Chapter Twenty-Two – City of the Dead
While Maya is off upsetting the delicate political machinations, Joey is reassuring his military advisors. They’re annoyed the Senate is taking a long time to decide on the treaty, so Joey reminds them that ‘Karthago was not built in one day’. So, first, how does Joey know that? Maybe it was built magically by the deity.
Second, I really hate it when Tesch tries to adapt these little sayings to Maradoniaverse. In real life, people tend to just use the saying they’re more familiar with, regardless of whether the people they’re with know it:
Joey: “Remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day.”
Advisor: “What is Rome?”
Joey: “A big city. The point is, we need to be patient.”
You get the same concept across, and it actually makes sense in the setting they’re in.
Third, I find it interesting that when Joey stormed off because Maya wasn’t focused on finding the traitors, he didn’t go actually try to find the traitors…instead, he went to tell a roomful of men that they needed to keep waiting. That was important. Still, maybe Joey will now go out and do something useful. [Spoiler: instead, he drinks tea]
Joey leaves and runs into Princess Adele, who asks him if he can kill giants. They talk for a little bit and Adele fluctuates between being precociously adorably young and much, much more mature. The text says she’s twelve, so Tesch compensates by having Adele alternate between being 7 and 15.
Adele reveals her brother Rasmos is afraid of ghosts, dead people, and zombies. And he was too afraid to go with her to the Secret City of the Dead. This intrigues Joey, but Adele won’t tell him anything more about it. Joey manipulates Adele into agreeing to take him to the City of the Dead. Adele talks about it a bit. Apparently it’s next to a couple graveyards.
“There is second graveyard, the tombs… close to the Kilna Tower, this is a decoy because in the past we had too many grave robbers around.” (page 175)
But of course. Grave robbers are a problem. So forget about putting up a fence, or guards, or guard-dogs, or something like that. No, clearly the only possible solution is to build AN ENTIRE FUCKING DECOY GRAVEYARD. Of course, the decoy is only going to last one, maybe two times. Then I think the grave robbers will catch on.
Adele describes the different gates to the city for no real reason.
“It is the scariest place… Rohan.” (page 176)
Joey wants to know what Rohan means, so Adele explains that it means sandalwood.
Joey tries to convince Adele to take him and Maya to the place that night, but they’re interrupted by Queen Miranda, who invites him down to have some tea. They spend some time talking about tea and after awhile Maya and Rasmos show up with a basket of apples. Also Maya looks really happy. I’m not sure if this means that Rasmos was picking her apples, or what.
After a page of nothing, Queen Miranda takes off to have a chat with Dido, and Adele tells Rasmos that she’s going to be an Encourager now because she’s going to visit the City of the Dead. Rasmos immediately gets very nervous, but Maya is intrigued. Joey says that Adele can explain more since she’s been there before.
Rasmos turned his head sharply to Princess Adele, narrowing his eyes. “You have been there before?” Adele forced a smile and said; “Oops?” but it sounded more like a question (page 180).
Why would that be phrased as a question? That doesn’t make sense under any context.
Rasmos is nervous and wants to take everyone fishing on his yacht instead. Joey likes this idea, but says that he and Maya, at least, still need to visit the House of the Dead. And if Miranda doesn’t want Adele going, they’ll respect her wishes.
Maya heads in to get some telepathic messages, which don’t really make sense, but she writes them down anyway. Apparently the Tombs are in Rohan, there’s a midnight meeting, and Apollyon’s son has sent an emissary called The Cleaner.
Chapter Twenty-Three – The Cleaner
Tesch even includes a picture of him!
Okay, okay, that’s not the real picture. Here’s the actual one:
Where, instead, he looks emo!
Maya and Joey discuss the message but don’t really know what it means. Eventually, they get their Tarnkappes and head off towards Rohan. Miranda forbid Adele from going with them, and locked her in her room as punishment for the last time she visited the House of the Dead.
