So we open with a fascinating discussion about clothes. Apparently Dar the Dogman is quite the fop and wants to bring all his nice clothes, but Leetu says they can't. I'm fascinated. Note my fascinated face.
“A person needs to look sharp, well groomed. We represent Paladin. Who knows who we’ll run into on an important quest? We may be called upon to negotiate with rulers of distant realms.”
"And even more important, I might meet a hot dog-chick on the road and need to impress her."
“We’re going through forest and swamp. You don’t need fine clothes in brilliant colors fit for a ball. Pick out sensible clothes in greens and browns, if you have any.”
- They're already wearing brown. How many changes of clothes do you need for a Generic Fantasy Quest?
- And... are they going through just one forest and just one swamp?
- Dar is kind of a dumbass, isn't he? "Hey minions of evil, I am over THIS WAY! Just follow the sequined sombrero!"
So the two of them bicker about how many bags of clothes Dar is allowed to bring.
“We could stop at the next village and acquire a donkey,” suggested Dar.
Do you need to buy a donkey? Because I see three asses right here.
“Two bags,” said Leetu.
Dar turned large, pleading brown eyes toward Kale. “Kale would carry a bag for me,” he said.
... and why would Kale do this for a guy she's known for maybe fifteen minutes? Oh wait, she's an ex-slave, which means she's just DYING to serve someone.
In fact, this brings up a pet peeve of mine - we are six chapters in, and none of the main characters have ANY backstory at all. All we know about Kale is that she used to be a slave in a village we still haven't seen except in flashback, and... that's it. Nothing about her parents, how she was orphaned, how she ended up a slave... nothing. CAN WE HAVE SOME BACKSTORY PLEASE?
“Kale will have enough to carry. Quit this, Dar. Send the extra clothing back to The Hall with Merlander.”
... and why didn't they have this little discussion BEFORE they left the Hall? Why did Leetu let him bring all those extra clothes into a BATTLE, and THEN order him to send them back?
So we're treated to a scene where Leetu sits there and reads while Dar goes through his clothes and tries on some of them, and whines about how he doesn't have a mirror to check himself in. Yes, can't you just FEEL the urgency of their mission and how they must keep the Evil Wizard from doing whatever the hell he's doing? Good thing they're not spending all afternoon on boring irrelevant stuff.
He added a matching scarlet jacket, another vest, this one purple, and a green and gold pair of knickers.
... green and gold pair of... KNICKERS?
Just imagine a dog-man in these!
Thank you, Ms. Paul, I am now scarred for life.
So finally we're brought back to Kale, our alleged protagonist who hasn't contributed anything this chapter. First she fantasizes about wearing pretty colorful clothes, which is understandable. And then she perfectly remembers a map she saw YEARS AGO, and immediately figures out the only area on it that they could possibly be going....
Her eyebrows shot up as she realized the only place where they could walk through both forests and swamps was in the southwest, nearly a thousand miles away.
Yes, because of course every single swamp and forest is clearly marked on a COUNTRY'S MAP. Seriously, forests and swamps can be as small as a few miles wide, so unless this country is the size of Rhode Island it shouldn't be that clearly marked.
We’re going to walk to The Bogs?
And then the Bogs will serve cheese, crackers and drinks, while Lenny Bog plays the violin.
“You very nearly shouted that at me,” she said and closed her book. “Seems I’d better pay more attention to you. You’ll need to be able to contain your thoughts before we enter Bedderman’s Bog.”
- So let me get this straight, she experiences it as "loud" whenever someone feels a strong emotion? How the hell can she live in a city, where people are presumably angry, lustful, shocked, and pissed-off all the time?
- Also, previously the idea was that Kale wanted to KEEP Leetu from reading all her thoughts for the sake of privacy. Yet now apparently it's supposed to be because otherwise Leetu will be bothered by other people thinking, "Sonuvabitch, I just ran headlong into a stone wall!"
- And for that matter, why the hell should KALE have to learn to put her thoughts on "mute" rather than Leetu, I dunno, figuring out some way of shielding her brain? Maybe I'm just a selfish asshole, but if I met a psychic person who demanded that I and everybody else learn to shield our thoughts so SHE wouldn't be bothered by it, I would tell her to screw herself... and then learn how to shield herself from everyone else's thoughts.
