To reinforce that Michael is an evil shallow douchebag, he's got a big fancy white house with a pretty skylight, a gorgeous lawn, greenhouse flowers planted in his gardens, and fancily-dressed buddies walking around the grounds. For someone so rabidly anti-communistic, Goodkind certainly seems to equate wealth with being a nasty selfish little douche.
Slate roofs in a variety of angles and rakes came together in complicated junctures topped with a leaded-glass peak that let light into the central hall.
It sounds like not only does his house have multiple roofs, but it sounds like a jigsaw puzzle.
Understandably, Richard is embarrassed because he's all gross and dirty and sweat-stained. He doesn't feel THAT bad about it, however, because he's in a rotten mood and in a hurry, he apparently doesn't give a crap. So much for embarrassment.
Oh, and in case anyone except Goodkind cares, the Magical White Dress hasn't got any dirt or blood on it. It must be Teflon coated, since I defy anyone wearing white to get through a forest on foot - let alone a bloody battle - without getting anything on their clothes. Except in Rashomon. And I wonder how much of that was symbolic.
He told her about his house in the woods, how he liked living away from town, and that he was a guide for travelers through the Hartland Woods on their way to or from the town itself.
Evidently living in a woodsy little cottage is supposed to tip us off that he's a Good and Deep Person, unlike his shallow nasty brother in his luxe mansion. Because your moral standing entirely depends on the externals, and you can judge a person's moral qualities by looking at them.
Kahlan and Richard have a random conversation where she asks if he has a fireplace and if he uses it.
She had merely shrugged as she looked off to the countryside. "I just miss sitting in front of a fire, that's all."
"It sure would be nice if we, ahem, went back to your place so I could 'sit' in front of your 'fire.'"
As unsettling as the day's events had been, on top of his grief, it felt good to have someone to talk to, even if she did dance around her secrets.
I'm not quite sure what Goodkind is babbling about, because Kahlan has been fairly open with Richard up to this point. In fact, she's already revealed the most WTFey parts of her story, and he reacted by getting angry and irrational... and then just not doing anything about it.
Anyway, we are then introduced to this guy Chase, who apparently is a boundary warden. He's also apparently not doing his job, because presumably boundary wardens are meant to patrol the areas near the BOUNDARY. Not patrol a party.
Chase wore a brace of knives to one side of his belt, and a six-bladed battle mace to the other. The hilt of a short sword stood above his right shoulder, and a crossbow with a full complement of barbed, steel-tipped bolts hung from a leather strap on his left
Weapons = the Marty Stu's clothing porn. Frankly I'd love to know how this dude manages to walk in a straight line without clanking or stabbing himself on his own knives.
Richard lifted an eyebrow. "Looks like you plan on getting your share of the food."
... huh? Was that a joke? I can't tell. I don't know what he means.
Anyway, Chase notices Kahlan and...
Richard felt the awkwardness.
A suspicious stranger! How socially awkward this is! Quick, introductions!
"Chase, this is my friend, Kahlan." He gave her a smile.
"... and by 'friend' I mean a girl I've known for about two hours. I know very little about her, her reasons for being here or the reason she's being chased by assassins, but I really hope to do the no-pants-dance with her."
"This is Dell Brandstone. Everyone calls him Chase. He's an old friend of mine. We're safe with him." He turned back to Chase. "You can trust her, too."
I wouldn't be so reassured if I were Chase, since apparently the only requirement to be Richard's trusted BFF is to be a hot woman.
But since Chase is also a good friend of his... hmmm...
Nah, probably not.
Chase nodded once to her, the matter settled, Richard's word being all the reassurance he needed.
And wouldn't it have been embarrassing if she were there to kill everybody? This is especially weird because Richard has been seeing weird crap all day long and almost got killed by a goon squad, AND got told that Mysterious Hawt Woman came through the boundary. And yet he's STILL not even a little wary of her or her reason for going to so much trouble to come there.... because she's hot.
Oh, and it turns out that all the boundary wardens are at the party to be Michael's personal guard. This so stupid that even Richard takes notice.
"What! That doesn't make any sense!" Richard was incredulous. "He has the Home Guard, and the army. What does he need a few boundary wardens for?"
