The messenger sort of blew his load with the first announcement, but he tries to excite them with more news: "Darkness stalks the north. Prince Galen strikes within the Dimmendark. Young Prince Igon has slain Winternight Spawn. And Aurion Redeye fortifies the Keep,"
- The north is filing a restraining order against Darkness.
- What the hell is the Dimmendark?
- What the hell is Winternight?
- And who are Prince Galen and Prince Igon? I assume these are important characters since they've been given names, but who the hell are they? Why should we care? Why should the WARROWS know who they are?
- None of these comments seem to be connected to each other.
- It amazes me that McKiernan fills up chapters with lots and lots of filler, but IMPORTANT exposition like this is summed up in passing. He could have gotten several pages out of this guy giving a whole report!
"Ah, Wee One," he called up to Patrel, "riding through this Great Thornwall is. like passing through the very gaping Gates of Hel."
I really hate it when McKiernan uses "Hel" as a substitute for "Hell," because it doesn't make any sense since the Norse afterlife was nothing like the Christian hell.
Actually... I don't think McKiernan ever explains the afterlife of his world. Or the cosmology in general. It's just... it has an afterlife of some kind (for the good guys anyway - it's never explained about the bad guys), and there are gods, and there's a higher plane but that seems to be a physical place, and... I don't know. It's just a surface gloss of Tolkien's cosmology.
So Tuck offers the guy a cup of tea, and the guy rejects it... especially since the Warrows' cups are probably like little kiddie teacups. No, he has to go tell the other Warrows about the BIG WAR that they were already told about and have since forgotten. They'll probably have forgotten about it again by tomorrow.
"And shut that thorngate soon," he gestured at the barricade behind, "for I ken something follows me."
Wow. I wonder whatever it could be. Could it possibly be the giant dangerous carnivores that have been in the area? And no, the Wobbits don't tell him to stay put until they can make sure the area outside is clear. They just let the guy go without any kind of lookout.
So the guy starts riding over the frozen river. Seriously, would it kill them to put SOME kind of structure over it in case the ice... I dunno, BREAKS? This is a major river! Shouldn't it still have moving water pretty close to the surface?!
And while all the Thornwalkers are watching the guy ride away... very... very... slowly, a Vulg attacks. Wow, I totally didn't see that coming.
And seriously, how sad are the Thornwalkers if they all sit there drooling and gawping like a bunch of Mr. Gumbys instead of making sure that NOTHING COMES THROUGH THE GATE?! This is their JOB, and they messed it up! The guy even TOLD them to close the gate because he thought something was after him, but they DIDN'T.
Yet ere he could nock an arrow, the black beast was beyond range, but Tarpy sprang after.
The herald left about two minutes ago, and he wasn't even going fast! How can the Vulg that is chasing him be out of range?! I guess Tarpy just really sucks at archery.
Having let at least one Vulg in, Patrel finally notices that THREE MORE are coming that way, so hey... maybe they should think about lowering the thorngate now. I mean, that's only what it's FOR.
Thuun! Hsss! Thuun! Ssss! Arrows were loosed at the creatures as the thorngate slammed to, walling them out.
Sound effects aside, that is a very weird sentence, because it starts off talking about arrows being shot and ends with something totally unrelated.
So apparently the herald hasn't noticed all the screaming and shooting, and only turns around to see what's going on when Tuck yells a vague warning. This is so the Vulg can leap up at him and knock him to the ice, and Tuck shoots and kills it. But then DUUUUUUHHHHHHHHH the ice breaks, and the Kingsman, the horse, and both Tuck and Tarpy end up falling into the river. If only they could have seen that coming!
And the slab slammed shut behind them like a great trapdoor.
I'm pretty sure that broken ice doesn't act like that.
Tuck somehow stay conscious for SEVERAL MINUTES under the water, even though a child-sized creature should probably be unconscious and drown quickly in freezing water, especially since he keeps getting bashed into rocks. In fact, the only reason he doesn't drown is because there are convenient air pockets he keeps sucking in. And finally he pops up in an area with no ice. How convenient.