- Why would you need to contain your thoughts before you go to a bog? Is she afraid that Evil Frogs of Evil will read Kale's thoughts?
“Why? What’s in Bedderman’s Bog?”
“It’s best you wait and see, Kale.”
I really hate Leetu. She apparently knows everything but won't tell. For no reason. I HATE THAT.
In fact, this answer is so annoying that even the super-passive Kale is getting pissed by it. What about the promise to answer all her questions? She would try once more to get a straight answer. See? Even the characters are pissed at the clumsy writing! So she asks if they'll walk, and this question is vague enough to even satisfy Leetu.
“Yes, we’ll walk,” said Leetu. “But we’ll go through a gateway.”
Kale’s mouth dropped open. Gateways were part of fairy tales. Heroes escaped through gateways or sprang upon unsuspecting foes from gateways. Gateways went hand in hand with talking animals and magic amulets.
Oh hell, the gateways are basically big deus ex machina - when our heroes encounter a big problem, they'll just make an escape through it? Damn, this is gonna be dumb.
Colonel Jack O'Neill is strictly anti-idiot
Kale closed her mouth and slowly shook her head from side to side. Councilman Meiger was right. She didn’t know anything.
No, it's too easy. Just too easy.
So the dragon flies off with Dar's clothes, and the group starts walking off with their luggage. Which brings two things to mind: If Kale isn't carrying Dar's luggage, and she doesn't have any of her own, whose luggage is she carrying? Oh yeah, Leetu tossed it to her, so I assume Kale is carrying Leetu's crap. What a bitch, especially since she was being all snooty about Dar.
Soon Dar began to hum and then sing softly under his breath. He’d regained his good humor. He sang louder, and his songs grew livelier as they marched along.
Thankfully, we aren't forced to read pages of bad song lyrics.
Kale’s spirits responded to the happy tunes of the legendary heroes among the seven high races.
- Stories with legendary heroes don't tend to be all sunshine and puppies. They tend to involve a lot of death.
- What legendary heroes? Who were these people? Just mentioning that a culture has heroes doesn't mean anything if there's no backstory.
- So... these legendary heroes don't have anything to do with each other? They're just distinctive because they come from the seven high races? Well, that is disheartening.
Dar also sang of farmers and other ordinary folk caught in funny circumstances. She laughed and gasped at all the trials that could befall a traveler.
Paul, this is not funny. Just telling us that something is funny doesn't make it funny. Especially if we don't know what what story is being told. It's just frustrating.
So they go down a mountain... across a valley... and up a mountain. Isn't this just riveting? I assume even Paul was bored by the intricacies of poorly-described travel, because they end up running straight into an ambush. Wow.
“Grawligs,” she said, obviously reading his mind. “How far do you think?” She looked at Dar.
“Half a mile.”
Dar puzzled over that a moment, sniffing the air. “We’re surrounded.”
Wow. These dragonriding people are officially the saddest Force For Good ever. I mean, his supersensitive nose couldn't detect the grawligs until they had ALREADY SURROUNDED THEM? They couldn't hear anything, smell anything or see anything until the bad guys were already surrounding them? Even though the closest ones are a half-mile away, there must be dozens of them out there and they reportedly stink?
So they decide to make their stand... in a forest clearing. Yeah, wouldn't an elevated space be a better place to make a stand against a small army of inept orc wannabes?
Surely they should run. Kale opened her mouth to protest. Nothing but a croak came out. Impatient, Leetu beckoned with a brusque gesture, and Kale hurried to the emerlindian’s side.
Wasn't Leetu supposed to be able to read minds?
So Leetu tells Kale to climb a tree, which is apparently called a rock pine. I shall call it the Plot Convenience Tree. Why is it a plot convenience tree? Because its pinecones are heavy as rocks! I don't know how the hell they stay attached to the branches, since leaves and seeds tend to just have a slender attachment to the branch. So unless those branches are made out of steel rope, I don't see how that works! Just accept it! Don't question the author!