... okay, is this meant to be a back-end-of-nowhere place or not? Because the area Goodkind has described sounds more like a little village, since there doesn't seem to be much farmland around and because there Hartland and surrounding areas have been described as "villages" or "towns." They've got woods everywhere around there, and made it all sound like a woodsy folky little group living in the middle of dense woods.
Yet the local leader lives in this ridiculously luxurious mansion (which, in a preindustrial society, would require a LOT of skilled artisans working for months or YEARS) and has not only a personal guard but an ARMY. Where is this army living? What's feeding them? A "town" that doesn't spread very far into the surrounding woods won't be enough for an ARMY. Are they just stacked in a warehouse until Michael needs them to mow his giant lawn or protect him from strange girls his brother brings home?
Chase then launches into a random rant about how the wardens are SOOOOO SCAAAAAARY to the commonfolk. And because Richard was off in the woods looking for a plant and generally being totally ineffectual, apparently he's failed to notice that weird people have been skulking around and Michael's talking about plots against the local government. Yep, I do indeed love it when a hero is so heroic that the bad guys don't even register.
"Well, how do you know Michael isn't right, what with the father of the new First Councilor being murdered and all?"
Which is actually a good point. But then, the supposed law enforcement in this village clearly isn't very good if all they do is sweep everything under the rug and gossip.
Chase poohpoohs the whole idea because obviously he knows every rotten person in Westland, so he went around randomly torturing the "slime" until he was satisfied that none of them killed George. Doesn't really say good things about Chase's abilities.
- So they know that his father was murdered, but nobody really bothers to do any real research or investigation. They just round up designated rats and torture them.
- He's a thug who casually tortures people.
- He's also best buds with the hero, who condones everything he does.
- The villain is going to have to be worse than Hitler to make these people look "good."
"Speaking of slime, what have you been about? You look like one of my customers."
… so Chase is a manhooker when he isn't torturing people?
Richard tells him that he and White Dress Lady were getting attacked by four people, and Chase asks if its anyone he would know so he can twist off their fingers. Okay, not that last part, but would you be surprised?
"You know the trail across Blunt Cliff?"
"They're on the rocks at the bottom."
That's a very roundabout, action-heroey way of saying that they they're dead. I suppose in Goodkind's mind it sounds super-cool and badass, but it also doesn't sound like something a simple woodsman and guide would say. Why isn't Richard even a LITTLE shaken up about KILLING people? He's a guide. His job is to walk in front of other people on trails. Killing should not come easily to him! Unless the voices in his head tell him to!
So Chase is grumpy about losing out on some prime torture material, so he asks how the hell Richard managed to kill four guys. Which is a fairly good question.
Richard exchanged a quick glance with Kahlan and looked back to the boundary warden. "I think the good spirits protected us."
"Assuming they actually exist in this series, since most supernatural stuff seems to be bad."
"That so? Well, better not to tell Michael about this right now. I don't think he believes in good spirits."
Ooooh, let's add "atheist" to the long list of Michael's stereotypically villainous traits, along with "rich" and "well-dressed." Oy, my brain!
Anyway in the middle of some more pointless chitchat, Chase mentions that Richard's child-molesting imaginary friend is desperate to see him. This would sound more urgent if we had the slightest clue who Zedd is supposed to be.
Oh, and apparently Richard's red swollen hand doesn't disturb him either. Apparently he's forgotten about the MOVING THORN BURROWING INTO HIS FUCKING BODY.
Marble walls and columns glowed with a cold eerie cast where the sunlight streaming in from above touched them. Richard had always preferred the warmth of wood, but Michael had maintained that anyone could go out and make what they wanted from wood, but if you wanted marble, you had to hire a lot of people who lived in wood houses to do the work for you.
I'm not entirely sure what Richard's comment and Michael's reply have to do with each other. They don't seem to be connected by a common theme - Richard is stating "I like wood," and Michel is replying with "anybody can build a wood house by themselves (SO NOT TRUE, BY THE WAY!) but you need lots of people to make a marble house."
Oh, and termites. Wood rot. Fire. Lovely benefits of wood houses, y'know. Can you imagine a medieval peasant who would prefer a wooden shack to a marble mansion? I can't either.
