The Wobbits wander northeast... some way... on some road.... for some distance. It's all boring and easy to forget. So are the various redshirts traveling with the main trio. We're told that Tuck spent much of the time riding among the members of his new squad, getting acquainted, but there's not many details about it and we're TOLD instead of shown. Sigh. Most of the character development these redshirt Wobbits have is telling us the names of their hometowns.
Quickly he found that they had come from all parts of Eastdell - from the villages of Bryn and Eastpoint, Downyville, Midwood, Raffin, Wigge, Greenfields, Leeks, and the like, or from farms nearby.
Yeah, this tells us NOTHING about them. And just telling us names from the general area doesn't make it feel like a real fully-developed world - it feels like McKiernan's just painting some stuff on the surface without developing it.
Other than Tuck, no one else in his squad was from Woody Hollow or even from its nearby neighbor, Budgens, though one young buccan was from Brackenboro.
Still telling us nothing, except that Wobbits don't apparently have maps.
Yet soon the Warrows were engaged in friendly chatter and no longer seemed to be strangers.
Except for that creepy Wobbit in the back who keeps writing death notes.
Why, Finley Wick from Eastpoint even knew Tuck's cousins, the Bendels of Eastpoint Hall.
Which of course is NOTHING like Frodo's cousins, the Brandybucks of Brandy Hall.
And as if we haven't been beaten over the head with the Spindethorn Barrier yet, McKiernan goes on another spiel about it:
Behind, they could see the massive Barrier clutched unto the land,
I haven't seen land clutch many things, let alone a giant thorn barrier.
looming sapless and iron-hard in winter sleep, waiting for the caress of spring to send the life juices coursing through the great tangle,
... is this appropriate for children to read?
to set forth unto the Sun a green canopy of light-catching leaves,
... which would be a little more informative if we KNEW WHAT KIND OF PLANT IT WAS.
to send the great blind roots inexorably questing through the dark earth again.
... and the great roots which have slightly bad eyesight are a little more considerate.
Immense it was, anchored from horizon to horizon and beyond, a great thorny wall.
WE KNOW. WE KNOW. You spent a LONG time going on about in in the last chapter! Enough already! We get it! It's a big friggin' wall of thorns and it doesn't have leaves! GAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!
But thankfully we won't have to hear about it for at least the rest of the book, because the Wobbits are leaving it all behind. This makes Tuck sad, but thankfully he doesn't cry again.
Ahead, here and there, lone barren trees or winter-stripped thickets occasionally appeared, but they, too, were slowly left behind on the snow-swept prairie.
... where are we? Seriously, what the hell has the Thornwall done to the local vegetation? This is especially weird because later in the series we hear about forested areas surrounding the Bosky, but here apparently it's surrounded by a damn prairie. Oh whatever.
"I hope this blasted cold wind whistling up my cloak is gone by the time we make camp," said Danner.
"Because my ass is already frostbitten, and that's not the image an anti-hero should have!"
Patrel babbles for awhile about the kind of place where they'll be camping, and Tuck says something useless. So basically, everything as usual.
"Say," asked Danner, "how long will it take us to reach the Keep?"
"And will there be any beer?"
"Well," answered Patrel, "let me see. One day to the Battle Downs, and then six more along the Post Road north to Challerain Keep. If the weather holds - by that I mean, if it doesn't snow - we'll be seven days on the journey. But, with snow, it could be longer."
Aw shit, and I bet we're going to hear every detail of those seven days. At length. And we're going to hear talking. Boring talking. And descriptions of the landscape.
We're also told that Tuck has to practice with his new bow, because the last one was lost in the river when he almost drowned and froze. There's not really any point in mentioning this, especially since McKiernan immediately changes the subject.
"Look, Tuck," said Patrel, "I've been meaning to tell you something, but I just haven't been able to muster my courage to the point where I could. But it's just this. I'm dreadfully sorry about Tarpy's death, and I know how close he was to you."
... why would you need to muster your courage for DAYS to tell some guy you don't know very well, "Dude, I'm sorry that little annoying guy is dead and stuff"? Is he afraid grief causes Tuck to have psychotic episodes and bloodily kill everyone around him?
"He was a bright spirit in this time of gloom, a spirit we will sorely miss in the dark days to come."
... which is why we'll hardly ever mention him again. Also, how did Tarpy brighten up their moods? We never hear about him being cheery or fun or making people happy. He was just a twit. He made Pippin look like a rocket scientist.
"But I just want you to know that I'll try with all my being to make up for the horrible mistake I made, the mistake that got Tarpy slain."
How about you leave that to the idiots who decided to have people walk across easily-broken ice instead of BUILDING A DAMN BRIDGE which would have left them all alive?!
Then Tuck and Patrel start arguing over whose fault it is, and you'd think that the blame for getting someone killed was an honor because they practically bitchslap each other over it.
"What?" cried Tuck, dumbfounded. "What are you saying? If any is to blame, it is I. I shot the Vulg. The horse would not have fallen but for that. Had I only acted quicker, the Vulg would have been slain ere he sprang."
"Ah, but you forget," answered Patrel, "had I but ordered the gate shut immediately after the Kings-man rode through, then that Vulg would have been slain outside the barricade as were the three beasts that raced but Vulg strides behind."
He has a point. If those idiots hadn't just stood there with their mouths hanging open, the whole thing could have been avoided. So yes, we can blame Patrel for the deaths of two people and a horse, all of whom would still be alive if he had just given one order. And he's STILL in command.
Of course it could have been avoided if they had BUILT A DAMN BRIDGE OVER THE ICE!
Danner interrupts them, tells them to shut up, and claims that it's nobody's fault except Modru. That's bullshit, because if any of the Wobbits were semi-competent none of that would have happened, and they should have known that.
The Sun had lipped the horizon when the Warrows came into the margins of the hill country called the Battle Downs, a name from the time of the Great War.
Yes, because nothing in that entire area has happened for THOUSANDS of years, nobody has lived there, and everybody knows exactly what happened there... but don't bother to mention it.
Names and places change. Yes, some of them stick around for a long time (London, fer example) but out-of-the-way deserted places won't be given a name that sticks around for thousands of years.
Also, does anyone think of World War I when he talks about the "Great War"?
They made camp on the lee of a hill in a pine grove and supped on a meal of dried venison and crue, a tasteless but nourishing waybread,
... which I'm sure is nothing like cram.
So that night, Tuck makes a target and starts shooting. He's shooting when they go to bed, and shooting when they wake up. Uhhh... did he shoot all night? That doesn't sound like a smart approach, given that they are going to be traveling all day through incredibly cold dangerous areas with giant slobbering toxic warg-knockoffs.
"Cor," breathed Sandy Pender of Midwood, helping to retrieve the bolts, "but you're a fine shot. Perhaps even as good as Captain Patrel."
"I wonder if your aim will somehow be important in the climactic part of the plot."
"Naaaaahhhhhhh, that would be silly."
So Tuck KEEPS SHOOTING all morning until they get moving... and then he falls face-down from exhaustion, since he almost DIED the other day and is now deliberately depriving himself of sleep. Hey, Tuck, you don't need to be absolutely perfect as an archer to hit something THE SIZE OF A HORSE. And you're less likely to hit it if you're half-asleep.