“Climb as high as you can. Take off your tunic and wrap it around your throwing hand. When the grawligs attack, start pelting them with the rock cones. Hit anything you can, but aim for the grawligs’ ears. They’re tender.”
Why would their EARS be specially tender? It's such a random body part.
And... wow. That is a pretty lame attack. REALLY lame. Dammit, would it be so hard for them to do a halfway decent action scene that doesn't involve Kale throwing stuff ineffectually?
The grawligs very considerately wait for Kale to climb into the tree... and then Leetu also climbs into a tree. Wow, this action scene is going to suck royally. I can feel it in my ears.
The grunts and coarse mutterings of the approaching grawligs inspired extra speed.
"Dammit! I know I dropped my keys somewhere around here!"
Once perched on a high branch, she could see dark forms advancing from all sides, completely encircling them.
And again, nobody knew they were coming. Because the Forces of Good SUCK.
“How many?” asked Leetu from below.
Kale scanned the area. “Twelve.”
“That shouldn’t delay us too long,” said Dar.
I suspect that they might be a little delayed by the fact that two of the potential fighters are currently sitting in trees throwing PINECONES.
“He’ll be all right.” Leetu’s calm voice reassured her. “Just watch. He’ll throw up a magic shell and fight from beneath.”
A magic what? A SHELL?
It will look darling when paired with a pair of capris! On the DOG MAN!
Yes, I suppose that since he's wearing little gold-and-green panties, wearing a shell is the next step. Then he can buy some DARLING little shoes with kitten heels, a cute little hat and some fabulous chandelier earrings. Not only does this kids' Christian fantasy have furries, it has TRANSVESTITE furries.
At that moment four grawligs crashed through a line of brushwood and entered the clearing.
"Dammit Earl, that is the last time you are gonna get to read the map. Upside-down, my smelly butt!"
It turns out a magic shell is actually a... magic forcefield of some kind. Except it's actually a forcefield shaped like a hemisphere... and it doesn't go all the way to the ground. It just sort of floats over his head and goes part of the way to the ground. Wow. Worst forcefield ever. As if this whole scene wasn't ridiculous enough, Dar's epic asskicking fighting style involves... stabbing at his opponents fingers and toes when they try to pull up his forcefield. Which is also the cue to start throwing epic stone pinecones of death.
... Do I even have to make fun of this?!?!?!?!
“Now!” cried Leetu’s voice in Kale’s mind, startling her so that she almost lost her grip on the branch.
She then fell to her death and broke her neck, allowing Evil Wizard to take over the world. The end. No wait, that would make logical sense, with a heroine as worthless as Kale.
More of the mountain ogres poured into the clearing. Their massive legs tore through the thick underbrush.
But where are their feet?!
So Kale just sort of sits there cowering in fear because... they're yelling a lot. Man, she's even wimpier than Bella Swan. Oh, and while she's cowering, Dar is getting swarmed by the enemy... wait, what happened to his forcefield?! There's no mention of it turning off!
Arrows from the emerlindian’s bow rained down upon the ogres’ heads.
I thought she was going to throw pinecones. Wait, why was she was gonna throw pinecones if she had a BOW? That implies that she could actually kill someone, and instead she was going to fling things at them for... no reason!
Bad writing makes Legolas sad.
I can’t just sit here. I’m supposed to help.
"... despite the fact that I've already proven that I'm clumsy, dumb and a total liability in a fight. Actually, why does Leetu even want me to fight when she told me to get out of the way this morning?"
Kale wiggled out of her tunic
Again, this is a Christian fantasy, so no boobies or revealing medieval underwear.
She grabbed a pine cone and had to twist at the woody, seed-bearing orb to make it come loose.
- Leetu SAID that they were as heavy as rocks. "Woody" is not usually something you associate with something as dense and heavy as a rock.
- And also, why does she have to work so hard to detach something that is as HEAVY AS A ROCK to pull it loose from a tree?!
- It's probably not an orb. An orb is circular.
She hurled the rock-heavy cone down wildly and managed to hit one of the grawligs on his hairy back. The cone clung to the matted hair.
... yeah, I got nothing. What can I say that could mock it any more?