They make their way by following the North Star, because Maradonia has the North Star. As they travel, Maya gets a few more telepathic messages. Including one from Libertine, which is about two-thirds of a page long and proceeds to completely strip any possible tension from the following pages.
Apparently, the cleaner always carries a bag of purple Shrinking Powder.
‘This wizard is a very convincing, very friendly and attractive man and is extremely successful with women.’ (page 186)
And, his modus operandi is always the same: he tells women he has a powder that makes them more beautiful. Then he blows the powder into their face. As long as the powder hits both of their eyes, it’s instantly effective and makes them shrink to the size of a mouse. Then the cleaner grabs them and pops them into a lantern. And there’s no cure.
I have a few questions.
1. Why is it only effective if it hits both their eyes at once? That doesn’t really make sense.
2. Why does he put them into a lantern? Wouldn’t a jar suffice?
3. What if the women don’t agree to have powder blown into their faces?
4. For that matter, isn’t a byproduct of having powder blown into your face to reflexively close your eyes, making this useless?
5. If he always uses the exact same m.o., that would make him really easy to identify, which makes him a really fucking bad assassin. I guess this one isn’t a question, just an observation. Okay, wait. Uh…if he’s so bad at this, why the fuck would Plouton send him?
6. Why the fuck does Gloria Tesch find it necessary to deliberately make her books suck more than they already do? Is she insane? Does she honestly think it’s good writing? And if she does, wouldn’t her parents or her “editors” point out that it’s really, really shitty writing? I mean, this is incredibly bad writing. Even Robert Stanek knows that you don’t tell the reader every detail of the villain’s plan because then there is no tension, not the slightest chance that the heroes will fail. That might be because Robert Stanek doesn’t tell his readers anything, but seriously. This is storytelling 101. Actually, it’s not even 101. Maybe 95. Remedial Storytelling.
They keep walking. It’s very dark, which makes it hard to see. They can see some light reflecting in the water, though, despite there not being any light. They realize it must be the deity, God, King Roach himself, making magical light glow from the water to lead them through the maze to where they need to go. Whew! I thought for a second that Maya and Joey might have a difficult time figuring out how to solve this problem.
They spend a few pages talking about nothing. Joey says he’s heard rumors that you can reach the hidden underground City of the Dead from a portal in the House of the Dead. From there, the conversation turns to the difference between undead and dead, and the people that Joey saw in the Lake of Fire in the Underworld who were standing in cooking oil. Um…you have no idea whether it was cooking oil or regular oil or oil at all. You couldn’t get that close.
A few more pages of nothing pass, and finally they see some shapes and hear voices and sneak up on some people – the Cleaner, and three senators. There’s a very long conversation filled with exposition. Basically, Queen Dido took away some of their power, and they’re pissed, so they want to eliminate Dido, but without shedding a drop of blood. Because that makes a lot more sense. Anyway, he’s going to show up the next day posing as a traveling merchant with an elixir from the Fountain of Youth. Then they all leave.
Maya and Joey were stunned (page 196).
Of course they were stunned. After all, it’s not like they didn’t know essentially every detail of this already…oh wait.
Chapter Twenty-Four – Shrinking Powder
Maya and Joey were so exhausted when they got back that they went straight to bed and slept in late. Joey wakes up in a panic, thinking the Cleaner might have already arrived and shrunk Dido. That would actually be hilarious, especially since they were too fucking stupid to wake Dido up the night before and…I dunno, warn her? This is kind of important.
Joey wakes up Maya, they grab their Tarnkappes, and head down to the conference room, where they find the Cleaner explaining his magical powder to Dido. Joey is worried because they don’t have any way to warn Dido. Well, I mean, they are invisible. They could walk up behind Dido and whisper in her ear. Or, hell, they could take the Tarnkappe off, walk up casually, say “Queen Dido! I have a message for you!” and whisper in her ear.
