Saturday, March 22, 2014

Paksenarrion--chapter 20

Chapter twenty opens with Paks dealing with her greif. She does alright, but the text makes it clear that this is not easy:

She could not talk about it to anyone. She knew that Vik and Arñe watched her, and almost hated them for it. She heard a Halveric ask Barra if she and Saben had been lovers, and did not know which was worse, the question or Barra's scornful negative...For the first time, she wondered what it would have been like to bed him. It was something he had always wanted, and now there was no chance. But if she had—if it hurt more, to lose a lover— she shook her head , and went doggedly on with work she hardly noticed. Better not. She had never wanted to, and surely it would be worse to lose a lover. It was bad enough now.
There is something utterly fucking heartbreaking about that paragraph. It's obvious that Paks really valued her friendship with Saben, equally obvious she had utterly no desire to have sex with him.

It kind of reminds me of the three words the Greeks used for love--Philios, brotherly, Eros, romantic, and agape, usually translated as unconditional. It's scenes like this that make me think of how often we rob the concept of love by making it just that thing that happens before you have sex. You have sex because you want to have sex. Paks loved Sabin unconditionally. She didn't want to screw him, obviously, but she's lost a few friends by now and it's clear this loss cuts much, much deeper than just the death of a good friend. She's lost the best companion she's had so far, and the only way she can deal is to keep on working.

Eventually, Paks has to decide between not caring about her fellows ever again, or caring about them even more--caring about them enough so that the next time, she'll be able to save them. And she decides to do the latter.

She looked at her own hands, broad and strong, skilled— she could still protect, with those hands. She said nothing , and the tears came again, but somewhere inside a tightness eased.

And then they find a tunnel leading from the camp where they found Canna and Saben straight into Rotengre. And I would imagine the people in that city are about to have a very, very, VERY bad day.

Paks is assigned to the wall, the distraction that will let several companies get through that tunnel without any major resistance. She makes it to the top of the wall and, along with several others, gets into the gate tower before it can go into full lockdown. They get the main gate open in short order. Meanwhile the Duke has gotten his people through the tunnel and Paks, once again, finds herself on guard duty well behind the actual fighting.

You'd think all the standing around and watching shit would be boring, but I kind of like it. It's not because Paks is a chick, it's because this is what soldiers do. They stand and watch shit and hope that the shit doesn't start moving, and that if it does, that they can make it stop moving before it escalates to "kill or be killed". And guarding the gatehouse of an unfriendly city is a pretty fucking important job.

And then she does get taken into the city when they take the keep, and one of the vets teaches Paks how to loot.

....she's not real enthusiastic about it. Oh, she grabs enough, but she's not destroying furniture or ransacking overly much. Her attitude is basically "This is cool, this is worth something, this is pretty, and I don't really need too much more than that".

Eventually she gets sick of sack duty and they send her to manage the civilians. A man probably defending his family almost kills Paks in a scene that's presented pretty dispassionately. She's the invading force, she's torn these people's lives apart. We're still on her side, but we're seeing the shitty side to this whole war thing. The family could also have been disguised soldiers--they were all carrying poisoned weapons, and none of them survive long enough to tell. Paks gets a dose of the poison.

They treat her, and make an interesting discovery while searching the bodies.

Under his outer robes he wore a massive silver chain with a curious medallion. As Kir slid it out, the captain swore. Paks peered at it , wondering what was wrong. As big as a man's palm, it looked like a silver spider, legs outstretched on a web.

This is the sign of the Webmistress, and it's enchanted as fuck. They scramble to find a cleric, then get the idea to have Paks shove Canna's Gird medallion on the thing. It doesn't do enough, so Paks has to go off and find a preist. Nobody is happy about having found the fucking thing.

Eventually they've sacked everything they can sack, turn the city over to the coalition of merchants that hired them, pack up and start walking back out again. There's a reminder that a lot of people died, and the chapter ends.


  1. I saw a comment about Paks somewhere (Might have been TV Tropes) that I thought was interesting. She seems to be a rare example of an genuinely asexual character. At no point in her story does she experience sexual attraction to anyone, male or female, and it's not in her backstory either.

    1. That's completely accurate. Paks does not EVER have a romantic relationship. This was originally a trilogy (I only ever read the omnibus) and Paks never, in three books, does the romantic entanglement thing. It's kind of awesome.

      I think that's why I find the "What would sex with Sabin have been like?" part utterly heartbreaking. It kind of shows how Paks is struggling with the loss of her friend; IMHO she's wondering if it wouldn't be better if she had more to remember. She doesn't want sex, exactly, but she wants her friend back and she's hurt and confused as fuck because that's not going to happen. And I really like that she ultimately decides that it would actually be worse to have lost a lover, while at the same time she's choosing to care for and protect her other friends.

    2. The idea that she might genuinely be asexual - meaning, the author actually included it in her character profile and it wasn't the side affect of all the plot - makes me really, really happy. The asexual community doesn't get nearly enough attention in the media as they should, and it would be nice to know that they might have a heroine for them to relate to, in the realm of sexuality.