So the little gang heads north again, warning farms along the way. Also, they're going to get attacked. That's not a spoiler as much as a prediction.
"Let us press on and get to the ford tonight," said Patrel, grimly. "I'd rather we were not camped out in the open."
Yup, the Vulgs are going to catch them, and I bet that either Tarpy or Hob is going to die. Not because it resembles Lord of the Rings in any way, but just because neither of them has gotten any real development. Like, at all. Admittedly the other three aren't HUGELY developed, but enough for us to know they're not the redshirts. Patrel is a musician, Tuck is the protagonist, and Danner is a tool. Tarpy? He's... short. That's his one character trait. Hob? He.... exists.
Then Tuck's pony is suddenly scared by a... giant pile of rocks. No, I'm serious - the pony freaks out because of a giant rock.
"What's that up ahead?" asked Tuck, pointing to a tall spire looming up through the darkness and into the moonlight.
"It's the Rooks' Roost," answered Patrel, on Tuck's left, "a great pile of stone that happens to be where Two Fords Road and the Upland Way come together."
... how do you make a "spire" out of a rocks? Doesn't a pile usually imply that it's a pile of.... somethings placed on top of each other.
And wow, I wonder what this is sort of like.
"It means, when we get there, we'll be just five miles from the Thornwalker camp at the ford."
Redshirt deaths. Any minute now.
So McKiernan gives us some details about the roads and the rivers and the geographic locations of them, and it's all very boring. Tuck also gets a closer look at the Rooks' Rost: it was higher than he first had thought, rising perhaps fifty feet into the air, a great jumble of rocks and boulders placed there in ancient times by an unknown hand to stand ominously in the night. Yes yes, it's very atmospheric, but how the hell is this thing staying together? How come a pile of rocks isn't falling apart?
As the ponies plodded onward, Tuck felt as if this looming pile somehow boded doom.
But that's just silly! After all, sinister surroundings NEVER lead to potential death!
Then Tuck's pony freaks out because of... another rock!
No, seriously, its a Vulg, which is keeping pace with the Warrows. It's not very impressive, because they don't seem to be going very fast. Suddenly there are four Vulgs following them, and HOLY CRAP why aren't there any Thornwalker patrols? I mean, the idea is that they're supposed to be patrolling the area, yet somehow they don't bother to check the nearby areas?!
"Hey Fred, maybe we should check out in those fields over there. I mean, if anything got past us it would be over there."
"Nah, don't wanna. Pass the coffee."
The Vulgs trotted without effort.
Ah yes, the dreaded savage minions of evil... trotting to the kill. I'm breaking out in a cold sweat.
Anyway they're pretty standard Evil Animals: Their evil yellow eyes gleamed like hot coals when the Moon caught them just so, and slavering red tongues lolled over wicked fangs set in crushing jaws. Hideous power bunched and rippled under coarse black fur as the beasts slid through the shadows.
- Are their eyes evil because THEY are evil, or are they evil because they have evil eyes?
- Since when are hot coals yellow?
- Where else would slavering red tongues be?
- I think the "hideous power" you're talking about is called "muscles."
- Can someone explain to me why these creatures are so evil? It's established that they're not sentient or anything, and they seem dumber than canines like wolves and dogs. So.... why are they evil? Why are they serving the forces of evil? I mean, it makes slightly more sense in Lord of the Rings where wargs are semi-intelligent and have a sort of language, meaning that they are smart enough to be evil. These things? They're basically Guard Dogs Of Vague Evil, thrown in whenever McKiernan needs some chaotic action. But ANIMALS ARE NOT EVIL. They can be assholes, but they aren't evil because they don't have the mental capacity to BE evil.
- Oh, and did I mention these are TOTALLY WARGS?
"I'm cuddly if you get to know me!"
"Cor! Let's ride for it!" shouted Hob
I may not be an expert in British slang (except that I know "bloody" started as "by your Lady"), but I'm pretty sure that "Cor" is usually an exclamation of positive surprise, not a G-rated synonym for "Shit" or "Fuck."
Patrel decides to make a run for the Rooks' Roost, and they start racing toward it, with the Vulgs right behind them. Danner, being a hyperaggressive idiot, starts yelling at them. And Tuck decides not to shoot at them because it's too hard to shoot from the back of a running pony.
Uh, I don't know anything about shooting or riding, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to NOT teach the Warrows how to shoot from a moving animal because THEY MIGHT HAVE TO DO THAT. That's what training is for - so you can deal with any situation! "No, I can only shoot when I'm standing perfectly AAAAAAAAGGGHHHHH!" Besides, the Vulgs are supposed to be FRIGGING HUGE and they are RIGHT BEHIND THEM. You'd be certain to hit SOMETHING, and it might even slow one of them down!
