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.

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