Richard remembered a time before their mother died, when he and . Michael played in the dirt, building houses and forts with sticks. Michael had helped him then.
So… before their mother died, Michael helped him play with dirt and sticks? Am I supposed to be impressed by this? What the hell is Richard talking about?
Richard just sort of stands around being sullen and antisocial, while whining about how he's soooooooo lonely and has NO ONE he can rely on. Maybe if he didn't brush off the various people who are being nice to him, he wouldn't feel that way. Then again since they're at his brother's party voluntarily, they must be jerks.
Goodkind then belatedly infodumps us about all the weird stuff that has been going on in the outlying areas: Country people in the outlying areas of the Hartland were already terrified to go out at night and had recounted stories to him of people being found partly eaten…. They said it was beasts from the sky. He had passed it off as superstitious nonsense. This is the WRONG place to be dumping this information on us. A better place would have been a couple chapters ago when Richard encountered Giant Flying Red Thing, not when he's standing in the middle of a genteel party. That's like having a character be reminded of a shootout during a ballet.
Anyway, Richard keeps whining about how scared and lonely he is, which is making him sound more and more like a whiny little bitch. We also find out another shred of information about Zedd WHOM WE STILL HAVEN'T BEEN TOLD MUCH ABOUT DAMMIT.
Zedd might know what to do. He used to live in the Midlands before the boundary, though he would never talk about it.
Because obviously if he once lived in another region, he knows EVERYTHING about it and might know how giant flying red things could be hurtling through and killing people. Why the hell would he know?
And then there was the unsettling feeling he had that all of this had something to do with his father's death, and his father's death had something to do with his own secrets, the secrets his father had placed upon him and him alone.
Wow. Self-centered much? A whole bunch of people have been killed in this area, a mysterious woman is running around with assassins after her… and Richard thinks that it all MUST revolve around his boring ass.
Kahlan laid a hand on his arm. "Richard, I'm sorry. I didn't know . . . about your father. I'm sorry."
It only took her half the party to say this. She's been wandering around mingling with people and only NOW does she deign to come back and say, "Hey, sorry your dad's dead and all." Wouldn't this have been SLIGHTLY more effective if she had said it right after they left Chase?
He waited a moment as a woman in a blue silk dress with ruffles of white lace at the neck, cuffs, and down the front walked past. He looked down at the floor as she moved by so he wouldn't have to return her smile if she gave him one.
- Our hero is officially antisocial. What a lovely person.
- Why are we hearing the details of the dress of a minor undescribed character that we will never see again?
- Does Goodkind have some kind of dress fetish?
He blabbers about his dead dad to Kahlan, and she suggests that maybe he'd rather be alone right now. Since you don't get laid by being alone, Richard quickly tells her that he'd rather have a friend to talk to. Ugh.
Finally Richard remembers that Kahlan hasn't eaten in two days (what a chivalrous douchebag), but she can't be that hungry if she's been hanging around chitchatting with all these important people instead of… you know, eating. It's not like the food hasn't been brought out yet.
He guided her over to a long table with food piled in tiers. There were large steaming platters of sausages and meats, boiled potatoes, dried fish of several kinds, grilled fish, chicken, turkey, mounds of raw vegetables sliced into strips, big tureens of cabbage and sausage soup, onion soup, and spice soup, platters of breads, cheeses, fruits, pies, and cakes, and casks of wine and ale. Servants were constantly coming and going to keep the platters full.
Well, there are quite a few things wrong with this array of foods.
- First the food is piled in tiers, then it's on platters. Make up your mind.
- Dried fish is dried so it can be eaten again later; it's a simple method of preservation. Why would you have dried fish at a fancy party? And why wouldn't you have rehydrated it before eating it?
- Do the raw veggie strips come with ranch dip?
- Cabbage and sausage soup? Ew.
- It's a little weird to mention it merely being "spice" soup rather than a specific variety, since "spice" is a blanket term for many, many, many different flavoring agents.
- Wouldn't it be slightly more efficient to just have the servants take away and replace the platters when they're EMPTY, rather than frantically trying to keep them 100% full all the time? Seems unfair to the poor servants.