No, instead Tuck waits until a Vulg claws his pony, and then he hits it with his bow... really? You can't even hit it with an arrow, which at least has a pointy end?
And OH WHAT A SURPRISE one of the Vulgs takes down Hob's pony. Danner tries to help Hob, but as he gets on the Vulg starts biting him. Yup, Hob is now officially dead.
Hob screamed horribly as the cruel fangs rent the Warrow's side and leg, though still he kicked out and the Vulg fell back.
... how can he kick out if he's astride a pony, and the fangs are in the process of hurting him?!
Another Vulg is leaping at Danner's pony when Tarpy finally justifies being in this book and shoots it dead. He continues shooting while... wait, how come Patrel is still down on the bottom of the Rooks' Roost? Is he just really slow? Why is it taking so long for everybody except Tarpy to get up there?
Anyway, Hob is badly injured, and Danner has to actually carry Hob up the Rooks' Roost. May I point out that Tuck is allegedly the hero of this piece, and Danner is a sidekick/anti-hero/token-lovable-asshole who is basically there to make Tuck look purehearted? And yet during this life-threatening crisis, Tuck doesn't even TALK. He doesn't do anything! He basically vanishes until they get to the top!
With his free hand, Danner shoved Tarpy toward the rocks. "Climb, you fool, they're after Waerlings, not horselings!"
Yes, because ravenous indiscriminate carnivores only want to eat whatever they're chasing at the moment. And I'm right: the ponies run away and are immediately eaten. Of course, two ran right into the jaws of the evil Vulgs meaning they were too dumb to live anyway.
So they finally get to the VERY top and drag Hob up there.
The Vulgs loped around the base of the jumble but did not attempt to climb it.
Because canines are known for their rock-climbing abilities, so that was totally an option for them.
And the Moon shone brightly down upon the land.
... and I'm not sure what that has to do with anything.
And after doing jackshit for the last scene, Tuck FINALLY says something: "He's still alive," said Tuck, raising his head from Hob's breast. "We've got to do something to stop this bleeding." Wow, you think so, Einstein? I'm glad medical care was one of the things you learned.
But in his mind whispered words from the old hearthtale: Vulg's black bite slays at night.
Uh, a large carnivorous animal ripping your side and leg open would slay most people, no matter what time it was.
Pretty sure that can kill you without poison glands.
So while Tuck and Tarpy do first aid, Danner just glares at the Vulgs. Then suddenly one of the Vulgs comes bouncing up from behind them... despite the fact that this is a SPIRE. It's not a mount or a little hill but a TALL THIN SPIRE. You can't really run up one of those. Then all the OTHER Vulgs run up the spire, which is just... oh fuckit, this is all just impossible. Forget it. Anyway, they shoot the Vulgs, the Vulgs run away.
Oh, and here's a funny little detail:
As Patrel drew an arrow full to the head...
Patrel loosed the bolt to hiss through the air...
Howling and snapping at the quarrel, the Vulg fell...
Notice what's wrong with that? McKiernan apparently thinks that arrows and bolts/quarrels are the same thing. They're not. An arrow goes with a traditional bow, and a bolt/quarrel goes with a crossbow. THIS IS VERY SIMPLE.
"We're in a tight fix here," said Patrel, watching the Vulgs.
Thank you for the update, Captain Obvious.
So now it's back to the First Aid course, and HOLY SHIT Tuck is STILL trying to manage basic bandages and tourniquets. So apparently the Thornwalkers aren't given First Aid training? That doesn't seem very bright.
"Maybe this will staunch the flow," fretted Tuck as he tourniqueted Hob's leg.
How do you tourniquet anything, given that "tourniquet" is a noun and never a verb?
And MAYBE? Tuck, do you even know what a tourniquet DOES?
"Here, take my jerkin," said Tarpy, peeling off his quilted jacket and stripping his shirt.
A jerkin is not the same thing as a shirt. It's more of a long vest or sleeveless jacket..
So we have an oh-so-moving talk where Hob wakes up and talks to the other Warrows, but DRAMATIC STING MUSIC, he has a fever from poison. Uh.... I'm assuming that the Vulgs are supposed to have poisonous teeth, even though I don't remember this being mentioned before. Apparently death by slow bleeding isn't dramatic enough.
In an effort to save Hob's leg, every so often Tuck would loosen the tourniquet to let circulation into the limb. Yet there seemed to be a fearful loss of blood whenever this was done, and so Tuck was both loath to do it and loath not to.
Yeah, the guy's about to die of blood loss, and Tuck seems to be obsessed with saving his leg. Let's see - slow painful death, or amputation of one limb. I think I can guess what Hob would prefer.
