So we jump RIGHT into the story with the main character waking up. Apparently he lives right next to a river. It's winter. His name is Tipperton, a pretty obvious halflingly hobbity name.
Wha—? In the chill dark Tipperton started awake—What was that? He lay quietly and listened, straining to hear above the burble of the Wilder River, the water running freely beneath its sheath of winter ice. I thought I heard—
... the uncontrollable urge to pee?
There it is agai—!
shing-shang . . . chang . . .
Distant metal striking metal. What th—?
- Did we just get transported into a Batman episode? What is with the sound effects... which aren't even capitalized? tiptaptip I'm typing by the way tiptiptiptap
- sluuurrrrppp sliiiiippppp I'm drinking a Hansen's soda pop sluuuuuuuppppp
- criiiicck craaaccccckkk crreeeeaaaakk I'm sitting in a creaky chair
Do you get the point? It's always full of sound effects!
So Tipperton gets out of bed.... for some reason it's called a "bunk" even though there's only one person living there... and immediately hits his shin against a bench. Our hero, ladies and gents. Our hero. Meanwhile, Batman is still fighting outside.
Tipperton keeps fumbling around in the dark, knocking over lots of stuff... and man, his place is a MESS. Not only does he have all his pots and pans on the table, but he's stuck his lantern among the trenchers and kettles. Dude, you live in a preindustrial civilization with no electricity, and apparently it is WINTER outside. Why is your lantern stuck in weird places? Why do you have only ONE?
Meanwhile, Batman is STILL fighting outside. I swear...
just as he ineffectually flicked the striker, a high-pitched scream sounded, and something heavy thudded against the ground outside.
Great, you scared Shawn and Gus into fainting.
So Tipperton lights the lantern and we get a detail of HOLY SHIT apparently he actually lives IN the mill. He doesn't have a separate room or anything - he just sleeps in a giant steampunk room full of gears and shit. And Batman is still fighting outside. So for some reason, he decides that it would be a GREAT idea to open the door so whatever crazy homicidal maniacs are outside can come on in. Our hero isn't very bright..
someone or something slammed against the mill wall, the entire structure juddering with the blow, sending a shower of grain dust drifting down from the cedar shakes above.
That's kind of a flimsy mill if someone being thrown against it makes the ENTIRE MILL shake.
So even though there's a fight going on outside and the people clearly have weapons, Tipperton decides to go trotting outside with nothing but a lantern. Someone shouts at him to get back (presumably Batman), and someone else goes racing toward him... for no real reason. I mean, it's not like he poses a threat to them or anything.
So Tipperton slams the door and locks it, and the intruder promptly breaks the windows. Why does the underside of a mill have windows? I have no idea, presumably it's so they can be broken. So since we've got a Wobbit in this story, he grabs a bow and... runs up on top of the mill. And OH ANTICLIMAX, the battle is over. Wow. He was totally useless.
Several dark shapes lay scattered and unmoving upon the snow, and two or three were slumped on the porch.
His welcome mat was officially dead, and they had wrecked his tasteful white wicker patio furniture. The BASTARDS!
So Tipperton is cold because, well, he ran outside wearing nothing but a nightshirt. So he stands there for awhile, gets pneumonia, and dies. The end. No, seriously, he climbs down and checks out one of the dead... things.
It was a Ruck. Dead. Hacked by some kind of blade. The now glazed-over viper eyes staring upward.
- Most of those aren't sentences, you know.
- What would you hack a person to death with OTHER than a blade? A wooden spoon?
- In case you're totally confused, Rucks are the orcs of this series... and I mean that literally. They're basically pale xeroxes of Tolkien's orcs, and I'd tell you the details except I'm sure McKiernan will in a few pages.
Tipperton moved onward through churned-up snow, his gorge rising as he cautiously stepped past a dead, hamstrung, eviscerated horse—steam rising through the cold air
I think it's kind of weird that he almost pukes because of a dead horse but some equally nastily slaughtered Rucks don't even get a gag or two.
and among more slain Rucks: leather-clad, bandylegged, batwing-eared, dusky-skinned.
I don't know what batwing ears look like, but it sounds silly and needlessly complex. I mean, why would you need ears like these?
Their dark ichor seeped outward upon the snow,
I don't know WHY so many authors use "ichor" as a yucky synonym for blood. Here's the thing: "ichor" was considered the blood of the GODS, not of random monsters!
Most of the dead had been cut or pierced by a blade of some sort,
What else would you be cut or pierced with? A spoon?
And here, too, vapor rose from gaping wounds and spilled entrails steaming.
Thanks for the details. I needed to know that.
So Tipperton goes to the porch and finds a Hlok. Think an Uruk-hai but with less backstory.
And OH LOOK one of the combatants is an injured human. Ohhhhhhh Batman, what have they done to you?
—His heart leaping in alarm, Tipperton yanked his bow to the full and—
Wait! It's a man, a Human. Oh, Adon, look at the blood flowing.