And rather than eating, as you'd expect a woman who hasn't eaten in two days to do… Kahlan talks. She mentions that some of the servants have long hair, and it surprises her that it's actually allowed. Richard replies that women there get to have hair of every length depending on preference.
Kahlan says that where she comes from, a women's hair length shows where she stands on the social ladder, and Richard promptly kisses her ass by saying that her long pretty hair must mean she's sooper-dooper important.
She gave him back a small smile, devoid of joy. "Some think so. I could only expect that after this morning, the thought had entered your mind. We all can be only what we are, nothing more, or less."
Enough with the Yodaisms, okay? We later learn that Kahlan IS in fact a very important person, and socially is probably THE most important person around. So having her dick around by saying stuff like this is just very frustrating.
"Well, if I ask anything a friend shouldn't, just kick me."
Oh, what a lovely invitation. May I? May I please?
Her smile brightened into the same tight-lipped one she had given him before. The smile of sharing. It made him grin.
So she was already smiling, but it wasn't as good as a tight-lipped smile which usually indicates "Holy crap, you're stupid. I wish I were anywhere but here." How romantic.
Anyway, Richard finally remembers that they're standing in front of a food table, presumably blocking other people from eating as well. He gives her ribs with "spice sauce," which sounds less appealing than "honey mustard" or "Devil's Spit."
"Try these first. They're my most treasured."
His most treasured.... what? Oh wait, Goodkind is using this as a synonym for "my favorite food," which apparently is too normal a phrase to use in his not-fantasy books.
Kahlan is oddly suspicious about what kind of animal the food was before it died, and Richard says that it's pork. Then he piles some pork/beef sausages on her plate, and they go through the same routine. I seriously hope that Kahlan isn't going to freak every time someone offers her a chunk of dead animal.
"Pork and beef, some spices, I don't know what kinds. Why? There some kinds of things you don't eat?"
Well, we know she's not Jewish or Muslim. So we've got THAT narrowed down.
Then she asks for some spice soup.
He ladled the soup into a fine white bowl with a gold rim and traded it for her plate. She took the bowl in both hands and tried it.
Am I assuming that she's slurping the soup from the gold-rimmed bowl like a thirsty dog? So it isn't too much of a stretch for Goodkind to include stuff like turkey in a pseudo-medieval setting, but it IS for him to include spoons?
A smile came to her face. "It's good, just like I make. I don't think our two homelands are as different as you fear."
Dumbest. Comment. Yet. Goodkind has been going out of his way to outline one cultural or social difference after another, yet because they both have the same kind of soup they aren't that different? By that same logic the Italians and the Chinese aren't that different culturally, socially and historically because… they both have NOODLES!
Richard, feeling better about what she said, picked up a thick slice of bread, put strips of chicken meat on it
Just call it a sandwich and be done with it, okay? I honestly don't know why more fantasy DOESN'T have burritos, wraps or sandwiches, since said foods were created for convenience.
Their owners cast a critical eye at the way he was dressed.
Wait, so everybody was buddy-buddy before but now suddenly they're noticing that he's dressed in gross messy sweaty woodland-guide clothes?
After this, there's a weird little interlude where Kahlan asks for a piece of cheese. Richard gets it for her. Then she drops it on the floor and announces that she hates cheese; it turns out she only asked for the cheese so she could see if the two men watching her were actually looking at him, without attracting attention. Of course, by asking for food them throwing it on the floor, she's made herself a bit conspicuous. So why ask Richard to get cheese instead of something she might want to eat?
Anyway, the men ARE looking at Richard, but he brushes off Kahlan's worries. Instead of remaining cautious but low-key, she turns into Foil-Hatted Psycho Bitch and starts raving about how she's gonna endanger him. Then she grabs the front of his shirt and talking about suicidal wizards.
"When I left my homeland, five wizards cast spells over my tracks so none could know where I went, or follow, and then they killed themselves so they could not be made to talk!"
I honestly don't know what this has to do with ANYTHING else in the last scene. So… the wizards were suicidal and their spells were totally worthless. What does that have to do with whether Ebil Quads O' Death will find her or not?
Wizards! Richard went rigid.
It would be nice if we knew WHY he's going rigid. Does he think wizards are good? Bad? Awesome? Frightening? I literally have no idea.
