When last we left Arin in mid-flashback, she had passed out after having a vision. The other elves draw a silly mustache on her face and put her in embarrassing poses. Or maybe that's just what I would do.
"Dara ... Dara . . ."
Who calls from afar?
"This is Jesus, Dara. Get out of bed and do something."
Warmer... warmer.... colder... cold... freezing FREEZING! Warmer... BOILING!
... and then the voice yelled in her ear, making her wet herself.
No, actually it's one of the Totally Interchangeable Elves who don't really do anything in this book. All of them are sitting around watching her, and they're a little weirded out by the fact that she just keeled over like that. Possibly a little pissed, since their dead deer is starting to smell a little funny.
She took a deep breath. "What happened?"
"Thou didst faint."
"And then whilst thou wast unconscious, Silverleaf drew a large comical mustache on thy face."
For some reason, this causes Arin to remember her vision, which was, "Slaughter, Perin," she replied, "bloody slaughter. War sweeping o'er all." Not to nitpick, but slaughter tends to be kind of bloody. If it weren't, it wouldn't be slaughter. Also, doesn't war usually sweep over PLACES, not people?
She glanced at the fire. "I Saw."
"And I hammer!"
"And I make the level so the little bubble is in the middle!"
So a couple of the other elves suggest that maybe it was a war from long ago, but Arin claims that it "seems too great to be obscure, and I did not recognize it." Uh, I know the elves are supposed to be immortal and everything, but that doesn't mean that they know everything, or that they were even AROUND for everything. For one thing, elves only seem to live in a small portion of Mithgar - they don't seem to live in any of the non-European regions of this world, and they seem to only live in a few parts of THAT.
So one Interchangeable Elf gives Arin some mint water, and even refills it once she's finished... and no, it's never explained where he got it from. Do they have a water fountain in the middle of the woods?
So finally we learn what was in Arin's vision:
"Steeds thundering 'cross the land, reaving swords slashing down, hacking off legs and arms and heads and gutting the innocent, spilling their intestines out on the ground. Day sky dark as night with the smoke of burning cities. Forests hewn. Fields salted. Rivers running red with blood. Gorcrows and vultures by the thousands feeding upon the slain multitudes, slashing beaks plucking out eyes, rending flesh, gulping down gobbets of rotting meat. Great dark winged shapes wheeling in the sky, flame roaring from their throats—"
"And I think... yes... yes, it was an election year. Suddenly everything makes perfect sense."
Rissa gasped. "Dragons?"
... hee hee, this always cracks me up. Arin gives this long graphic disgusting description of how the entire world is going to go to hell... and the Elves apparently just sit there not reacting. But DRAGONS? THAT is some horrifying shit!
So this apparently tells us that this conflict is a FUTURE one, because despite being ridiculously powerful and crazy-aggressive, the dragons have never once been involved in a war in Mithgar. I'm not entirely sure why Arin doesn't KNOW this, and has to be told by Interchangeable Elf #4 even though she should KNOW already.
And just so we know it is an EPIC war of EPIC EPICNESS, Arin informs us that "Aye: I beheld a map of Mithgar, a great stain of blood spreading wide, covering the whole of the land." Uh, I have issues. Not just the personal ones.
- How gloriously convenient. Just so she doesn't think it might be a small-scale thing, The Powers That Be sent her a vision that conveniently tells us how EPIC IT IS.
- And once again, I KNOW this book was written before the Lord of the Rings movies, but... this "stain on the map" thing sounds familiar. Skip to 1:45.
- In case I haven't rambled about this yet, I'm still unclear on what Mithgar is. It seems to be used interchangeably to describe the entire dimension and the kingdom they live in.
So the Elves freak out a little, because OH NOES THIS IS TOTALLY THE END OF THE WORLD, and they tell us again that this has never happened. YES, we know, thanks. You just said that.
"Who would be so mad as to do such?" asked Perin.
Give me a second to look up the names of all major Democratic and Republican politicians, and I can tell you.
She turned up her palms in distressed uncertainty, then said, "There is more."
Ruar's eyes widened. "More to thy vision?"
"Aye, I also saw three horrors walking abroad - one had a white-painted Captain Kirk mask, one had a hockey mask and a machete, and one had a burned face and claws... or maybe that was the horror movie marathon we had last night."
"Aye, I have not told all."
"Then say on."
"Aye, I shall tell thee."
"Thou must tell all of us."
"Aye, I shall."
"Stop dicking around with filler dialogue and just say what you saw!"
