Chapter 3:

When we’d last left Romilly, she’d just gotten all angry at how dare her evil nurse conspire with her evil mother and equally evil sister and brother to throw her pants away. How dare they! They are so evil! Anyone who gets in the way of letting Romilly do what she wants is immediately evil!

And when a single person is allowed to define the morality of a whole world, it’s time to scrunch up the manuscript, throw it into the fire and go back to the drawing board. Really. The above, my friends, is the number one telltale sign of Sueishness. Not speshulness, not sparkles, not everyone admiring the Sue and exclaiming how wonderful he or she is, but one character being allowed to define the morality of a whole world.

In any case, the chapter opens ten days before Midsummer, when Romilly’s brother Darren comes home. It happens when they’re having a family meal, and Romilly immediately drops all politeness and decorum and runs to the door to meet him, and is actually gleeful at the discord she’s caused:

Behind her she heard the clattering of Rael’s boots, and laughed at the thought of Luciella’s disquiet—the peaceful meal had been disrupted for good, this time. (Pg. 429)

So I’m supposed to forgive Romilly her narcassism, rubbishing and general all-round prickishness…why, exactly? Because she’s the main protagonist? Because she’s being so horribly oppressed by the evil patriarchal system? Because she has speshul powers that she never worked for or spent anything to gain? I really can’t think of a reason I should like Romilly besides the fact that the great MZB says so. Can anyone enlighten me on this?

In any case, even the gate-guards are happy to see Darren return, and he introduces her to his new friend—but not before telling Romilly how amazing she is and how she’s grown as a woman. “You’re a very special man, Richard Cypher,” anyone? Anyways, this kid’s name is Alderic, and he is, to put it in Team Fortress 2 terms, Poor and Irish. Of course, Romilly thinks Darren’s very kind to have befriended a boy outside of his social class and muses on the subject, and I’m wondering just why there’s so much exposition on class struggle in a book like this, especially when Romilly’s shown zero interest in this sort of thing before.

In any case, evil misogynistic father approaches the two after their belongings have been taken up to their rooms, and he and Darren’s friend make political talk. Apparently things are heating up in the world of Darkover, and I suppose fans of the series will probably make more of it than I can, since I’m not familiar with the setting. Anyways, we appear to get the standard fantasy fare, exiled rightful king, civil war, blah blah. GRRM should have taught us all about how laughable the idea of “rightful kings” are, but then again, not everyone’s conworld is as depressing as his is. After all that, Romilly wants to show Alderic her new amazing super-speshul bird, and we get this outburst from not one, but two characters affirming how amazingly wonderful and talented Romilly is:

“Romilly trained it herself,” Rael burst out, while her father frowned. “When Davin was sick. She waited up all night until it would feed, and the hawkmaster said that father could not have done better himself—”

“Aye,” the MacAran said roughly, “your sister has done what you would not do, boy—you should take lessons from her in skill and courage! Would that she had been the boy, and you the maiden, so that you might put skirts about your knees and spend the day in scribbling and embroidering within the house—” (Pg. 433)

I am already more than displeased with Romilly. Having the entire world, even the bad guys, chime in to affirm her superior status over the rest of humanity makes me want to take a whole bottle of pain pills. One of the main things I did for Embers was to make sure Lenka wasn’t the only special person around, and to give everyone equal time. It’s a thing I like to do. In any case, the EVVVVIL MacAran commands Romilly to take both her brother and Alderic to the hawk-house, and she does so, introducing them to Preciosa. Interestingly enough, she uses a feather to stroke the feathers on the bird’s belly, because there’s a powder on feathers that keeps them in proper flying condition. Unless I’ve had a brain-fart, this is correct—save one small point: it’s fine to touch the feathers on their bellies, but not their flight-feathers. And wouldn’t a feather all covered with icky human oils have exactly the same effect our fingers would have?

Lenka, damnit, where are you when I need you for consultation? All right, that was nasty and selfish of me, but I like to not have to write disclaimers when I have to rely on factual stuff.

