Monday, August 17, 2015

The Dark Tide Chapter 5 Part 1

A great uproar filled the Hall, and hands grasped futilely at weaponless girts, for all had come to the feast unarmed.

Given how much the security sucks, that seems like a bad idea.


Shouts of anger boiled up, and clenched fists struck tables in rage, and some tore at their hair.

For fuck's sake, why is everyone so shocked?! They KNEW this was coming! That's why people were EVACUATING. As dramatic as this guy's entrance is, he's just confirming what everybody was 99% sure of!


Tuck's heart thudded in his chest, and a cold chill raced through his veins, and from his confused wits one thought rose up above all: It comes!

And hopefully it brought tissues and a change of underwear!



Sorry, I won't do that again.


"Sire, I did but come from the Dimmendark five hours past," he continued. "Two of us were entrusted by my Lord Galen to bring this word"

"And the word is: we need lots and lots of clean underwear."


"my comrade was Vulg slain along the way, and I am Vulg wounded."

Who talks like that in the English language? "I am Range Rover wounded!"

For some reason, EVERYONE gets mad at this, including Aurion. Well, except for Princess Sue, since Purity Sues are all nurturing and kind and all that.



"Oh my, your arm!" Distress was in Laurelin's voice, and she moved at last, rushing to the soldier's side.

See? Even McKiernan notices that she takes an awfully long time to notice that he's BADLY INJURED.

So she and the Wobbits usher him away to ooh and aah over his wound... but of course, the guy isn't terribly interested in the fact that he's poisoned, losing blood and has a pretty good chance of dying. No, he's fascinated by the fact that there are Wobbits there: "Why, you are Waerlinga!" he exclaimed, seeing for the first time that he was attended by Wee Folk. Again, he is probably going to die, and they're about to be invaded the Forces of Darkness. But he only notices that there are Wobbits.

Also, this "Wow! Real Wobbits!" reaction is getting old. We have it ALMOST EVERY SINGLE TIME somebody new meets them.



So the guy's name is released (it's not important, so I shall call him Poisoned Dude), and he reveals that they have three days max before the Forces of Darkness break into the city, rape the livestock and repeatedly play Children of the Living Dead (among other evil things). So, with panic about to sweep the people who were kept here, King Aurion gives us a rousing speech!


"It is now mid of night. First Yule steps into the Realm, and Princess Laurelin paces forward into her nineteenth year."

STOP TALKING ABOUT LAURELIN. Nobody cares how old she is! Nobody except you and your weird sons give a damn about her!


"Good times lay behind us, and better time yet lay ahead, but in betwixt will fall drear days."

Unless you die a horrible death in this war, as most of the people in this story do. Then there are no "better times."


"Modru's Horde now strikes south. Here at these walls they must be held."

Big spoiler: they fail miserably, and everything goes to hell. So... this rousing speech apparently didn't do the job.

In fact, this king is pretty much a failure at everything he tries to do. NOTHING he tries to work out turns out right.


"Go now unto your beds and rest, for we must be in the fullness of our strength to meet this foe."

Yes, I'm sure all of them will be able to sleep now that they know that WE HAVE ONLY TWO DAYS TO LIVE WE'RE ALL GOING TO DIE I WANT MY MOOOMMMYYYYYYY...


"Hal!" he cried in the ancient tongue of the North. "Heah Adoni cnawen ure weg!" (Hail! High Adon knows our way!)

  1. He knows, but doesn't really care.
  2. Because caring might lead to action, and High Adon doesn't roll that way.
  3. Merely using Old English does not count as a real language.
  4. Yes, Tolkien had his own languages, but he was a philologist. He did that for a living.


And the assembled raised their own horns and cups. Hal! Aurion ure Cyning! (Hail! Aurion our King!)

Good thing everybody in the room knows what he is.

For some reason everybody is incredibly calm about the IMPENDING DEATH OF EVERYONE IN THE CITY, so they all finish their drinks in unison. And someone drags in a healer, who plans to treat Poisoned Dude with the stuff that any smart person would have applied anyway.


"Vulg bite?" The healer's voice was startled. "Foul news. We must get this warrior to a cot. The fever has begun, and we need blankets, hot water, a poultice of gwynthyme, and-"

Gwynthyme? I wonder what that could resemble!



So Purity Sue and the Wobbits whisk Poisoned Dude off behind the king's throne, where there's a handily convenient room furnished for medical care. No, I don't know why it's there. Maybe the king likes to have coffee in that room. So while a page cleans the POISONED INJURY, guess what Laurelin talks to the critically ill, possibly-dying soldier about!

  1. Her boyfriend
  2. Her boyfriend
  3. Her boyfriend
  4. All of the above

If you guessed anything, congratulations! You win the grinding shame of having read this..


"My Lord Galen, is he well?" she asked.

"Yes, but he says to stop sending him nude photos."
"But how else can I tell my Lord Galen of my love for him?"


"Aye, my Lady," answered Haddon, pride in his voice. "He has the strength of two and the spirit of ten. And cunning he is, clever as a fox, for many a trap of his has the foe sprung to their woe."

Ah, okay. So we have our Frodo knockoff, our Theoden knockoff, our Minas Tirith knockoff, our Shire knockoff, our Legolas knockoff, our Faramir knockoff, and so on. And with this, we have an Aragorn knockoff... except without the awesome "he's a grubby ranger who can survive for months on pinecones and capture Gollum all by himself."



So he ends up just being a Generic Fantasy Crown Prince. Which, of course, takes a lot of the strength, cunning and coolness from that sort of character. Part of Aragorn's coolness was that until he actually became king, almost everything he had done was under the radar. He was despised and mocked by the people he protected, but he was too noble to let that embitter him or make him shirk his duties. And he ascends to kingship from the ground up. Yes, he's got the whole ancient lost heritage thing (from more than TWO AND A HALF THOUSAND YEARS AGO), but most people don't know who he is or what his heritage is. So he has to negotiate, raise armies and inspire alliances without actually being king, showing his kingly mettle without having the authority or resources.

