"...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.”Whee.
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.