So Kale keeps pitching these idiotic rock cones at the grawligs, and Leetu keeps shooting arrows. Why is she in the tree if she's just going to shoot at them? And even worse... why hasn't she apparently KILLED any with her arrows?
While Dar, in the relative safety of his shell, inflicted grievous wounds on the ogres, Leetu peppered them from above with arrow after arrow.
... grievous wounds? He's stabbing them in the TOES. What's a mortal wound, a large splinter?
The rock-hard pine cones Kale threw bruised the ogres but did not impede their attack. Nonetheless, the cones stuck, and Kale saw that was a good thing. Most of the hairy grawligs carried the extra weight of ten to twenty rock cones.
Because as we all know, the weight of baseball-sized stones is no match for... tiny little barbs. And what if you're fighting someone who doesn't have excessive body hair?
She thought the beasts were incredibly stupid.
Takes one to know one, toots.
Their focus remained riveted on the doneel they thought they had trapped on the ground.
... they sort of DO have him trapped on the ground. I mean, just because they're being attacked doesn't mean they're failing to trap the guy that they're SURROUNDING.
Eventually, the assault from above bothered some of the grawligs enough that they stopped to gawk at the trees.
Yes, apparently firing ARROWS from close range is a "bother." A machine gun would be a "mild inconvenience." A bazooka would be a "moderate inconvenience."
Leetu took advantage of the upturned faces. Her skillful aim sent several grawligs howling into the woods, pulling at arrows embedded in their flesh.
Stop! Stop using bows and arrows to mildly annoy the minions of evil, because you REALLY SUCK at it. You are making Legolas cry with your horrible aim.
Kale marveled over each direct hit on a grawlig’s ear.
... okay, it's only a direct hit if she's TRYING to hit their ears.
They reacted with shrieks of anger and pain.
And not with hysterical giggles? Who knew?
All the grawligs were limping painfully from the wounds inflicted to their feet by the doneel.
"Ohhhh, my crippling toe injuries! I must limp painfully into the woods, because I cannot possibly fight if my toes are slightly injured!"
She redoubled her efforts to make a bull’s-eye, then laughed to herself and corrected the phrase.
... wait, since when is Leetu the main character? We didn't even have a transition there.
She wanted to hit a grawlig’s ear, not a bull’s eye.
.... HA. HA. HA. HUMOR!
Wait, she was hitting their ears on purpose? So it wasn't crappy aim, but excellent aim used for the wrong target? That is... really dumb. I mean, what is the point of having a deadly weapon if you don't use it to kill the evil minions who are trying to kill YOU AND YOUR FRIENDS? The entire point of a bow and arrow is to KILL PEOPLE. It is not to give them amateur body piercings in their extremities, in the hopes that "bothering" them will make them go away.
I guess she's having the good guys not kill the bad guys because of the whole "Thou shalt not kill" commandment. But, uh, that's not a very good translation because what it means is that thou shalt not murder. If there are murderous creatures trying to rip your buddy apart, you should KILL them. You should not "bother" them in the hopes that they are so wimpy that they will be driven off by an achy ear, thus risking your comrade's life.
I mean, JRR Tolkien not only had the good guys killing orcs, but he had a whole subplot where Legolas and Gimli were actually COMPETING to see who could kill more orcs. And these were the good guys... and it was okay because they were kicking ass in BATTLE.
The skirmish was soon over.
THAT'S IT? That's all you're saying?! This big fight ends with a "it was all over soon"?!?!?!
Dar was right. They’re leaving! And none too soon. My arm aches from throwing all those heavy cones. I must have thrown a couple hundred. And my hands feel like I’ve been squeezing pincushions.
... and suddenly we're back to Kale's perspective. Also, does anyone notice how she apparently didn't move from the spot, but still threw dozens or HUNDREDS of those cones?! The cones that are as heavy as ROCKS? Did they all conveniently grow in the same spot?
She reached inside her shirt and pulled out the red pouch to cradle between her palms.
Am I the ONLY person who remembers that she was carrying around SEVERAL OTHER eggs? And that first egg was ON THE VERGE OF HATCHING? Has it just... stopped hatching?!
