So after two months for the characters (and what feels like two months for the readers), they FINALLY get to Darda Vrka and… spend two days wandering around in the woods. AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO REMEMBERS THE APOCALYPSE?!
And yet by no earthbound sign could they tell that a Wizard lived herein,
… except for that giant sign that said, "Wizard's House, two miles to the left."
And because McKiernan really wants to ramp up the tension, he has the characters talk about a bird. No, really. They stop everything and talk about a white bird that's been following them, and whether or not it's a minion of Dalavar's.
"It never stoops," replied Biren. "Besides, when hast thou ever seen such a bird? White as the driven snow. Falcons are never such, save gyrfalcons."
… and albinos. Why can't it be an albino? Or leucistic? And why does EVERYTHING this dude has have to either be white or silver?
"Mayhap 'tis a gyrfalcon."
Gyrfalcons aren't pure white.
The two of them talk for awhile about the damn bird, and I assume that the other elves have fallen asleep. Speaking of the bird, if it IS there to observe for Dalavar… he's being kind of rude. I mean, he's just letting them wander around aimlessly in the woods for no reason! What's up with that?
And onward they rode, following the others into the Wolfwood, while overhead a pale raptor soared.
And underfoot, a pale worm wriggled through the dirt.
So they camp for the night, and Arin is conveniently on watch when someone approaches them. How does she know? Well… she hears… something splash in a pond that is full of fish, and the horses make a few snorts. Total proof positive!
"Something opposite caused a frog to jump. And the horses are uneasy. Something steals upon us."
- I hate to break it to Arin, but frogs jump all the time. It's how they get around.
- Maybe Mr. Froggie felt a bit dry, so he jumped into the pond.
- Also, horses snort. A lot. It's what they do.
- They do it for many reasons, such as smelling things. It doesn't mean they're uneasy.
But no, she's an Elf Sue so of course she's right. And instead of flopping back into their sleeping bags and dozing off, the other Elves are immediately on guard.
"This is Darda Vrka," hissed Rissa in protest even as she moved to a position along the defensive perimeter, her sword in hand. "Nothing evil should be about."
In winter here no heart could mourn for summer or for spring. No blemish or sickness or deformity could be seen in anything that grew upon the earth. On the land of Lórien, there was no stain.
'Perilous indeed,' said Aragorn, 'fair and perilous; but only evil need fear it, or those who bring some evil with them.'
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
So does that make silver wizard wolf-guy Galadriel? Maybe Celeborn, since they have matching hair.
"Yon," breathed Melor, using his spear to point through the fog to the right of the mere. "They come."
"SKUNKS? You woke us up for SKUNKS?"
"Well, I didn't know they were skunks."
"Oh, brilliant job, Miss I-see-the-future Snowflake. Wake me up when some REAL problems come up."
So there's a very suspenseful moment where mysterious creatures are approaching the campsite. Well, this will probably end in a big heated battle - I mean, after several chapters of NOTHING HAPPENING, McKiernan wouldn't cockblock us with a fake-out, would he?
… he totally would.
"How many altogether?" hissed Vanidar.
"Four. —Nay, five ... six," responded Ruar as the shapes in the mist drew closer.
"And six here," added Melor, taking a step or two outward. "They move as a pack and trot on four legs and are—"
Werewolves! Quick, hide all the babies before they start turning into pedos!
No, it's actually the Draega, which is… totally not surprising, since we already knew that they live here.
Sheathing her sword, Rissa clasped the first of the great Wolves about the neck and buried her face in its soft white fur; it suffered the embrace in silence.
Marvel at how in touch with nature these Elves are. As soon as they see a pony-sized wolf, they immediately hug it like a two-year-old hugging a dog even though they KNOW the wolves don't like it.
And while the elves are all going, "Awww, it's just the Draega! Let's hug them!", Arin notices that Dalavar is actually standing right next to the campfire. Total fail.
Six feet or so in height he was—taller than most Elves—
So… totally average, huh?
and as with all of Magekind his eyes held the hint of a tilt, and his ears were pointed, though less than either Dylvana or Lian.