It's a great example of SHOWING rather than telling, by DEMONSTRATING Aragorn's goodness and kingliness instead of just telling us "Hey, this guy is noble and awesome and good. Admire him." His ACTIONS show us he will be a great king.

Galen? He's not as impressive, because we already know he's a pampered royal who has the best of everything, and has everybody ooing and aahing whenever he does something impressive. He has glory, he has admiration, he doesn't have to struggle and do the dirty work, and everybody thinks he's super-awesome already. He's just your typical crown prince with a bimbo fiancee.


"Does he say when he might return here to the Keep?" Laurelin filled a basin with water, exchanging it for the one now tinged red with blood.

SHUT UP, YOU STUPID BITCH. The entire city is about to be invaded by the forces of evil, and countless people will lose their lives in the upcoming battle. The guy you're talking to was bitten by a toxic giant wolf after fighting and running for days. And you're still asking when your boyfriend is gonna get home cuz boohoo, you miss him!

GET SOME PERSPECTIVE, YOU JACKASS.



So Gildor, Igon, Vidron and Aurion all come in to question the guy who is now almost delirious.


"How many does Modru send against us?" asked the King, peering into Haddon's face, now flushed with fever.
"Sire, they are without number," answered Haddon,


"Then again, I can't count very high without taking my shoes off."


"Sire? the Ghola? Ghola ride in their ranks."
"Guula!" cried Vidron, and his countenance was grim.
"Do you mean Ghuls?" asked Patrel.


... yeah, the way that McKiernan tries to give some cultural texture to his world is to give different names to various species, which are virtually identical but spelled differently.

And in case you've forgotten what the Ghuls are, they're basically war vampires who can only be killed with staking, silver, sun or dismemberment. The same can also be said of Courtney Love.


"They ride to battle mounted upon Helsteeds, horselike but with cloven hooves and hairless tails."

Ah, so that's what McKiernan meant by "like horses but not." Although I'm not sure what good cloven hooves would be to a riding animal. You generally find them on sheep, cows, goats, deer... you know, animals people don't tend to ride on.

So while Tuck tries not to cry AGAIN, the healer announces that, "And we must sear the wound, for he will fall into foam-flecked madness otherwise. A poultice to draw the poison is needed, lest it run wild through his veins, if it does not do so even now." It might be a little more effective if you did those in the opposite order, since it's harder to get the poison out of the injury if it's sealed shut.

Poisoned Dude calls the king over and then Gildor cauterizes the wound with an instantly white-hot dagger. Yeah, don't wait for the poultice or anything, just start burning him.


Igon asked, "Sire, what said he?"
Wearily the King turned to them all. "He said, 'Rukha, Lokha, Ogrus.' "


OH NOES! The exact creatures that we already knew were serving the Dark Lord! Who would have thought THEY would be in the Dark Lord's army?!



There came a cry and the sound and smell of searing flesh as Gildor set the ruddy dagger to the Vulg wound, while the healer prepared a gwyn-thyme poultice, and Laurelin wept for Haddon's pain.

Oh shut up. You're about as much help as a licorice bungee cord, you dumb twat.

So then we switch over to the Lollipop Guild, who are busy giving infodumps to each other because... we're the readers, and we gotta learn somehow. I know in-text infodumps are sometimes frowned upon, but if you've got no way to weave them into the narrative in a semi-logical way... just have the characters REMEMBER this crap. We'll believe the characters know what's being exposited.


"I knew it! I just knew it!" exclaimed Sandy. "That Black Wall stood out there like Doom, lurking on the horizon. You could feel it in the air, like a storm about to break."

"I totally knew that the bad guys were in there, especially since we were TOLD they were in there! I HAVE SECOND SIGHT!"


"And now Modru comes at last."

...


I promised I wouldn't make that joke again. But I totally want to.

So even though we were infodumped about the various bad guys a few chapters ago... we get another one now. Apparently because Gildor gave them more detailed descriptions.


"It seems that most of what we've been told in the past is correct," said Patrel in the hush. "The Ruck is a hand or three taller than we, and, unlike the corpse-white Ghul, the Ruck is night dark. He's got bandy legs and skinny arms. His ears look like bat wings, and he's got the eye of a viper - yellow and slitty. Wide-mouthed he is, with gappy, pointed teeth. He's not got a lot of skill with weapons, but Gildor says he doesn't need much 'cause there's so many of 'em; they just swarm over you, conquering by their very numbers. Vidron calls 'em Rutcha and Goblins; Gildor calls 'em Rucha; but by any name, they're deadly."

  1. "They usually hide in plain sight on reality shows."
  2. It also isn't too good an idea to be TOO specific about your Evilly Evil minions' looks. A little imagination can make them much worse.
  3. And it certainly doesn't help. I mean, these creatures don't look like ANYTHING else. I'm pretty sure you wouldn't have any trouble figuring out who to shoot at.
  4. And you shouldn't depict them as ALL the same.


"Did someone say free chocolate?!"

"Ar, cudgels and hammers, mostly. Smashing weapons, he said," answered Danner. "The Ghuls use spears and tulwars; the Rucks, smashing weapons, though some use bows with black-shafted arrows; Hloks usually wield scimitars and maces; and the Ogrus fight mostly with great Warbars. All of them use others weapons, of course - whips, knives, strangling cords, scythes, flails, you name it - but in the main they stick with those I named first."

  1. Warbars? What are Warbars?
  2. They sound a patriotic wartime candy bar.
  3. So... what's he's saying is that they use whatever weapons they possibly can, meaning there's no telling what they'll have in actual battle.

We're also told that many of the weapons are actually poisoned and that you can die if you even get nicked. I wonder how many Minions of Evil are done in by their own clumsiness.

"Sir, we've finished covering our swords with poison!"
"Very good, show me."
"Okay, sir. I already - ACK!"
"Aw damn, there goes another one. Bring in the next one."


"The Hlok is Man-sized," answered Patrel, "like the Ghul. Their looks are different, though, the Hlok being more Ruck-like in appearance, darkish, viper eyes, bat-wing ears. His legs are straight, and his arms strong. Unlike their small look-alikes, the Hlok is skilled with weapons, and clever, too. And cruel. There's not as many Hloks are there are Rucks, but the Hloks command the Ruck squads, and in turn are commanded by the Ghuls."