It starts snowing, and the Warrows eventually run into.... A WAGON TRAIN!!!!! (and no, I am not going to call them "waggons") It's two miles long, it's mentioned for less than a page, and then it's GONE.
"They're headed for Trellinath," said Patrel. "Old Men, Women, and children. Across the Bosky, then south through Wellen and Kael Gap. Ah, me, what an arduous journey for them."
Wait, ACROSS the Bosky? The entire train is going to tramp through a naturally fortified area with lots of food and shelter... why aren't the Warrows helping them? HELL, why aren't the humans sending out scouts to find a safe place to stay?!
So the Warrows travel a few more days... and a few more days... and WOW SOMETHING HAPPENS: But it seemed to Tuck that he had no more than closed his eyes when he was awakened to a darkened camp by Delber. "Shhh," cautioned the Warrow, "it's mid of night and something comes along the road."
Please tell me it's the Forces of Generic Evil. We're about halfway through this book, and we've only had a few pages of fighting the baddies.
But oh wait, it's just a FALSE ALARM. It turns out it's a bunch of soldiers who don't even notice the Wobbits, and just pass on by with no conflict whatsoever.
... DO SOMETHING, DAMMIT!
"Nar, I don't think they were forces of Modru, even though they did ride at night," said Danner. "Men they were, riding to the Keep."
Human beings can travel at night? Imagine that! I've never heard such silly things!
"Yar, answering to the King's call, like us," said Finley. "Besides, were it Modru's forces, I think as we would'er sensed it. They say as the Ghuls casts fear."
... well, that's a pretty sucky battle plan. It basically alerts all your enemies about your arrival before you actually get there, so they have time to escape. Wouldn't it make more sense to actually sneak up on them?
And wait... the Ghuls? As in NazGUL?
I must stay calm. There are more nakedly obvious ripoffs to come.
And it turns out that the ones who cast fear are actually GARGONS, which can allegedly turn you to stone. So apparently Medusa is in now in league with Sauron the forces of darkness. Too bad they don't have Perseus hanging around right now.
"Wull, if it's Gargons as cast fear, what is it that the Ghuls do?" asked Finley. "I've heard they're most terrible."
"Wedgies, Finley. Dozens and dozens of evil, savage wedgies!"
No, apparently the Ghuls are our cut-rate Nazgul clones, although I'll admit that McKiernan does a much better job with it than some other authors I could mention, who apparently think normal-looking guys in cloaks are bone-chillingly scary. They're also apparently almost unkillable.
"Ar, that's right," said Finley, "now I remember. But I seem to recall that they ride beasts like horses but not horses."
.... well, that's helpful. So they ride.... cows? Deer? Antelopes?
"And don't the Ghuls just about have to be chopped to shreds before they die?"
"Wood through the heart or a pure silver blade," murmured Tuck, remembering fables.
Uhh... that's vampires, isn't it? I mean, you kill vampires with wood through the heart... and sometimes silver. And not those wussified Smeyer vampires, but real vampires.
... does this story have vampires? Because high fantasy with vampires is... kind of cool-sounding. And when handled by a good author... IT IS REALLY COOL.
Well, that discussion doesn't really go anywhere, so they go on... and on... and on... and they just KEEP GOING AND GOING AND I AM SO BORED RIGHT NOW CAN WE PLEASE STOP WITH THE TRAVELING DETAILS?!
"Ai-oi!" cried Finley from the hilltop. "This way, buccoes. We've arrived!"
HALLELUJAH. Can something interesting happen now?
All the company scrambled up to Finley, and he was pointing to the north. "There she be." And a hush of awe befell them.
"That's the biggest cupcake I've ever seen in my LIFE."
So they're looking at Challerain Keep! And... we get no description except that they have lots and lots of lights. I have no fucking idea what it looks like beside that - it could look like a friggin' Christmas tree for all we know. Oh, it's surrounded by armies.
"Mayhap we look upon the campfires of an army as well as the homelamps of a city," said Patrel.
Then how come all the lights are on? Do the people in the Keep just burn fuel all night long?
"More like several armies, if you ask me," said Danner. "See, to the right are what look to be three main centers, and to the left, two more. I make it to be five armies plus a city."
... should I point out that none of these characters have even SEEN an army? But apparently they can immediately figure out what the "main centers" are and count the number of armies there are.
Then Patrel decides that they're going to... go to bed. That was anticlimactic. Seriously, is there a reason they didn't just arrive in the MORNING so they could just ride in and get their stuff done? There's realism, and then there's padding. GET TO THE DAMN CITY.
"Well, we will find out tomorrow when we ride in," said Patrel. "But if we are going to be bright for the King, then it's to bed we must go."
"Let's bust in and wake him up first thing in the morning!"
Tuck is so excited that he can't really sleep, even though he didn't get ANY sleep in the previous night and should by rights be exhausted. Oh, and he writes in his diary. Which is not interesting, because we don't KNOW what he's writing. I mean, is McKiernan going for a "Bilbo writing his memoirs" vibe in there?
So the next morning, the Wobbits set out for the city and emphasize on how THEY ARE NOT WORTHY.
"Coo, a real city," said Argo
"It's loads better than the fake cities we've seen up till now!"
"What will a village bumpkin like me, straight from the one street of Wigge, do in a great place as that is like to be?"
My advice would be to get drunk right away. Then again, I might be prejudiced because I have to read this book.
"No matter where you turn, there'll be streets running every which way. And shops and buildings and everything. What with this, that, and the other, it'll be as confusing as the inside of the Barrier, and like as not we'll be lost before it's over."
"So if I get lost on my way to the bathroom, you guys will come look for me, right?"
"Oh, all right. Just stop talking."
Tuck felt as if Argo had voiced the silent thoughts of each and every Warrow.
Um, at least some of them seem to be from large towns. I mean, it's not the same as being from a full-out city, but that's different from a one-street town.
And now it's time for a third-person omniscient infodump, containing info that Tuck and the other Wobbits could not possibly know.
Long ago, in very ancient times, there had been no city of Challerain; it was merely the name given to a craggy mount standing tall amid a close ring of low foothills upon the rolling grassland prairies of Rian.
Uhhh... um... well...
I'm starting to get deja vu in a big way here. A giant fortress/city on a steep mountain? The Hill of Guard, and Mount Mindolluin? And it's surrounded by giant rolling prairies... like the Pelennor Fields.
Again, just stick a new name on something someone else came up with.
Then there came the stirrings of War, and a watch was set upon Mount Challerain.
War then stepped on the watch, and it was broken. Next time, they put a grandfather clock up there instead.
Various kinds of beacon fires would be lit as signals, to warn off approaching armies, or to signal muster call, or to celebrate victory, or to send messages to distant Realms. These tidings were sent via the chain of signal fires that ran down the ancient range of tall hills called the Signal Mountains and south from there over the Dellin Downs into Harth and the Lands beyond. War did come, and many of those signal towers were destroyed, but not the one atop Mont Challerain.
I KNEW IT! I fucking knew it! That only describes the signal beacons from LOTR PERFECTLY.
"Dave, did you set my sleeping bag on fire again?" "Uhh, no..."