Then Kahlan has a damselly meltdown and starts whimpering about how she's scared and how the mean, mean men would have been so mean to her. Richard gets to be the sensitive manly guy and talk about his feelings, and Kahlan stops focusing on herself and focuses on the Stu:
"What you did," she said struggling to get the words out, "was enough to make a difference. It was enough to save us. No matter how little you think it was, it was enough. If you hadn't helped me . . . I don't want my being here to bring you to harm."
Oh, just find me a bucket. It's like Goodkind doesn't want the focus to be off his Stu for too long, so he bores us by having Kahlan interrupt her breakdown to compliment him.
And rather than telling Kahlan about Zedd a few scenes ago, when he was first mentioned around her, Richard chooses NOW to tell her.
"It won't. I have a friend, Zedd. He may be able to tell us what we can do to keep you safe. He's a-little strange, but he's the smartest man I know."
Let's start taking bets now - Zedd is a weird old wizard in the style of Ben Kenobi, and he can magically help both of them. Oy.
"If there's anyone who would know what to do, it's Zedd."
I'm not sure why he thinks that, since obviously all of this is out of his league.
"As soon as Michael gives his speech we will go to my house. You can sit in front of the fire, and in the morning I'll take you to Zedd."
- Why does he bother staying till after the speech? It's not like he cared about the party before, yet he wants to stick around and hear his Ebil Sellout Brother talk?
- Okay, why wait until morning? Kahlen's wetting herself in the middle of a crowd, Zedd's going nuts over at… wherever he lives. Yet it's a good idea to wait until morning? Ohhhhh…
- Richard's not exactly subtle about his come-ons. "You can… 'sit' in front of the fire… and winkwinknudgenudge, in the MORNING we can go over to Zedd's…"
"To Chase, a quad would be just a bit of fun. While he was taking care of them, he'd be telling you a story about some real trouble. He's been watching out for you since we told him of the men."
… I can only assume that our asshat hero is either delusional, or this is an example of how in bad fantasy the good guys are ultimately WAY more skilled and/or powerful than the baddies. Even a "good guy" whose main skills seem to be bullying small time crooks.
A supposedly elite bunch of assassins who are virtually unstoppable? Nah, Chase is way awesomer than them! And he has a big anime sword and magical powers!
"Richard, I came across the boundary only with the help of magic."
"I do not know how those men came across. They should not have been able to. They should not have even known I left the Midlands. Somehow, the rules have changed."
Or maybe, Drama Mama Llama, they used magic to get across too. Until Goodkind tells us otherwise, we can assume that whatever magic worked for her would work for other people too.
She gave a nod. "Thank you, Richard Cypher. My friend."
Goodkind's really gonna milk this weird obsession with friendship forever, isn't he? I swear, you'd think that no one ever had a "friend" before, the way these two wank on about it. After knowing each other LESS THAN A DAY.
It's also worth noting after this big weepy meltdown that NOBODY except Richard seems to have noticed all the crying and emoing and huggy declarations of luv… I mean, friendship. I don't care how many pillars you stand behind, that sort of melodrama is going to attract people's attention, especially at a party.
And despite allegedly being in a hysterical panic, Kahlen asks for more food.
"Some more of your little treasures?"
Does Goodkind have any idea how WEIRD it is to refer to ribs as "treasures"?
Richard felt better, not about the things she told him, but because at least he knew a little more, and because he had made her feel safe.
Uh no, dipwad, all you did was temporarily calm down the Stereotypically Hysterical Woman like Stereotypical Manly Men are supposed to do. And given that what little he knows is either mustard-on-your-face obvious or really depressing, I'm not sure why he feels so good. Except, y'know, because he's an idiot.
Then finally Michael shows up, and Goodkind promptly sprains a fetlock trying to convince us that he's as rotten as Richard is good'n'pure. So obviously, not convincing. Apparently he's SUCH a douchebag that he actually kept people waiting… and talking… and eating… so he could make a cool entrance. Yeah, whatever.
Not only was he shorter than Richard, but heavier and softer.
Since of course all nasty people are not only unattractive but flabby. Fit villains don't exist. And by being a good person, you will be slender and well-toned.