"They often hide in plain sight as pop stars and Congressmen."



That said, this is a pretty naked ripoff of the Uruk-hai, a special more humanlike breed of orcs introduced by Saruman. Is it actually necessary to have a knockoff of the Uruk-hai? NO. There is no reason.

I do think it's cool to have different "kinds" of different species, especially ones bred for different purposes like the Uruk-hai. But... the fact that they're basically all the same creatures makes them seem much shallower. At least we KNOW where Tolkien's orcs, Uruk-hai and trolls came from!


"As to who commands the Ogrus, Gildor didn't say," answered Patrel. "Whether it be Ghuls or Hloks or someone else, he did not tell the which of it."

"He did say that it might be someone at UMG. They're certainly evil enough."


"But this he did say: Trolls - that's what Gildor calls Ogrus -"

What? No alternate spelling? I'm so disoriented!


"Trolls are huge, a giant Ruck some say, ten or twelve feet tall. They've got a stonelike hide, but scaled and greenish. Ordinary weapons don't usually cut Ogrus, and the only sure way to kill them is to drop a big rock on 'em, throw them off a cliff, or stab them with 'special' swords - that's what Gildor called them, 'special.' But I think he must mean 'magical,' though when I asked him about it, he didn't seem to know what I meant by the word 'magic' "

How about shooting them in the mouth? This seemed to work pretty well for Legolas.


"Troll mad! TROLL SMASH!"

Yeah, this is the first hint that McKiernan doesn't really want to call the magic in his world "magic." Even though it's a magical system, he uses other words to describe it because.... no reason, really.

I think he's trying to do the same sort of thing Tolkien did, where he didn't explicitly say that the weapons like Merry's sword or Sting were magical - or at least he didn't do it very often. Mostly he just sort of let the magical weapons display their powers without talking much about them. But if you call attention to the fact that you don't call your magic "magic," it becomes... annoying.

We're also told that Ogrus can be killed by FIFTY-PLUS DWARVES who don't mind suicide missions. Yeah, call that Plan B.


"Anyhow, buccoes, that's all Gildor and Vidron told us," concluded Patrel. "All we have to do is wait and we'll see for ourselves, 'cause they're coming: Vulg, Ruck, Hlok, Ogru, Ghul: it's them we'll be fighting alongside the Men."

"When the Men were told about this, some of them started crying, and one of them yelled, 'we're so fucking doomed.' I think they have confidence in us!"



"Yet, that's a couple or more days in the future, and now we must gather some sleep, for our watch on the ramparts is but a few hours ahead, and our eyes need to be even sharper in the coming times."

Because you never sleep as well as when you've just been told that in a few days, you'll be slaughtered by the creatures of your worst nightmares. Nighty-night!

In fact, most of them DO have trouble sleeping, for obvious reasons. The only exception is Tuck. Since he's a main character, he'll survive up to the end no matter what, so he spends half the night writing in that stupid diary of his.


The next morning a bleak grey dawn saw the Warrows come to the ramparts.

Dawn is a very pessimistic person, and she likes to watch Wobbits. She's rather weird.

So Tuck, Danner and Patrel head off to return the armor to Laurelin, even though it technically doesn't belong to her. They find her listening to "I Will Remember You," crying and doodling Galen's name in her notebooks taking a last look at her room, and she refuses to take back the armor that isn't hers anyway.


"Oh pother!" she declared. "If ever you needed armor, now is the time, for War comes afoot."

"War had a car, but it broke down. So now War comes afoot."


"But my Lady," protested Patrel, "these hauberks are precious, heirlooms of the House of Aurion. We could not take them. They must be returned."

"Pother!"
"Plus, they're really sucky armor. I mean, gold and silver are pretty soft. Danner's the only one who won't probably die in the first attack."
"But it's so pretty and sparkly! That's WAY better than armor that actually protects you!"



But then the king interrupts and... wait, why was the king hanging around his future daughter-in-law's bedroom? That's... just weird. The actual reason is because he's there to legitimize them using the armor that Laurelin used without permission - and since she's a Purity Sue, it's not only OKAY that she did that, but it's BRILLIANT.

Ugh.

Apparently the king's reasoning is that his men will have an easier time figuring out who the hell to talk to if the lead Wobbits are in gold, silver and black. Because... I guess all Wobbits look alike to his men. Awkward.


"If you take issue with the gift, surely you cannot oppose me if we call it a loan. Keep the Dwarf-made armor, and, aye, the clothes, too, until I personally recall them. And if I never do so, then they are to remain in your hands, or in the possession of those you would trust. Gainsay me not in this, for it is my command."

This is one of those things that McKiernan actually does pick up on later in the series. He had a short story where centuries later, the ghost of Aurion contacts the descendants of these three Wobbits and tells them that basically he needs them to get the old armor and fight for Good and Right and Puppies and so on. So they take a part in the climactic battle of the series wearing the armor... which fortunately still exists and is wearable.

The most shocking part of the story? Danner may have actually gotten laid. With a GIRL. Despite having the personality of a paranoid-schizophrenic porcupine. I was amazed too! I'm not exactly sure WHEN this happened, because he seems to spend all his time with guys.



Laurelin smiled and her eyes were bright. "Oh, please do dress again as you were last night, for that was a happy time, and I would have you bid me farewell accoutered so."

"I was so happy after that bleeding guy burst in and caused a riot!"

So they're still wearing the clearly ceremonial armor when Laurelin and Igon finally leave. THANK YOU, GOD. I won't have to hear from this useless bimbo for the rest of the book.


King Aurion then embraced his son. "Gather mine Host to me, my son, yet forget not your sword-oath to the Lady Laurelin."

"Go get me my armies, son! The fate of the world rests on you doing that! Without them, the dark lord will rule the world and all will fall into darkness! But the most important thing is to take care of your brother's bubbleheaded fiancee whom I really should have forced to leave a long time ago if she was that important!"


