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.DAVE. WHY WOULD YOU WRITE LIKE THIS.
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.