Chapter 8, part the second.

When we last left Romilly, she had gone out about the town with Orain despite the fact that there was an immediate and life-threatening danger to the REEL KEENG. In any case, they’re in an inn having their dinner and listening to the locals express openly their amazing support for the REEL KEENG. Question. If the EVUL KING is so oppressive and evil and has spies everywhere that cause fear in the people, then why are they openly expressing themselves and getting away with it?

Anyways, Orain mentions to Romilly that it’s important to have popular support for the king in Nevarsin, but he does so for the wrong reason:

“Part of my reason for walking about town is to hear how the folk think—see how much support there is here for the king. If we’re to raise men for him here, it’s urgent there must be popular support so no one will betray us—a lot of things can be done in secret, but you can’t raise an army that way!” (Pg. 554)

Uh, what? You mean that just by walking around once, you can determine there’s not one snitch, spy or plain opportunist in the city? Are you absolutely sure? How about travellers? Merchants? People passing through and spreading news without malicious intent? Sooner or later, the EVUL KEENG is going to learn about what’s going on, especially if they have telepaths in this world. Betrayal has nothing to do with it.

Anyways, they finish their meal and doze off, although no one robs them or stabs them in the back and makes off with all their belongings. In any case, Orain shakes Romilly awake, and we get a monologue on how women like Romilly are so much superior, independent and free-spirited than other women. Oh, and of course, men are evil:

I like Orain. I would rather respect him, and if he knew I were a woman he would be like all the others…

As they climbed he leaned on her arm more and more heavily. Once he turned aside from her, and, unbuttoning his trousers, relieved himself against a house wall; Romilly was, not for the first time, grateful for her farm upbringing which had made this something she could accept unblushing—if she had been a housebred woman like Luciella or her younger sister, she could have been outraged a dozen times a day. But then, if she had been a housebred woman, she would probably never have thought to protest the marriage her father had arranged, and she could certainly never have been able to travel with so many men without somehow revealing herself. (Pg. 557)

Oh, really. Oh, REALLY. I’d be annoyed too if some other guy went and pissed against a wall randomly. It’s called decorum. And of course, it’s not because Romilly is so adept at disguising herself that everyone doesn’t realise what she is, it’s more that the author has struck everyone blind to that fact, much like the way she and her stupid bird have been thrown together—by authorial contrivance.

In any case, they get back to the monastery and go to bed…but wait, what about the danger to the king? Isn’t that supposed to be like, y’know, IMPORTANT, considering that Dom Carlo is TOTALLY NOT THE REAL KING? (And for real this time, since I read ahead). So we get a scene change, and there’s some description on Romilly’s life at the monastery with Dom Carlo’s merry band of men. Of course, with the worldly wisdom of a fifteen-year-old who’s just left her secluded country house for the first time in her life, she deduces that Caryl is Not Evil:

There was one sporano among the boys, with a sweet, flutelike voice; she strained her eyes to see the singer and realised at last that it was small Caryl, the son of Lyondri Hastur.

He wished King Carolin no ill. Romilly hoped that Orain had passed along his message to Dom Carlo and that he, somehow, had gotten word to the king, that Carolin had not come to the city. (Pg. 559)

She also goes out drinking with Orain a few more times, and is amazed that she doesn’t detest him. Of course, this is cue for another important lesson on why Marrying Is Evil and Oppressive:

Shyly, she began to wonder; if her father had chosen to marry her to one like Orain, would she have refused him? She thought not. But that was conflict too.

For then would I have stayed at home and been married, and never known this wonderful freedom of city and tavern, woods and fields, never have worked free and had money in my pockets, never really known that I had never been free, never flown a sentry-bird. (Pg. 559-560)

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-becau
se-I’m-convinced-that-there’re-absolutely-no-consequences-for-any-of-my-actions’.”

Translation: I want to boot around without any responsibilities beyond myself. Of course, we all know that in pre-industrial society all the men were out having fun, and not toiling away in often hazardous occupations and rounded up by the rich and powerful to fight wars, and the women were chained to the kitchen endlessly making babies and sandwiches instead of contributing economically, so this whole “cottage industry” thing, which was the second biggest thing after subsistence agriculture, must have been run by genies. Invisible magical genies.

