Thursday, September 5, 2013

The Redemption of Althalus--chapter seven and eight

Naturally, the first thing Althalus does when he has telepathic access to Emmy's mind is try to get in without her permission. Her reaction?

“Just mind your own business and quit snooping. You have to start paying closer attention.
Yeah, the issue is that Althalus is distracted, not that he's literally invading her mind without her consent.

It's not time for the consent rant. It's coming. I'm waiting for one specific event. Trust me. It's worth it.

So the first thing Althalus has to do is head down to Arum to go get a knife. A specific knife that Emmy values very much, that she basically left in a bar somewhere so it could float around in various people's pockets until she needed it.

Althalus figures he needs the knife to kill Ghend with--which would solve a lot of problems in very short order, and everyone admits this--but Emmy wants the knife because there is writing on the blade that only certain people can read, and they need those people. They spend a few more minutes shooting the breeze and discussing basic plans, and then they head off into the wild.

Emmy also solves the mystery of the Screaming Thing: Ghend sent it to make sure Althalus went to the House. Oh, and if you looked at it, you'd run screaming too. So yeah, it's Cthulhu.

They make camp for the first time and have small talk. Emmy admits to something pretty major:

“Before Ghend hired me to go steal the Book, I was having a run of bad luck. It might have worn off by now, but nothing was working for me the way it was supposed to.” 
Yes, I know. I thought the paper money in Druigor’s strongbox was a nice touch, didn’t you? 
He stared at her. “It was you? You were behind all that bad luck?” 
Of course. If your luck hadn’t turned sour, you wouldn’t even have considered Ghend’s proposition, would you?

She was also behind all of his good luck. This is why I don't get too aggravated with the interplay between Emmy and Althalus: They are both terrible people, and if one of 'em wasn't ignoring consent and fucking with their partner the other one would be doing it. The fact that they manage to avoid doing really terrible things to each other is less their redeeming quality and more a sign that Eddings really wanted them to be the good guys. Here's a hint: It'd only be redeeming if they were both aware how thoroughly fucked up they are and made some attempt to migitate it.

They never, ever will.

Althalus manages to steal a horse. Emmy isn't happy about it but she doesn't find out until after they're halfway down the road.

A little bit further down they meet one of Ghend's underlings: A dude named Pekhal. I'm not that irritated by the names here as I probably could be. They're very obviously scrabble-tile names (as proven by me attempting to spell them randomly only to discover that I got it right the first time.) but they're consistant enough with the setting that it doesn't bug me. Pekhal isn't a great name--neither is Ghend, Gher, Gelta, Kagwher or Deiwos--but it's a long, long, LONG way away from "Prahd Bittlestiffender" or "Zaphod Beeblebrox" (I love Hitchhiker's Guide, but every name in the thing with one or two exceptions deserves to be burned with lava)

Right. Pekhal. He's a barbarian who doesn't bathe and he eats people.

Althalus sets him about a thousand feet over the forest and keeps on going.

Yeah, the Book is a gigantic Deus ex Machina and it's not the last one we're going to meet in this book.

Althalus, however, is much more interested in the sword and knife he took away from Pehkal before he set him on a cloud. Emmy explains that it's steel, it's what happens when you do things with iron. Althalus is irritated. Sure, it's a nice, strong metal but bronze is prettier.

The entire world advanced just to irritate you, Al. I'm very sorry we did that. Also; WHAT TIME PERIOD ARE WE IN?

Next chapter

They get to Arum and Emmy says that the Knife is in the hall of Gosti Big Belly. And thanks to his escapade with Gosti's lack of wealth and Althalus's wolf-ear tunic, Althalus is now their version of Robin Hood. He's famous there. And supposed to be dead, but Althalus can work with that.

A random stranger is so very taken with Althalus's name that he takes him to see Cheif Alberon, who is a young and rather handsome man, which means he's a good guy and he's probably going to land himself a random love interest well before this book is over. Althalus spends a few minutes pretending to be himself, and then he goes about swindling the Cheif.

