daeva's people and allies, and everybody thinks this is the greatest idea ever.

And then we get to meet all the other clan cheifs in person.

Eddings has this way of describing things. Namely, that if it's pretty, it's good. If it's not pretty, it's bad. This is very apparent when the Clan Cheifs are introduced. This is a good guy:

Koleika, the heir apparent to the gross Chief Neigwal, was the first to reach Chief Albron’s castle. Koleika was lean, with jet black hair and a jutting lower jaw. He was a somber man dressed in leather, and he wore snug leather trousers rather than the traditional kilt of most Arums. He spoke very seldom, and when he did, he had the peculiar habit of never permitting his upper lip to move. Upon his arrival, he spoke briefly with Albron and then largely kept to himself.
And these are both bad guys:

A few days later, Smeugor and Tauri, the Chiefs of the two southern clans, rode in. Smeugor was stout, with a fiery red face that was a sea of angry red pimples interspersed with deep scars. He affected an air of forced gaiety, but his narrow eyes were cold and as hard as agates. Tauri had sparse yellow hair and no trace of a beard. He evidently thought of himself as a ladies’ man. He wore elegant lowlander garb that wasn’t too clean, and he eyed every female in Albron’s hall with open lasciviousness. Even as Koleika had, Smeugor and Tauri largely kept to themselves after their arrival.
Yeah, apparently the signs of the Beast are zits and food stains on your clothing. Who knew?

And having these two idiots as bad guys will contribute NOTHING to the plot. Moving on.

Everybody gets to the great hall, eventually. Albron introduces the idea of a female monarch to the Clan Cheifs and they react predictably.

“That’s sick!” Twengor boomed.
Yeah. He's a good guy.

Andine asks Eliar to dump some of the gold kegs out on the floor. Eliar does this until the Clan Cheifs start remembering that breathing once in a while would be a good idea, and she gets straight down to business:

“I’m just a silly little girl,” Andine told them, “So I’ll let my Lord High Chamberlain give you all the tiresome details. Now that I’ve earned your love, I’m certain that you just can’t wait to do as I ask.” 
“And what might that be, your Highness?” Gweti asked.
 “Oh, I don’t know. Would ‘Burn! Fight! Kill!’ be too much to ask?”
That's copied and pasted directly out of the book, BTW.

They talk about going to war for a while, then Leitha drags Althalus off into a corner and points out that the two snaky looking clan cheifs are in fact snakes. They're working for Ghend.

You know, having a mind-reader in your pocket kind of ruins the suspense.

A little bit later they all go back to the House again because Ghend is marking his people on a place called Wekti. Apparently it's a mostly rural country with a large number of sheep and a reputation for timidity. They need to get there NOW otherwise they'll lose the country.

Then Gher suggests putting their new army in the house. ALL OF IT.

 “Oh, that’s right. I was sort of thinking that Eliar leads them through a door they can’t even see into the House here, but they don’t know that they’re in the House because the bushes hide it. Then they go to another door and walk out into this Wekti place. They start over here, and they end up over there, but they don’t even know it.”
 “Except that they start out in the mountains and end up in the flat country,” Eliar objected.
 “The House can take care of that. Since it’s Everywhen, it can make the trip through those bushes last for as long as Emmy wants it to last. The soldiers are going to think they’ve been walking through those bushes for weeks and weeks, but when they come out, it’ll only be a minute or so later. We’ll know that, but they won’t.” He looked at Dweia. “Could we do it that way, Emmy?” he asked her.
So now Althalus is going to have an army in his pocket too. Great.

The chapter ends with Gher rubbing Dweia's kiss off his cheek. Aww. How cute.

Yeah, I'm going to go die in bed with some theraflu. Have a good night!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--chapter 18-19

I've begun to realize my goal in doing this book is utterly fucking destroying any street cred I may have had prior to this blog. Because despite pointing out every problem this book has? I still love it. It's an ugly, rotten, terrible book, and it will still be my first choice for rainy day reading for many many years to come.

I am a sorrowful, pathetic excuse for a critic. My faves are problematic. Pray for my soul.

Oh, and chapter eighteen opens with unfaltering praise for money-hungry mercenaries. I am not kidding:

  • “You’re wrong, Bheid,” Althalus disagreed. “Sergeant Khalor’s a very good soldier who knows enough not to believe people when they talk about heavenly rewards instead of the money in advance. The Arums work only for pay, and that makes it nice and simple.”
Yeah, Althalus is about to hire the Arums. ALL OF THEM. 

Naturally, the others doubt that the Money Hole has that much gold in it. You know, because putting sane limits on the DEMS present is modis operandi in other books. Not in an Eddings book, though, OF COURSE Al has enough money to hire the ENTIRE NATION OF MERCENARIES.

Also, I've begun playing Fallout 3, which I suck at. It's obviously Oblivion recycled, but I suck at range weapons, always have, always will, and Fallout? IT'S ALL GUNS. But anyway, based on that, this line?

The Arums fight for gold, which never changes.
The unintentional hilarity never changes.