As usual, it’s a nice gesture if you look at it one way: go out, see the world. Another interpretation: evade responsbilities for as long as you can in any way possible. I don’t care which you want, what aggravates me is that it’s set against the backdrop of “Romilly is great, all those other women are dumb and stupid for getting married, being tied down and never knowing freedom! I am so superior to them, because mine is the only right way to live regardless of personal choice!” Change “women” to “religious people”, and you’ll understand why I hated Bitterwood so much. It’s grating on the nerves when every other page you turn the author is giggling and wetting his or her panties at how clever he or she is at preaching to the unwashed masses.

Guess what? I. Don’t. Fucking. Care. I don’t remember being asked to read a pamphlet, this wasn’t in the original agreement I had with the author when I picked up this book. I remember being asked to read a novel. Nevertheless, here’s another short dribble that makes me really wonder:

She was growing fond of the huge ugly birds; now they came to her hand for their food as readily as any sparrowhawk or child’s cagebird. Either her arm grew stronger or she was more used to it, for now she could hold them for a considerable time and not mind the weight. Their docility and the sweetness she felt when she went into rapport with men, made her think with regret of Preciosa; would she ever see the hawk again? (Pg. 560)

Sparrowhawks being as tame as cagebirds? Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me? Sparrowhawks and goshawks—essentially all accipiters—are the most batshit insane, foaming-at-the-beak-kill-everything birds of prey, and have absolutely no concept of their size when it comes to trying to kill something. It’s why I based the phoenix on an accipiter. And MZB thinks that they’re on the level of cagebirds? Really?

Dohoho that slaps both me and Lenka on the knee.

“awww isnt that cute, she thinks the deranged killing machine wants to cuddle Sparrowhawks are Accipiters aggressive as all hell these, by some falconers, are considered to be some of the hardest birds to train”

The second bit reminds me of that bit in Eragon where he worked off his so-called baby fat. But of course, being a farmer and manual labourer in the first place, why the hell would he have baby fat? It’s the same question here. We’re supposed to accept that Romilly has been running around the mews and stables since she was very young, yet only now she’s getting used to having a bird on her hand?

And of course, not to mention convenient disappearance of bird, only to return at some important point in time to save the day, I’m sure. Excuse me while I go take a break to reread Iorich by Steven Brust, which I bought just a couple of days ago.

…Aaaaah. Much better. In any case, some time passes and it’s almost midwinter-night, which is TOTALLY NOT CHRISTMAS. Romilly misses her family a little, which is a plus point in my book because it’s a suggestion she might actually care about someone other than herself and isn’t dictated to do so by the plot, but immediately quashes it with another quote:

…But then she remembered that in any case she would not have spent this holiday at her home, but at Scathfell as the wife of Dom Garris—and by now, no doubt, she would have been like Darissa, swollen and ugly with her first child! (Pg. 560-561)

Dear god, stop saying it. Once was bad enough, and I understood the message. Now I’m being talked down to like some sort of five-year-old who needs to be reminded that pregnancy is EVUL and BAD not because of the increased responsibilities, social implications, life-affecting decisions one has to make when one has a child, or anything of that sort, but because pregnant women are FAT and UGLY.

Hello? Hello? How shallow do you think young women reading your book are? Do you really think that the most pressing concern in their life is how amazing and wonderful they look? Really? Is that how you think of women who aren’t already on your side?

I shall not ask. I mean, this is the sort of mindset the phoenix would have, and I intentionally designed her to be a crazy bitch in every sense of the word.

Anyways, Romilly notices that Dom Carlo’s horse isn’t in the stable, and Orain notices her asking around and tells her not to say to others that Carlo’s gone, since it might mean the difference between life and death. Oh, and he promises Romilly a Midwinter present. Then we cut to Caryl bugging her about the birds, and she asks him why the cold doesn’t bother him. His answer?

“It is the first thing the monks teach us,” he said, “how to warm ourselves from within, by breathing; some of the older monks can bathe in the water of the well and then dry their clothes by their body heat when they put them on, but that seems a little more than I would want to try. I was cold for the first tenday before I learned it, but I have never suffered from the cold since then.” (Pg. 562)

By breathing? You can change your body temperature by breathing to a degree enough to keep out the snow and serve as a human dryer? Really? And your core temperature won’t go awry, leading to all sorts of chemical processes in your body going awry due to this happy thing known as protein denaturation and enzymatic failure? People really give too much credit to biofeedback.