"Riding in the train of war comes plague, pestilence, and famine, for long after the crush of cruel iron has swept past, tens of thousands will continue to die—nought but skin and bones with great pustulant black buboes bursting forth and spewing out yellow poison. And scuttling among the stricken to feed upon the dead come rats and beetles and many-legged crawlers and other creeping vermin."
- "... and that is what happens when people do not get their flu shots."
- Commas! Commas are your friend! They exist so you can avoid using the word "and" until it drops dead.
- And thank you, McKiernan, for telling us the gross details on what the plague involves.
Arin paused to take another drink, and none said aught but waited in silence instead.
"There is one last thing central to the vision: a stone ... a green stone—"
A green Mick Jagger?
Oh wait, they mean like this:
"A rock?" asked Perin.
... yes, stones usually ARE rocks. Unless.... no, I just made the Mick Jagger joke.
"A gem?" added Rissa.
She didn't say GEM, she said STONE. And why do you care anyway? Do you want to put it on a ring?
"It was pale green, a lucent jade," said Arin. "Smooth and egglike it was, yet how big I cannot say, for there was nought to judge it against."
... so she knows that it will affect the entire WORLD, but she doesn't know its SIZE?!
"But I do know that it is key to the vision, for all the other images whirled 'round and 'round the stone, as if it were the eye of a maelstrom, the anchor of the doom."
... you know what, fuckit. I don't see how ANYONE could clearly see those other images if they were spinning around like a friggin tornado.
Interchangeable Elf #534 asks if it could be an egg, although I don't know where he got that idea. Arin poohpoohs his idea, saying that... SOMEHOW, she just KNOWS it's a stone and not an egg. Yeah, she KNOWS this, but has no idea what size it is because, you know, she couldn't compare it to anything. Just like she couldn't KNOCK on the rock to see if it was hollow.
Oh, and Arin mentions that hey, there was something else, but she passed out... after passing out... and can't remember anything. Then the Elves debate what to do with this new information, since, you know, the apocalypse is nigh. (SPOILER ALERT: It doesn't actually come until several thousand years later, and it's not that bad as apocalyptic battles go. In fact, it's nicer AFTER the apocalyptic battles than before it) And... nobody really knows what to do except Arin.
Did I mention that one of these people is a former KING, and he can't figure out what to do?!
"We need consult with others: the Dylvana Coron and his Court, the Lian Coron, too. Mayhap someone will know what to do."
Wait, the elf kings are called "corons"? As in, having to do with a crown? Uh, how does that fit in with them having their own language?
Silverleaf slowly nodded, then said, "There is another we can consult: Dara Rael, for like thee, Dara Arin, she, too, can <see>."
Yaaaayyy! Another cameo by a LOTR-knockoff character!
So since they apparently have nothing better to do, the next day they go off to wherever the Dylvana Coron lives, and we're briefly introduced to the Baeron, which are basically knockoffs of Tolkien's Beornings. McKiernan bores us by telling us what the Baeron were planning to do with the stag that the elves killed but apparently didn't bother to eat, and then they go off. It's epicly pointless, especially since no Baeron reappear in this story. That whole section could have been cut, and NOTHING would have been affected.
"Is there no more?"
Well if you wanted more, dumbshit, you should have kept the meat yourself.
Oh wait, we're now hearing Arin talk to the Dylvana Coron, Remar. Aside from having a name like a Dr Who character, Remar apparently doesn't know how visions work.
Slowly Remar, Coron of all Dylvana, looked from one to the other of those who had accompanied Arin to the court at Bircehyll, and as his gaze fell upon each, one by one they shook their heads, for they had nought to add to that which Arin had said.
What does he EXPECT? SHE is the one who had the vision. They just sat there and waited for her to wake up. What are they supposed to ADD?
Last, Remar's scrutiny fell upon Vanidar, the only Lian among them. "What sayest thou, Guardian?"
"Well, I'm hungry."
"I mean besides that."
And no, I don't know why the Lian are referred to as Guardians, since culturally they don't seem any different from the Dylvana, and we don't really see them doing much "guarding."
"This portent cannot be ignored. If there is a way to prevent this calamity, then we must take steps to see that such a fate does not befall the world."
"We MUST stop the remake of onslaught of PG-13 remakes!"
Really, most of this chapter is so BORING. It's just a bunch of people standing around going:
"We should do something!"
"SHOULD we do something?"
"Yes, we SHOULD do something!"
"But what KIND of something should we do?"