I know this was written long before the Peter Jackson movie completely immortalized them, but come on, that was one of the best and most spellbinding moments in the WHOLE FUCKING MOVIE. And they WERE in the book.
So then the outpost became a fort, and then the fort had a little village pop up there. And then... the High King himself came north to the fortress to train at arms; and he established his summer court there, where he could overlook the approaches to the Rigga Mountains, and beyond, to Gron. Yes, apparently the king liked to sit there and stare at the enemy's lands, which were conveniently placed not too far away. And he liked to do this in the summer, when they were least likely to get attacked. This makes sense?
Also, which High King is this he's talking about? This city must be pretty old, so I assume he's not talking about the current one. So how 'bout a name? You give names to villages we'll never see, and six names for every species and place... but no historical names?
Year after year the King returned, and at last a great castle was raised, incorporating the fort within its grounds. It was then that the village grew into a town, and the town into a city. The city prospered, and it, too, was called Challerain Keep. This it had been for thousands of years.
... so does he live there full-time? Or does he just come there when the plot demands it? I'm confused.
And as if Minas Tirith hasn't been ripped off enough yet, we're then given details about what it looks like. If there is a withered white tree at the top, I might have to strangle something.
The grey castle stood within grounds consisting of gentle slopes that terminated in craggy drops stepping far down the tor sides until at last they fetched up against another massive rampart rearing up to circle the entire mount.
There stood tier upon tier of red, blue, green, white, yellow, square, round, large, small, stone, brick, wooden, and every other color, shape, size, and type of building imaginable, all ajumble in terraced rings descending down the slopes. Running among the homes, shops, storehouses, stables, and other structures were three more massive defense walls, stepped evenly down the side of Mont Challerain, the lowest one nearly at the level of the plain.
I mean, this isn't even SUBTLE. This is EXACTLY the way Minas Tirith is described, and the fact that the movie has given us visuals just makes it easier to go, "Hey, that sounds like Minas Tirith." This is a city we'll never see again - would it have killed McKiernan to just write in a city on a FLAT plain instead of a mountain?
They ride by a bunch of military camps, and all the soldiers are apparently amazed by the sight of them. Why? Because... uh...
"Ho!" called up Patrel. "Which way to the castle?" he asked, then felt very stupid, for, of course, the castle was at the very top of the mount.
... then why did you ask? We just got a whole page describing how the city is structured, but apparently Patrel didn't notice?!
In through the twisting cobblestone passage under the wall they rode, looking up at the machicolations through which hot oil or missiles could be rained down upon an enemy.
I'm pretty sure what he's describing are murder-holes, not machicolations, because the latter is a hole in the BATTLEMENTS and not the walls.
And because this entire chapter has been NOTHING BUT FUCKING PADDING, we're treated to... MORE PADDING. We're told that apparently there's a market in the middle of the place, and we're told that they're selling all kinds of meat, veggies, grain, fruit and baked goods, and we've even got entertainers juggling and playing instruments.
Yes, this totally sounds like a place that is about to be invaded by the Forces Of Evil. Isn't anyone gonna get ready to, I dunno, EVACUATE?! These people seem pretty damn cheerful! And who in their right mind buys perishable goods right before they EVACUATE THE WHOLE DAMN CITY? Shouldn't they be getting the food ready to go?!
Through the ebb and flow of the crowd rode forty-three Warrows on ponyback, hooves clattering on the cobbles.
The Wobbits have hooves?!
(And yes, I know what McKiernan means. I don't care. This sentence is poorly structured)
They were so overwhelmed that they did not note that townsfolk and soldiers were staring back at the Warrows in amazement, too, for here come among them were the Wee Folk of legend with their jewel-like eyes.
Wait, they're amazed because because... they thought the Wobbits were some sort of mythical creatures, and they've never seen them before? Uh, the Wobbits live about two days ride away from here, and apparently the king sends out riders to talk to them. So how come they're "legendary" if they live right nearby?!
Oh right... because in LOTR, there were old stories about hobbits among the Rohirrhim. Of course, the Rohirrhim lived more than a few miles AWAY from the hobbits, and they hadn't seen them in centuries.
And then it's... more padding.
McKiernan tells us about every business, building and road they pass by on their way. It's very boring, so I won't bother with it. And then they go through some gates and past some walls, and notice that the city seems to be deserted... which might have something to do with the huge festival going on down below plus the MASS EVACUATIONS they've already seen.
But where there were people, they stopped in the streets or leaned out of windows to watch the Wee Folk ride by.
"Hey Bill! It's one of those short things, whatsitcalled..."
"No, not those. I meant the Suey ninja things that are like hobbits, but much more annoying."
"Oh, Wobbits. I mean, Warrows."
"You don't think they're moving into the neighborhood, do ya?"
Once more they passed through a barway under a great rampart - the third wall - and again they wended among houses, now larger and more stately than those below, yet still close-set. Again there was an aura of abandonment, for people were sparse and homes unattended.
It was then that they realized they were in Detroit.
"Hey," said Argo to Tuck, "have you seen all these empty houses?" At Tuck's nod, Argo went on. "Well now I ask you, how can the market down at the first gate be doing such a brisk trade in an almost deserted city?" Tuck, of course, had no answer, and on they rode.
... well, that was epically pointless. NEXT SCENE!
At last they arrived at the fourth wall,
... no, I can't think of anyone else.
When they came to the gate, the portcullis was down, although the massive iron gates themselves were laid back against the great wall.
So, in the middle of a WAR, these guys are leaving the door open?! I don't think a portcullis could keep some really determined Minions of Evil outside!
"Larry! We need you to pick another lock!"
Oh, and if you're wondering what a portcullis is...
Pretty sure a few well-placed axes could weaken it enough to smash though. Or maybe a fire.
"We are the Company of the King," cried Patrel, and all the Warrows sat proud,
What kind of egotists give themselves that kind of name? Especially when you have about two dozen guys with almost no battle experience and a failure rate of 100%?
"and we've come from the Boskydells in answer to his summons."
"But the birthday party isn't until next week! ... what? You mean you're not the ballet troupe we ordered?"
Impressed though he was by the very fact that he looked upon Wee Folk, still the Man atop the wall smiled to himself that such a small ragtag group would give themselves the auspicious title "Company of the King." Yet from legend he knew that another small group of these Wee Folk, these Waerlinga, had played a key part in the Great War; thus he was not at all prone to scoff at them.
- ... wait, what? So he not only buys into these legends, but he believes they are completely factual and that NOTHING got inflated?
- Two thousand years, and he thinks it's COMPLETELY FACTUAL?
- Yes, this entire story is dealt with in the torturously slow Hel's Crucible duology, in which nothing important happens for HUNDREDS AND HUNDREDS of pages, but it seems kind of unlikely that everybody would believe these "legends" and that they would be totally factual.
- Here's a good comparison: Saint Patrick. He existed less than 2,000 years ago.
- But there are a LOT of legends which are obviously not factual about this man, like driving snakes out of Ireland.
- So this is sort of like someone assuming that because this was a legend, it MUST be true.
After a few more minutes of yapping, they're allowed inside, as Random Nameless Soldier #2 takes them over to their commander.
"I will take you to Hrosmarshal Vidron, Kingsgeneral, Fieldmarshal. He must be told of the death of the herald."
