I think I’m finally on a decent schedule here – it took awhile, but I was able to find a balance between writing and ‘Real Life.’ So anyway, here we are for Part Five of The Dragonbone Chair, in which we read and discus chapters thirteen through fifteen. Lots of dark, scary places coming up here.

As I will say with each and every entry into this series, If you have never read this series before, and have somehow found this site by accident, there WILL BE MASSIVE SERIES-BREAKING SPOILERS throughout this re-read and analysis. I do not believe I can stress this enough. DO NOT read this if you have never read the series before, unless you just don’t mind knowing how a many-thousand-page epic series concludes. There will be Spoilers. The will be MANY Spoilers. You have been warned.

Now, let’s delve the dark and dank dwellings of dead denizens, discover depraved deviants , and desire the devotion of those dancing in disregard of our distress.

13 – Between Worlds

Summary

For the first little while, Simon wanders in sorrow and darkness, before remembering the crystal Morgenes gave him. He knows he is already lost, but resolves to move forward. He makes his way through the dark, lonely corridors, passing crumbling side-passages, and having to skirt around piles of debris in the main passageway.

He was doing just that – squeezing around an obstruction, the light-wielding hand held over his head, the other feeling before him for a way past – when he felt a searing pain like a thousand needlepricks run up his questing hand and onto his arm. A flash of the crystal brought a vision of horror – hundreds, no, thousands of tiny white spiders swarming up his wrist and under his shirt sleeve, biting like a thousand burning fires. Simon shrieked and slammed his arm against the tunnel wall, bringing a shower of clotted dirt down into his mouth and eyes. His terrified shouts echoed down the passageway, quickly failing- He fell to his knees in damp soil, smacking his stinging arm up and down into the dirt until the flaring pain began to subside, then crawled forward on his hands and knees, away from whatever horrible nest or den he had disturbed. As he crouched and frantically scrubbed his arm with loose soil the tears came again, racking him like a whipping.

He continues on, nursing his swollen arm, sure that he has missed an important turning of the path somewhere, but resolute nonetheless. He twists and turns his way deeper and deeper into the underground complex, trying his best to remember the red line he had seen on the map Morgenes had given Josua, but knowing it is too late for that. Eventually, he notices it is getting much hotter in the pathways, and smoke is filling the air. He worries that perhaps Shurakai – the dragon Prester John has slewn – has a brother, and he is walking into a dragon’s lair, but continues on anyway, seeing an orange glow up ahead.

He eventually realizes he has found the castle’s foundry, and fears going into such a populated place, but knows he has to get past it somehow if he is to continue. He skulks through the shadows, dodging workers, and eventually finds another dark passageway further down, where he continues his journey, crawling. Soon enough, he notices a bluish light glowing around him, and he can see the walls – moss-covered – are covered in old, chipped tiles. He decides to walk on two legs again, and before long, it is apparent that he is in a section of the castle that was once the Sithis’ Asu’a – there are tiles walls, arches, flagstone paths, and rooms everywhere. He looks inside one room.

It was a chamber, perfect in the blue glow, as perfect as if someone had left it only a moment before. The ceiling was high-vaulted, covered in a tracery of delicate painted lines, a pattern suggesting thorn bushes, or flowering vines, or the meandering of a thousand meadow streams. The rounded windows were choked with rubble, and dirt had poured down from them to silt the tiled floor beneath, but all else was untouched. There was a bed – a miracle of subtle, curving wood – and a chair as fine as the bones of a bird. In the room’s center stood a fountain of polished stone that looked as if it might fill with singing water at any moment.

‘A home for me. A home beneath the ground. A bed to sleep in, sleep and sleep until Pryrates and the king and the soldiers have all gone away . . .’

A few dragging steps forward and he stood beside the bed, the pallet as clean and unsmirched as the sails of the blessed. There was a face staring down at him from a niche above it, a splendid, clever woman’s face – a statue. Something about it was wrong, though: the lines were too angular, the eyes too deep and wide, the cheekbones high and sharp. Still it was a face of great beauty, captured in translucent stone, forever frozen in a sad, knowing smile.

As he reached out to gently touch the sculpted cheek his shin nudged the bedframe, a touch delicate as a spider’s step. The bed crumbled into powder. A moment later, as he stared in horror, the bust in the niche dissolved into fine ash beneath his fingertips, the woman’s features melting away in an instant. He took a stumbling step back and the light of the sphere glared and then waned to a dim glow. The thump of his foot on the floor leveled the chair and delicate fountain, and a moment later the ceiling itself began to sift down, the twining branches moldering into soft dust. The sphere flickered as he lurched for the door, and as he plunged back out into the corridor the blue light guttered out.