In any case, Darren’s problem becomes clear: he’s a pussy, terrified of hawks, anything sharp, and anything that moves, really. Which explains why the MacAran is so pissed with him, especially since he’s supposed to be the heir. Of course, the message here is that the evil patriarchal system is just as punishing to men as it is to women, and that everyone should help fight the evil patriarchal system.

This, my friends, is a perfect example of a message that I might well have agreed with in principle, but was utterly and completely fucked up in the delivery. We’ll see more of this later. There’s more talking about Romilly’s eldest brother, yadda yadda, more talking about how wonderful Romilly’s speshul bird is, and there’s this little snippet:

“You trained her? A girl? But why not, you are a MacAran. In the tower where I dwelt for a time, some of the woman tamed and flew verrin hawks taken in the wild, and we are apt to say there, to one who has notable success with a hawk, Why, you have the hand of a MacAran with a bird…” (Pg. 437)

Looks peachy, eh? There’s one small problem, though:

Birds of prey are not tamed.

Birds of prey are NOT TAMED.


As I understand these things from what Lenka’s told me and scribbled about in her journal entries, there are two ways to get a bird: well, actually one way, considering they come from the same person. You put some birds you already have in a breeding program and get the eggs. From there, you can choose either to have the eyeasses raised by foster parents, or raise them yourself, which makes them imprints and generally more spoiled and demanding than the rest of the lot. You don’t go out and capture one yourself, then break it to your will.

And verbatim, straight off MSN:

“well, it is mostly semantics, BUT considering the relationship you have with the animal, you dont even tame a dog – the dog views you as the pack leader.

so – the closest you can get to the bird is to get it to accept you as its hunting partner – as its equal

you “man” them

thats what we call it

you take the bird with you everywhere you go, talk to it constantly to get it used to the sound of your voice, touch it, pet it – contact is very important

but gently

if the bird is not comfortable with you touching it, you do so very tenderly, until it realizes you are not hurting it or doing anything harmful to it”

Romilly just chucked it into the mews, took it out for fun once or twice, and otherwise let it rot there. Speaking of which, she’s furious when she finds out the hawk-boy has been feeding the birds rotting offal. Which should have meant they’re all dead, but they’re not so with no permanent harm, so she can get all righteously angry about it:

She turned with relief to Davin, who was coming through the courtyard. “Was it you, old friend, gave orders to feed the hawks on the offal of the kitchens, and not even fresh at that?: She pointed at the pan of offending refuse; Davin picked it up, sniffed disdainfully at it, and put it aside. (Pg. 436)

Ugh. Let’s see what a REAL falconer has to say on the issue:

“When feeding, never feed lungs, especially not if feeding the bird with other birds. Always take out and throw away digestive system – all of it. When preparing birds, like pigeons or quail, you have to be very careful not to rupture the crop when taking it out – thats where digestion starts, so if the bird was sick, chances are the disease has spread there as well. Not that they cannot get sick from the meat as well, but its always safe to take these parts out. I leave the heart and the liver in – they are rich in nutrients and the birds love them.”

So Davin goes up and arranges for the birds to have the best and freshest…innards and offal every day. And Romilly is fine with that:

“I’ve brought fresh-killed meat for your hawk, Mistress Romilly,” Davin said, coming into the stableyard. “One of the cooks had just killed a fowl for roasting at dinner; she let me have the innards for your bird, and I gave orders for the freshest offal of every day to be put aside for you in the morning; that garbage Ker brought was from the day before, because one of the cooks put it aside for the dogs, and he was too busy eyeing the wenches in the kitchen to ask for the fresh meat.” (Pgs. 437-438)


More Lenka quoting from MSN:


no it isnt?

you know how many diseases are in that?

intestines? nooooooo

you fail so hard

this book should have been called “Hawkslayer-ess! The fastest way to kill a bird”

i am now disappoint

its one of those things

Falconry 101: Never, absolutely NEVER feed your bird intestines. They should be the first thing you take out. Not only that, the whole digestive tract has to be removed. i know, birds in the wild eat those as well, but falconry is not exactly “birds in the wild”. we dont play roulette with our birds lives”

Eventually, they go and fly Romilly’s super-speshul bird with a lure.