- "Because that herald was his boyfriend, so he needs to be told the bad news. Expect lots of tears."
- "... Hrosmarshal Vidron, Kingsgeneral, Fieldmarshal, Danceinstructor, Constructionworker, Plumber..."
- That's three titles in four words. Slow down, dude. You don't need to list every position you have.
The guy gets on a horse and they gallop away... which means it's time for the story to grind to a halt so we can be told about the construction!
Now the fortress in all of its massive strength could be seen.
The fortress lifted a lot of weights. It may have been on steroids.
Grey it was and ponderous, with great, blocky granite buildings with high windows and square towers. Crenels and merlons crowned the battlements; massive groins supported great bastions outjutting from the walls.
Hee hee, he said "groins."
Sorry, the boredom is making me juvenile.
Stone curtains protected hidden banquettes, where would stand defenders in the face of attack. In awe rode the Warrows, never having seen such might, and Tuck wondered what his stone-cutting sire would say were he here.
I can guess: "What a fucking depressing place to live."
So they go to another gate, but this time they DON'T go through it. Whoa, Dark Tide, slow down! Your shocking plot twists are confusing me! And then they see some guy on a horse repeatedly attacking a jousting target. An entire paragraph is devoted to the sound effects and actions of the target.
Well, clearly if so much attention is being given to his training, this character will end up attacking someone on horseback with a spear, and saving the day later...
... then you're giving this book a LOT more credit than it deserves. He'll whine for the rest of this book, get his ass kicked at the beginning of Book 2, totally fail as a warrior, and will spend the rest of the trilogy in bed.
To one side and just upslope stood a pavilion, and several Men were gathered about a table, occasionally looking to the north and gesticulating, pointing, and arguing.
"I'm telling you, Domino's is two miles closer than Pizza Hut."
"No, it's not. Besides, I like Pizza Hut's sauce better."
"No, YOU suck!"
The guy keeps attacking the dummy target while the Wobbits meander over to talk to the people who are arguing. I honestly don't know why they're arguing in the middle of a training field instead of, I dunno, wherever the hell the king is. Is it the king's naptime, or does he usually stay out of the decision-making process? And why is it better to make your military plans out in the open where people can hear you?
Striding down to the tent, Tuck could now see that the Men were gathered about a table strewn with maps and scrolls; some lay flat with the corners held down by improvised paperweights - a helm, a dagger, a small silver horn, a cup.
Again, this is the sort of thing I would expect if they were on the field in tents, not sitting directly in front of a CASTLE.
Again some Men pointed at the maps while others stared northward, and they seemed to be arguing a point.
"Okay, the donut shipment is coming from that direction. We derail the train at nine o'clock!"
So we're introduced to Vidron, who is... I can't really think of who he resembles from Lord of the Rings. Uh, Hama? Gamling?
However, Vidron is not pleased to see that his newest recruits are three feet tall and kind of stupid. I can't blame him.
"Faugh!" growled Vidron, glancing back at the small trio. "Saddle me not with infants!"
"But sir, the king asked you to hang around and babysit his teenage son!"
"I was talking about the shorter ones."
Anyway, the Wobbits completely fly off the handle because someone insulted them. I guess their legendary reputation isn't quite as awesome as they expected. So Patrel orders Danner and Tuck to nock some arrows, and they fire at the jousting target. All of them hit the fake mace in the most melodramatic way:
Thock! His arrow struck home,intercepting the hurtling wooden ball in flight! Now it gyrated wildly, yet Thunk! Thock! Tuck's and Danner's shots followed, and two more arrows struck the flying ball!
Whomp! The guy who was jousting hit them on the head! Wham! He was seriously annoyed by the fact that they could have shot HIM!
Seriously, this is like an old campy Batman episode. Why the sound effects? And why does every shot have to be accompanied by a sound effect, if you MUST include them?
Stunned, the Men were speechless as the Warrows turned back to face them in ire.
Uhhh... yeah, I wouldn't put these little nutballs in charge of anything.. Okay, one of the Men was rude. You don't have to go nuts about it.
And Vidron responds to this by... laughing hysterically. No, there's no reason for him to react this way. You would expect the Wobbits to get angrier because this guy first insulted them and is now laughing at them, but instead... they start smiling
"Hai!" cried the Valanreach Fieldmarshal, "I, Hrosmarshal Vidron of Valon, name you Captain of the Infant Brigade!"
I wouldn't rush to make jokes after these little crazies started shooting arrows. Clearly they're unhinged.
But instead, he picks up the silver horn and actually hangs it on Patrel's shoulder.
"Someday I shall tell you the history of that trumpet, lad," said Vidron. "It is a noble one, for it was won from the hoard of Sleeth the Orm by my ancestor Elgo, Sleeth's Doom."
"Aye, we know that legend, Sire, for it is famous and told as a hearthtale," answered Patrel. "Elgo tricked Sleeth into the sunlight, and the Cold-drake was done for."
- Why is this story being inserted in here? I know McKiernan later expanded on the backstory in Dragondoom, which was actually a pretty decent story. But at this point it hadn't been written. So what the hell?
- Why is he doing this?! He's known Patrel for thirty seconds, doesn't even know his name or species, and yet he's giving him an incredibly old, valuable FAMILY HEIRLOOM. Does he also give giant diamonds to the mailman?
- And God forbid the horn be given as a gift at the END of the trilogy, when it would make sense.
Patrel excitedly examined the bugle. He saw it had riders on horseback engraved upon it, running round the flange of the horn bell among the mystic runes of power. Patrel then set the horn to his lips and blew a clarion call that rang bell-like upslope and down, and spirits were stirred and hearts leapt with hope.
... oh, so that's also why.
Then Éowyn gave to Merry an ancient horn, small but cunningly wrought all of fair silver with a baldric of green; and wrights had engraven upon it swift horsemen riding in a line that wound about it from the tip to the mouth; and there were set runes of great virtue.
‘This is an heirloom of our house,’ said Éowyn. ‘It was made by the Dwarves, and came from the hoard of Scatha the Worm. Eorl the Young brought it from the North. He that blows it at need shall set fear in the hearts of his enemies and joy in the hearts of his friends, and they shall hear him and come to him.’
- Chapter 6, Many Partings
‘Save your breath!’ laughed Merry. ‘I’ve a better.’ Then lifting up his silver horn he winded it, and its clear call rang over the Hill; and out of the holes and sheds and shabby houses of Hobbiton the hobbits answered, and came pouring out, and with cheers and loud cries they followed the company up the road to Bag End.
- Chapter 8, The Scouring of the Shire
Yep, it's practically identical. Couldn't McKiernan have written it as a flute or something? A bagpipe? A kazoo? A banjo? ANYTHING BUT A HORN WITH THE EXACT SAME DESIGN?
The answer: this stupid horn has an important role in the Silver Callduology, which McKiernan wrote as a prospective sequel to Lord of the Rings. Obviously the Tolkien estate shot him down, but he rewrote it into his own story which just happens to read like LOTR fanfiction. So he couldn't really exclude it from the story, since it is basically the point of the whole fucking story.
Patrel is thrilled by this gift, presumably because he can sell it for a million dollars on eBay.