The light is now completely gone as Simon continues further and deeper into Asu’a’s ruins. He realizes he may be deeper than the Kynslagh, and finds that the walls are becoming moist, and he can hear the sound of dripping water. Some of the moss down here is luminescent, and it gives him a bit of light to see by, so that he can see the vast rooms he goes through. He begins to hallucinate that broken pillars are actually whole, and that the ruins are actually in good repair, and fears he is going mad. He begins to hear more voices, seeming to be the shouting of a great battle, and thinks he sees people running to and fro. As he crawls forward, fearing the visages around him, he realizes he has come to a great spiral staircase, twisting ever upward and upward around a silent lake.

He began to climb, pulling himself up to the next high step with trembling, sweat-slippery fingers. As he mounted higher, sometimes standing, sometimes clawing his way up in a scrabbling crouch, he peered out from the stairs. The silent lake, a vast pool of shadow below him, lay at the bottom of a great circular hall, bigger by far than the foundry. The ceiling stretched immeasurably upward, lost in the blackness above with the top of the slender, beautiful white pillars ringing the chamber. A foggy, directionless light glinted on the sea-blue and jade-green walls, and touched the frames of high-vaulting windows that flickered now with an ominous crimson glare. In the middle of the pearly mists, hovering above the silent lake, sat a dark, wavering shape. It cast a shadow both of wonder and of terror, and it filled Simon with inexpressible, pitying dread.

‘Prince Ineluki! They come! The Northerners come!’

As this last impassioned cry echoed in the dark walls of Simon’s skull, the figure at the room’s center lifted its head. Gleaming red eyes bloomed in its face, cutting through the fog like torches.

‘Jingizu,’ a voice breathed. ‘Jingizu. So much sorrow.’

The crimson light flared. The shriek of death and fear rose from below like a great wave. At the center of it all, the dark figure lifted a long slender object and the beautiful chamber shuddered, shimmering like a shattered reflection, then fell away into nothingness. Simon turned away in horror, enveloped in a strangling pall of loss and despair.

Something was gone. Something beautiful had been destroyed beyond retrieval. A world had died here, and Simon felt its failing cry embedded in his heart like a gray sword. Even his consuming fear was driven out by the terrible sadness that cut through him, bringing painful, shuddering tears from reservoirs that should have been long dry. Embracing the darkness, he lurched on up the endless climb, winding around the mighty chamber. The shadows and silence swallowed the dream-battle and the dream-chamber below him, bringing a black shroud to pull over his fevered mind.

He climbs until he feels metal and succumbs to fatigue.

Commentary

I feel like I’m beating a dead horse here, but seriously, if you are not reading along on your own, you should be. Tad Williams gives utterly beautiful descriptions of both the ancient wonder, as well as the pure horror, that Simon experiences while he is down in the dark, and it simply cannot be summarized properly.

This long chapter gives us the first ‘real’ foreshadowing of certain things that are to come in this series. Though there have been a few whispered, ghostly voices before, and odd visions, none so strong as those Simon sees in this chapter. We get hints of specific events (such as the Witchwood Gardens burning), and a little bit of taste of Jingizu/Sorrow, but not as much as the next chapter. We also see the first part of a major theme that continues until the end of the book – that of returning to places we’ve been before. There are a lot of subtle metaphors in this series, and many that are not-so-subtle, about “coming home,” and “we’ve been here before,” and the like, but none of those things are so bluntly put out there as when Simon returns to the dark of Asu’a in the final book. What is most remarkable – and I’ll expand on this when we come back here later – is how much Simon matures between now and then. He is helpless now, having just lost his father-figure, but when he returns, he is a man in his own right, and is able to make his way through with courage, a bit of skill, and not-so-little savvy. But again, we’re talking about the now.

And the now is ‘Fear,’ ‘Hopelessness,’ and ‘Sorrow,’ wrapped in Darkness and Decay. This chapter is one of the most ‘claustrophobic’ (if such a term can be accurately applied to a passage of a book – and I say it can be, so there!) chapters in any book’s history. The brooding darkness, the loneliness, the oppressiveness of the stone walls, remind me of only one other scene in fantasy literature – the very short scene where Frodo must travel through Shelob’s lair in The Return of the King. Some could compare it to Moria, sure, but in Moria, Our Hero had companions and friends, and had people to defend him if needed. Simon is on his own like very few heroes in fantasy ever are, and he despairs of it in such a realistic way, that it makes me extremely tense to even read this chapter.

And Jeez-be-jazz, those frakkin spiders! I think that would have done me in right there. Arachnophobia does not even begin to describe the horror of that scene, and I can only imagine what Simon must have felt, and then afterward, what he must have pictured every time he needed to balance himself against a wall – especially once his glowy crystal went out! And that’s sad, his little crystal goes out pretty quickly, but I guess Morgenes had no way of knowing how long it would take Simon to make his way through the tunnels.

A few things I didn’t quote above were important emotion-wise, but not necessarily plot-wise. In particular, Simon thinks back of how Morgenes had called him ‘My boy,’ in his last moments, and had also mentioned knowing Simon’s father. Very emotional to find out some deep truth like that at such a time that you can never expand upon it.

Not really a lot else to talk about this chapter, but sad Simon met sad Ineluki for the first time, whether or not he knew it. Onward!

