"The High King?" blurted Tipperton, his face stricken. "You mean the dead man was the High King?"
HOLY CRAP, this guy is stupid. Yes, the High King is riding through some butt-end-of-nowhere forest with no guards, no men and no protection against the Forces of Generic Evil. It makes perfect sense!
"Not likely, miller. Unlike your man, High King Blaine has bright red hair, like my boy Arth, or so I've heard it said."
... and you're not helping by ALSO thinking that scenario is plausible, dude.
Gwyth points out the fucking obvious: there are hundreds of horses that are branded with this mark, and you would think a couple Wobbits who lived their WHOLE LIVES in the countryside would probably know how brands work.
Beau looked at Tip. "Mayhap a courier bearing a message."
"Or maybe a totally obscure little metal coin that nobody except ONE GUY in the whole world can actually identify."
So neither of the Wobbits mention the coin, but they do show the mayor the Johnny Cash sigil. And... nobody has a clue what it is. They don't even know who it belonged to. Look, I hate books that give rural backwater people knowledge that they couldn't possibly have, but NOBODY in this town knows anything? Like, say, the EMBLEM of their mortal enemies and an ENTIRE COUNTRY OF EVIL? How come they know what Rucks and Hloks are, but they don't have a clue what they might have on their person?!
"Hmm. A ring of fire on black." He looked up at the men. "Does anyone know whose sign this is?"
Men shrugged and shuffled their feet and looked at one another . . . and none knew.
Prell glanced at the Warrows. "Was this the man's or did it belong to the Foul Folk?"
Now the buccen shrugged, and Beau said, "It was lying 'neath a dead Ruck, but it could have been the man's."
WHY IS EVERYONE IN THIS BOOK STUPID?
And I remind you: we are four chapters into this book, and we literally know NOTHING.
And since nobody knows anything, Prell comments that his son is going to be coming by that evening with news about the reason the beacon has been lit, and then everybody is going to gonna go answer the muster. Uh... dude, if your son is riding ALONE at NIGHT in a forest infested with KILLER MONSTERS who have every motivation to keep the locals confused and disorganized... shouldn't you be worried right now?
"As for you two, the muster's underway, and every bow and blade will count, as well as every chirurgeon."
"Great! We're ready to fight!"
"What? No! I meant that we needed some comic relief."
"But I'm not a chirurgeon, Mayor," said Beau. "Just a plain healer instead. Herbs and simples, powders and potions, nostrums and medicks and salves and poultices, needle and gut: that's my trade."
- "I also ration commas; I can't use too many of them!"
- And seriously, he thinks none of that will be necessary after a battle?! Not EVERYONE in a battle needs major surgery.
But Prell is unimpressed by Beau's attempts to escape the muster, and tells them to get warm clothes so they can come along.
" And you two come as soon as the fire's burnt down"—he glanced about at the winter-dry woods—"can't leave it untended, you know."
Yes, the winter-dry woods FILLED WITH SNOW.
Yes, I know the protocol is to always keep an eye on a fire and never leave it burning even if it's VERY unlikely that it will spread... like if there is deep snow around. But it just feels like another way to keep the plot from actually starting.
"We shouldn't be too long, Mayor Prell," said Tipperton, gesturing at the dwindling blazes. "Midafternoon or so."
"We'll be finished with the hours and hours of filler dialogue and totally unimportant activities by then."
But actually it takes ALL FREAKING DAY for the fire to start dying down. Dammit, did they soak those logs in lighter fluid?!
Tipperton and Beau took turns shoveling snow upon the embers, the cinders hissing, steam rising into the air. And even as they did so, a new fall of snow began drifting down from the overcast above.
- What is an overcast?
- It's like the book is mocking us with how pointless this all is.
- And you know what's even more annoying? Apparently Tuck just sat around all day with his thumb up his ass, because AFTER extinguishing the pyre, he starts fixing the window. Yeah, because you couldn't do that during the HOURS AND HOURS AND HOURS when you were waiting for the fire to die!
So while laughing and joking, they stop by Beau's cottage and probably sit around smoking cigars for a few more hours, before heading off to the local town square.
Night had fallen and the snow continued to drift down, muting the winter sounds, the furtive sounds, of the surrounding woods
The commas, the punctuation, were too common, too many....
—now a vole scrabbling beneath the leaves; now a hare kicking up and away; now the pad of a fox; now the call of a distant owl—
I will give McKiernan credit: all these animals DO NOT hibernate in the winter. However, why are they out in the woods while it's snowing?
all amid the faint tick of snowflakes striking sparse dry leaves yet clinging to the brittle branches.
Has anyone else ever heard a snowflake fall? Me neither.
So Beau and Tip sit there thinking about... nothing much. They make their way to a big crowd of guys getting ready to leave.
An oldster standing in the street and stamping his feet to ward off the cold stepped out to bar the buccen's way, saying, "Here, now, you two, no children allowed. This is the work for—"
"Beg pardon, Mr. Cobb," called Beau. "But it's me, Beau Darby, and Tip."
"We've only lived here for the past thirty years. I can see why you wouldn't recognize us and would automatically assume that two armed tiny people are children."
Also, why does he say "but" at the beginning of his comment?
Cue a boring conversation about arthritis, tea and who is where. Tip decides that he's going to find the mayor and asks if he's gotten any information about the messenger or
Argon Agron. Uh, dude, his son went about five miles away; I doubt he magically has gained any useful info.