His upper lip proudly displayed a mustache.
Those vain upper lips! Always flaunting their hair!
He wore baggy white trousers, and his white tunic with bloused sleeves was cinched at the waist by a gold belt.
… okay, what sort of culture is this supposed to be? Because Michael's clothes don't sound even vaguely Generic Medieval - maybe more Generic Middle-Eastern.
Standing there in the sunlight, Michael positively gleamed, casting the same cold, eerie glow the marble did when struck by the sun. He stood out in stark relief against the shadowed background.
I can see what Goodkind is oh-so-subtlely trying to do here, but it really doesn't work. Yes, Mr. Goodkind, we get what your sledgehammer writing is trying to convey.
The problem is, this whole description would only work if Michael were wearing armor or something of the sort - instead he's wearing perfectly normal white clothing. I don't know whether Mr. Goodkind is aware of this, but marble and silk/cotton/linen don't really look anything like each other. At all. And organic fabrics, when sunlight is shone on them, tend to look very warm - not cold or eerie.
So Richard starts waving to his brother, but Michael just smiles and turns his attention to the crowd so he can basically start prattling the usual vague political drivel - anti-war, anti-traitors, pro-progress - that gets people elected. Of course this is all very shocking to Richard, even though it's pretty obvious that Michael is just pumping up the idiot masses without being specific about… well, anything. If he talked about "hope" or "change," the cycle would be complete.
What was Michael talking about? What war? There was no one to have a war with!
Really? So what's to the west of the Westlands? An ocean? An uninhabited desert? A convention of honest politicians? Apparently in Goodkind's generic medieval land with no name, a country only has a border on ONE side rather than the usual four-ish sides.
So Michael keeps pumping up the idiot crowd who frankly seem like a bunch of halfwits, and they start chanting his name like they're at a political rally. This is getting kind of stupid - this is supposed to be a nice party for refined people AFTER Michael has been appointed, and not by general election. This sort of raving is generally reserved for people who are TRYING to get elected by CONVINCING people with their rhetoric. After a president is sworn into office, you don't see him getting red-faced and trying to convince the partygoers at the White House about his plans for the future.
He says there are traitors conspiring against the government, including some important people, and that their army is getting the conspirators now. This seems like a really stupid thing to do, alerting the bad guys BEFORE you've nabbed them.
Also…. why do they have boundary wardens if they have an army? I know what I'd rather have between me and Unspecified Boundary of Death.
Richard was stunned. Could it be true? A conspiracy?
Let it be noted that less than a chapter ago, Richard mentioned that Michael had been talking about plots against the government. Apparently eating ribs shrivels the brain.
"But that is past history."
No, actually it's in the present tense. So it's…. the present.
Anyway, Michael keeps prattling the usual political stuff - "light of a new day," "look forward," talks about a day when the boundary won't be there, and "when that day comes we must be ready to extend a hand of friendship and not a sword, as some would have us do. That only leads to the futility of war and needless dying." Well, that doesn't sound like a terribly bad policy thus far, despite being incredibly vague and unrealistic. If he talks about "hope" and "change," he can get elected over John McCain.
And the babble goes on and on, with him basically saying that they shouldn't rev up for a war and that they should want to unite the three countries and everybody lives in peace and harmony and all that crap. It's feel-good politician drivel, same as we get every election. SNORE.
And I'll just dip forward long enough to say that since Goodkind's pet obsession seems to be communism (and anyone who DENIES that communism is the ultimate and timeless threat of the world), I suppose this is an example of what he automatically thinks is the machinations of Ebil. You know, talking about peace and the future and all that shit. Honestly, I'm not even twitching.
Oh and there's a SECOND boundary between the Midlands and D'Hara. I'm not sure why D'Hara isn't called the "Eastlands," really. Also, I'm not quite sure why the hell these barriers are there. Or what they are. WHY CAN'T GOODKIND EXPLAIN ANYTHING I'M SOOOOOO CONFUSED!!!!!!
And since Richard has the brains of a deranged parakeet, he's getting all swept up in his brother's rhetoric along with the idiot crowd…. but on the other hand, he's also getting all creeped out as well.