Then the four Vulgs attack again... no, I'm not sure why... and Danner shoots one of them. For some reason, THIS causes Hob to stand up and stagger around, even though he was apparently dead to the world while Tuck was poking around in his wounds. Yeah, it doesn't make much sense to me either.
"Oh Lor, his wounds are gushing," sobbed Tuck, tightening the tourniquet and pressing Tarpy's jerkin back to Hob's side.
- Gushing: a word that should never be used to describe any bodily fluids.
- One thing I'll never understand is why the Warrows say "Lor." I mean, I'm assuming that it's a mutilated form of "Lord," but this takes place in a polytheistic world with lots of different gods, although only a few major ones. Who is "Lord"?
- And yes, I know there are hints of a supreme monotheistic God who rules over the polytheistic gods. The problem is, the elves are the only ones who even theoretically know about him. Nobody else seems to, so obviously the Wobbits wouldn't be mentioning him.
- Take a shot every time Tuck cries like a baby. Ah, sweet nectar.
Hob makes the required dying-person remark of "Tuck, it's so cold - so cold," and the Vulgs continue hanging around. No, I don't know why, but they obviously aren't very bright or they would have gone back to some farms or something and killed the people THERE.
The silver Moon sailed across the silent heavens, and the bright stars glimmered in the cold sky.
This is actually a rather nice piece of description.
And there was nothing that they could do to staunch the wounds of evil Vulg bite, and Hob's life slowly leaked away among the cold, dark rocks. In less than an hour he was dead.
Oh no! Not Hob! Not dear, sweet Hob that we had grown to love and cherish as if he were one of our dearest friends! No! Not him! NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO...
... wait, why are we supposed to care again?
I know I sound really insensitive, but I just don't know why I'm supposed to care so much about Hob. I mean, it's sad that he died but I don't really have a reason to care about him. We don't know Hob. We don't know anything about him. He has literally had just a couple scenes, and zero character development. Even that horrible little twerp Tarpy is better fleshed-out. Because he's... short.
To sum it up: this guy was a redshirt, and as such I find it hard to mourn him.
So when the sun comes up, the Vulgs run away and the dead ones apparently turn into... mummies or something like that.
Atop the Rooks' Roost, Tuck and Danner, Patrel and Tarpy all wept as they gathered stones for Hob's cairn.
... wait, so they're on top of a giant stone SPIRE... and they're gathering rocks there for a cairn? Wouldn't it make more sense to get them down on the ground?
Also, take a shot for a Tuck crying scene.
They washed him with snow and combed his hair and composed his hands across his breast. His Thornwalker cloak was drawn about him, and his bow was retrieved and laid beside him.
All this without touching the ground! Seriously, I'm not entirely sure why they're making a cairn for him UP THERE. For one thing, they're just a few miles from the Thornwalker... thingy. Wouldn't it be better to bury him there?
And when it was done, in a clear voice that rose into the sky, Patrel sang this verse.
Oh hell no, not more singing!
The Shadow Tide doth run
O'er boundless Darkling Sea
Well, where else would it be?
'Neath skies of Silver Suns
That beckon endlessly.
Seriously, how many silver suns ARE there in the sky? How many would fit? This line would have worked better if he had said "stars" instead of "suns." Yes, I know the sun is a star, but how many people in a medieval fantasy world know that?
Reach out thy ship's wings wide,
Ride on the gentle wind,
... and now we have a winged ship. Whatever!
Sail with the Shadow Tide
To shoreless Time's own end.
... okay. Time has a shore.
Alone thou sailed away
Upon the Darkling Sea,
Yet there shall come a day
When I will sail with thee.
Ohhhhh, I get it. It's a death metaphor.
All then wept long for the young buccan with whom they would never Walk the Thorns.
May I point out again that they have apparently known this guy for about two days? I mean, there's no indication that they were friends or anything.
Yet a fell look of dark resolve slowly came over Tuck's features,
... sort of like a villain would look?
and he wiped away a final tear and knelt upon one knee and placed his hand upon the cairn and said unto the grey, unyielding stone,
"Commas are for the weak!"
"Hob, by all that I am, the Evil that did this shall answer to your memory." And so swore them all.
Yes, we will hunt down and kill those warglike creatures! This is a Dramatic Moment! We are being Dramatic! For Great Justice!
they climbed down from the Rooks' Roost - known ever after as Hob's Cairn
... uhhhh... I don't think that's how it works. I mean, Hob isn't very important to the plot and his death wasn't particularly well-known... or heroic. If John Baker has a fatal car accident on Piper Street, is it thereafter known as John's Doom?
And do ALL Thornwalkers who die get this treatment? "This is the bar where Thorny Bandersnatch fell asleep in his soup bowl and drowned. Now that bar shall forever be known as.... Thorny's Soup Bowl!"