"Ya hoy! A fine badge of office is this!" he cried, beaming up at Marshal Vidron.
"Glad you like it. Can I have it back now?"
And since we've already gotten a vague but okay description of Vidron... it's time for a detailed description of everything he's wearing!
Patrel saw before him a Man in his middle years, with eyes of black and a sharp penetrating gaze.
And by "gaze," I assume he means "nose."
He was clothed in dark leathern breeks, while soft brown boots shod his feet.
... because I really desperately wanted to know what his pants were made of, and whether he was wearing shoes. Otherwise, I might have just assumed he was barefoot! I need everything explained except for the stuff that actually needs to be explained!
his silver and black hair was cropped at the shoulders and held back by a leather band upon his broad brow.
Take a drink, because whenever a guy's hair is described, at least half the time it's cropped at the shoulders and held back by a headband.
White teeth smiled through his silver beard.
Sadly, he had no lips.
A russet cloak hung to the ground,
It was just sort of floating in the air, with no shoulders to sit on.
and a black-oxen horn depended at his side by a leather strap over one shoulder and across his chest.
So why didn't he give THAT one to Patrel?! For that matter, why did he have to give ANYTHING to Patrel?
"From where do you hail, lads?" asked Vidron, not expecting the answer he got.
"From the Boskydells, Sire," answered Patrel, throwing back his hood.
"Waldfolc!" cried Vidron in amazement,
- Wait, he didn't even know they were Wobbits? He just assumed that a gang of armed five-year-olds were heading off to join the army?!
- And how come everybody recognized them for what they were when they were just riding through the city, but this guy doesn't notice that they're Wobbits even though they're STANDING RIGHT IN FRONT OF HIM?!
- And thus guy is in control of an ARMY? The fate of the world might depend on this guy who can't recognize another species when they're literally right in front of him?
Well, the forces of good are doomed.
"Ai, but I knew the Land of the Waldana was nigh, yet little did I think to see you Folk here. Ho, but I thought you mere lads from an outlying village, and not Waldana from the Boskydells, or even from the Weiunwood near."
- "Wow, I didn't notice that. Yum, this coffee is good. Yippee, the wind is picking up. Crap, do I have to say something old-timey at the beginning of every sentence?"
- Wait, he didn't expect them to come? Then why did the king send a messenger?!
- And so the Wobbits are considered legends... but everybody knows that they live just a little distance away, and the refugee caravans are being shuttled THROUGH THEIR COUNTRY.
"But today, it seems, legends bestride this mount."
Holy shit, they haven't even done anything, and they're already legends?! They live THREE DAYS AWAY, and your king already sent a friggin' messenger to their land! Obviously they're very real and not particularly mythic. It's like talking about the legendary people of France!
So then the guy who was jousting with the dummy bothers to come wandering over, having spent the last five minutes just sitting out there. He asks, "Who winged these arrows?" and then notices the Wobbits.
"Waerlinga!" his voice rose in surprise. "Was it you who loosed these quarrels?" He raised the arrows in a clenched fist.
Look, make up your mind. Either they're quarrels or arrows. Arrows and quarrels are not the same thing. Yes, they're both projectiles shot from bows, but they're made for completely different bows. They don't work the same way. They're not structured the same way.
This is a bolt/quarrel.
And these are arrows.
So what's different about them? Arrows are meant to be nocked in a basic bow and fired like that. Quarrels/bolts are meant to be placed in a crossbow and fired that way. You can't substitute one for the other, and anyone with ANY knowledge of medieval weaponry knows that.
"Hai! What splendid marksmanship! Would that I could shoot as well. Ai, but what are Waerlinga doing here?"
"Wasting their ammo, apparently.
So Patrel introduces himself, Danner and Tuck... and uh, for the main character, Tuck has been pretty nonexistent for the last chapter. He's had a few lines, but even PATREL, a character we know nothing about, is getting more attention. Tuck basically shot one arrow and did absolutely nothing else.
"Oi! Warriors of the Thornwall, Vulg slayers, hail and well met." ... "Here, take back your bolts of doom. Spend them on the night-spawn instead of riddling my hapless wooden foe."
.... someone got PAID to write that.
Someone let that be put in print.
Someone thought that prose like that would belong in a sequel to the greatest fantasy trilogy in the history of literature.
So we find out that this guy is Igon, the younger son of the king. Which means it's a time for another complete description of a character who won't really contribute anything to the story
Prince Igon stood tall and straight and gazed at them out of clear grey eyes.
He borrowed them from his cousin.
He was slender as is wont for one of his tender years, but he seemed to conceal a strength beyond his form.
Yeah, he's basically in this series to get his ass beaten by the Minions of Evil, and spend the rest of the trilogy doing.... nothing much. He's not strong. Or capable. Or of any importance to the story. He could literally have been written out, and almost nothing would change.
A scarlet cloak fell from his shoulders, and light mail gleamed on his breast. His breeks and boots were rust red, and in his hand he held the lancing spear. Upon his head was a leather and steel helm, embellished with black-iron studs. His face was handsome.
I love how that last sentence is so incredibly vague about his looks, after we get a piece-by-piece description of every single thing he's wearing, the colors, the weapons, etc.
So Patrel informs them that the messenger was killed right after arriving, and we find out that he was actually the second messenger to be sent out. I'm not exactly sure why they didn't send at least a few men instead of just one. Or why they weren't apparently armed. OR WHY THERE WAS NO BRIDGE.
"Rach! Then it is so!" gritted Prince Igon, smiting a fist against the table, setting the scrolls ajumble.
This sounds impressive until you realize that Igon is fifteen, meaning he probably has acne and has trouble talking to girls.
"But wait," interjected Danner, "last night we saw the campfires of five armies. Surely that is enough soldiery to withstand a thrust by Modru."
"Especially since you've got the eagles and the.... oh wait, wrong story. Never mind."
Too bad it turns out that they've been trying to trick Modru by faking up the camps of five armies instead of under three. And apparently their biggest threat is.... an army of lame-ass sparkly vampires! RUN! RUN BEFORE THEY INFECT YOUR STORY!
No, seriously, it's actually.... well, I'll give McKiernan credit:
Instead it seemed to be - it looked like - an immobile solid black wall, rearing up a mile or more to swallow the sky, the darkness fading at the towering limit of its ebon reach.
Even more terrifying, the Forces of Evil were adding a vast black Roof and then an Evil Front Door. Maybe they'd even get around to planting some Grass of Evil.
"Ah, that we do not know," answered Prince Igon, "though some call it the Dimmendark. A sending of Modru, it is, and the land beyond lies in eternal night - cold, cold night - Winternight. In the day when the Sun is on high, I have ridden my horse into the Dimmendark, and it is like passing from bright day through twilight and into Winternight."
... yeah, what is Winternight? I mean, is it nighttime during winter? Is that just a name for sometime when the sun isn't shining and it's cold? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?
"There in that spectral dark the land about can be seen, as if in strange werelight; yet the Sun above is but a wan paleness, dim, so dim, only faintly can the orb's disk be descried. And at night, the stars glimmer not, and the Moon cannot be seen, yet the werelight shines. And in these glowing lands of winternight gather Modru's Spawn, and they roam freely - Rukha, Lokha, Orgus, Ghola, Vulgs, and perhaps other things as yet unknown, for there Adon's Ban strikes not."