 Anyway, to hire ALL OF ARUM Althalus has to get Clan Cheif Albron to call them all into one place. This means that Eliar has to open the Magical Door in the House at the End of the World that leads to Albron's arm's room. Yep, we're putting the Not-TARDIS to use immediately.

Also? Andine is fucking creepy.

Andine set Eliar’s plate down on the table in front of him. “Eat it before it gets cold, Eliar,” she instructed. 
“Yes, Andine,” he replied, picking up his spoon. There was something slightly unnerving about the intensity of Andine’s expression as she watched Eliar eat. Althalus shuddered slightly and looked away.
I do not think these characters are intended to fuck.

So Althalus basically pops into existance in Albron's armory, tells him the truth--that Al is working for a formerly unknown goddess--and then very quickly says 'YEAH BUT I AM PAYING MONEY TO WORK WITH ME" which makes Albron start to salivate. So Arum will work for any crazy man with money. Gotcha.

Well, I guess that's how we've kept Blackwood employed.

Sargent Kahlor skins Althalus alive for using Eliar over the summer. Incidentally, Sargent Kahlor is one of my favorite characters in the novel. Carry on.

Everybody has another dream:

The mountains and forests were silent, silent. And then from afar came the wailing of utter despair. And with that wailing, the people came out of the west. Crude they were, clad in half-rotten hides of beasts, and red were their tools and weapons—axes and mattocks of ruddy copper. And Ghend walked among the people, whispering, whispering, and his eyes burned the ruddy flame of copper.
Putting conjunctions in the wrong place and repeating yourself is not lyrical archaic poetry.

Basically Ghend tries to convince a primitive tribe that Gelta is their war Goddess. We never find out if this really works or not.

Althalus pays a visit to the Money Hole to pay for the services of all the Arums. It doesn't even begin to dent how much gold is down there.

Trust me. This DEM is like wheels within wheels of WTF.

Next chapter.

Althalus turns the bars of gold into coins and fills wine barrels with it. He has a lot of wine barrels.

Now, there are a lot of things Althalus can do with the not-TARDIS. Some of them would involve revealing the existance of the House at the End of the World and all its potential. Althalus does...well, exactly that. He brings Albron into the House and shows him all the gold, just to prove that he can hire all of Arum.

Basically, guys? The reason I love this book? It's not because of the romantic antics here. Al has a not-TARDIS and holy shit does he use the fucker. This book has just become fucking fun.

Al and Albron have a heart-to-heart, in which Al reveals that he is the real Althalus and Albron believes him. Don't care. NEXT!

Althalus then tells Albron everything, and ends with an admission that Althalus is basically going to swindle the pants off all the Arums, but he's going to pay them well for the privilege. Albron, being the upstanding patriot of Arum that he is, is fully on-board with this.

Albron gives Althalus the low-down on all the other clan cheifs. This is kind of important to the plot, so:

Delur is senile with good generals. Gweti is a greedy asshole. Twengor is a drunk and I have issues with later events involving him, Smeugor and Tauri are about as trustworthy as characters can be when their names are a few vowels away from being "Smegol" and "Traitor", and the last chief of note is actually just a representative named Koleika, who is basically the big stick you hit everybody else with.

This is five paragraphs worth of data. I hope you're happy.

The cheifs start arriving. The chapter closes with Delur arriving and making a big deal about being there.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Redemption of Althalus--16+17

Chapter sixteen opens with Althalus having post-sex talk with his very own Goddess.

Well, at least we got it out of the way early.

Also, when Althalus goes down to breakfast and announces that they will all be meeting with Emmy in Goddess Form, Leitha looks into Althalus's head and sees what Dweia looks like.

“Oh, dear,” Leitha said, biting her lip.
 “What’s wrong?” Andine asked.
 “Is that what she really looks like?” Leitha demanded of Althalus. 
“It’s probably fairly close. I have a very good eye for details.”
 “Oh, dear,” Leitha said again.
“What is it, Leitha?” Andine looked puzzled.
 “We’re crows now, Andine.”
Yep, because that's what women care about. Immortal Goddess who is already taken=fuck, she's prettier than me.

Dweia then explains why she and Daeva are fighting. And yeah, it's mostly her and Daeva. Apparently Dewios said "fuck this shit" and booked. He, BTW, is the creator god. Daeva is pissed because Dewios keeps changing things, and Dweia doesn't give a fuck about change because she just mothers everything, and yes, that is her full purpose for being. She mothers things. She is the goddess mother. She loves everything.

Yeah. Eris, Goddess of Discord, this chick ain't.

So Dweia then goes over all of Ghend's henchmen, which we've already met, telling Team Althalus who they are and where they come from, and I can sort this all out right now in a list of who vs. who:

That's not that hard. And definately not worth this many pages, as it kind of posts a "THESE GUYS GET KILLED BY THESE OTHER GUYS" sign over the heads of each of the pairings. Also: Gelta.

