"Token of power?" Despite the amount Alos had drunk, his speech was not slurred by ale. "And just what might one of these tokens be, hey?"
AW MAN! I can't believe McKiernan is making the narrative grind to a halt AGAIN. Every time something STARTS to happen in this book, suddenly we're back to storytime with Auntie Arin!
So we get an infodump about "objects of power," which are basically magical items in McKiernan's world. But since his magic doesn't work that way, he basically handwaves it by saying that it's "destiny."
"Empowered? Destiny? You speak in riddles, and I need another drink."
- YES. WE GET IT. Alos likes to drink. PLEASE SHUT UP.
- Also, exactly how are these items "empowered"? I mean, you can't give power to something so it can fulfill its destiny unless you know what that destiny is. Are McKiernan's gods able to see the future? If not, who gives power to them? SO MANY QUESTIONS!
- Also, how is Arin's answer a "riddle"? It seems pretty straightforward to me.
- So Alos keeps whining and Aiko keeps threatening him. Since we're in very real danger of having to get back to the plot, this is the chance to talk about DESTINY. Yippee.
Specifically, Egil says that he wants to hear about the tokens of power, because "it seems they, too, carry wyrds ... as do we all."
"Wyrds: that which drives men in the deeds they do ... or the thing that awaits them in the end."
Dude, if you can't come up with a definition for "wyrd," please don't bring up the subject at all. Either it's a driving force, or not.
Aiko gets pissed because he only mentioned men, and Arin completely ignores her because the Ken doll is talking.
"Aye, Lady Arin: a spear through my heart, a sword thrust, a death at sea, or some such. What it is I cannot say, but surely a wyrd awaits me."
And then he'll rejoin his ancestors in Sto-Vo-Kor?
Aiko again fixed him with her dark gaze. "And what if you die of old age in bed?"
"Then that would be LAME."
Oh, and guess how he'll eventually die! You get three guesses, and two of them shall be spent on candy.
"Mayhap thy wyrd has already come to pass, Egil. Mayhap it did so in Jute."
... uh, no. He gave two vague definitions of "wyrd" already, and losing an eye doesn't fit either of them unless he dies of an infection.
Since we've gone on a tangent, Alos drags us back kicking and screaming: "Wyrds I understand. —Oh, not that I believe in them.... But these tokens of power, well, they seem to be another thing altogether." He looked up at Arin. "Just what are they and how do you know?"
- Not to be overly demanding, but you would think that magical items would get a lot of attention. I mean, I know feudal societies didn't have efficient ways of communicating. But given the notoriety of saints' relics and the like in medieval times, it WAS possible for people to get all hyped up about stuff.
- Plus, I'd expect people to be even MORE interested by the tokens of power. St. Matthew's pinky MIGHT manifest miraculous power, but a legitimate magic spear DEFINITELY will.
"Tokens of power—at times hard to recognize, at other times known to all."
"For instance, the powerful and evil token known as the... Star Wars Holiday Special!"
Ah yes, a truly terrifying object. Many wizards and fanboys have perished under its power. It is said that all but the strongest, upon touching a bootleg, will be overwhelmed and reduced to a gibbering, sobbing mess.
"They can be for Good or Ill: Gelvin's Doom was a token of power for Evil—a feartoken."
And we're not going to find out about it for several more books.
"Those for Good are sometimes known: one is the Kammerling, Aden's Hammer, destined to slay the greatest Dragon of all—though where the Kammerling is, none can say."
Well, if the greatest dragon has any brains, he's stolen and eaten it so nobody can use it against him.
"Too, there is a sword in Adonar, Bale by name, and it would appear to fit the mold, though what its destiny may be, none can say."
Isn't that sort of... normal? And how can you even know it has a destiny if nobody knows what it is? And... everything in the world has a "destiny," so it's kind of dumb to say that a sword has a "destiny."
"Others are unknown and seem to be one thing—jewels, poniards, rings, a trinket—but are truly something else altogether."
"For instance, this trinket here is actually a corkscrew."
"Many look as if they hold no power at all, until, that is, they manifest their doom."