This reminds me of the invisibibility powder from Bitterwood. Don’t assume Moore’s Law can be extrapolated infinitely, thank you very much, and it’s much the same case here. Anyways, Orain arrives on the scene, and Caryl recognises him. Happily, Romilly was 100% right about him being Not Evil and hence proving that her perceptions are identical to objective reality:

Orain flinched, and for a moment did not answer. Then he said, “I have come here for sanctuary, lad, since I am no longer welcome at the court where your father rules the king. Will you give the alarm, then?”

“Certainly not,” said the boy with dignity, “under the roof of Saint Valentine, even a condemned man must be safe, sir. All men are brothers who shelter here—this much the cristoforo have told me, Master Rumal, if you wish to go with your master, I will put the birds on their perches for you.”

“Thank you, but I can manage then,” said Romilly, and took Temperance on her fist; Caryl trailed her with the other bird on his two hands. He said in a whisper, “did you know he was one of Carolin’s men? They are really not safe here.” (Pg. 563)

I wish I could tell anyone’s true nature with a glance. It would be so nice. And of course, children can’t be nasty, spiteful or small-minded, despite all my experiences to the contrary when I was a child.

Oh well.

In any case, Romilly learns there’s even greater danger to the REEL KEENG, as the EVUL KING’S CHANCELLOR Caryl’s father is coming to town tomorrow, and he has majeek that can control the weather. Apparently, this is a Bad Thing, although used properly this guy could be a valuable man. But whatever. Apparently Caryl is sympathetic to the REEL KEENG’S cause, although why isn’t quite explained. As such, I’ll just put up Orain’s reaction:

Orain’s clenched fist drove into his other hand. “Damnation! And Zandru knows, he’s not one to observe sanctuary-law! If he sets eyes—” Orain fell silent. “Why did Dom Carlo have to go away at this time of all times—” he said at last. “I;ll luck dogs us! I’ll try and get a message to him—” (Pg. 564) [sic]

So what does Orain do, especially when it’s stated later that the EVIL CHANCELLOR knows at least several of the travelling party? Does he hurry back to the monastery, get matters in order? Does he shake the stableboy out of sleep and yell at him to get his best horse saddled for a messenger? No, what he does is have another drink with Romilly, then give her a midwinter present, THEN have a game of darts with her—

Excuse me while all sense of urgency goes out the window. Anyways, we discover that Romilly is suffering from Power Creep as Orain leaves her to talk with a strange mysterious man in the shadows:

A small voice in her mind said: No. Stay where you are. Act as if everything were normal. Since Romilly was not yet accustomed to the use of her own laran—and it was rare for her to be so much in touch with the feelings of any human, though she now took rapport with her birds for granted—she was not sure whether this were actually a message reaching her, or her own projected feelings, but she obeyed it. (Pg. 566)

Oh, great. This is little better than the dreaded “somehow” we’ve all come to fear. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but oh well. Apparently Orain has received a message from this mysterious man, and they should hurry back to the monastery. So how should they cover their tracks?

With a traditional fantasy bar brawl, of course:

She nodded to let him know she understood. The next moment Orain shouted, “what in nine hells do you there, man, your big feet halfway over the line—I won’t play darts with a cheating bastard like that, not even at Midwinter—gifts I will make but not be cheated out of a drink or a silver bit!” (Pg. 567)

Uh, wasn’t the point of this meeting to be, I don’t know, discreet? Why take a stupid chance like that? Orain’s making himself stand out, and people are going to remember his face. Hell, what if whatever passed for the city watch came by and threw them both into the slammer? What happened to just sneaking out?

In any case, the bartender breaks up the brawl after a while, and orders Orain to pay compensation. All eyes are on him as he does so, and…you know what? I don’t care anymore. These people are behaving as if they know they have contractual plot immunity, so why should I even bother? Romilly and Orain make their escape out the door, and that ends the chapter.

Ugh.

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Comment

  1. Nate Winchester on 2 March 2010, 18:26 said:

    Romilly was, not for the first time, grateful for her farm upbringing

    Yeah. If every one of my posts on this series proved one thing, it is this:
    Romilly didn’t have any farm upbringing. I’d be afraid to show this to my mom and aunts (who were girls raised on farms) lest I unleash a terrible rage.

