And that's what chemical depression is, children. It's not a feeling, it's not something you can think your way through. YOUR BRAIN IS SICK IT IS NOT WORKING CORRECTLY.
Also, I'm in the process of arranging for a summer job, as once the school year ends I will be out of work. There is an AMAZING chance on the table right now that has (as far as I know) absolutely nothing to do with writing or art but everything to do with potentially crafty things and positivity and working with special needs people all summer long. I have no idea what that'll do to other things I had planned for the summer (Derail them, most likely) but an awful lot of me is like OH MY GOD I CANNOT AFFORD NOT TO DO THIS.
So anyway...really good book.
Paks rejoins her company. They routed the enemy, but re-enforcements are arriving and the other side is gonna have another go. Paks takes a minute to look at her allies, including their livery, which is described really well and seems pretty realistic.The next battle happens and Paks does rather well.
Eventually Paks asks why they're fighting over the same stretch of ground without trying to take the other guy's camp. Her shadow, who is still an asshole, explains:
"Why don't they want to fight and win?" she asked one night.
"Don't complain," said Donag. "If they wanted to win— I suppose you mean Foss Council?— it'd be our blood on the ground, and not their militia's. Think about it. They want to win , but what they want to win is whatever it is they're fighting about: where a border is, or a caravan tariff , or something like that. If they can convince Czardas to yield on that, without us having to cut our way through the entire Czardian army, so much the better."
Yep. Nobody got a horse in this battle, my friends, except the people paying money. So they'll make a lot of noise and some people will get dead, and eventually the two parties who actually do give a fuck about things will wind up at the negotiating table.
Kind of dispiriting, isn't it?
Tactics go back and forth, and eventually that's exactly what happens: The treaty gets signed in favor of Paks' employers, rather than the other guy's, and most of the Company survives to be glorified caravan guards for the rest of the season. Paks gets paid.
Apparently the currancy in this relm is not only gendered, it's also pretty sexist.
Anyhoo, Paks is going to try to save most of hers up so she can pay her father for the dowery that never was. Frankly I'd let Dad swing, seeing as how he paid it before he got his daughter's consent, but Paks loves her family, so she's gonna squirrel most of it away.
And then most of the veterans take most of the recruits off to show them how not to get robbed in a tavern. Or rather, how to pick good taverns so they don't get robbed.
"Is Foss so dangerous?" asked Saben. "And who'd attack us? We're armed," said Paks. "It's exactly that attitude ," said Stammel severely, "that loses good fighters every year. With the Company , you're good. But alone, in an alley with thieves— no. If you're lucky you wake up in the morning with a lump on your head and no money. Unlucky, you find yourself in a slaver's wagon with a sack over your head and a brand— or maybe just dead. You youngsters don't know the first thing about cities —well, maybe Vik and Jorti do— and that's why you'll come with me this time."There's a nice scene in one tavern where a guy cat-calls Paks, who freezes for multiple reasons, and Stammel explains that she could kill the idiot, and he should know because he trains her. The guy promptly shits himself and goes away. Then there's a shopping scene that finally gives us a decent list of this world's gods:
She found the surprise for Saben several shops down. Here were trays of religious symbols, carved of the appropriate stone or metal. Most she did not know. The crescent and cudgel of Gird were familiar, and the Holy Circle, and the wheatsheaf of the Lady of Peace. The sword of Tir was there, both plain and cleverly set with a tiny jewel in the pommel. But whose was the leaping fish, or the tree, or the arch of tiny stars ? She looked at tiny golden apples, at green leaves, at anvils, hammers, spears, fox or wolf heads, little human figures clothed in flowers (swirling hair made the loop for hanging). Here was the antlered figure of Guthlac, and the double-faced head of Simyits, a harp for Garin, the patron of harpers, and shears for Dort, the patron of sheepshearers and all in the wool trade. Then she saw the little red stone horse, and remembered Saben's words that day in the stronghold. She looked up and found the shopkeeper watching her. She glanced around; Saben was in the next shop, pricing combs for his sisters.
The chapter ends with her giving Saben the horse, and him giving her a comb he tricked her into picking out herself.
Next chapter: Paks and Saben are talking during guard duty about their plans for the future. Saben eventually asks if Paks would like to be more than friends.
"Saben, you know I—"
"You don't want it. I know. Not from me or anyone. Well, I'm not asking: just if you did ever change. If it was just Korryn, I mean."
Paks ducked her head lower and stared at the ground. "No. Even before. I just don't feel that way."
He sighed. "I'm glad it wasn't Korryn. Don't worry; I won't bother you."
She looked up. "You never have."
Short, sweet, to the point, and IMHO it shows that this is an awesome friendship. Saben would rather not ruin it by pushing for sex. Even though he really likes Paks. And then he basically spoils major plot points by teasing her:
Saben nodded. "Lady Paksenarrion, in shining armor on a great war-horse, with a magic sword—don't laugh at me, companion! Here I'm giving you a good-luck prophecy and you laugh at me. Ha! See if I ever warn you about overhoning your blades again."
Eventually someone--not them--spots the Duke coming in. Apparently the Wolf Prince has been hitting the wounded of every mercenary company he can find, and the Duke would really like to make that stop. He doesn't take Paks, though, so we have to wait for Barra to them all about it. Basically, they attacked his stronghold and broke it,saw the condition the servants and prisoners were in, and decided killing every soldier loyal to the Wolf Prince, as well as the Prince himself, was the absolute best thing they could do.
Vik comments at how Barra's difficult to deal with. Paks defends her on the basis of Barra being a good fighter. Vik then goes into a FUCKING BEAUTIFUL speech about how you can't be that black and white--if you don't learn to judge people by who they are, and not just on how much you like them, or want to like them, you can get hurt pretty badly.
You've told us you always wanted to be a fighter, a fighter for good, right?" He waited for her nod before going on. "Well, you're so intent on that— you don't see other things. You see people as good or bad, not in between; as fighters or not, and not in between . And since you're basically a good person, you see most people as good— but most people, Paks, are in between— both as fighters, and as good or bad. And they're different. If you don't learn to see them straight— just as you'd look at a sword, knowing all swords aren't alike— you'll depend on them for what they don't have."Paks and the other recruits are now past their first year. There's a long sequence to show how she's matured, and how she's accepted by the Company as a veteran. The next batch of recruits come in, and Paks finds out about the trick they played on her the first day she arrived:
"Just hang about as if you didn't know they were coming," said Donag, grinning . "Keep close to the yard. When the captain yells, throw yourself into position, fast. Whoever's closest, go for the front; never mind your usual position. What counts is speed. They don't know where we're supposed to be, and they'll be too scared to notice. Be sure to keep a straight face— they'll be funny, but don't laugh."Stammel is not her sargent anymore. Instead she gets a difficult-at-first female sargent who Paks eventually warms up to. Then they get their next contract:
This year's contract was very different. "It's a siege," explained Donag, who had used his own mysterious contacts to find out. "The Guild League cities are joining to siege and assault another city, halfway across Aarenis. They're hiring several companies as well as their own militia. I think our contract's with Sorellin, but the others are supporting it."
The city they're fighting is a haven for theives. The bad news is it'll probably last a long time. The Good news is, unless they hire the Honeycat the theives won't have any support at all.
Yeah. Guess who the theives are going to hire.
Anyhoo, the chapter ends with Paks feeling rather confused, but upbeat: At least she'll be marching to someplace she hasn't seen before.