... okay, I'm gonna give McKiernan credit. This is one of the few things he didn't (as far as I know) rip off of JRR Tolkien, and it's kind of a cool idea. I mean, if you come up with something like "sunlight kills all the baddies," the baddies in turn need to come out with something that will overrule that. So yes, generating a flexible zone where they can move freely makes perfect sense if you want to invade.
"Ar, wait a moment," interrupted Danner. "That can't be so, for Adon's Ban shall rule for as long as night follows day and day follow night: that is His Covenant."
He's a little unclear on what this Ban entails. We've already heard that they can avoid it by crawling into cracks and caves, so if you cover up the sun, THEY CAN DO WHAT THEY WANT.
"My trusty Waldan," said Vidron, "you forget: in the Dimmendark eternal Shadowlight rules. Hence, there day does not follow night, nor does night follow day. There, the Covenant has been broken."
"Which I will tell you in the most melodramatic way possible! And then we shall have TEA!"
Broken? The Eternal Ban broken? Tuck felt as if his heart had flopped over, for now Modru defied even High Adon. How could a meager number of Men and a handful of Warrows hope to withstand a might such as that?
Well, it doesn't take much to defy High Adon. As we see in this series, he basically responds to everything by sitting on his ass. The bad guys are always actively trying to destroy the good gods and their minions are trying to destroy the good guys... and what does he do? NOTHING. You could stick a gun up Adon's nose, and he wouldn't bother to stop you.
The only time he does ANYTHING is in the Hel's Crucible duology, and he only does ONE thing. I mean, the bad guy is invading his entire DIMENSION, and what does he do? Jackshit. He sits on his ass while whole armies fight and die, waits until the danger is over, and THEN creates the Ban and seals up the ways between the Planes. Oh wait, in the last novel he bothers to undo part of that. That's it. I think he did it to make the hero go away and stop bothering him.
Wow, Adon is really a pussy, isn't he?
"Ah, but for now, cast aside the thoughts of Winternight and the Dimmendark, and of Modru's Horde, too," said Prince Igon, "for there is nought we can do to change a jot of it at the moment."
"Having told you about the horrifying odds against us, the way the bad guys will probably win, and turned your entire worldview on its end, let's not worry about it. Time for lunch!"
So since they're thinly-veiled clones of Hobbits and thus eat like a school of starved piranhas, all of the Wobbits follow him to go get some food and/or meet the High King: "And I'll take you to my sire, for the High King would meet with Waerlinga, and he would hear your tale of the Vulg slaying of the herald." Again, was this herald SO important that the king is desperate to know what the hell happened to him firsthand?
So they drop their gear in the barracks, and start eating everything in front of them, including Wally the Waiter. Poor Wally.
Igon was astonished by their gusto, for they were such a small Folk - their feet dangling and swinging as they sat on the Man-sized benches, their eyes more or less just above the level of the tabletop - yet they packed away food like hungry birds, and in fact chattered like magpies at a feast.
Obviously Igon has not done at a lot of babysitting.
So the soldiers are all like, "Awww, so kewt," and the Wobbits just keep eating.
"This is where you'll take all your meals while you are at the Keep," announced Igon, and the company heartily approved.
"Now feed us more, or we'll roast and eat you next."
And because they're the only Wobbit characters who matter in this book, Igon drags Patrel, Danner and Tuck off to speak to the king and leaves all the redshirts to... do whatever redshirts do.
"Cor!" proclaimed Argo, "what with my belly full, it's me for a nap on that soft cot back there in the barracks, and a welcome relief it'll be from the hard ground or cold snow, for a change."
... what the fuck accent is that? Piratey-Irish-Cockney?!
And apparently that freaky accent is catching, so the various Wobbits run off to wash the stupid accent from their brains. It's just a convenient way to get the other characters out of the way so Main Characters can do Main Character shit.
Laughing, Prince Igon stood to lead Patrel, Tuck, and Danner in search of the King.
They found him hiding under his bed, sucking his thumb and crying.
We get another painfully boring description of the hallways leading to the King's... whatever. Throne room, I assume. This entire castle is ridiculously complicated, especially for something so recently constructed on such an inhospitable area.
The long passages were dimly lighted by slotted openings to the outside day.
Torches. Candles. Can the king not afford those things?
Under massive archways and past great pillars they strode, the young buccen's mouths agape as they peered up at huge shadowy cornices with carven gargoyles staring stonily down.
... uh, why did they put gargoyles INSIDE the castle? Gargoyles had three functions, usually at the same time:
- Scaring away evil spirits
- Reminding people of hell
None of these explain why an outdoor item would be put INSIDE.
Up long flights of stairs they went, and then back down. Tuck was bewilderingly lost and wondered at the route they had taken, deciding he should have spent more time seeing to the way and less time peering into dark corners at stone carvings.
They later found out that Igon was screwing with them, and took the scenic route that went through his dad's bedroom, the torture chamber, the dungeon, the storage room for his brother's doll collection...
Seriously, castles tend to be pretty straightforward in design. I don't know why this one is built like a maze. They tended to be roughly rectangular and have passages, stairs and rooms that reflected that. And the king's throneroom should... really be pretty central to the rest of the castle.
Now PALACES might be more complicated, but then, they weren't castles. Also, they weren't built on large mountains that would make it hard to construct ANYTHING, let alone a mazelike place like this.
The hall was flanked by pike-bearing Kingsguards in scarlet and gold, who struck clenched right fists to hearts when Prince Igon hove into view.
Well, that's an interesting idea, since "hove" is the past tense of "heave." So basically Igon is heaving into view.
No, not that kind of heaving.
Igon pulls open the incredibly huge doors without breaking a sweat... aaaaaannnnddd it's pointless-description-of-a-room-we'll-never-see-again time! HAPPYJOY! So I won't bother to describe anything about it, except that it's a big mishmash of random architectural details that should not really be in the same space.
The amphitheater swept forward till it fetched up against four steps leading to a throne dais. Upon the top step sat a flaxen-haired lass listening to the deep converse between a golden-haired stranger and High King Aurion himself.
And apparently the king hasn't bothered to bring in some chairs so people can sit down while talking to him. Since apparently that girl hangs around the place all the time, wouldn't it make sense to not make her sit on the stone steps?!
"On the throne sits my sire, but whom he converses with, I know him not."
"But I'm dazzled by his good looks!"
"The Lady is Princess Laurelin of Riamon,"
... really? You're really going there, McKiernan?
I mean, it's bad enough that he keeps ripping off concepts and characters from Lord of the Rings and the rest of the Tolkien canon. Yes, a lot of high fantasy books do this to some degree, some more shamelessly than others coughSwordofShannaracough but.... but at least they don't ACTUALLY use names from the Tolkien canon. HE IS USING A TOLKIEN NAME HERE.
What is Laurelin, you might ask? For anybody who hasn't read the Silmarillion, it was the Golden Tree which shed light on Valinor along with the Silver Tree Telperion. After Morgoth destroyed both of them, a fruit from that tree was turned into the sun.