And just as conveniently, his buddies are searching for him nearby, including Danner.
"Tuck!" he cried, "I've found you! You're alive!" His voice sounded as if he were weeping. "Har! Yar!" he shouted at the others,
Seriously, what does "Har! Yar!" mean?
They want going to pull Tuck out of there, but Tuck's hands are frozen and he can't move. Oh, and he's crying again. So Danner does the logical thing and starts... undressing. Yeah, I don't get that. If you're planning to jump into the freezing cold water, wouldn't being more naked be a BAD thing? I don't know much about freezing water and swimming in it, but this seems counterintuitive.
Danner also reminds us why he's my favorite character even if he's a huge douchebag: "Witless fools! Trying to flip that slab back over." Yeah, the Wobbits are all pretty much morons, and to cement this they come wandering over and look down at their comrade, who is almost dead from hypothermia. They're not rushing to rescue him. They're just gawping.
Other young buccen came pelting up, wondering in their eyes at the sight of Tuck.
"Wow! Hey Bob, come look at this!"
"Wow! A guy almost frozen solid. I've never seen that before!"
"Gimme a minute, I gotta take a picture with my phone and send it to twitter!"
"Hey Tuck, smile for the camera!"
"I told you!" spat Danner. "Search the pools! Some now stay with me! The rest search for Tarpy - and the Man! Who has the rope?"
"It sucks being the one competent person around!"
They stood agape a moment until Patrel barked out orders,
- Wouldn't you feel amazingly safe if you had these guys protecting you from invasion? I mean, in a crisis, they will stand around gawping and useless until actually told to do something.
- And don't forget: ALL this happened because they totally fail at their jobs.
- No bridge, and they left the gate wide open while the messenger was tiptoeing out. THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT.
Danner ties a rope to himself, jumps into the water, and drags Tuck back into the water so they can float over to where the others can drag them out. Apparently the current that dragged Tuck under the ice and almost killed him is now their friend! So the others take off Tuck and Danner's clothes, wrap them in blankets by the fire, and give them tea.
where they stripped his clothes from him and warmed him
.... how? Does it involve sharing a sleeping bag? Sticking him by a fire? Giving him lots of coffee?
His hands were beginning to tingle needle-sharp when at last the other buccen returned from the search.
Shouldn't his feet be affected as well? I mean, we haven't heard anything about his other extremities.
"Tarpy?" Tuck asked, and he burst into tears when Dilby shook his head, no.
NO! Not Tarpy! Anyone but Tarpy! Not precious, well-developed Tarpy with his legions of fans who must now eat bottles of pills because their idol has been taken from them. The world is indeed a dark and miserable place if Tarpy has been taken from us!
Yeah, I'm totally unmoved by this plot development, mainly because Tarpy has always bugged me. But at least we got some development for him, unlike Hob.
Neither said much on the trip, and in the tent Tuck was given a sleeping draught for his painfully throbbing hands and fell into a deep, dreamless state.
.... why would you give someone a knockout drug for their possible frostbite? Do you give people Nyquil to treat a sprain?
And... why doesn't Tuck HAVE frostbite? He was lying there covered in freezing water for HOURS. By rights he should be dead, but apparently he's only got a case of achy hands. He's not even losing fingers.
Yet Danner awoke after but a few hours of restless sleep to see Tuck awkwardly gripping a pencil and determinedly writing in his diary.
I guess the Wobbits' knockout drugs really suck, since they only last a couple hours on someone who is suffering shock.
He's putting it all down in his diary, you know, to get it out of his mind, muttered Danner to himself
If you mutter something in a book, you use QUOTATION MARKS. What Danner is doing is THINKING.
Tuck awoke to Danner shaking his arm. "Up, bucco. They've gone off without us, as if we were sick or something," said Danner.
Imagine that! Leaving people who almost drowned and then almost died of hypothermia to sleep in! Those a-holes!
