So... since this chapter opens with Tip knocking on someone's door, I'm assuming that the Minions of Evil weren't out there after all.
"Beau! Beau! Wake up!"
"I had a bad dream! Can I sleep with you? I promise we don't have to spoon!"
Ah yes, this is to introduce Beau, the only Wobbit in the whole series from the Deep South.
This is a part of the Shire nobody talks about
And with a name like that, if he's not then he damn well should be!
So Beau totters out of bed, reaaaallly slowly, while sound effects go off. Tipperton practically yanks him out the door with a whambamthankyouma'am explanation that pretty obviously goes in one ear and out the other.
"Oh, there you are, Beau. Get dressed; grab your satchel. There's trouble afoot. I've a wounded man at the mill."
- ... "oh, there you are"? "Fancy meeting you here at the door, after I spent ten minutes screaming for you outside it!"
- It might also help to mention what kind of medical attention the dude needs. I mean, if he broke his leg, that's a little different from being stabbed all over.
- And in case you're wondering, Beau is apparently the closest thing to a doctor they have. God help them all.
"What is it, Tip?"
"I said, I've a wounded man at my mill."
"Aye. Rucks and Hloks. He's bleeding badly."
"Are you sleepwalking, Beau?"
Either Beau isn't fully awake, or he's brain damaged. YES. WE GET IT.
Beau just stands there in the doorway gawping while Tip gives him the Cliff's notes version of Chapter 1.
Beau closed his mouth as well as the door and sprang across the room even as he pulled off his nightshirt. "Rucks and such? Here? In the Wilderland? Near Twoforks? Fighting at the mill?"
"I wonder if this is going to be the start of an epic fantasy that will drag on through two whole books!"
"What were they doing at the mill?"
I'm sure Tipperton made sure to ask before they died. DUMBASS.
Beau slipped into his breeks. "Why would Rucks and such be after a man, I wonder?"
"Maybe he owed them money?"
"No, it must be an epic high fantasy reason!"
Seriously, someone shut Beau up. He just asks question after question, including questions that he KNOWS Tip has no way of answering. This doesn't make your character look inquisitive, it makes him look clueless.
"He was alive when I left him, but bleeding. Oh yes, bleeding. He took a lot of cuts, what with that mob and all. I bandaged him the best I could."
"But we have to hurry, or tonight he sleeps with the fishes!"
So Tip stalks around the room even though he's supposedly limping, and Beau gets dressed.
"Don't worry, Tip. I'm sure that if you bandaged him, we can save him."
"Because blood loss is instantly stopped by bandages! And infections just don't exist!"
"But what if those Ruck blades were poisoned? I mean, I've heard that they slather some dark and deadly taint on their swords."
... well, then I doubt that Beau has the antidote, huh?And honestly, that sounds like an accident waiting to happen:
"All right you Generic Horde of Evil! Listen up, the Generic Dark Lord says-"
"What the hell was that?"
"It's Barry, sir. He pricked himself on his sword again."
"That's the sixth one today, dammit. Alright, just drag him away and let me finish. We'll eat him later."
So they go running off into the night, and McKiernan makes sure to tell us what moon phase it's in. Yes, this become a HUGE continuity buttpain later on.
But oh noes! They get home, and THE DOOR IS OPEN!
Still they crouched in the gloom of the trees, and then Beau asked, "The man, could he have opened the door? Perhaps he left."
Oh please. You told him not to tell you vital information, then left. The Mafia's already killed him!
So they sit in the bushes and... do absolutely nothing. They don't even try to creep around the back and look in the windows or anything. They just SIT there.
At last Tipperton said, "If we delay any longer, then the man will most certainly bleed to death."
"But you BANDAGED him!"
"... you got all your medical knowledge from a cereal box, didn't you Beau?"
"How did you know?!"
So Tip finally creeps over to the house and... nothing. Again.
Time eked by.
The skies lightened.
... how long does it TAKE to go in the door?! It sounds like it's taking HOURS for Tip just to go in the door, check the place over, and open the door! If Beau weren't an idiot, he would have gone for reinforcements already!
So after Beau gets lethal frostbite, Tip FINALLY comes out and calls him in. But EPIC PLOT TWIST:
As he came through the door and into the mill, Tipperton grimaced and gestured toward the man and said, "I'm afraid there's nothing you can do, Beau. His throat's been cut."
Damn the Mob! Clearly this is their work! If only Tip hadn't done what ALWAYS happens and left the guy alone after insisting that he not talk!
The man lay in a pool of blood, his dead eyes staring upward, his neck hacked nearly through. His leathers had been completely stripped from his body and strewn about, and his helm and boots and gorget were missing, and the chamber itself looked to have been ransacked—with an overturned table and ripped-apart bedding and drawers pulled out and their contents scattered on the floor.