And Igon drew his sword and kissed the hilt and raised the blade unto the Princess. Laurelin smiled and inclined her head, accepting Igon's oath to see her safely to Stonehill.

PLEASE GO AWAY, YOU STUPID SUE. I'm so sick of hearing about this character who is not important AT ALL. Seriously, her only purpose in the plot is something that ANYONE ELSE IN THE WORLD could be used for. Dwarves, humans, Wobbits - all of them and ANY of them could be used for this.

So why is she even in the story? NO REASON. She could have been cut from this story and nothing would be very different. And we wouldn't have to hear everyone fawning on her like she's a combination of Mother Teresa, Madame Pasteur and Catherine the Great.

But because the universe hates me we get a whole paragraph devoted to her saying goodbye to... every person who isn't going with her, including people she has barely spoken to.


King Aurion she embraced and kissed upon the cheek, bidding him to whelm Modru and keep her Lord Galen safe.

SHUT UP ABOUT YOUR BOYFRIEND.



Of Lord Gildor she asked only that he serve the High King until the War was ended, and Gildor nodded, smiling.

Why is he smiling? Why is she talking to him? Why should he give a shit about what a pampered princess wants?! HIS HOME IS BEING OVERRUN BY THE FORCES OF DARKNESS!


To Marshal Vidron she said nought but hugged him extra tight, for he had been like a father to her in this Land so far away from Riamon her home, and Tuck was amazed to see a glittering tear slide down the gruff warrior's cheek and into his silver beard.

... where the hell does this come from?! They've never even spoken in the book so far, never implied that they had any kind of relationship, and now it turns out that he's been a FATHER FIGURE to her?!



Captain Patrel she named minstrel of her court,

What court?


and to Danner she smiled and called him her dancer.

Danner then punched her in the knee, and she wept many crystal tears as she sniveled on the courtyard's cobbles.


Last of all she turned to Tuck and kissed him, too, and whispered to him: "Someday I hope to meet your Merrilee of the silver locket, just as someday I would that you and my beloved Lord Galen could know one another, for I deem you would be boon companions."

"You're almost as hot as he is! Let me talk for another fifteen minutes about my boyfriend, because the audience hasn't been bored into a coma yet..."

FINALLY, Laurelin and Igon actually LEAVE THE DAMN CASTLE. This takes a LOOOONNNNGGGG TIME. Everybody is waving bye-bye, and Laurelin is bawling, and FINALLY the wagon train is gone. And since we can't just say goodbye, the Wobbits immediately run up onto the ramparts and watch the stupid wagon train leave.


And they all had heavy hearts, for it seemed as if a brightness had gone from their lives, leaving behind cold bleak stone and grey iron and empty barren plains under drab leaden skies.

Funny, the world seems a little brighter to me, since I won't see Princess Sue until the next book!

Fortunately, THAT ends when another Wobbit alerts them to a shocking piece of news: the big Dimmendark wall is getting bigger! And amazingly nobody noticed this while Laurelin was leaving! Vidron, Aurion and Gildor all show up because apparently the best spot to have a conference is a public area where everyone can hear you.


At last Tuck asked, "Why is it growing?"
"It's not growing, Tuck," answered Danner, "it's coming closer."
Of course!
Tuck thought, surprised that he hadn't seen it for himself. How stupid can I be? No wonder it looms larger: it's moving toward us. Haddon said it was coming, and it is!

I have take a brief break.



So, something that was actually said in front of you by someone who HAS BEEN THERE... comes as a surprise to you. You IDIOT.


"How much time do you deem we have, Marshal Vidron?"
"Two days, perhaps, but no more," answered the Man from Valon,


... we've been told this. Editor? Editor? WHERE THE HELL ARE YOU?!


"Nay," said Gildor. "Not Modru: just his minions come, his Horde, but not him."

"He refuses to go to war if it means no flush toilets."


"What?" burst out Patrel. "Do you mean that he's not with them, that he doesn't lead his armies?"
"Oh, no, Wee One, he leads them aright, but by a hideous power, and he remains in his tower in Gron to do so," answered Gildor, his voice low.


Modru's kind of lazy, and this way he can watch the Real Housewives AND lead the forces of darkness. It's a win-win.


But Danner spat toward the north: "Modru, you cowardly toad, though you hide away now, someday you will yet face one of us, and in that battle you will lose!"

Yes, I'm sure he's quivering in fear that a Hobbit Sue will beat his ass.

And no, it's not really foreshadowing. Really, we know already that a main character will kill the baddie, because... that's how this sort of story works.


Lord Gildor watched him go. "Ai, that one, he vents his fear in anger, though tell him not I said so. He will be a good one to stand beside in times of strife - if he can control his passion."

Yeah, I'm betting that in times of strife, Danner will just dash out of formation and bite off the enemy's fingers.


"Rare warriors like him I have seen in the past, though not of the Waerlinga: the more difficult the task, the greater is their grit to win through."

"Most of the Warrows I've met are total pusses and will crap their pants at the first problem."



So then Vidron suggests that Danner might be a berserker. And in case you don't know what a berserker is, the Norse had special warriors who basically went nuts and killed in battle madness; they would also do weird shit like bite their shields, dress in animal pelts and eat coals. There's a lot that isn't known about them, such as HOW they entered a berserker rage, and historians' speculation runs from mushrooms to epilepsy.

One thing I do suspect is that being pissy and angry all the time does not give you berserker powers. I would be unstoppable if that were true!


"but at times the berserker comes upon them, and then they are awful to behold, for then they do nought but slay. Yet were this to happen unto one of the Waldfolc, he would not survive, for they are so small."

... I don't understand what size has to do with whether or not being a berserker would be fatal. I mean, is she suggesting that a berserker Wobbit wouldn't survive because most of his enemies would be bigger, and he just wouldn't be as intimidating as a human berserker?


"Nay, Marshal Vidron," said King Aurion. "Were a Waerling to have the battle rage come upon him, to become a Slayer,"

Like this one?



Nah, that would be too awesome.


"I, too, think he would not survive - but not because he is so small: instead because he is what he is - a Waerling - and were he to become a Slayer, even in battle, he simply would not live beyond that time."

... why not?