At this point, Goodkind seems to realize that HEY Michael isn't exactly coming across as a bad dude here, and he's making more sense than… just about ANYONE else in the entire book. So suddenly he switches rants from political extremism to… fire. Yes. He's fighting against FIRE. As in, the smoky hot thing that you make burgers on.
Ever heard of the Strawman Political trope, Goodkind?
…. and actually, the sheer stupidity of this depiction of a "bad guy" really makes Strawman Politicals look very logical and sedate by comparison.
People mumbled in confusion. Michael was starting to lose his bond with the crowd.
Uh, yeah. That's what stupid speeches do. No politician, even a dumb one, would be THIS dumb. Anvilicious much?
Michael points at Richard and mentions how traumatized they are over their mom dying in a fire and all that shit. I'm assuming that this is more of Goodkind's subtle political commentary: bad guys distract us from the TRUE THREAT OF COMMUNISM by pointing out silly pretend dangers.
We then get an infodump about how their mom died. Apparently some dude who thought their dad had cheated him knocked over a lamp, and their mom died trying to retrieve some random material possession from the fire. Apparently their dad didn't like their mom much, because instead of saying "It's because X is a crazy murderous bastard," he blamed it on anger.
Michael was wrong. Fire had not killed their mother; anger had.
BULLCRAP. Saying that anger killed their mom is as stupid as saying that fire did. Anger is an emotion and not a force unto itself - and for that matter, it wasn't even aimed at their mom. What precisely is wrong with just blaming the individual whose stupidity and lack of self-control CAUSED the fire? Or blaming their mother for running back into a burning building because she wanted to retrieve her Jimmy Choos?
Is Richard also opposed to lust because it might lead to heart attacks during sex? Laughter because it can cause asphyxiation? Grief because it might lead to suicide?
So Michael comes to talk to Richard, and Richard basically has a pissy fit that Michael rather effectively brushes off. Since he's starting to actually come across as competent and non-evil, Goodkind rushes to let us know that he's a total bastard: Michael took his arm back. "Grow up, Richard. George was an old fool. He was always picking up things that didn't belong to him. He probably got caught with something that belonged to the wrong person. A person with a bad temper, and a big knife."
Subtle, Goodkind ain't.
Anyway, Richard understandably pitches a fit, and for some reason the dozens of people around them haven't noticed that the brothers aren't getting along too well. You'd think that they'd be lapping up the local scandal, but NOOOOOOO. They're just cardboard cutouts that vanish whenever they would be inconvenient.
Michael had tried. Richard wondered how there could be no tracks.
… wow, let's think about this. There's a giant flying thing hanging around the area. Think there's a connection, Einstein?
Anyway, the brothers blabber about nothing much, and then Michael understandably asks why the hell Richard showed up in a gross twiggy outfit. Kahlan jumps in to say that basically it's all her fault and he shouldn't blame Richard.
And then Michael announces that he wants to sleep with Kahlan, and starts groping her ass.
… okay, what?
This is a pretty random scene which exists just to further demonize Michael, and it's so ridiculously random and over-the-top that it's almost impossible to take seriously. It's like a parody. This isn't a parody, right?
It's also completely out of touch with reality - I could see an exalted personage who INHERITED his position doing this to a peasant woman. But he's an official who can lose his job as quickly as he got it, and apparently he needs public support of some kind. Which means he needs a good public image, which rarely involves groping random women in the middle of parties filled with the most important people in the whole COUNTRY.
So yeah, I could see him doing this in his private quarters. But not in front of everybody. That would be like Bill Clinton up on the podium during his political campaigns, randomly grabbing the asses of attractive women and loudly announcing that he's gonna screw them that evening. Sure he'd do it in private, but NOT in public.
And let it be known that the crowd around them STILL HAVEN'T NOTICED that their new leader is grabbing a woman's ass and grinding her against his crotch.
So Kahlen scratches his chest open with her fingernail. I can only assume that she's wearing steel fakes, because fingernails are NOT that strong. They're fairly strong, but they're not knives or anything - they can't do stuff like "rip his flesh open."
Michael lets go of her ass, unsurprisingly. Kahlan stomps out, and Richard goes after her. Mercifully, the chapter is now over.