"For instance, I had this underwire bra that looked as if it had no power at all. But then it manifested its doom by snapping its hooks during a battle, and conveniently blinding the Spawn that was attacking me. I slew hundreds with my broken bra!"
"... and now you're just making stuff up."
"What if I bore one of these tokens of power—say, a ring or some such—but when the time came I did not know how to use it, or tried to use it but failed? What then of the destiny?"
"What then of the destiny if thou didst fail to use a token as it was meant to be?"
... then clearly it was part of the token's destiny that you were supposed to fail.
I don't think McKiernan quite gets the idea of destiny. You can't DEFY it. If you do anything - or FAIL at doing it - then it's a PART of your destiny.
"A token of power seems to have ways of fulfilling its own destiny," answered Arin. "If thou didst fail, still would the token strive to achieve its doom. By another's hand, if not by thine.
Again, THE SUBTLETY IS TOO MUCH.
"Aye, I'll grant thee, tokens of power are mysterious things, perhaps guided by Adon from afar, or by Gyphon ... or Elwydd or Garlon or any of the others—who can say? Yet none but perhaps the gods know for certain which things are tokens ... until their ordained work comes to pass."
- Wow. Could Arin BE any more unhelpful?
- I also am kind of puzzled by McKiernan's gods, because I sort of wonder how powerful they're supposed to be. They hardly ever do ANYTHING, and even when they get credited with stuff it never really makes it clear if it's even their doing or just "destiny."
- In fact, I can only think of one incident where any god except Gyphon actually DID SOMETHING.
- So... are these gods supposed to be near-almighty? Are they omniscient? What are the extent of their powers? If they went to all the trouble of making different planes and worlds and all the people in them, how come they never do anything after that? What about them is particularly "godly"? Are they actually the source of all these magical prophecies and items?
- I NEED SOME ANSWERS, DAMMIT!
"Hear me, though, for this I do believe: the green stone is a token of power, yet one which I pray never fulfills its destiny."
Except that if it DOESN'T cause a massive war involving dragons, then NOT starting a war WAS its destiny... you know what, fuckit. I've already explained why this makes no sense.
So Egil makes the conversation even duller by basically saying that nobody has any free will if there's a token of power around. So he hopes that he doesn't encounter one, because... well, people tend to be fond of free will.
Aiko looked at Egil. "Think on this: perhaps it is your wyrd to, as you say, come upon one of them. Perhaps you have no choice."
Egil gazed back at her. "What do you believe, Aiko? About tokens of power, that is, and whether or no they compel us to pursue their destinies?"
Aiko took a breath and said, "If I were to come upon one, then perhaps I would choose the token for it would suit my aims, and perhaps the token would choose me for the selfsame reason."
YOU ARE MADE OF STUPID. First you argued that if Egil came across a token, he might not have any choice in the matter... but then claim that YOU would still have free will in the same situation.
Aiko really thinks she's a speshul snowflake, doesn't she? And keep in mind: we later find out that she was selected to accompany Arin.... BECAUSE OF A PROPHECY.
"Yes, Egil One-Eye, I do. I have free choice, all things being equal."
"All things being equal? What do you mean by that?"
"Just this: the gods may will it otherwise that I do a thing I would rather not. Then I would have no choice at all in the matter."
.... Aiko is very, very stupid, isn't she? I mean, apparently she does believe in free will, except her definition of free will includes "unless the gods force me to" - meaning it's not actually free will. So she believes in free will, unless it's NOT free will.
Seriously, keep the samurai chick from talking about smart stuff.
"Except for my wyrd, I, too, believe I have unfettered choice in all things. But as to my wryd, I have no choice whatsoever. No matter the path I freely take, in the end I will meet the blade with my name on it, or the ship or spear or come what may; as it is with all men, I cannot escape my wyrd. The power that rules even the gods makes it so, though the gods themselves may have a hand in it."
- Egil is also really stupid. Like Aiko, he believes in free choice... except when he doesn't.