I mean, what about the SueHobbits is so speshul that they would just die if they went into a berserker rage? I think it's meant to imply that they're so gentle and goodhearted that they couldn't live with running wild and killing everything in their path. But really, I don't see why not. It's shown that the Wobbits are quite okay with killing people, particularly Danner. So I don't get why killing as a berserker would be so different.


A feeling of dire foreboding came over Tuck at these words, and he looked in the direction that Danner had gone.

Wow, I wonder what's going to happen to Danner at the end of the series. I just can't guess it! The foreshadowing is just toooooooo subtle.



So the other Wobbits eventually come up to check out the Dimmendark, and Tuck has a horribly boring conversation with him about the Spawn and the Dimmendark and blah blah blah bored now.


"Aurion Redeye can call 'em a dark tide if he wishes, but me, well, I think the Elves have the right of it when they call 'em Spaunen, though I would call them Modru's Spawn," Dilby averred.

I might agree with the Elves if I knew what that word MEANT.


"I don't mind telling you, Tuck, seeing that Black Wall acomin', well, it makes me feel all squirmy inside."

"But it also might have been that fish we had for dinner. Scuse me..."


"Ar, squirmy or not, I hope it don't spoil our aim none," he said,

"Me mateys, I'll give ye the black spot if ye be missin' with yer arrows! Or bolts! Whichever! I'm not sure what the difference is!"

So even though they're supposedly keeping watch, Tuck goes wandering off with Dilby to the south wall so he can see if Laurelin's caravan is still in sight. Well, her Suiness is probably visible from space.


Up beside him Tuck stepped and looked southward, too. "Oh, my!" gasped Tuck. "Have they gone no farther?"

"Seriously! They couldn't go a whole fifteen minutes without a bathroom break?"

So Tuck and Danner sit there and watch the caravan slowly going away, and they talk about how slowly it's going, and this chapter is oozing by so slowly that my brains are starting to slither out of my ears to escape this tedium and please please please will the bad guys show up so this can end...


Late in the day, Tuck and Patrel stood again at the north rampart as the Dimmendark inexorably drew closer.

They were making bets on when it would get there.


Tuck secretly hoped to see Lord Galen's troop ride forth upon the snow and come unto Challerain Keep, for he longed to meet this Prince who had won the heart of the Lady Laurelin.

Lord Galen must be SO dreamy! Tuck just couldn't wait to get his autograph! All the girls back home would be SO jealous!



So Tuck and the Wobbits sit around looking at the Dimmendark, daydreaming about the birthday party, and discussing stuff that is so boring that my brains are actually turning into limp spaghetti.


Each time Tuck looked at the looming darkness, his heart would thud anew, and he wondered at his courage: Will I be strong enough when it o'ertops these ramparts, or will I run screaming?

I'm gonna say... lots of running screaming.



Again, these guys have had a grand total of a few weeks of training, pretty much in ONE form of long-range combat. They have had almost no experience actually fighting ANYTHING, and the two times they HAVE engaged the enemy, it was a complete disaster with easily avoidable fatalities because the Thornwalkers are morons. Nothing they have done or experienced makes me think that they have the guts to not flip out and soil their pants.


Aurion, Gildor, Vidron, and the War-staff came often to the rampart, yet neither did their sight penetrate the churning snow or looming black, nor did aught emerge from the ebon wall.

"... let's throw pebbles at it!"
"Be serious, Gildor."
"But this scene is so BORING!"

In fact, it's SO boring that even McKiernan whooshes us right into a major exciting scene: the Dimmendark finally hits the castle. A lot. It's basically a big sooty hurricane that crashes into the castle, makes everything dark, and then blasts on its merry way. That was... anticlimactic.


The Keep now lay in dark Winternight, and a bone-numbing chill stole upon the land. Above, the disk of the Sun could but faintly be seen, and then only by knowing exactly where to look. Yet a spectral light, a Shadowlight, shone out of the dark, as if from a bright Moon; but the source of the light seemed to be the very air itself, and not the Sun, the Moon, or the stars.

So it's a black light. Got it.


Ebon shadows clotted around the feet of rock outjuts and seeped among the trees and hills, and vision was hard-pressed to peer into these pools of blackness. And even out where the land was more open, sight became lost in the Shadowlight, snubbed short by the spectral dark.

If someone used binoculars, they could see the Minions of Evil staggering helplessly around, bumping into things and tripping over each other.

I kid, I kid. After all, you would expect that the evil minions would have developed pretty good night vision after a few thousand years of night life.


His eyes felt strange as he peered through the Dimmendark, as if the Shadowlight somehow contained a new color, perhaps a hue of deep violet, or beyond.

You mean... OCTARINE?!

So... even though something has happened, nothing is really happening. The bad guys haven't shown up, and the good guys can't see anything happening. Also, as often happens when you block out the sun in winter, it's cold.

Then Patrel brings Tuck's coat. Because Tuck is apparently not bright enough to realize that wintry cold is wintry cold.



"Trews and shiny armor are fine for birthday parties, but eiderdown is needed to withstand this cold Winternight," Tuck said as he slipped his jacket over the silveron mail and again affixed the Elven cloak 'round his shoulders, and cast the hood over his head.

... who is he talking to? The only other person there is Patrel, and he BROUGHT the coat.

So everybody is depressed and it's weird outside, especially since there isn't any sunlight.


Yet still the harsh land below could be seen in the spectral Shadowlight.

.... isn't that kind of an oxymoronic term? "Shadow" and "light"? I know what it's meant to be, but it's a very weird term.


After a troubled sleep, the Warrows arose to, as Danner put it, "A dawnless 'day,' if time in the Dimmendark can be measured in 'days,' that is - though Lord Gildor says that the days have now fled, and the 'Darkdays'are come upon us."

That... doesn't make any sense to me. Days are still days without sunlight. Just ask the people in Alaska and northern Canada.


Dread filled the mess hall, and voices were grim and hushed.

Thanks Danner. You made everyone more depressed than they were.