So then Rissa FINALLY contributes something, by asking if it's even possible to stop what Arin saw. This is something that a lot of stories address when someone is able to see the future - is the future changeable, or are we locked in a Twilight Zone nightmare that nobody can fix? Is our knowledge of the future enough to forestall tragedy, or will we all die in increasingly convoluted ways as Death catches up to us?
Wait, I think I went off on a tangent there. Never mind.
"Aye. I was pondering whether or not a fate foreseen can be changed at all ... or is it fixed, immutable, no matter what we may do?"
"IS there a way to keep them from remaking Casablanca?"
So Rissa grabs Arin's hand for no real reason, and asks her if she has ever tried to change the things she has seen. Arin says that she hasn't, mainly because most of them are in the past.
"And as to those in the present or future, for the most they concern events I would not try to alter or turn aside."
"... which conveniently allows me to avoid actually working on anything. I'm so useful!"
Rissa squeezed Arin's hand to comfort her.
Seriously, do these two even KNOW each other?
So while his girlfriend is getting clingy with another woman, Vanidar says that they should consult Dara Rael, aka Galadriel Lite, and ask if she knows if you can stop horrible things from happening.
Remar ran his fingers through his auburn hair and quiet fell on the greensward.
Is "quiet" an elf word for "dandruff"?
So he sits there for several minutes with smoke coming out of his ears
before deciding that that is TOTALLY what they should do. No, I don't know why it took SO long for him to decide. "Hey, we've got a potential disaster looming over the whole world, no information except a vision, and only one suggestion that might help. Hmmmm... what should I do? Brain... hurts...."
"This then is what we shall do: Dara Arin, as Alor Vanidar has suggested, thou shall seek the counsel of Dara Rael. She indeed might know whether destiny is immutable or is instead pliable, subject to change."
"Uhh... yes, sir, that IS what we were talking about. We all knew what Alor Vanidar suggested."
"... and then we shall have a singalong!"
"Seek as well the advice of the Lian Coron, for Aldor is wise and may have much to offer."
"And he co-owns a bakery, so you might be able to get free doughnuts."
So he orders Vanidar to take Arin to Darda Galion.... even though he's not Vanidar's king and really shouldn't be bossing him around like this. And he wants the others to also go with Arin because... I don't know. After Samurai Chick shows up, these characters are never seen again in this book, so it's kind of pointless.
The Coron looked from one to another, then asked, "What say ye?"
"But whatever you say, don't expect me to think about it! My tiny brain can't take the strain!"
But wait! We have another massive crisis! The Interchangeable Elves start talking about whether they should warn the rest of the world that hey, they may be on the edge of mass warfare the likes of which this world has never seen. Although it seems to me that if there WERE a war of that magnitude, they would probably know about it. I mean, wars aren't like epidemics - they don't just spring out of nowhere, and with rare exceptions they don't tend to happen suddenly.
"Alor Remar, should aught of this Seeing be told to others—men, Dwarves, Mages, Hidden Ones, the scattered Waerlinga? A fair warning so that they may prepare?"
"Yes, let's turn up on their doorsteps and announce, 'Beware! A massive world war with dragons and plague will doom the entire world and leave you all horribly dead... assuming it happens in the near future, and not thousands of years from now! BEWARE!'"
"... well, I kind of see your point."
So they argue for awhile about how maybe they should warn people, maybe they shouldn't because they don't know if anything has happened, maybe waiting will CAUSE the war, maybe WARNING people will cause the war, blah blah blah.
Remar shook his head. "Ai, that, I deem, is a trouble with Seeing this future, for I know not whether I would cause it to unfold by my response to the knowledge or allow it to occur by doing nought."
... that's what they said, dude. Does Remar actually say anything that he thought up himself, or does he just repeat the important bits back at them like a parrot?
Apparently he can occasionally do something else, since he then announces that he'll keep quiet unless Rael and Arin say he should do otherwise. Then he wanders off to soak his smoking brain in the nearest lake.
but Biren added, "And I will pray to Adon that should a warning be called for, we will have enough time to do so ere the doom arrives."
beep "Thank you for calling High Adon's office. The overseer of all creation is busy at the moment. Your call is important to us, so if you leave a message he will get back to ignoring you shortly."
So the next day all of them go out to the area near the River Helium... I mean, Argon. And since we've already encountered the Beornings... I mean, the Baeron, it's now time for the forest-dwelling faerie creatures.
And as they rode through Darda Erynian, shadows flitted among the boles of the trees, as if an unseen convoy paced alongside their way.
