You know how it took hundreds of years and several chapters for them to drag their asses to Darda Vrka? Well, I think by this point even McKiernan was getting sick of dicking around with travel filler, so he crams together ALLLLLL the travel to Xian in a single solitary chapter.
I should be filled with joy. For some reason, I'm not.
So we jump ahead, and the Elves are riding through a massive blizzard in… I assume it's Ye Olde Fantasye Mongolia. They see a light, so they follow it. Like moths.
"Light!" Ruar shouted the single word to Arin riding double behind, his voice barely heard above the howl of the blizzard.
"Wrong series! We use Elvish profanity in this one!"
"No, dammit. I mean I SEE a light."
It also turns out that their fun little journey has killed three innocent animals. Yup, riding through the blizzard killed Arin's horse and the two pack mules. WHY? Why did they ride through winter storms in a frigid area with GIANT HEAPS OF FUCKING SNOW? I mean, obviously hurrying is not that important to them since they took MONTHS to get a "I dunno" from some random guy, so why did they force their way through instead of WAITING IN A SHELTERED AREA?
I'm sorry, but animal cruelty really bugs me.
And wait a minute... these are supposed to be gold-crapping Elves who paint with all the colors of the wind and are so in tune with nature that chopping down trees sends them on the warpath. But they show callous disregard at least twice for their ANIMALS, who (unlike trees) have feelings and personalities and souls. And they don't even give a shit when the animals DROP DEAD.
But hey, we're still supposed to think they're way better than us stupid ape-people. Sure they treat their animals like shit and are fine with viciously attacking other species, but they don't chop down trees and they don't make war on their OWN race, so that makes them better than us. FUCK THEM.
And now the fifth winter blow whelmed upon the Elves, and they struggled through the thundering dark to find shelter....
… if you're traveling and you get hit by FOUR FUCKING BLIZZARDS, and you continue on the exact same route... you deserve whatever horrible death you get.
... And up ahead they saw lanternlight, or so Arin believed.
It turned out to be a lone bug-zapper.
Ruar's horse is apparently just about to drop dead, so he and Arin start dragging the poor thing through the snow even though it clearly just wants to lie down and die. Frankly, I'm amazed that the Elves don't just leave the horses behind and prance lightly atop the snow. I mean, Tolkien did it, so why not?
Maybe it's because Tolkien loved animals, and even wrote a whole subplot in so Bill the Pony could live happily ever after.
And with wind and snow battering at them, into the tiny mountain village of Doku they finally came, eight hundred miles and fifty-three days from the cote of Dalavar the Mage, fifty-one days of which had been through driven drifts of snow.
They could have sat on a log and FLOATED to Rwn faster than this, dammit.
And again, you should probably take an alternate route if you're immediately hit with multiple killer blizzards, and you have no place to stay along the way!
So Doku is pretty much your standard high-fantasy village, with hovels and wells and… stuff. Arin immediately bangs on some poor schmuck's door, so they can freeload as ethereal fantasy elves are wont to do.
Aw hell, they found Bella Swan's hovel.
No, I kid. The owner is actually… oh no.
Moments later the door slid aside, revealing a small yellow man.
… um… that's kinda racist, isn't it? Yeah, I'm pretty sure giving the only description of an Asian man as "small" and "yellow" is racist.
Surprised that he had a visitor, his gaze took her in— chestnut hair, alabaster skin, tilted hazel eyes, pointed ears, holding a big stick—
"Waugh!" he cried and leapt backwards,
"OH NO! A BIG STICK! And I bet she speaks softly too!"
No, he's mistaken her for a snow demon… and no, I don't think that the Chinese have "snow demons." Maybe they do. I'll have to check. Anyway, he comes to the conclusion that they MUST be snow demons because… well, who else would be out in a fucking blizzard in the middle of winter in a northern mid-continental area?
Apparently the elves terrify the locals into letting them stay for two days, and even manage to buy four ponies and a bunch of supplies. I would have expected that in the middle of winter in a very inhospitable area, they wouldn't have much to spare.
The villagers behind were glad to see these demons go, even though they had not slain a single person, nor had changed a single time into the hideous monsters they truly were.
… again, why is it that the Elves ONLY live in Ye Olde Fantasye Europe?
It's a simple question. I mean, if there was only one spot in the world where Elves could come through into Mithgar, I could sort of understand why they wouldn't be all over the world… even though they're immortal and don't really have jobs.
But in McKiernan's world, the the High Plane connects to the Middle Plane in several areas… so why wouldn't the Elves at least be KNOWN around the world?! Why do they ONLY turn up in Europe?!
And when they had passed from sight, the entire village celebrated.
"Rejoice, for the Suey elves are finally gone!"
Time for fun geographical details: moving upslope between grey stone ramparts looming left and right, perpendicular slabs soaring up, immense somber massifs, towering dark giants overlooking their progress, and clad with ice and snow.
- … I… can't really imagine that. At all.