So after breakfast, the Wobbits... go up and stand on the walls. I have to give McKiernan credit: he really gets across the boredom of standing guard and waiting for something to actually happen. And then Aurion and Gildor come riding up...even though nobody else seems to be riding up there. Now they were armed and armored, with the King bearing a great sword at his belt and a spear in his hand. And a spoon behind his ear!


They were clad in chain mail and capped with helms of steel. The King wore red and gold, Lord Gildor, Elven grey. The King's grey horse, Wildwind, and the Elf's white-stockinged chestnut, Fleetfoot, pranced and sidled as they came into the gorge, but stood quietly as the riders dismounted.

I thought the Dimmendark was making everything look weird. How can he tell what the colors they're wearing are? It should be really, really difficult to tell, especially if there is no natural light at all.

And shouldn't both of them be wearing coats?! It's freaking cold and they're in the windiest part of the castle!

Instead of getting personal insulation, they have a conversation about how far the various races can see.


"How far see you, Lord Gildor?" asked the High King.
"To the fifth rise, no more," answered the Elf.


"Really? Because I lost my iPod there the other day-"
"I can't see THAT clearly."

Aurion can only see the second rise, but then he asks Tuck how far HE can see.


"Sire, I see north one hill further than Lord Gildor and even beyond a bit, out upon the plains, but after that I see nought but darkness," answered Tuck.

"I also saw what you did in the bathroom in that tower, sir. If you ate more vegetables, you wouldn't be so constipated."
"... thank you. I didn't need that."


"Ai!" cried Gildor in wonderment. "Never before have the far-seeing Elven eyes been bested at sight. Yet here in this baffling shadow it happens. The vision of your strange eyes now proves to see beyond those of the First Folk in this Shadowlight."

  1. Yes, the Wobbits are so Suey that they can even outdo gold-crapping elves in some areas! I am amazed!
  2. Also, what kind of egotists call themselves the "First Folk"?
  3. Why do THEY get that honor, especially since they're not even from our world?!
  4. The answer, of course, is that it's something Tolkien did... and he did it better.
  5. Specifically, the Elves in his world are called the Firstborn of Il├║vatar (aka God) because they were the first to wake in the world. And they were there for a long, long time before the first humans popped up.
  6. McKiernan's Elves? Nothing of the sort.



"Yet, it is said among my kindred that the Waerlinga have talents not easily seen, and now I find it is true."

... why is it said? The Elves have almost no contact with the Wobbits, and the last time they did anything special... it was basically two Wobbits doing absolutely nothing impressive. Certainly it wasn't anything that humans, dwarves or Elves couldn't do.


"It is believed among my Folk that the Wee Ones have in them something of each of the other Free Folk - of Elf, Dwarf, Man, and Utrun. In this case, even though the shape of Waerling eyes is the same as Elvenkind's, the hue is like that of the jewel-eyes of the Utruni."

  1. So... what did Men contribute to the Wobbits?
  2. Wobbits are chibi Elves with Elijah Wood eyes. I don't see any human in them.
  3. So they're short like dwarves, have Utruni eyes, have Elvish features... where is the humanity?
  4. In case you haven't read the book, the Utruni are stone giants.
  5. And no, we're NEVER told how the Wobbits became a sort of four-way Sue hybrid! It's simply mentioned this once and... NEVER AGAIN. No explanation! NOTHING. ME AM BEING ANGRY NOW!
  6. And it makes no sense even if McKiernan HAD explained it, because it's established later in the series that the different species can't interbreed. The only way they can interbreed is if they have demon blood - and even, then they have to have sex.
  7. So consider: THESE species would all have to fuck to produce the Wobbits.



Just imagine that. You're welcome for the image.


"Great gems of eyes: ruby, emerald, opal, sapphire, amber, jade, and many other gemstones did their eyes resemble. Once I saw an Utrun with eyes of diamond."

"And there was this one Utrun with Swarovski crystals. His regular eyes were in the shop for polishing."


"You saw? You saw an Utrun?" Tuck was astonished. "But I thought the Giants were no more."
"Nay, in that you are wrong." Gildor's own green eyes looked sad.


… why is he sad, since the Giants ARE still around?


"Aye, they live, but it is not likely that they will ever again help us surface dwellers in our petty struggles."

Translation: they are deus ex machinae and will only show up when nothing else will work.


"Oi!" said Patrel, sharply. "I just remembered: there's an ancient Warrow legend that we are of the Giants."

"I just remembered a convenient legend never referred to before or after this scene, which just happens to back up your random and totally unbelievable observation! AWESOME!"

We're told that most Warrows dismiss this because… well, why would Wobbits be somehow produced by giant humanoids who are LITERALLY MADE OF STONE? In fact, it's so ridiculous that all Gildor can say is "Who knows the way of Adon?" Thanks. That really helps a lot.


"Have I not said there seems to be in you something of each of the High Folk, even the Utruni? Mayhap that is why you see farther than Elves in this Shadow-light, for Utruni eyes are strange, too."

"You have the superspeshul eyes of the great and mighty hybrid Sues!"



"And you say that we have eyes like theirs?" Patrel asked. "Gemstone eyes?"
"Nay, Captain Patrel, I say only that the hue of your eyes resembles theirs," answered Gildor.


"Then again, I should probably check…"
"OW!"
"Nope, not gemstones! Just a regular one."
"MY EYE! YOU POKED ME IN THE EYE, YOU BASTARD!"


"The clear eyes of the Waerlinga are emerald green, or golden amber, or sapphire blue - three bright colors only, as you well know."

… then why are you telling them? They KNOW this. They belong to that species!

Also, how does he know this? I mean, it's not like the Elves spend a lot of time with the Wobbits, and have made an exhaustive study of how many eye colors they have.


"How they came to notice us in the Great War against Gyphon, only Adon knows, though fragments of lost legends have it that here, too, Waerlinga played some unknown but key role in gaining their aid."

Dude, you're an elf. You were alive in that time period. You were an adult. So was everybody you know! HOW CAN IT BE NOTHING BUT "LEGENDS"?!