So Danner is determined to drag the guy who almost DIED a few hours ago to the meeting. But it's no big deal, because apparently almost drowning in a frozen river and lying out on ice while soaked to the bone... just leaves you with swollen hands! No shock at all! No body temp issues! Not even a cold! Not even a FUCKING RUNNY NOSE! No effects at all!
In fact, he doesn't even say THIS LINE:
He looked up at Danner and their eyes met, and Tuck began to weep.
Take another shot. I'm amazed Tuck doesn't get dehydrated with all this uncontrollable crying.
So Tuck has become emo because now Tarpy is dead. Actually, he's also emo about the messenger he knew for two minutes. And the horse. But mainly Tarpy.
"I can't wrench my mind away from it - the Man, the horse, Tarpy, all trapped beneath the ice, struggling for air, beating at the frozen surface."
- Don't worry, they probably froze before they had a chance to drown.
- How can you beat on the ice if there'a a current that's supposed to drag you away?
- Uh, how could Tuck have seen this? He didn't see any of them under the ice, and he certainly didn't see them from above.
- Also, how can a horse beat against the ice?
"Oh, Lor! Tarpy, Tarpy. I close my eyes and see his face under the ice, his hands clawing, but he cannot get out."
"I see the stuff I couldn't possibly have seen because I fell in at the same time, and therefore couldn't have seen his face under the ice!"
Seriously, I don't see how you can see that. Usually when you close your eyes and see something, it's something you've actually SEEN. But since they fell into the river at the same time, he can't possibly have seen Tarpy doing any of that.
And Tuck is still crying. A lot. Non-stop.
"If only I hadn't shot the Vulg just then," Tuck sobbed, "it wouldn't have struck the horse and the ice wouldn't have broken and - and -" Tuck could not go on.
... and if they hadn't been stupid enough to make the entryway tunnel DIRECTLY OVER A RIVER, nobody would have been in danger at all, the Vulg would have died, and they could probably have saved the man (since it is later established that sunlight burns away the poison). Stop being stupid and emo.
This manages to make Danner pointlessly angry again.
So Danner tells Tuck to shut the hell up, and points out that it was basically luck that Tuck survive and the others died. "No, Tuck, chance alone slew our comrade, and chance alone saved you, so if you want to blame someone or something, blame chance!" No, blame the damn idiots who built the only tunnel in that area OVER A FROZEN RIVER. It was just ASKING for this to happen. I'm shocked it hasn't happened before!
And then Tuck spoke, his voice grim. "No, Danner, not chance. I'll not blame chance. Chance did not send that Vulg after the Kingsman. 'Twas Modru."
So? The fact is still that NOBODY WOULD HAVE DIED if the idiot Wobbits hadn't decided to have a traffic area on a frozen river with no gate or bridge! Who would have been to blame if the horse's weight had been enough to break a hole in the ice? "Chance"? And Tarpy wouldn't be dead if these fuckwits had done as the man said and CLOSED THE FUCKING GATE. So yeah, Danner. YOU guys killed Tarpy.
Captain Darby called the Thornwalker Fourth together at the Spindle Ford, and a service was said for Tarpy, and for the unnamed herald.
- Uhhhh... did they find the bodies? I don't think we've been told if they found the bodies or not.
- It should be hard to recover bodies from a frozen river.
- Also, who's saying the service? Is this religious or not?
And through it all, Tuck's eyes remained dry, although many others wept.
Wait, he's not going to blubber like he does at every vaguely sad moment? I feel cheated! I demand he cry until he pukes!
And then Captain Darby spoke to all the company: "Buccen, though we have lost a comrade, life goes on."
"Well, a few minor characters died, but we've milked the whole 'military life' thing for way too long and it's time for a new chapter."
"The High King has called a muster at Challerain Keep, and some from the Bosky are duty-bound to answer."
Again, are these people his subjects or not? They've been referred to as allies, but apparently they're REQUIRED to come serve him when he demands it! CAN WE PLEASE HAVE SOME EXPLANATIONS HERE?
"I will send couriers to start the word spreading, and others then will respond to the call."