It was just enough to get him carded at Elves-Only bars.
His hair was long and white, hanging down beyond his shoulders, its sheen much the same as Silver Wolf fur, though somehow darker;
Okay, let me try to explain something simple. There is no such thing as "dark" white. There is no such thing as "light" black. Either his hair is white, or it's light grey. CLEAR?
in spite of his white hair, he did not look to be worn by age.
And in spite of the fact that it's established that mages age themselves whenever they use magic, and can only rejuvenate themselves by resting on their native plane. But hey, it's also later revealed that he's part demon, so maybe that's why.
He was dressed in soft grey leathers, black belt with silver buckle clasped at his waist. His feet were shod with black boots, supple and soft upon the land.
- All of which he bought at Ye Olde GAPPE. Seriously, where did he get this stuff?
- I mean, he's apparently days from anyone else, and he lives in the woods.
- Does he mug travellers for their clothes?
- Or does he use magic to conjure up matchy-matchy outfits?
- Also, what does "soft upon the land" mean? Is he implying that it's somehow better for the land if you wear shoes with insufficient support or traction?
- Which is total bullshit. The type of shoes you wear doesn't make any difference at all.
- And I can tell you, if you wear shoes like he's describing in the WOODS… you won't care about the land. You will be in too much agony to care.
His eyes were as piercing as those of an eagle, their color perhaps grey, though it was difficult to tell in the mist.
Is there ANYTHING about this guy that ISN'T silver or gray?!?!?!?!
Does he have gray underwear? A silver toilet? A set of silver golf clubs? A litter of gray kittens? (All non-gray kittens will be kicked out of Darda Vrka!) Does he think Goldfinger should have been Silverfinger? Does he paint with all the grays of the wind?
Also, I'm having trouble not envisioning this guy as… well…
I think it's the color scheme. And the hair.
To be honest, I find it hard to even imagine what this guy looks like, because everything (except his boots and belt) is literally shades of gray NO DON'T SHOW IT I DIDN'T MEAN-
DAMN YOU, TWILIGHT PORN! YOU RUIN EVERYTHING!
Okay, my point is that when everything about your character is white, silver or gray… he just sort of melts into a big light-colored monochrome blob. I literally have trouble envisioning him because there are no colors. And because it amuses me, I shall call him Sephiroth.
So then Arin realizes that Sephiroth is actually invisible to everybody except wolves and Sues. Sephiroth quickly realizes this.
The Draega, though, seemed to know he was there, for now and again one or another would glance at the Mage as if expecting a command,
"They keep hugging us! Can we eat them?"
"Do you see me, hear me?"
"No sir, I didn't see you playing with your dolls again, sir!"
"Then you must be a wielder of the wild magic."
"How do I know this? Because I am a plot convenience!"
It also turns out that the whole invisibility schtick is… totally irrelevant, because as soon as somebody mentions Sephiroth's name, he appears. Why was he invisible? Apparently just to screw with them.
"—yet no master of these Draega am I," continued Dalavar. "Instead I would name them my friends."
Okay… so who's in charge?
Since nobody mentions otherwise, I'm going to assume that the Draega have the same social structure as wolves. Wolves have a hierarchical structure following an alpha parent, or usually a pair. They don't have "friends" all on equal footing, the way humans do. Dogs usually look at their human owners as alphas, and themselves as lower-ranking in the pack.
And it sure seems like they regard him as their alpha, since they were looking to him for commands. So… yeah, whether he intends it or not, he IS in charge.
They go through the usual round of introductions, and Arin blurts out her tale of doomy doom.
At last Dalavar said, "I know nothing of this green stone."
TWO. MONTHS. 2,400 MILES.
They wasted ALL OF THAT to ask Sephiroth if he knew anything, and it turns out… HE DOESN'T. Wow, I can see why these elves never accomplish anything.
"It has been long since I have stepped from these woods ... long since I've conferred with my Kind."
"Which makes it even more baffling that you'd decide to come see ME. I mean, I spend all my time here and never talk to anybody who doesn't have fur. Why would you think I would know anything?"