Romilly watched jealously as the hooded hawk settled down comfortably on Alderic’s wrist; but Preciosa seemed content and she turned to tying the line around the meat, so that Preciosa could not snap it away too swiftly, and mut bring it down to the ground to eat, as a good hunting-hawk must learn to do; badly tamed hawks tended to snatch food from a lure in midair, which taught them little about hunting practice. They must be taught to bring the prey down to their master, and to wait until the meat was given to them from the hand. (Pg. 438)

Don’t you think it’s amusing that Romilly whines about what her parents are doing to her, and then insists that her bird behave exactly according to her wishes? Anyways, here’s the relevant Lenka-quote:

“birds kill it and they start ripping it and eating, which is okay, since they always start with the breast
when i come, i give the bird good clean food as a reward
but i rarely let them feed on it
yeah, tell the deranged killer to politely wait until you take it, haha
they killed it, so they munch on it
you just have to run to get there as fast as you can
for people its okay, since avian diseases are not easily transferrable to people and cooking kills everything
but raw meat is different”

And upon examining the quote:

“nooooo you cannot teach that
just to wrap up – the bird is protective of its kill and lets you near because it doesnt think you will take its kill – it gets rewarded on the glove. but a kill is a kill so they will eat. they will let you near, but they will still try to eat what they killed
when your bird catches something, you go to it, cover the kill with your bag or something and offer a replacement – a reward
if the bird thinks you are taking its food away, it will try to get it away from you and it will be agressive towards you
so basically – you kill, you eat”

And on the matter of the lure, which apparently means the great MZB STILL can’t decide if the bird’s a hawk or falcon:

“well, there are different types of lures. the one most commonly called a “lure” is this thing made out of leather and it has dried – out wings of the target quarry attached to it. you swing that and the falcon makes high – speed passes at it, simulating hunt in the air. for hawks we use dummy bunnies and for eagles dummy foxes/deer – basically the preys hide wrapped around a large enough cylinder you pull behind yourself, so the bird chases it on the ground – for ground hunters but lures are most commonly used for falcons, the first type of lure is used for falcons eclusively, since you do not fly falcons to the fist”

And on tying a bit of meat to a string and whirling it about:

“no how des that benefit a bird? in no way
with lure, the most important thing is that it looks close enough to real prey and that way they get somewhat of a hunting experience – its supposed to strenghten their muscles and sharpen their instincts”

In other words, falconry fail.

In any case, Romilly’s bird returns to the glove, only not quite on the glove, and Romilly starts bleeding. Darren squeals like a pig at the sight of blood, and Romilly’s all nonplussed about it, because she could never catch anything horrible from a wound, especially in the lack of antiseptic. Anyways, suddenly, Evil Father’s there, and he’s all RAAAAAGE at Darren for not acting LIKE A MAN:

“And this is what I have for a son and heir,” said The MacAran bitterly. He was standing in the dor of the hawk-house, watching the three young people unseen. His voice, even in his anger, was low—he knew better than to raise his voice near a frightened bird. He stood silent, staring with his brows knitted in a scowl, as Romilly coaxed the hawk down to her wrist and untangled the lines. “Are you not ashamed, Darren, to stand by while a little girl bests you at what should come by instinct to any son of mine? But that I knew your mother so well, I would swear you had been fathered by some chance-come beggar of the roads…Bearer of Burdens, why have you weighted my life with a son so unfit for his place?” He grabbed Darren’s arm and jerked him inside the hawk-house; Romilly heard Darren cry our and her teeth met in her lip as if the blow had landed on her shoulders.