I guess the drugs have kicked in!
This did not disturb the Elven band, for they were used to the Hidden Ones escorting them through the sun-dappled woods—Fox Riders and Loogas and Sprygt and others, curious, warding, or driven by motives unknown.
... I don't even know how to say the last two names. Loo-gahs? Luggahs? Sprigtuh?
But hey, at least McKiernan is using the same naming conventions as Christopher Paolini - a few knockoffs of Tolkien, a bunch of simple names, and a handful of Catonthekeyboardese names!
So we get some boring details about how they travel, which I'll skip because YE GODS are they boring. I don't know why McKiernan doesn't just cut this part out - it's not like we'd assume that they teleported there! So the river is pretty, they go this way and that way and blah blah blah blah.
Along this course rode the Elven band of seven, heading ever southerly, making their way toward distant Olorin Isle, where they planned on crossing the mighty Argon by way of the ferry there.
GAAAAHHHHH!!!!! We don't need to know EVERY DETAIL about how they got there! Just sum it up in a paragraph, and then get on to Darda Galion!
And you know what the worst part is? Arin is TELLING THIS STORY, meaning that she's also leaving in the boring bits that nobody wants to hear. I guess when your audience is either bedridden or so soused they can barely follow you, you can make it as long and boring as you like!
The isle itself sat in the river some thirty leagues hence, near the point where Darda Erynian on the east of the river ended and Darda Galion on the west began. And given their pace and the terrain between, it would take them some three or four days to traverse the ninety-one miles.
I DON'T CARE ABOUT THE FUCKING GEOGRAPHY! Just get on with it!
Sigh, I'm going to cut out even more boring traveling details, and just pick up when the Elves get to the ferry. So they get to a ferry and have a conversation about the Rivermen who basically control the place.
Rissa laughed aloud, for she had been this way before, and Vanidar said, "Ah, 'tis the scheming of the Rivermen which makes it so: one ferry to carry us to the isle for a fee; another ferry to take us on to the far shore . . . for a second fee, of course." Now Vanidar joined Rissa in her laughter.
HAHA! Scams are hilarious, aren't they?
In fact it's SO hilarious that they just sort of hang around talking about it for a little while, then they get on the ferry. Which has possibly the worst captain in history, since he not only tells obvious lies but also expects his passengers to PAY to help him row. This guy doesn't really understand how business works, does he?
"Y'could help we'ns row," said the Riverman, spitting into the Argon, then jerking his stubble-clad chin toward spare oars as he and his comrades rowed.
"After all, it's not like you're PAYING to ride on this boat."
The Elves don't buy this, and Interchangeable Elf #25 has a fun little exchange where he and the captain try to outbullshit each other.
So they get to the island and start riding over to the other shore. They see a bunch of boatmen catching random crap out of the water, mainly so they can be all morally superior and condemn the Rivermen grabbing salvage from wrecked ships. There's nothing illegal or immoral about grabbing broken bits of already-destroyed ships!
"This is another way the Rivermen make their living: from the misfortune of others."
"Same way with those people who have organ transplants! Or run tow companies! Those selfish bastards!"
So apparently the Rivermen are really poor, which only undermines the whole "they make their living off others' misfortunes" thing. These people are pretty poor, and the rich elves are going through, sniffing at how they make their living. Assholes.
Then again, the Rivermen don't seem to have much business sense, since they left their ferry empty and their mule unguarded so they could go grab salvage from the river. If the Elves wanted, they could easily have stolen that ferry. And usually the first people to be suspicious are criminals. You would THINK the Rivermen would at least leave somebody standing by to come get them if customers arrived.
"Then we wait?" asked Perin.
"That or steal the ferry," answered Biren.
"Sounds good to me!"
"I was being sarcastic."
"Still sounds good!"
So eventually the Rivermen bother to come back, and thankfully McKiernan has gotten tired of depicting the Selfish Bastard Rivermen, because the whole thing is summed up in a sentence.
As the Elven band led their horses from the grounded barge, a voice rang out from the darkness:"Rest!"
"No, dammit, I didn't mean lie down and sleep. It's an elf word!"
"Vio Vanidar!" called Silverleaf in response."Vi didron enistori! Darai Rissa e Arin, e Alori Ruar, Melor, Perin, e Biren."
I'm having traumatic flashbacks to my Spanish classes.
So it turns out that they have come to Darda Galion, and they.... aw, dammit, they still have to travel for a few days?! I'm bored, and I haven't even started that chapter yet!