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.”Right.
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?