Also, seriously? So this super-speshul important role in the War of the Ban is something that nobody even KNOWS about?! So not only are they getting credit for something a few members of their species did MILLENNIA AGO, but nobody is even sure what that thing is! The only thing they DO know is that the Wobbits are the only ones who could have done it, and that the war would've been lost without their wonderfulness!

And guess what this has to do with the plot!


That's right! It will NEVER be mentioned again, nor does it have anything to do with the plot! This whole ridiculous scene is there just to

  1. Tell us that the Wobbies are Sueishly awesome, and they're still getting credit thousands of years later for a role in a war that NOBODY EVEN KNOWS ABOUT.
  2. Come up with an excuse that wasn't needed to explain why their Sue eyes are speshul instead of just accepting that they are.

So at this point Gildor realizes that the LIFE-THREATENING SITUATION THEY'RE IN has been completely hijacked by this stupid conversation, and that maybe they should stop talking about the speshulness of Wobbits. THANK GOD.


"King Aurion, I think we must turn the far-seeing eyes of the Wee Folk to our good. We know not how distant the eyes of the enemy forces can peer through this darkness sent by Modru, yet if the Waerlinga can see farther than the foe, then that will give us great vantage: advantage to set our forces beyond their vision and watch them come into our traps. Then we may strike swiftly and with deadly force, falling upon them out of the cover of their own dark myrk."

Okay, this is has MASSIVE flaws in it. Gildor even admits here that they don't know how well the enemy can see in the dark, and since these creatures have spent the last few millennia COMPLETELY IN THE DARK, I would expect them to have great night vision. For that matter, they don't know that the Dimmendark hasn't been specifically tailored so that they can see well.

And yet they're just ASSUMING that Wobbits can see further than the Generic Forces of Generic Evil! There's no actual basis for them to think this, but they're forming a military plan around it.


King Aurion struck a fist into his palm, and a fierce smile broke his frown. "Hail! At last a ray of hope."

"Hail" isn't something you say as an expletive like "Hot damn!" or "Hooray."


"If you are right, Lord Gildor, if the Wee Folk can see farther than the eyes of the enemy, then they will prove to be the key to our tactics, for we shall place Waerling eyes throughout our forces and swoop down upon the Horde like hawks upon rabbits."

IF. IF. IF.

Please pay attention to that word. It's a lovely little word that the good Lord gave us for when we want to show THE POSSIBILITY THAT THIS IS ALL BULLSHIT! Also, you can only "swoop down" if you can SEE. And by the time you swoop down, you'll be close enough that THE ENEMY CAN SEE YOU.

So because he hears a drum somewhere… which must be a helluva drum, since they can hear it at the top of THIS



AND a huge plain that is apparently so large that the Wobbits can't see across it. So either that's the biggest damn drum ever, or somebody is playing the bongos in the castle.

For some reason, this causes Gildor to pull out his sword. Which doubles as a flashlight, apparently.


Swiftly Gildor drew sword from scabbard and held the weapon high, and lo! set within the blade was a rune-carved blood-red jewel, and deep within the gem pulsed a ruby light!

  1. It possessed the power of DRAMAAAAAAA!
  2. That's some rotten craftsmanship, because I would think it would be a bad idea to put a radioactive ruby in the BLADE.
  3. I think he meant the hilt.
  4. Also, except for the radioactive ruby, this sounds a bit familiar…



"My sword Bale whispers that Evil comes," said the Elf,

"You hear your sword talk to me?"
"Of course I do! I hear the voices all the time!"
"You're kind of crazy, you know."
"What's that, Bale? Oh, how sad. My sword Bale whispers that I should kill you all."

For some reason he brings this sword our so he can look around in the darkness… so I guess he's using his sword as a flashlight. Um, okay.


Tuck knew that he looked upon one of the "special" Elven weapons forged long ago by the House of Aurinor.

  1. The House of WHAT?
  2. This is LITERALLY the first time anything called Aurinor has been mentioned!
  3. How would Tuck know this? He's a Wobbit. He knows nothing about Elves or their "special" weapons.
  4. Especially since it hasn't really been discussed with the Wobbits, and they know almost nothing about outside cultures.
  5. You are not Frodo Baggins. You have not been vaguely educated in elf-related things by a cousin who knows many of them. Stop pretending you know!



So they stand there… just listening to the drums. Again, these better either be hundreds of drums, or one the size of Rhode Island.


"So ho! Tuck!" A call from Finley sounded above the ominous pulse.

WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!

So finally, even though they've been staring off into the distance for the whole scene, only NOW they realize that the vast army of the Evil Dark Lord of Darkness is coming up on them.


"Look out beyond the hills!" Boom! Boom!

"It's Flight of the Conchords! We're saved!"


No, it's just time for another overly melodramatic line: "Modru's Horde," he said, his voice grim, a fell look in his viridian eyes. "Modru's Horde is come and their numbers are endless."

Dude, if they've only just come into your range of vision, you really shouldn't be able to see how many of them there are. Did "I think there are a lot of them" not sound cool enough?

So yeah, the Evil Hordes of Evil Evilness have finally showed up. And the whole time, McKiernan insists on doing the Batman sound effects for the drum beating. Okay, we get it. They have the biggest drum in the world, since they are across a very large plain AND DOWN A MOUNTAINSIDE.


Doom! Doom! Doom!



We get it. Thank you. The symbolism is enough.


Patrel spoke: "Thousands do I see. I cannot guess at their number, yet more come through the 'Dark behind."

You said "endless," not "thousands."

And whose dark behind are we talking about? The giant looming Butt of Evil?


Aurion's face turned ashen to hear such dire figures, for his forces were meager compared to the Horde. "Is there aught else?"
"Nay, Sire," answered Patrel, "except that more march out from the 'Dark."


"And for some reason, a lot of them have giant foam hands and vuvuzelas."

So yeah, the army goes out to wait to be overrun by the baddies, because for some reason the bad guys ALWAYS are much more numerous than the good guys. Again, something that made more sense in LOTR, where Saruman is implied to have bred his uruk-hai as full-grown adults, and Sauron spent a lot of time fragmenting Middle-Earth so nobody would be able to help Gondor. THERE'S NO SUCH REASON HERE. I guess the king was too lazy to get his allies and army's asses in gear until the very last minute.