So since Paul apparently can't write action scenes, the grawligs just run away and don't bother coming back to fight again. I can't imagine any self-respecting Dark Lord using these idiots as their soldiers - these guys make Brave Sir Robin look like George Washington.
As the sounds faded, Dar released the protective shell. It vanished. He stood and sniffed the air. “They’re gone,” he announced.
- Thank you, I wouldn't have noticed.
- Good to hear that "releasing" the shell means it vanishes. I assumed it meant letting go of the string and letting it float away.
- Is this the only skill he brings to the quest? I'm serious.
He cleaned his bloody daggers, wiping them on the trampled grass. They disappeared into his sleeves,
So the daggers just... disappeared on their own?
and the fussy doneel inspected his spattered knickers.
STOP TALKING ABOUT HIS KNICKERS! It scarred me the first time!
These terrible panties will haunt my nightmares.
“Messy work,” she commented and began to pick up arrows that had bounced off the grawligs’ hard heads or been pulled out and thrown down by the angry beasts.
Messy work? You killed exactly NONE of them, and didn't even hurt them much. It was NOT messy. And just how many HUNDREDS of arrows does this lady have?
Anyway, now Kale feels sick and upset because the grawligs bled a little and she's been in a battle, so she sits on the far edge of the clearing and sulks.
Dar had already pulled off his boots and socks and had one of his bags open, looking for clean clothes.
Just how much blood squirts out of injured TOES?
An insect crawled across an open space and then disappeared underneath a trang-a-nog leaf.
A tranny-nog leaf? Wh... why does the author include REAL PLANTS but also made-up ones? WHY? Especially when they aren't NEEDED?!?!?!?!?!
Kale deliberately answered Leetu with her thoughts. One of the fighting mariones from River Away had been to the borderlands and fought blimmets. He said killing blimmets was no more bothersome than swatting flies.
This doesn't really tell us anything because we don't know what the hell blimmets are. Are they sentient? Are they animals? Vegetables? How can we be impressed by how horrible this is if we don't know what they are?
... FUCKING TELL US SOMETHING.
His stomach didn’t turn at the sight of blood. If Paladin expects me to fight in battles, maybe he picked the wrong o’rant.
So a small amount of blood = killing presumably sentient beings, and anybody who even fights without killing is the same as a cold-blooded murderer? How dumb is this chick?
Leetu’s voice penetrated her mind. “Don’t feel bad about being sick over this sort of thing. Don’t ever get used to killing."
THERE. WAS. NO. KILLING. How can she get used to killing if nobody is getting killed?!
"If you do, then no matter how high you were born in the seven races, you’ll slip down to the level of those born of Pretender’s evil mind.”
- Who the hell is Pretender? I assume it's meant to be Satan, but nobody is explaining who he is.
- Maybe I'm not up on every denomination's beliefs, but I'm pretty sure that all Christians believe that Satan can't make anything himself, just corrupt stuff.
- So apparently your level of moral goodness depends on what race you're born into. Yeah, that isn't even SLIGHTLY offensive and racist.
Paladin approves of killing? asked Kale.
A long pause followed.
“Paladin believes in protecting his people.”
Great, now they're making Jesus sound like a huge hypocrite who wants it both ways, because otherwise St. Paul can't justify the whole "no killing at all under any circumstances." Which is not realistic and will get your asses killed. I'm pretty sure the Old Testament is kind of full of examples of God being okay with people killing the bad guys. And I don't remember Jesus saying anything about never killing the guy who is trying to stab you in the face.
"Does he approve of killing?"
"Uhhhhhduuuhhhh... no comment. I plead the fifth. STOP ASKING LOGICAL QUESTIONS!"
I guess we now know why the grawligs are so horribly ineffectual as Minions of Evil. If they acted like real orcs, then the Good Guys might actually have to DO SOMETHING. Like kill bad guys.
What does that mean?
“It’s better you wait and see.”
I hate Leetu. I really do. She apparently has no purpose except to be cryptic for no good reason. And even worse, since she chuckles after saying this, apparently we're supposed to go "Haha! What an annoying yet lovable person Leetu is!"