Now you might say that Laurelin is actually used as a name for some people. But when you google it, most of the entries are for Tolkien resources and people who took their screen names from Tolkien. And frankly, in a book that nakedly rips off a whole bunch of stuff like the High Hay, hobbits and Minas Tirith... I'm not gonna give him the benefit of the doubt.
HAVE SOME FUCKING SHAME.
"betrothed of my brother, Prince Galen. The other maidens are her Ladies-in-waiting." Tuck then saw three young Women sitting on a bench, partially hidden by a pillar.
- Betrothed of a prince? I smell damsel in distress!
- Yes, because epic fantasy stories always need useless love interests.
- Why are they telling us about her ladies-in-waiting? We're never going to see them again. Seriously, I don't think we ever hear about them again.
So we finally meet the High King, who... really doesn't have much to distinguish him except that he's gray haired and has an eyepatch. So basically, Pirate Theoden.
One of his eyes was covered by a scarlet patch, the result of a blinding wound taken in his youth during an expedition against the Rovers of Kistan.
Thank you for reminding us that something interesting happened many years ago, unlike now.
Because of the patch, many villagers called him Aurion Redeye;
... what villagers? Do they mean SUBJECTS? Presumably he's king of more than a village!
and he was much loved, for though his spirit was bold, his hand was gentle.
SHOW. Don't tell.
Although silver locks fell from his head, it was said that his was stronger than that of most Men.
Also, what does that even mean? So he has a strong grip. Big deal. Doesn't make him a good king.
He was dressed in scarlet, much the same as Igon, but trimmed in gold. When Tuck looked at him he thought of iron.
... and what logical thought process brought you to that? If two colors NOT related to iron are brought up , people are going to be thinking of... I dunno, GOLD.
On the other hand, Princess Laurelin looked to be but a slip of a girl.
Which means she'll be utterly useless. Really. This character is USELESS.
Dressed in blue, she sat upon the step, her arms clasped about her knees, her face turned toward the King such that Tuck could not see her features.
Yes, because that's what LOTR really needed: a useless damsel character. If only Arwen had been perky and whiny and a selfish bimbo who spent Fellowship hogging the attention from the characters who DO things, then got kidnapped by Sauron! That would have made things MUCH better.
But her wheaten hair was beautiful to behold, for it fell to her hips.
So long hair is automatically beautiful because it's long?
Apparently not. Please take notes, Laurell K. Hamilton. And no offense to Dave Grohl if he reads this - you're the shit, oh god of rock.
Lastly, the stranger: Something there was about him, for as the day shone through a high portal down upon the throne dais, it seemed that he was wreathed in a nimbus of light, his golden hair gathering sunbeams.
... well, we know what kind of character this guy is.
The rider’s cloak streamed behind him, and his hood was thrown back; his golden hair flowed shimmering in the wind of his speed. To Frodo it appeared that a white light was shining through the form and raiment of the rider, as if through a thin veil.
-- Lord of the Rings, JRR Tolkien, "Flight to the Ford"
So yeah, I'm just sayin'. But I am sure that besides that obvious naked copy of Tolkien's writing, he won't be an obvious ripoff of anything else.
Grey-green was his cloak, as if it were woven of an elusive blend of leaf, limb, and stone - and his boots, breeks, and jerkin were of the same hue.
Oh wait, it's actually so blatant that the great professor is spinning in his grave.
It was hard to say of what colour they were: grey with the hue of twilight under the trees they seemed to be; and yet if they were moved, or set in another light, they were green as shadowed leaves, or brown as fallow fields by night, dusk-silver as water under the stars.
"Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beauty of all these things under the twilight of Lórien that we love..."
--JRR TOLKIEN, Lord of the Rings, "Farewell to Lorien"
So Igon introduces the Wobbits to the King, and the King is amazed because the Wobbits are legendary yada yada yada blah blah blah.
Excuse me, but YOU SENT THE MESSENGER TO THE PLACE WHERE THEY LIVE. Kings don't do that unless they know there's a destination! You don't see the president sending an ambassador to the LEPRECHAUNS!
Igon turned to the Princess as she gracefully rose to her feet.
Then she gracefully tripped over her princessy gown and gracefully fell unto the hard stone floor.
Also, does anyone else think it's kind of weird that McKiernan capitalizes every person's title even when their name isn't attached to it? Does he do that for everyone? Does he talk about the Plumber, the Electrician and the General Contractor?
Decorously she curtsied as the Warrows bowed to her.
I'm not up on my medieval etiquette, but did princesses usually curtsey to soldiers? I'm thinking no. A lot of no.
Tuck looked up and gasped in wonderment, for she was most beautiful - high cheekbones, wide-set grey eyes, delicate lips - and her dove-grey eyes caught his and she smiled. Tuck blushed, flustered, and looked down at his feet.
- No, Tuck's shyness doesn't mean anything. Pervy hobbit-fanciers don't show up until the Hel's Crucible duology.
- But it IS a little weird that he seems more attracted to Laurelin than to his Designated Love Interest. At least they've spent the same amount of time together.
- Yes, her eyes WERE called gray twice in the same sentence.
- I have the sneaking feeling that I'm going to hate this character.
King Aurion presented the golden-haired stranger. "Lord Gildor, once of Darda Galion, the Larkenwald beyond the Grimwall, now a Lian Guardian who brings us news from Arden Vale and from the Weiunwood, though grim it is."
I CAN'T BELIEVE HE DID THAT! I CAN'T BELIEVE IT. He did it AGAIN. Twice in one chapter! TWWIIIIIIIICCCEEE!!!!!!
What is it here? I'm sure the people who have only seen the Lord of the Rings movies will be befuddled by this, so I'll include another red quote to tip you off.
‘I am Gildor,’ answered their leader, the Elf who had first hailed him. ‘Gildor Inglorion of the House of Finrod."
-- JRR TOLKIEN, Lord of the Rings, "Three is Company"
Yep, it's the name of one of Tolkien's elves, a guy who did not appear in the movies, but has a scene in the books where the hobbits hang out with a bunch of High Elves overnight, and Sam nearly dies of a fanboygasm. McKiernan didn't even bother to fiddle around, calling him Galdor or Gildir... NOPE. He just gave him the exact same name! THE EXACT SAME FUCKING NAME.
.... we have the perfect collection of Tolkien ripoffs in ONE CHARACTER in ONE CHAPTER. Not only is he given the name of an actual Tolkien character, but he's basically our less interesting, less snarky, less awesome Legolas clone for the movie... who also is the son of the Galadriel ripoff and owns the Glamdring ripoff.
WHY WON'T THE AWFULNESS STOP? IT JUST KEEPS COMING ARGHFLARGHLBLARGL...
So Tuck openly gawps at Gildor for awhile, for the bright Lord Gildor was an Elf, with green eyes atilt and pointed ears 'neath his yellow locks. He also had hair, but you couldn't see much of it under those locks he kept on his head.
In the shape of these two features, eyes and ears, Elves are much the same as Waerlinga.
If you need any further proof that Wobbits are basically Mary Sue hobbits, this ought to prove it. They are literally tiny elves.
Yet, unlike the Wee Folk, Elves are tall, being but a hand shorter than Man. In this case, the slim, straight Gildor stood at the same height as the young Prince Igon.