"Damn, I hate it when family reunions are at MY place. It always ends like this!"
"You're right, Tip. Nothing I or anyone less than Adon can do at this time."
"And he wouldn't do it because he's lazy as hell."
Tipperton's jaw clenched. "The man said there were more Rucks out and about. They came when he was helpless and slew him."
"And after I left him alone in an unlocked mill! Imagine that! Those dirty bastards!"
Beau nodded and, as if talking to himself, said, "Back in the Bosky, my Aunt Rose, bless her memory, claimed that each and every Ruck—in fact, everyone from Neddra—is born with something missing: a heart. She said they only thought of themselves. Called them 'Gyphon's get.' She thinks He deliberately created them that way—flawed, no compassion, empathy, or conscience whatsoever, seeking only to serve their own ends. This cutting of a helpless man's throat wouldn't have surprised her one bit."
- Maybe I don't entirely understand how an army works, but it seems to me that an entire ARMY of entirely selfish, self-serving creatures wouldn't work that well.
- I mean, how could you get them to work together? How, if you were the villain, could you get them to serve YOU and even DIE for you?!
- Also, how is killing a helpless enemy "serving your own ends"?
So Beau starts freaking out because hey, maybe the bad guys are still hanging around. Tip responds that "there's a large track beating westward, across the river and toward the Dellins." So... they just didn't notice this GIANT TRACK when they were approaching the mill?!
So it turns out that the weapons and armor have been taken, and some of the Rucks also took part of the horse (for noms).
And then... they finally get to... THE MACGUFFIN!
"Why did they ransack your mill? And rip off his clothes? And tear up the saddle and bags? What were they searching for?"
Tipperton shook his head, but suddenly his gemlike eyes flew wide. He reached down into his shirt and pulled on the leather thong until the coin came dully to light. "Perhaps this."
Which of course doesn't resemble the YOU KNOW WHAT.
"And just who is Agron?"
"I don't know, Beau. The man merely said, 'East, go east, and take this to Agron.' I would have questioned him, but I thought it more pressing to get aid."
Okay, huge spoiler: Agron is a king.
Which also begs the question: How come nobody seems to know who the hell he is?! This is a universe where people seem to traipse around casually from one continent to another, yet NOBODY has ever heard of a king named Agron?! Yes! We just... have this mystery hanging over us for what seems like years!
"But east? Hoy, now, there's nothing to the east but Drearwood . . . and the Grimwall. Awful places. Deadly. Filled with Rucks and such."
Yes, because the world is flat and there couldn't possibly be anything EAST of the Drearwood and Grimwall!
Beau's amber eyes widened. "Say, now, likely where these Spawn came from."
YOU DON'T FUCKING SAY!
"Nevertheless, Beau, that's what he said—east. Besides, I hear that there's Elves somewhere 'tween here and the Grimwall. Of course, beyond, there's all sorts of lands."
No, it won't be the Elves! That would make the story be over WAY WAY WAY too fucking fast. We can't have that! We need a few hundred pages of padding first!
Beau cocked an eyebrow and looked at the token again. "Well, I don't see how this coin could be significant. I mean, huh, it seems to be made of common pewter and of little worth. It's completely lackluster . . . and without device of any kind—no design, no figure, no motif. It's even got a hole in it."
Okay, I'm going to get a little ahead of myself, because the characters won't even find out what the fuck this coin is until the next book. This item is possibly the purest example of a MacGuffin EVER. It is so pure that it forms Plot Convenience Crystals. It is so utterly pure that it is actually beautiful.
Does it have a purpose?
Was it absolutely necessary to use this mystery coin instead of, I dunno, a more conventional message?
No, it was not.
Does this coin have any impact on the plot that a letter COULDN'T have had?
Does it have any powers, value, or importance beyond being a MacGuffin?
Does it play any part in the actual plot?
Is it ever referenced again after Tip finds Agron?
I swear, this entire part of the plot is totally pointless, and it gets even stupider when we find out the backstory of it. In short, this whole stupid subplot could have easily been turned into... I dunno, a LETTER. At least then, the heroes would have the faintest fucking idea what they're doing.
So they decide to cremate the guy, the Rucks and Hlok... and by cremate, I mean they're just going to make a fire under him and hope it does the job without any kind of accelerant.
BUT OH NO EPIC PLOT TWIST!
"What is it?" breathed Beau, glancing about for sign of foe but finding none.
Tipperton groaned and pointed northwestward through the gap in the trees where the river ran. "Beacontor. The balefire burns."
How very dramatic! If only we knew what the hell it means or why we should care. What is Beacontor? What is balefire? Does he mean just fire being fueled by straw? Because WHO CARES what the fuel is?!