There's one thing that I do think Eddings is really, really good at, and that's writing con jobs. The book will be just a little draggy until several characters start working a con on the bad guys, and then things quickly turn into plots within plots within plots...and a lot of the observations characters make in the course their con are incredibly accurate. In one of his other books one character remarks to another that they need verifiable truths to get the bad guys to accept their big lie, because "Two part truth to one part lie: get the mix right and they'll swallow the whole thing."

If you ever doubt the accuracy of that observation, watch the news for a few hours.

Anyway, after pretending to be himself, Althalus tells the Cheif that he's a potential heir to something like a cheif in his own country, which is conviently far enough away that Alberon, while having heard of it, has never actually been there. And he needs Emmy's Knife, which is in Alberon's weapon's room, because he's got a cousin vying for the same title and whoever gets the knife first, wins. Oh, and his cousin is chasing him with nasty, foul-smelling people eating assassins like Pekhal, because his cousin doesn't like the scavanger hunt idea.

Alberon agrees to help immediately. And I'm not going to call him an idiot because this entire sequence--getting Alberon to laugh and be entertained, and then shoving the lie down his throat--is pretty much a textbook con and most people wouldn't be able to catch it.

Unfortunately, the Knife was in the weapon's room, but it's not any more. The Arums are mercenaries, and the southern people like to hire the Arums so that they don't get too many of their own people killed during their civil war. Eliar, a young merc on his very first command, decided to take the knife with him for good luck. Then he and all the other soldiers ran off to Kanthon to go kill each other for a while.

“I’d better hurry, then,” Althalus said. “Young Eliar sounds like a fellow who’s just brimful of incipient mortality.” 
“Nicely put, Master Althalus,” Albron said admiringly. “That description fits just about every adolescent male in the whole of Arum.”

On the ride down to Kanthon, Althalus and Emmy pass by that massive temple in Periquaine. Emmy reacts less than tactfully:

Yeah, it turns out that she's Dweia, the goddess worshiped in that particular temple, and that she isn't too happy about that particular representation of her person:

“Do you really look anything like that statue?”
 Like a brood sow, you mean? Like a whole herd of brood sows?
Yeah. Althalus and Emmy/Dweia discuss theology for the rest of their ride. By the way, we've now introduced a deity, a recurring cast member is now a deity, and that deity is now a permanent member of the cast.

Drink up.

They run into a bunch of severely injured men. The guy in front is Sergant Kahlor, who would be a captain or a general if Eddings hadn't screwed up on the ranking system and then made it a part of the plot. (Something else he's rather good at: making his errors an entertaining part of the plot. You get points for that Dave. Not a lot, but you get them) Kahlor just had his ass thoroughly kicked, which he isn't too irritated about because he still gets paid. But apparently the dude that hired him was a flaiming moron who ordered him to make questionable tactical decisions, and that got a lot of his men killed.

He's less than happy about this.

It turns out that the leader of Othos, the Aryo, was smart and pulled his men back when Kahlor showed up. Eliar didn't understand this, and decided that meant they should attack the city right now. Kahlor's description of what happened next is kind of pretty:

Eliar was the one who was screaming the loudest, so I put him in charge and ordered him to take a run at the gate and see how many of his men he could get killed...When they were about fifty paces from the gate, it swung open, and the Aryo of Osthos personally led out his troops to give my howling little barbarians a quick lesson in good manners.”
Of course Eliar and the Aryo get locked in single combat, and of course Eliar kills him because Eliar shows up later and the Aryo does not. Unfortunately for everybody, including the readers, the Aryo's daughter was watching and she was less than happy about her father being killed by a raving barbairan with a decorative bronze dagger. Eliar and his baby barbarians are captured and the rest of the mercs are sent away with the new-minted Arya Andine's voice still screaming in their ears.

Althalus now has to go to Othos and get Eliar away from the woman who has sworn to decorate her castle with his intestines.

End of chapter.

No comments:

Post a Comment