Yes, when people are horribly injured, they do tend to bleed.
So Tipperton... somehow drags the Hlok off the human, even though it should be MUCH bigger than he is. And as if we haven't been assured that he's kind of an idiot already: Tipperton lifted the door latch and pushed. It did not yield. Nitwit! It's barred!. . . Wait, the window! Swiftly, Tipperton stepped across the man and to the shattered jamb and broke out the remaining shards yet clinging to the frame. Then he clambered through, cutting a foot as he stepped on the glass fragments lying on the inside. Twice a nitwit!
Yeah, apparently it didn't occur to him to CLIMB BACK UP and go inside from the top, the way he came OUT. Instead he bumbles onto some broken glass and cuts open his foot.
So he unlocks the door and the man basically FALLS IN.... even though someone rammed into the door and died there before he did, so there should be a Personalityless Minion Of Evil there instead. Tipperton drags the guy in, then goes outside to get his bow and arrows.
Tipperton removed the man's helmet, revealing short-cropped dark hair, and he placed a pillow under the man's head.
Wow, that was an awkward sentence. I really think the last part should've been another sentence.
The man was slender but well built, and appeared to be in his mid-twenties—Though with a Human, I can never tell.
This would be a natural statement to make for a character who isn't humans... except that Tipperton lives in a village mostly populated by humans, and always has.
"Look, my friend, I'd get you out of those leathers to fix you up, but I'm afraid that more jostling will only make the bleeding worse, so in places I'll just slit them apart where they're already rent."
"So you better kiss that leather jacket goodbye, because I'm going all Michael Myers on it! And hopefully despite me being a total spaz, I won't accidentally cut you when I'm slicing off your WHOOPS SORRY DIDN'T MEAN TO DO THAT! You didn't need that kidney, right?"
So he starts cutting off some of the guy's clothes and trying to bandage him, but not accomplishing much. Yeah, he's dead. In fantasy books, anybody who doesn't stop bleeding promptly is dead meat. He asks about his horse Runner, and Tipperton tells him that the horse is dead. Very dead. Although I'm surprised the guy didn't notice, given that he was apparently the last person standing except his last opponent.
"I've got to get you some help. A healer. There's one nearby."
"He hasn't killed anybody in a whole two weeks, so you're in luck!"
So the guy wakes up enough to gesture him over, and then he gives Tipperton... oh, you've got to be kidding me.
... he pressed the token—plain and dull grey, a coin with a hole in it—into the buccan's hand.
Woooooowwwwww, so a hobbit... sorry, a Warrow is being entrusted with a ringlike object which (spoilers) the fate of the entire world hinges on. That doesn't even REMOTELY resemble one of the most famous fantasy series in history. I wonder if Tipperton will end up spending a few weeks in an elf city!
"Go east. . . warn all... take this to Agron."
"I... owe him... for last week's... dinner at... Olive Garden!"
Tipperton frowned in confusion. "Agron? Who—? No, wait. You can explain later."
Yeah, this guy is officially dead. Whenever there's a delay in explaining REALLY IMPORTANT SHIT, the person dies before they can do the exposition. Tipperton, you are a genre-dumb dolt, or you'd know that this guy needs to exposit RIGHT NOW and you need to NOT TELL HIM to shut up. Oh well, he'd probably get shot in the head if he tried to talk.
He slipped the thong over his own head and tucked the coin down his shirt. "Right now I'm going after a healer."
You said that already.
" 'Ware, Waldan," whispered the man, his pale eyes now closed. "There's more . . . out there."
Tipperton drew in a deep breath, then said, "I'll take my bow."
The man did not reply.
- I wouldn't reply either. The stupidity of that comment is just mind-blowing. This guy fought off a whole squad by himself with only a sword and got fatally injured, and YOU think you can actually do something with a bow?
- At least take one of the Rucks' swords, idiot!
- If there were more out there, why weren't they attacking this guy?
In case we haven't clued in that Tipperton is a Wobbit, we're told that he stood up to his full three foot four inch height and momentarily looked down at the man. I don't know WHY he did that, since he doesn't have any reason to look down at the guy.
Then he blows out his lantern and goes running out into the night, after checking to see if any enemies are out there.
Finding none, he glided upslope across the clearing and in among the trees, the buccan shunning the two-track wagon lane, seeking instead the shelter of the forest alongside.
I... don't really understand why this would help. I mean, the other Rucks and Hloks presumably aren't sitting in a public road and waiting for him. Wouldn't they probably be sitting in the woods... next to the road?
Then he began running, his black hair streaming out behind, his feet flying over the snow, Tipperton Thistledown racing in virtual silence, as only a Warrow can run.
Ah, one of the many SueHobbit traits of the Wobbits, as well as having the purtiest eyes in MiddleEarth... I mean, Mithgar, having perfect eyesight even in the dark, and being hybrids of every other species in the world. Groan.