That's why I said Aurion is a rotten king. He apparently hasn't bothered to get his army together or contact some allies, even though people have known for MONTHS that Modru is doing something. He's only doing it NOW, when the bad guys are marching on his castle.

And it's not like Modru is far away. Gron is the NEIGHBORING KINGDOM. Remember how this city/castle was actually constructed just so the High King could keep an eye on the enemy? Well, apparently he didn't bother to USE that proximity by, say, sending spies to figure out what Modru was doing, or his numbers, or some way they could sabotage them... NOPE. He just decided to sit and wait.


"Pah!" grated Aurion. "Could I but see them, then would I know whether to strike hard or withdraw. Rather would I cleave into their ranks in fury than to fight like a cornered badger."

You already ARE cornered. You're stuck on a mountaintop and the enemy army is coming right at you. You have no way out. And there's absolutely no telling when anyone will come to help you. (Spoiler alert: Never. Ever.)


Yet Tuck, too, said nought, though his eyes brimmed with tears of distress.

Take a shot! I swear, this guy tears up more times in one chapter than Elijah Wood did in the whole movie.



Doom! Boom! Doom! Boom!

PLEASE STOP THAT.

So Vidron shows up and… does nothing. The High King orders the retreat, so Vidron blows his horn to signal a… wait a second, isn't this guy supposed to be the high muckitymuck of the military here? Why isn't he leading the army?


Vidron lifted his black-oxen horn to his lips, and an imperative call split the air: Hahn, taa-roo! Hahn, taa-roo! (Return! Return!)

Thank you. I think I would have figured out the basic meaning without being told.


From the distant force below came a faint horn call. "Sire," rumbled Vidron, "Hagan questions the order."

"She also says that she's going to choke you with your own severed fingers if you don't stop bossing her around."



Doom! Boom! Doom! Doom!

WE GET IT! The drums are saying "doom"! It's all symbolic! Please stop!


"Ah, Vidron, your Captains of Valon are brave, yet bravery alone is not enough to whelm that Horde. Only the numbers of mine own Host can even begin to challenge such a might, and they are yet far south."

"This is because even though it's been obvious for months that the evil Dark Lord is about to invade, I never bothered to relocate mine own Host to the spot most likely to be invaded until the week they invade. Truly I am a wonderful king!"

So the Horde keeps coming, the good guys run away like little girls, and the Wobbits just sort of watch the bad guys. Why? So McKiernan can remind us of the different types there are… even though he already did that earlier in this chapter. Which is not even 1/3rd over.

Excuse me, I have to look at some kittens to quell my rage.



among the ranks were carried standards bearing Modru's sigil - a burning ring, scarlet on black, the sign of the Sun-Death.

You know, that sigil was being used even before the Ban existed. So… did Modru always want to kill the Sun, even before the Sun became a problem for him?


With a hideous, chilling howl, like that of a Vulg, a Ghul in fore center flung up his hand,

  1. "It's time for lunch!"
  2. "Okay, who took my keys? Seriously, guys…"
  3. Hearing that he howled like a Vulg would be more impressive if we knew what a Vulg sounds like. If he said "wolf," we might have some idea.

The bad guys completely surround the mountain… which is why it would probably have been better to put this castle near a river or ocean, so you could escape when attacked. You know, like the people in that other fantasy series.



So FINALLY they stop hitting that damn drum, and just… don't do anything. Yeah, the baddies just surrounded them and did nothing. I smell dramatic confrontations coming up.


"Captain Patrel, we must have sharp Waerling sight throughout the ranks of my forces, for only the strange jewel-eyes of your Folk have the vision to see afar through this myrk."

Dude, everyone can see the baddies right now. You don't need to see whoever's at the rear of their army.


"I would that you and your two Lieutenants remain with me and join my War-council, for I deem it will take all three of you to be our far-seeing eyes throughout the long days ahead."

"Even though you have exactly no military experience and won't really help at all, I really want you to hang out and give me advice along with seasoned warriors! Hot damn, I'm a great king!"

All the Wobbits apparently are upset because they've been stationed with various units through the castle… more so, I might add, than they were to leave their homeland and head off to an unfamiliar place to probably get killed. We're not shown this, BTW. We're just told.

Then... this randomly happens: Lord Gildor turned to Patrel. "Captain, if you will by my sharp-eyed comrade, then I'll teach you the harp while you show me the lute." Did McKiernan just forget that he was describing something that would take hours and hours to finish, and continue the scene that was interrupted?!

For some reason Vidron wants Danner as his sidekick, which is destined to end well.

"Shit! I just stubbed my toe!"
"WAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…"
"I think one of the Foul Folk just shot me in the back!"
"STOP, STOP, YOU'RE KILLING ME WAHAHAHAHA…"

So Tuck ends up accompanying the king… which sounds impressive until you realize that you're entrusting THE HIGH KING to a dude who can barely even see because he's too busy weeping.



"Sire," a herald came breathless unto the King, "Lord Gildor sends word: something is afoot along the eastern flank."

"He says that it was originally on a bicycle, but the chain broke."

No, it turns out that a force of Generic Evil Minions are marching to the south, which is probably to Weiunwood or Stonehill. If you think this is somehow essential to the plot… you would be wrong.


"Mayhap they have discovered that Arden Vale is an Elven strongholt," said Gildor, gripping the pommel of his long-knife. "Perhaps they will strike east for Talarin's hidden valley."

The elves in this series are kind of lame, aren't they? I mean, the elf lords in Tolkien's works were powerful enough to scare off Nazgul, but these guys are just immortal humans with pointed ears.

So then THAT STUPID DRUM starts thumping again… the bad guys start stirring… and then they camp. Meaning, all activity ceases and nothing is going to happen.



Well, that was wonderfully anticlimactic.


"Pah! They break for camp," growled Vidron after a moment, "and not to charge the walls below."

"I was looking forward to being slaughtered! My day is ruined!"

So an entire paragraph is devoted to everybody putting their weapons away. Then Aurion decides that they're all going to saunter down to the Council. Wow, I wonder if it will be boring!

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