And some others will say, "Screw you, High King, I'm not even your subject! How come you're demanding that everybody come fight for you?"
"Yet some must go forth now and be foremost to answer. It has fallen our lot to be the first to choose, and these are the choices: to remain and ward the Bosky, or to answer the King's summons. I call upon each now to consider well and carefully and then give your answer. What will it be? Will you Walk the Thorns of the Seven Dells, or will you instead walk the ramparts of Challerain Keep?"
- Hmmm, crushing tedium or being drafted by a guy who may not even have any authority over them. Total ineffectuality in both places. Tough decision.
- Doesn't it seem a little weird that NOBODY in the Bosky seems even remotely unhappy about this?
- I mean, the High King obviously does NOTHING for them, but when HE gets in trouble they have to come running. He doesn't even defend them from invasion! Why are they so eager to help him?
- I also don't see why anyone would want to leave their homeland to fight for some... kind of citadel belonging to someone else.
But of course, Tuck comes forward and announces: "I will go to the High King, for Evil Modru has a great wrong to answer for. Nay! two wrongs: one lies atop the Rooks' Roost, the other sleeps 'neath this frozen river." And obviously those are the ONLY things he has to answer for! He's evil because he killed TWO PEOPLE. Two WHOLE people! One of whom would still be alive if the Wobbits had bothered to build a damn tunnel over dry ground.
Also, I guess they didn't find the body. Seriously, it doesn't exactly speak for Tuck's intellect that he thinks it's shocking and unexpected for a person to die in MILITARY SERVICE.
Of course, the ENTIRE SQUAD decides to join Tuck because... I guess they were all so fond of Tarpy that they just HAVE to go avenge him even though it's actually the fault of the fuckwits in charge. And then a bunch of nameless redshirts join up for a second squad... because... because. I look forward to their horrible deaths.
Captain Darby cried, "Hold! No more now! We cannot leave the ford unguarded."
"Especially since we need to make a whole new tunnel! The brilliant idea of having one over a frozen river turned out to be kind of a bad idea."
"Yet, heed this: when others come to join our company, then again will I give you the same choice. Until that time, though, these two squads will be first, and the High King could not ask for better."
Yes, these are clearly the best of the best, even though only one of them has done jack-shit lately, and the others react to anything unexpected by sitting there drooling on themselves.
"Hearken unto me, for this shall be the way of it."
"A piece of land worth four hundred shekels of silver, what is that betwixt me and thee?" Wait, sorry, I thought we were in the Bible.
"Patrel Rushlock, you are named Captain of this Company of the King, and your squad leaders are to be Danner Bramblethorn of the first squad and Tuckerby Underbank of the second."
Yes, because Tuck and Patrel have been SO effective lately. For that matter, this guy seems pretty nonchalant about Danner and Tuck even BEING there, since if anyone remembers TUCK SPENT LAST NIGHT SOAKED WITH FREEZING WATER AND ALMOST DEAD.
"Captain Patrel, as more squads are formed, they shall be dispatched to your command."
Because he's been so effective so far - that's two fatalities, at least one of which could have been easily avoided. And Patrel... just... sort of... he's apparently going to be in charge because he's a main character. Yeah.
"And this is the last order I shall give you: Lead well. And to the Company of the King, I say this: Walk in honor."
"But no running, because that is VERY DISHONORABLE. And skipping is on the verge of being dishonorable. So is shuffling. Just WALK, DAMMIT. WALK UNTIL YOUR FEET BLEED!"
So the next day, forty-three Wobbits leave to Rian.... wait, what? What about the OTHER country they're bordering on? Where does the High King live? I have no idea what's going on or where everyone is supposed to be.
They came out along the road across the Spindle Ford, each armed with bow and arrows and cloaked in Thornwalker grey.
And here I was thinking that they were cloaked in bright primary colors and armed with jumpropes! Thank you for telling me that!
Their destination was Challerain Keep, for they had been summoned.
Thanks, I figured that out already. You know, from when the characters were talking about it less than a page ago.