Shortly they arrived and made their way past a pair of blowing horses tied to the hitching rail.
I knew it! There's cocaine in GenericFantasyLand!
"Hmph," said Beau, nodding toward the chuffing steeds, "looks like they've been atrot."
Thanks, Sherlock. That means... someone just came back this evening. Like the mayor said would happen.
And the mayor is apparently whipping the locals into a frenzy of outrage, since they start screaming and cursing until Tip and Beau come inside. And there are a couple guys from a neighboring town who reveal that... there are Generic Fantasy Troops attacking!
Thanks, we needed an extra scene to tell us that. It feels like this scene was left over from a different draft.
Again a cry of outrage erupted, which was quelled quickly by Prell pounding the mallet upon the bar.
"Wot 'r' they doin' this far west?" shouted someone from the crowd.
Dude, you've known ALL DAY that there are Rucks and Hloks in the area. They attacked people in YOUR TOWN. Why is this such a shock to everyone when Tip has been burning up the corpses all day?! And most of the local men accompanied the mayor to TIP'S MILL. Is there something in the water that makes people have short term memory loss.
But wait! Here's a twist we haven't seen before!
"It looked like a running battle to me, Mayor," said Willoby. "First we found the one man dead among the killed Rucks—"
Is this book on a loop?!
But at least these two have ONE interesting thing to say: apparently they found a big gang of "Rucks and such" as well as a whole bunch of men, all of whom killed each other. And for some reason instead of warning their OWN town, they came to Twoforks.
The mayor shook his head. "I don't think—"
WHO ELECTED YOU, a gang of brain-damaged monkeys? You're rejecting the whole scenario even after what happened this morning?!
"Oh," blurted Harl, " 'nother thing, the brands, couple o' them was ridin' King's horses."
A collective gasp and murmur rippled through the gathering,
"Do you suppose—?" began Tip, but the room fell to quietness as Prell asked Willoby, "Are you certain? King Blaine's brand?"
AGAIN, why is this a surprise?! Did McKiernan (and his editor) just FORGET that Prell and the others were out there and looking at this stuff EARLIER TODAY?!
"Then there were at least six of these men: another one was killed by Spawn out by the mill."
Well, if Spawn killed them, I'm sure they deserved it.
"Hoy, Mayor, wot would Kingsmen be doin' out this way?" called someone.
"Mayhap it's all tied up with this Beacontor business," declared another.
Well, let's see - two things that have apparently NEVER HAPPENED BEFORE happen in the space of about 24 hours. HELL YEAH they're connected, you dumb shits!
Prell then tells everybody that "it's all spookwater and vapors." Uh, okay. Whatever that means. He also adds that until his son gets back, nobody knows where to go, what to do, or what's going on. So... they lit the signal fire even though it can't possibly lead to anything, and will just lead to mass panic with no useful outlet. Brilliant!
"If aught happens, someone will ring the fire gong, and then we'll form up in our squads and meet whatever challenge or peril awaits. Any questions?"
"Are there going to be cookies?"
"Where's the bathroom?"
"Can we have a singalong?"
"I meant REAL questions, dammit."
"Hoy, Mayor, shouldn't your boy be back anow?"
Prell's face fell grim. "Aye, Redge, unless he was—"
"Oy, mayhap he ran into trouble," declared Redge, a beefy man. "Rucks or some such."
HELLO? Why is this a surprise?! You knew there was a crisis, and you've known since this morning that there were Generic Minions of Evil in the area... and somehow it's unexpected that it might be DANGEROUS to send a lone, probably unarmed man on horseback.
"Here, now," protested the small man next to Redge, sketching a warding sign in the air, "there's no cause to bring trouble down on the boy."
Dude, you are so right. i mean, he's already pretty much doomed, so why think about it?
"And if no word comes from Beacontor, Mayor . . . ?"
"Well, Redge, if no word comes, we march to the tor on the morrow."
- "And they will publish our fantasy books!"
- What tor? Nobody's mentioned one, have they?
- Also, I'd like to mention that a tor is not a particularly striking feature. It's basically a big free-standing rock.
- It's also not something you'll find in a heavily forested area.
So everyone wanders off to do... stuff. But Tip is determined to talk to the mayor.
three members of the elder council—two thin oldsters, Trake and Gaman, and robust Tessa, hefty owner of the Fox.
Thanks for introducing us to characters who have no impact on the plot and will never be seen again.
So the mayor advises Tip and Beau to go head off to where the men are. And honestly, I don't see why they're so eager to send the Wobbits into combat. I mean, the only reason anyone in the Iron Tower trilogy took these little idiots seriously is because of the stuff they did in the War of the Ban. This duology is about the War of the Ban. So why are they being taken seriously even though they are so tiny and have NO battle experience?
I mean, I can see why they're bringing BEAU, since he seems to be the only vaguely doctor-like person in the area. But what about Tip?
Anyway, Tip announces that he's not going with them, because...
He's going to deliver the coin to Argon! Or Agron! Whoever!
"Yes," said Tip, and he tapped a finger to his collar. "Instead of answering the muster, I'm going east to deliver this coin."
"It's partly because I promised a dying man.... and partly because I'm an easy bleeder."
Yeah, now it's a story about a pair of halflings carrying a round object with a hole in the middle to a faraway unknown land while the Dark Lord tries to destroy the world. Does this remind you of anything?
Just wait, it will get worse.