This is the description of Gelta:

“She’s as big as any man, and far more savage. She’s a homely woman with a pockmarked face and a big nose. She grew up in the company of her father’s warriors, so she thinks more like a man than a woman. She waded through blood to reach her throne, and any man who made an issue of her gender didn’t live long enough to see the sun go down.”
...and the problem is?

Seriously. You have to come up with a description of a nasty awful evil evil woman and this is it? A woman who says "Fuck that shit" to the divide between men and women? And her opponent is I'm-getting-crushed-by-mansplaining Andine? Who is pretty and desirable and annoying as fuck just so we could have Slap-Slap-Kiss and not, you know, actual human relationships? Dave. WHY?

...the sad thing is? I still love this book. I can't defend it. I'm not going to bother.

Eliar then interrupts the meeting AND the narrative for the ten thousandth time so that he can go get food. Andine starts laughing. I do not get a good feeling from this.

End of chapter.

Next chapter: Andine starts feeding Eliar in the middle of the story.

This is supposed to be their romantic development. Andine slipping him scraps of food the way you'd give the ends of a hot dog to your puppy to make them shut up and stop eating your feet. This is romantic. No it's not.

Meanwhile we are STILL rehashing stuff we talked about several chapters ago. DUDE: "AND THEY EXPLAINED EVERYTHING" is sometimes ALL THE EXPOSITION YOU NEED.

And hey, this book hasn't swiveled around and shot itself in the face yet. Want to change that?

Remember how Emmy and Althalus just HAD to leave the house? They had to leave it so bad that Emmy HAD to rape her way into Althalus's mind? Because he'd been sitting on important information for two thousand years and they were out of time to continue his training?

Gher asks Althalus why the days aren't getting any shorter, given that they've been there for months. Al's reply?

“I don’t either—not entirely, anyway. She’s tampering with time. Most probably what’s happening is that we’re living the same day over and over again—except that different things happen each time we go through that day.
BUT BUT BUT BUT BUT....*looks back up at the Gelta paragraph* Yeah. I give up.

Leitha learns how to shut off her gift. She also learns that shutting off her gift is the worst thing she could ever do to herself because minds are so quiet. So instead she learns how to moderate her gift so she's not in other people's minds all the time. And somehow this is done by pointing it at things like it's a laser pointer.

I have no idea, but it pays off later.

Gher reveals that he's noticed Leitha's "browsing" and he's been dodging her. Somehow. This impresses Dweia.

Eliar starts to interrupt and Andine feeds him.

Dweia has one-on-ones with all the other members of the Team. It doesn't develop much until she gets to Eliar. She tells him that it's time to learn how to "use" the house the way Althalus "uses" the Book and the Knife. Because we only have five Deus-Ex-Machinas in this book, it's high time we had another DEM to play with. Ladies and Gentlemen, it's time to meet THE biggest DEM in the entire novel:

 When I say that the House is everywhere, I really mean everywhere. When Deiwos first made it, this room was all there was, and he went out from here to make everywhere else, and he made a door to each of those places. That’s why the House kept growing, and that’s why the doors—not the rooms—are important. Let me give you an example. If Andine wanted to stop by her throne room to speak with her High Chamberlain, Lord Dhakan, she could saddle her horse, ride on down through Kagwher, slip past Kanthon, and eventually reach Osthos. There’s another way, though. She could go down the hallway that leads to the south, open a certain door right here in this House, and step through that door into her throne room.”
The house can also time-travel. So basically, Althalus gets the TARDIS. Unlimited money, a magical book that will do fucking anything, a pet Goddess who doubles as a smoking hot girlfriend, a knife that will steal your friends' free will, and the fucking TARDIS. Damn it, the freaking Doctor had to make do with the good old call box and a sonic screwdriver.

However, the House does give us the set-up for one of the best lines I've ever read in anything:

“You’d better close the door, Eliar,” Dweia suggested. “It’s letting in the time.”
And hey, it's time for us to start working up Gher as the second biggest DEM in the book. Eliar and Dweia start discussing how the House can control time, and Gher jumps into the conversation, eventually theorizing that space and time are the same damn thing. Basically, this kid has every physics book ever jammed into his head (as translated by David and Leigh Eddings, of course) Dweia is even more disturbed:

 Dweia drew in a sharp breath. “Who have you been talking with, Gher?” she demanded. “Where did you get that idea?” 
“It just came to me, I guess. When you said ‘space’ instead of ‘distance,’ several things sort of clicked together. Did I say something I wasn’t supposed to say, Emmy? I’m sorry if it upset you.” 
“It didn’t upset me, Gher. It just surprised me, that’s all. The unity of space and time is something very few people have realized yet.”

So yeah. Gher is their "Get out of 'we're fucked' free" card. Which happens surprisingly often, given that Al's got six DEMs to play with. And I do have to give Al this much: Everything he's got (With the exceptions of Gher and the Money Pit) the other side has too. And they almost manage to fuck Team Al up more than once. You know. The same way Podunk Shitstain's football team almost manages to beat the State Champions when their quarterback's out sick and the offense is hungover.

Team Althalus marvel at Gher for a little while, and then they make him take a bath.

End of chapter.