"Yet this I can say: if there are those among the Free Folk who know aught of such a thing as this green stone, you will find them at the Mage-holt of Black Mountain."
Silverleaf tilted his head. "Not at Rwn?"
Why are you even bringing up Rwn? You can't go there, so why is it even an option?
Dalavar grunted. "Ah yes, Rwn too. It is a place of much lore, for there sits the Academy, and the libraries are extensive."
"They have the greatest collection of Twilight fanfic in the world!"
Actually, considering how much time-wasting has already gone on in this story, I'm amazed they DON'T go to Rwn just so they can waste a few years flipping through books.
"Libraries?" asked Arin.
"Yes. At the Academy of Mages in the city of Kairn on the west coast of Rwn."
WHY DOES NOBODY KNOW ANYTHING?!?!?!?!?!
Again, this would be totally believable in a human, Wobbit or dwarf character, but… THESE ARE ELVES. They're supposed to be IMMORTAL. They should know countless things from all their time in Mithgar… AND THEY DON'T. How can these people have been wandering around doing whatever they want for SO LONG and still know absolutely nothing?!?!?!?!
"Hmm," mused Arin. "Would that we could have gone there."
"But the author doth prefer to write about endless overland trips."
Ruar nodded. "Aye. They hold hostage the Straits of Kistan."
Dalavar sighed. "So the humans are still at it."
Oh shut up. You know, it's easy to talk about how bad humans are when the alternative is MADE-UP fantasy races. You can make your elves, dwarves, wobbits and mages as peaceful and morally superior as you want, but it doesn't mean ANYTHING because they're made up. It's like saying, "My imaginary friends are WAY BETTER than real friends!" Well of COURSE they are, because they're designed BY YOU to be that way.
And really, it's insultingly stupid to try to reduce all human conflict to, "Oh, those silly little dumbass humans. When will they grow up and learn to be as awesome as fictional elves?" Not only is this simplistic, but it makes you look like a condescending dumbass.
This is used as an awkward segue into talking about the nine Eld trees that just got destroyed. I'm sick of hearing about them.
"Aye: the Felling of the Nine."
"Nine people were killed?"
"Worse! Nine TREES!"
"I teareth up just thinking about it!"
"You people are going to war over TREES?"
And without any transition, suddenly we're out of the conversation. Instead, we're told that they basically waste another week just… hanging around Darda Vrka.
They spent a sevenday with Dalavar at his cottage in a central glade: resting, for they had journeyed far with little letup, and the horses and mules needed time to regain vigor.
- He has a cottage?! Since when? And how does he keep himself elusive if he has an entire HOUSE?!
- And I know that realistically, people and animals need time to rest when they travel long distances. But again, this totally undermines the whole "we're trying to stop the apocalypse" thing.
- And again, NONE OF THIS IS NECESSARY. They could have gotten anywhere and everywhere a lot faster if McKiernan hadn't inexplicably decided to include the blockade.
- It's like he's taunting us with how slow he can make the plot move.
Too, they replenished their supplies from Dalavar's stores,
He thanked them not for grabbing a bunch of his food, especially right before winter.
And during this time they told Dalavar what news they held, for the Magus had not been out in the world for nearly a hundred seasons.
And yet they totally thought he would know all about whatever they asked him about. Genius.
In turn he told them of the Wolfwood and of the creatures therein, but what he said is not recorded, and the Elves spoke to no one thereafter regarding his words.
- If they never spoke about it, why bring it up?
- We were TOLD what lives in it in the previous chapter so… mystery fail.
On November third, one hundred and twenty-six days after Arin had had her vision, she and her companions said good-bye to Dalavar and set out for Black Mountain, the Wizardholt in Xian.
I think I just popped a blood vessel. Seriously, no urgency at all!
So they leave the Wolfwood, and Sephiroth watches them go, probably thinking, "Wow, that was the most pointless epic fantasy quest EVER." Then he transforms into a Draega and runs off with one of his wolf buddies.
And yes, that is his whole contribution to the story: to be a bed-and-breakfast for the Elves, and to tell them that he knows absolutely nothing. Whee.