The three evil Senators are also there, which seems a little dangerous. It would probably be a little suspicious if you’re the only ones present at this display when the royal family disappears.
Queen Dido, Queen Miranda, and Princess Adele all sit together to get the beauty powder. Joey waits for the Cleaner to take a breath to blow and then tackles him, sending the powder flying behind him…straight into the eyes of two of the senators, who immediately start shrinking. Maya snatches up a nearby lantern and stuffs them inside. Chaos erupts. Dido shouts for the guards, who aren’t in the room…protecting their queen. Okay.
The Cleaner and the last remaining senator run for it. Joey runs back to his room to grab Defender, because he didn’t have it with him, because Joey just leaves the most powerful magical artifact in the known universe in his bedroom most of the time instead of carrying it with him. He runs back and chases after them. The senator is a fatty, and he’s falling behind the Cleaner, so Joey raises Defender and incinerates him.
The laser beam of Defender consumed the chubby senator totally and left only a black dust spot of him on the ground (page 200).
Sure. Makes total sense. I mean, he’s a fatty. Joey could easily knock him down and leave him for the guards. At this point there’s absolutely no chance he’s getting away, but sure, why not murder him? There’s absolutely no use in, I dunno, interrogating him, or getting him to confess in front of the Senate…oh wait.
Joey catches up to the Cleaner who stops and starts begging for mercy. Joey is unconvinced.
“Your time is up! The Karthaginian gods are calling you!” King Joey pushed the button and the Cleaner was no more (page 201).
That’s our Joey we know and love. Murdering people who have already surrendered and are begging for their lives.
Turns out Adele was chasing after them, and she saw the whole thing, including the other damage that Joey caused. See, Defender doesn’t just stop when it hits somebody, it keeps going. So in addition to murdering a material witness to an assassination attempt on the royal family, Joey also blew a forty-foot hole in the city wall. What do you want to bet there will be no negative repercussions for this?
Adele asks what Joey is holding. So Joey asks her to keep a secret.
“This is Defender, a supernatural weapon, given to me by the grace of the gods. When I got this weapon I promised I will defend the defenseless, my country, by people, the royal family, and myself whenever I am in danger.” (page 202).
And when he says “given to me” he means “I stole it from Apollyon” and when he says “defend” he means slaughter birds and other wildlife, start a few forest fires, and murder prisoners. Also, I think it’s a really bad idea to tell Adele about this. She’s twelve, and you already know she’s bad at keeping secrets.
Joey and Adele go back to the conference room. Miranda is freaking out. Rasmos bursts in with some guards, but then he sees the miniature senators inside the lantern and flips his shit and runs screaming from the room.
Joey can’t find Maya, so he starts looking for her.
When Maya appeared from one of the sidetracks she said, “I had to go to the restroom. I couldn’t wait any longer.” (page 203)
Huh. Well, when you gotta go, you gotta go.
Joey explains what happened with Defender.
“Oh no… You did it again!”
“Oh yes, I did it again and we have a huge hole in the city wall at the ocean.” (page 203)
If this wasn’t one of the stupidest, unnecessary, and fucking sociopathic things Joey had ever done, this would be almost funny.
Maya asks him how he’s going to explain the giant hole in the wall.
“I will tell them the truth that I destroyed the city wall just by accident!” (page 204)
I think they might actually ask you “How?”, Joey.
They talk to Dido and explain how they heard all this stuff last night, but didn’t warn her because they’re fucking stupid. Okay, they leave that out. Dido thanks them for saving her live (not her life) and says to be on the save side (not the safe side) they need a couple days to prepare to show all this to the Senate and get their buy-in on the treaty. In the meantime, they’ll have a fishing trip on the yacht!
We’re now more than halfway through this book. Feels like it, doesn’t it?
Note: If you’re interested, I’ve returned to sporking Robert Stanek’s works, as well as sporking the new Pride and Prejudice sequel by Linda Berdoll. You can find them both on my website, http://conjugalfelicity.com