“Get out there, now, and try to behave like a man for once! Take this hawk—no, not like that, damnation take you, you have hands like great hams for all your writing and scribbling! Take the hawk out there and exercise her on a lure, and if I see you ducking away from it like that, I swear I’ll have you beaten and sent to bed with bread and water as if you were Rael’s age!” (Pg. 439-440)

This is horribly, horribly terrible because her evil father’s forcing Darren to “go agaist everything which is natural for him”. Terry Pratchett had something to say about the idea of “natural”, which is the basic, “natural” state of humanity being that of living in trees and flinging poop at one another. The whole idea of “responsibility” is going against one’s baser instincts to get done what needs to be done. At what point does one draw the line between needing to fulfil one’s responsibility and giving up because of sheer incompatiability. That’s not an easy question to answer.

But according to Associate Professor Evil, there are three things that are required for one to be evil:

1. Know-it-all.

“First, you must be convinced of your own self-importance, and you must be under the delusion that everyone else is an idiot except for you. It helps to be a college student, so you should all do just fine.”

2. Spoiled

“Second, you must be obsessed with your own rights and freedoms, have a sense of undeserved entitlement, and suffer from a disease called ‘I-can-do-whatever-the-f***-I-want-because-I’m-convinced-that-there’re-absolutely-no-consequences-for-any-of-my-actions’.”

3. Despises authority

“And lastly, you must fancy yourself a rebel who stands against all forms of authority, and thinks that the government, corporations, and ‘the man’ are responsible for all the woes in the world, which of course isn’t very rebellious at all; it’s what every other twenty-something moron who thinks that he’s an individual with an original thought believes.”

Romilly? Evil? By this definition, definitely. And so the chapter closes with her watching her brother struggle with her hawk and wondering just how he can bungle up something that’s so easy. As if I didn’t need more reason to loathe her already.If not for how laughable the characters are, I might have responded better to the message that’s being screamed at us over the loudspeakers, but unfortunately that’s not going to happen any more.

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  1. Danielle on 6 February 2010, 16:54 said:

    She also seems to take situational ethics to a whole new level: It’s okay for her to do it if she does it, but when anyone else does what she does, it’s terrible and wrong. I guess that can be construed as pride, which is not only one of the Seven Deadly Sins, but is also an incredibly annoying character trait in anyone and makes most people want to kick you in the teeth.

    Onto the whole misogyny thing….What about the misogynist’s point of view? I read one book that was about four women who all work in a shipyard making landing craft for the Americans during WWII. One of them, Rosa, was living with her in-laws while her husband was overseas. Long story short, they were from Holland and in their sixties, while Rosa was in her twenties and from Brooklyn, meaning she and her father-in-law had completely different ideas when it came to women and independence. They clashed quite often—over issues that weren’t always small—but the author was always careful to show why Wolter (the father-in-law) felt the way he did: In his time, men were supposed to protect women and their reputations, so while he wasn’t always right in what he said or did, he always had a good reason for it.

    If MZB would at least make an effort to show why Evil Misogynistic Father wants Romilly to behave like a lady (is he worried about her reputation? Is he afraid she’ll get hurt? Does he not want her doing dangerous, tomboy things because he’s afraid of what the nobles will think if they see a princess doing dangerous, tomboy things? Is he afraid she’ll kill a perfectly good falcon because she’s a member of the so-called “weaker sex”?) If MZB showed him as a member of his culture instead of an Evil Misogynist, this book might be bearable.

  2. Nate Winchester on 6 February 2010, 18:25 said:

    One of the main things I did for Embers was to make sure Lenka wasn’t the only special person around, and to give everyone equal time.

    There’s starting to get too many Lenkas in this spork, a bit confusing.

  3. @@@@@@@@@ on 7 February 2010, 21:06 said:

    Ooh. I was starting to think he was getting falconry advice from a character in his books. O.o

  4. falconempress on 8 February 2010, 04:14 said:

    Ooh. I was starting to think he was getting falconry advice from a character in his books. O.o

    haha no. that is my desperate rage and anger you are reading:P But he also has a character named “Lenka” in one of his books, so I can see how that is confusing.