    For then would I have stayed at home and been married, and never known this wonderful freedom of city and tavern, woods and fields, never have worked free and had money in my pockets, never really known that I had never been free, never flown a sentry-bird. (Pg. 559-560)

    This made me laugh. It had to have been written by someone never married, because wives always have money in their pockets (it’s usually their husband’s but that’s neither here nor there).

  2. ZeeZee on 2 March 2010, 18:44 said:

    Let me guess what happens next.

    Orain: Oh no! There’s a plot to kill the obviously-true-king! If we don’t warn him in an hour, he will die and our country will forever live under a cruel ursurper!
    Romilly: So…let’s go have a drink? Maybe play some darts?
    Orain: Sounds good.

    You know, they could actually be agents of the EVUL KING attempting to kill the true heir by neglect.

    I didn’t think so either.
    Though it might be an interesting story if it turned out to be a report by two secret evil agents (aka Romilly and Orain).

    Yah, I didn’t think so either.

  3. Loni on 2 March 2010, 19:49 said:

    Regarding the monks and their amazing self-heating system – aren’t there stories about Buddhist monks being able to heat themselves this way? I seem to remember reading that somewhere. Probably Cracked.

  4. lccorp2 on 3 March 2010, 01:01 said:

    A quick google reveals that “Tumo” or “Tummo” breathing, the practice as managed by Tibetian monks, a) require years of practice, a knowledge of some basic meditation techniques, and damn well can’t be taught to an outsider in a week, b) have limited effectiveness (temperature rise of 8.3 celsius in extremeties), c) and are not meant to last long periods of time (the world record for subsisting in freezing ice is one hour and 31 minutes, held by a Tummo master).

    Again, like the hawks and horses, it’s something that was grabbed on to with little actual knowledge that could be gained from a quick google search, or given that this was writted in 1982, a quick trip to the library’s reference section.

  5. lccorp2 on 3 March 2010, 01:04 said:

    Oh, and the heating effect of Tummo breathing is not its primary purpose.

  6. Penny on 3 March 2010, 16:48 said:

    “It is the first thing the monks teach us,” he said, “how to warm ourselves from within, by breathing; some of the older monks can bathe in the water of the well and then dry their clothes by their body heat when they put them on, but that seems a little more than I would want to try. I was cold for the first tenday before I learned it, but I have never suffered from the cold since then.” (Pg. 562)

    Sounds a bit like the “Breath of Fire” used by the firebenders in Avatar: The Last Airbender, only there it was used by a certain character to keep himself alive in freezing conditions and not to blow dry himself or be immune to actually feeling cold at all.

  7. Danielle on 3 March 2010, 19:29 said:

    I don’t exactly remember who Romilly told these guys she was with—was it Garris? I was just thinking….if Garris “rules the king,” as this passage seems to imply, wouldn’t it have been a smarter political maneuver on Romilly’s part to marry the guy, have his kids and manipulate him from behind the scenes so that at the most crucial moment of the rebellion, Garris can be caught with his pants down, so to speak? Or if Garris isn’t the bad guy, wouldn’t it have made more sense for her to flirt with that guy so she can do some fancy behind-the-scenes work and tear the EEEEVULLL regime down before it has a chance to do any real damage?

  8. sakuuya on 6 November 2010, 00:28 said:

    Yes, yes, late comment is late.

    I just wanted to point out that it’s perfectly reasonable that the men in Romilly’s world just go out and have fun rather than doing any actual labor. We already know that this world’s horses and hunting birds are magical creatures who don’t require proper food, water, or care, so who’s to say that all livestock and crops don’t behave the same way, and that all goods don’t make themselves?

    Also, men running off to hang out with their buddies while women have to stay home and work would be an extra helping of “feminist” bullshit, and it would show a huge lack of understanding of how the real world works, which in my mind makes it even more plausible.

  9. Zombie on 27 December 2010, 22:38 said:

    I don’t get it. If Romilly is supposed to be the epitome of perfect feminism, why is she spouting blatantly un-feministic ideals, such as women only being valued for their looks? (Yes, I’m using a no true scottsman fallacy but, really.) Why is being ugly so important to her? I mean, she’s running around in pants and working in the stables, or whatever, when it’s supposedly looked down upon for noble women to do that sort of thing. It’s contradictory, really. headdesk