- In case you're wondering, massifs are… googles it… a rigid section of the earth's crust, or a mountain with no range. Uh… okay. Still having trouble.
- Isn't it enough to just say "the road was flanked by vast dark slabs of stone, encrusted with ice and snow"? See what I did there? Nice and compact and easily understood.
We also find out that this endless journey has taken them another two or three months, because they've already done their solstice line dance. I'd make another joke about the total lack of urgency, but I think my screams of AM I THE ONLY ONE WHO REMEMBERS THE APOCALYPSE have gotten a bit old.
So the Elves are trotting through a place that is apparently entirely made out of rock. And right in the middle of it all is… BLACK MOUNTAIN!
Gotta wonder, though… why is it black? Why, in an area entirely filled with mountains, is there only ONE black mountain?
"There," said Rissa, pointing, "there lies our goal."
"No, idiot! BEHIND the McDonalds!"
"Black Mountain," murmured Perin.
"The Wizardholt," added Biren.
Thank you, we remembered that.
Then Arin throws icy cold water on their hopes to finally be done with all this: "We know not whether this is our goal. If the green stone lies within, then perhaps it is. Perhaps all I need do is deliver my vision to the Wizards and then we are done. Yet perhaps this is but a way station along a predestined route." Thanks for the input, Miss Sunshine. These people have been saddlesore for half a year, and you're saying, "Hey, we might not be done yet."
Half the Elves immediately shoot themselves in the face, and the survivors just stare bleakly at the mountain. Then they continue riding… and riding… and riding...
As they sat huddled with their backs against the chill stone rampart, no fire warmed them, for there was no wood to burn among this sterile rock.
"Hey Arin? If this turns out to be a wild goose chase, I'm going to kill you. A lot."
Unsurprisingly, they are cold stiff, and miserable the next day, and this place is almost as depressing as Mordor. Seriously, all we need is an active volcano and a bunch of orcs, and this would be just like a colder version of Mordor. I almost expect to see Frodo and Sam tottering toward the mountain and yelling, "Is that the right one?"
they had not rested well in the frigid night, for even Elves get cold, though not as easily as Men.
… can they freeze to death? Because it certainly seems cold enough!
Also, what are the horses and ponies eating? Like most animals, equines need food. There is no grass in this place. Are they dragging bales of hay behind them? Or are they adding starvation to their list of animal abuses?
Anyway, they spend another FOUR DAYS tottering through the snow and rock, and this chapter is really making me appreciate modern transportation, because this is TOTUROUS. And after four whole days, they stumble across...
he squatted and brushed the white aside, revealing a pavestone. "This is a tradeway."
… googles it.
I'm not finding any results that seem to apply.
Apparently what they mean is that it's a road, and because we readers have the attention spans of brain-damaged sheep, McKiernan tells us this another two times.
Perin turned to his twin. "Perhaps this leads unto the very Wizardholt itself."
Really? I thought they'd build a road that just leads in a big loop! Just to fuck with people!
"Most likely," replied Biren. "They would need to bring in supplies: food and clothing and other such, including Wizardly things."
Perin's eyes widened. "Wizardly things?"
"You mean like… Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Jelly Beans?"
"What else WOULD I mean?"
I think I just realized why these two annoy me so much. They're Wobbits. Tall, immortal Wobbits. They have the same kind of interplay that the Wobbits do, and it REALLY IRRITATES ME. People don't talk like this in real life! And it's totally out of sync with McKiernan's other elves!
Then they notice a ptarmigan. It flies away. They ride for several hours, and HOT DAMN this is dull. This entire chapter is just about slogging through snow.
And now the stone about them began to darken, and the deeper they rode, the deeper the shading became. "It is the dark of the Wizards' mountain," noted Vanidar Silverleaf, "reaching outward to touch even this."
Which sounds very cool, but I'm not sure what this is supposed to mean. Did they choose the mountain because of these mysterious mineral deposits, or did the wizards start screwing around with the local rock because… it looks cool?
And they keep riding for two more days and FUCK THIS IS RIDICULOUS, WHY CAN'T MCKIERNAN JUST TELL US THAT THEY RODE FOR X NUMBER OF DAYS?!?!?!?! and they see the ptarmigan again. Clearly this is significant.
"Wizards' eyes?" asked Perin.
"Mayhap," replied Biren. "Just as I suspect the white falcon was the eyes of Dalavar Wolfmage."
Because if I needed an animal to spy on people, I'd choose one of the LESS intelligent ones, instead of a dog or something.
This is also pretty baffling because… the mages can SCRY. Well, not all of them, but surely they have at least a few scryers in there. If you can magically watch people, there doesn't seem to be much need for birds.
And finally, after traveling for HALF A YEAR, they get to the Black Mountain's gates the next day. And the sad thing is, I already know that the traveling is going to continue all the way to the end.
They had come to the Wizardholt at last.
THANK GOD. Can the plot start now?