- Also, it's a little annoying that he keeps claiming that his wyrd is TOTALLY to die in battle. He seems a little desperate to convince himself of this, actually.
- I mean, it's not like EVERY warrior dies a heroic and awesome death, no matter how badass he is. Attila the Hun drowned in his own nosebleed during his wedding reception. Charlemagne died of pleurisy. Alexander the Great croaked from (probably) typhoid fever. Tycho Brahe died because he didn't pee. Jack Daniel stubbed his toe to death. Genghis Khan is thought to have died from falling off his horse. Miyamoto Musashi died of cancer. George Washington expired of a throat infection.
- All I'm sayin' is, not every warrior is a Leonidas. You have no reason to think you've got a speshul death destiny.
- For all we know, your wyrd is to step on a tack and get tetanus.
- WHAT power that rules the gods? I'm sorry, but nobody mentioned jack-shit about any power exceeding that of the gods! I do not understand the cosmology of this series AT ALL!
And after about five minutes of people talking about the gods, Alos suddenly snaps out of his drunken stupor. He rants for one sentence about how much the gods suck, and then cries. Since it's Alos, he's gross about it.
Long strings of tear-driven clear mucus dangled down from his nose.
Thank you. I wanted to imagine that.
Aiko hasn't been pissy in a minute or two, so she says, "Only men have wyrds? What of women . . . and what of the Dylvana and Lian and Dwarves and all other of Elwydd's creations? And what of the Foul Folk made by Gyphon? Am I and all of these others completely bereft of wyrds?" Egil is, for some reason, TOTALLY shocked that someone would make this logical point, and he has to stop and think about it for awhile. Smoke starts pouring out of his ears.
"It's just that you had never considered anyone or anything other than men. Rikotekina otoko!" She turned her back to him in disgust.
For the record, "otoko" means a man. I honestly don't know if McKiernan is using that word correctly, but I'm pretty sure he's not using "rikotekina" correctly. I googled it, and got nothing except a song title.
And then, Alos makes a comeback. Still tearing, he smiled his gap-toothed, ocherous grin at Arin and said, "Let's all have us a drink, aye?" I'm all for that, Alos. I think I do need a drink.
Arin did not tell more of her tale that night, for Egil was weakened and weary, and she insisted that he get some sleep.
You know, Arin kind of sucks as a storyteller. I mean, not only do people interrupt her for a half hour at a time, but nobody really seems to be in a hurry for her to actually get started again. I mean, this chick is on a mission to SAVE THE WORLD from apocalyptic dragon war via a magic rock... and nobody seems really interested in what she has to say.
So Arin manages to keep Alos from going bar-hopping, and everybody else sleeps. Well, Arin sits there staring at the fire all night, and Aiko is still meditating which is STILL not a substitute for sleep. But then Egil has a nightmare where he starts screaming and yelling his men's names.
But the next morning, Arin has apparently forgotten all about it, because she's helping Thar put Medieval Neosporin on Egil's wounds. Then Thar leaves. Glad that was included.
And then Orri comes by, having gotten a custom eyepatch for Egil. " 'Tis a gift fr' th' crew. They wanted ye t' ha'e it. Ach, ye'll make a fine figure o' a Fjordsman when we go back at th' Jutes, lad, and ye take y'r revenge. We e'en had it scribed wi' Adon's sign—th' war- hammer one, it be: th' Kammerling, or so they say 'tis. Right fitting, too, for what better symbol to bear on a raid of vengeance than th' thing the Dwarves call the Rage Hammer, aye?"
- Don't these guys have anything better to do than get this?
- If it's a gift to him from the crew, OBVIOUSLY they wanted him to have it.
- "Rage Hammer" sounds like the name of a truly awesome metal band. Not a criticism, just an observation.
- You know, the accents in this story really fascinate me. They're SO wonderfully inconsistent. I mean, people who have lived in the same area, sometimes the same VILLAGE for their whole lives...
- ... and yet some of them have no accents, while others have accents you could carve into slices. I think the thickness of your accent depends on how major a character you are.
It was nigh mid of day when Arin took up her tale once again. . . .
And nobody really noticed.