Yeah, for some reason McKiernan makes his Elves smaller than humans, but he then has all the male Elves who become main characters be unusually tall, so they're the same size as humans. I don't get it, but that is the least of my issues right now.
So the Wobbits are sent off to an acove with little thrones in it... which begs the question of why the princess has been sitting on a stone step, and why Gildor is just STANDING there. It seems very rude.
"Grim news?" asked Prince Igon, turning to the Elf. "It seems to be a day of ill tidings, for the Waerlinga's news is dire, too. What sinister word do you bear, Lord Gildor?"
How many ways in ONE LINE can you say "bad news"? Dreadful babblings, horrific discoveries, depression-inducing speeches...
So since we need some exposition, Gildor starts telling us what the Elves are dealing with, although I don't know why he conveniently waited all this time before saying it out loud. He's been standing there for several minutes and apparently told NOBODY why he was there until the main characters showed up.
Basically the Dimmendark has marched and currently stalks over Elf lands. Gildor thinks that Modru is planning to attack Darda Galion, but he's decided to hang out with King Aurion because... for some reason he thinks he'll be able to help there.
This is something that made sense in Lord of the Rings where Legolas actually COULD help save the world by helping Frodo on his journey to destroy the Ring. But it's not explained to us WHY Gildor thinks he can help save the world by helping Aurion and not his own people, especially since he also KNOWS that the place he's NOT GOING is going to be a major target... and since there's no magical object that is the Big Bad's weak point, he can't help more here than he would there. It just makes him look like a wimp.
"the 'Dark stalks south, into Lianion called Rell,"
Maybe I've forgotten it, but I seem to recall that "Lianion" is a pretty nebulous Elf-country. It's never really defined, and it doesn't seem to be a very large area.
So um, do the Elves have their own country? Or did they just decide that a part of the High King's land counts as theirs because they live in the woods?
"I fear Modru has in mind to strike at Darda Galion, for this he must do ere plunging into Valon, and beyond to Pellar."
"... and yet for some reason, I'm not trying to stop him from invading those places by thwarting his attack on my home. Clearly I am a tactical genius!"
In fact, Aurion even offers to let Gildor go, and Gildor refuses. LOGIC!
We're also told that the Weiunwood - which is apparently occupied by humans, Wobbits and a small squad of elves - is under attack. This doesn't really have anything to do with anything in the book, so I'll not bother mentioning it. But for some reason, McKiernan likes to bring it up.
So Patrel tells the king about stuff we already know - dead herald and all that crap. Tuck just sort of sits there feeling warm and fuzzy because Laurelin is making weepy eyes at him. Since Wobbits are Sues, the king is amazed by what they did.
It also turns out that they're evacuating the people, which we already knew. But apparently Laurelin is unwilling to leave the castle for the dumbest reason you can imagine: "My Liege," her voice was soft but unyielding, "I cannot flee whilst my Lord Galen yet roams the Dimmendark. He is my betrothed, but even more so, he is my beloved, and I must be here when he returns."
It's official. I hate this character.
- "Yes, I'm going to stay here as the Forces of Evil overrun the entire city, raping and pilling everything and everybody. I'm sure they won't mind me hanging around for my boyfriend."
- "After all, this upcoming battle is one we're guaranteed to lose, so I'm sure he'll be coming back to a city that's likely to fall."
- "And he definitely WON'T die, because he's my boyfriend."
- "Also, I'm sure my total lack of fighting skill and physical strength doesn't mean I'd be a huge liability to the people around me."
So in conclusion, with her first line Laurelin has shown us that she's selfish, stupid, and out of touch with reality.
"But you must go, Lady Laurelin," said Prince Igon, "for 'tis your duty to see to the needs of the people above all else, and your presence will buoy up their hearts and spirits in a time of great distress and darkness."
Of course! Because as we all know, royals care deeply about the common people's morale! And nothing will make the common people feel better than having a pampered spoiled twit who whines a lot about how she wants her boyfriend.
"You speak as if Duty o'errules all else, my Lord Igon," said Laurelin, "even Love."
"Aye," answered Igon, "even Love; Duty must go before all."
"Nay, Prince Igon," interjected Gildor. "I would not gainsay thee, yet I think that Honor must go above all, though each of the three - Love, Duty, Honor - must be tempered by the other two in the crucible of Life."
... this guy seriously wrote a sequel to Lord of the Rings. He really did it. He thought he could do it justice with dialogue like this.
So Aurion announces that yes, the women, kids and elderly will all be evacuated pretty soon, and that includes Laurelin.
"It is my royal edict that this thing be done, for I cannot wage a War where the helpless and innocent are caught in the midst of raging combat. I cannot have my warriors battling with one eye on the foe and the other upon their loved ones, for that is a road to death."
FINALLY. Someone who has common sense, instead of just prattling on about Honor and Duty and Love like they are characters. It amazes me that he actually has to TELL Laurelin that hey, she'll be a huge liability just hanging around forcing everyone to protect her. DUMB BITCH.
"Yet this I will do, though it goes 'gainst my better judgement: You may delay your departure till the very last caravan, but then you must leave with it, for I would not have you fall into the Enemy's clutch."
NO, DAMMIT. That means we're going to be forced to watch even more scenes with this sappy selfish blond twit. Send her away! Send her away!
The thought of Laurelin in the grasp of Modru made Tuck shudder, and he futilely strove to banish the image.
He would let no one touch Laurelin, for she was his alone!
And no, there is NO reason for all these characters to worship Laurelin so much, including the dumbass schmucks she just met five minutes ago. She's a prime example of a Purity Sue, who is so good and sweet and nice and farts rainbows and sneezes glitter that everyone MUST worship her. The problem is, people who write Purity Sues generally cram them down your throat until they become utterly intolerable.
And it's even worse when the Purity Sue's only motivation is a boyfriend. There's no reason for Vidron and the king to not be pissed off at this stupid bimbo getting in the way of their plans because she thinks her boyfriend might drop by at any moment. They just ADORE this waste of flesh.
The King also informs us that this is the last market day before everyone leaves... even though most of the population has already left. And even though he's preparing for a fucking war and you would expect him to, you know, focus on THAT, "We three must needs make an appearance at the bazaar, for, as Prince Igon has so succinctly put it, 'tis our duty. The folk expect to see their good King Aurion Redeye, and the handsome Prince, and their Lady-to-be."
- Wow, the folk are kind of stupid. So when the king is about to FIGHT A WAR, they expect him to drop everything and make a cameo at the bazaar so... WHAT? They can do the twirly-handed wave, smile and then leave?
- Also, referring to HIMSELF as "their good King Aurion" makes it sound like he's secretly nasty, and just faking the nicey-nice.
- Also, what does "Lady" mean in this world? Does she stop being a princess and become a "lady" instead of a queen?
So because the Warrows have been sitting there awkwardly doing nothing for the last few pages, Tuck babbles incoherently about the bazaar for a minute. The king thanks them, and then leaves with Laurelin.
"I'll meet you at the gates," called Igon after them and turned to the Warrows. "But first I must lead you back to your barracks. Lord Gildor, are you quartered?"
"Yes, the King has given over the green rooms to me," answered the Elf. "Here, I'll walk with you as you go, for it is on the way."
"But this time, can we avoid going through the torture chamber?"