14 – The Hill Fire

Summary

Simon awakens in a crypt in the lich yard, and stumbles outside into the night. He is angry at the people who have cost him his home, and curious at the little he can remember from the endless wandering, but knows he needs to move on. He moves through the lich yard, but eventually stumbles and cannot rises – he falls asleep on the ground. He dreams of a wide, dark river, and on the other side, a woman – his mother – is cradling something, and calls for him to cross the river to be at her side.

And then Simon saw that what she had cradled, that which now dangled from an outflung hand, was a doll – a doll made from reeds and leaves and twining stems of grass. But the doll was blackened, the shriveled leaves curling back from their stems, and Simon knew suddenly that nothing alive crossed that river into the twilight country. He stopped at the water’s edge and looked down. Down in the inky water there was a faint gleam of light; as he watched, it rose toward the surface, becoming three slender, shining shapes. The sound of the river changed, became a kind of prickling, unearthly music. The water leaped and boiled, obscuring the objects’ true forms, but it seemed that if he desired to, he could reach down and touch them. . . .

“Seoman . . . !” his mother called again. He looked up to see her farther away, receding swiftly, as though her gray land were a torrent rushing away from him. Her arms were held wide, and her voice was a thing of vibrant loneliness, of the cold’s lust for the warm, and the darkness’ hopeless desire for the light.

“Simon . . . Simon . . . !” It was a wail of despair.

Simon bolts upright, realizing the cry is coming from outside his head – a figure in gray, across the lich yard, was calling his name. Simon jumps up and flees, thinking this to be a ghost after him, and runs for a long time, keeping the castle at his back. He eventually sees a fire on top of Thisterborg – Simon realizes he has been climbing this hill for a little while now, and is near the top. He slows down, trying to decide if he should meet whoever is up there – perhaps they have food and drink. Simon reaches the top, and sees the ‘Anger Stones’ everywhere, and remembering that Morgenes had called this night ‘Stoning Night,’ he thinks this must be some sort of ceremony.

On top of the hill, surrounded by the Stones, men stood in cloaks, huddled near the fire. Simon crawls forward and remembers many of these men are part of the Erkynguard, and feels stupid for coming to this place now. Then, to the north, Simon (as well as all the men) hears the sounds of creaking wagon wheels.

Dim, pale shapes that slowly became horses appeared at the fringe of the fireglow; following behind, growing distinct from the night, was a great black wagon. Black-hooded figures walked on either side, four in all, matching the wagon’s stately, funeral pace. The flickering light revealed a fifth atop the wagon, hunched over the team of ice – white stallions – this last figure was somehow larger than the others, and darker, as if it wore some cloak of obscurity; its very stillness seemed to speak of a hidden, brooding power. The guards still did not move, but stood rigidly watching. Only the thin mewing of the wagon wheels punctured the silence. Simon, transfixed, felt cold pressure in his head, a gnawing clutch in his vitals.

‘A dream, a bad dream . . . Why can’t I move?!’

The black cart and its attendants drew to a halt just within the circle of firelight. One of the four standing figures raised an arm, the black sleeve falling away to reveal a wrist and hand as thin and white as bone. It spoke, voice silvery-cold, toneless as ice cracking.

“We are here to fulfill the covenant.”

There was a stir among those who had been waiting. One of them stepped forward.

“As are we.”

Watching helplessly as this mad fancy progressed, Simon was not at all surprised to recognize the voice of Pryrates.

Pryrates and the other ‘person’ speak back and forth that they have brought ‘what was required,’ and Pryrates pushes someone forward. Simon catches a glimpse of one of the other ‘people’ that came with the wagon and realizes it is one of the White Foxes Morgenes had spoken of. The White Foxes lift something that looks like a coffin off their wagon and bring it forward. Simon recognizes Breyugar as the person Pryrates has bound, and the White Foxes don’t seem impressed with the priest’s gift. Elias steps forward and confronts Pryrates, demanding to know what is really going on here, and the priest soothes the King. The ‘Foxes accept the gift of Breyugar, and Pryrates prepares to murder the man with a knife, speaking some sort of ritual in the process, when Breyugar breaks free and runs straight towards Simon’s hiding place, before tripping and falling very close to the boy. As the guards gather him up, Simon realizes Pryrates is looking directly at his hiding spot.

‘Who is there?’

The voice seemed to fly on the back of the wind straight into Simon’s head. Pryrates was staring right at him! He must see him!

‘Come out. whoever you are. I command you to come forward.’

The black-robed figures began a strange, ominous humming, as Simon struggled against the alchemist’s will. He remembered what had almost happened to him in the storeroom, and braced himself against the compelling force, but he was weakened, wrung dry like piece of cloth.

‘Come out,’ the voice repeated, and a questing something reached out to touch his mind. He fought, trying to hold shut the doors close to his soul, but the probing thing was stronger than he by far. It had only to find him, to grasp him. . . .

“If the covenant no longer suits you,” a thin voice said, “then let it be broken off now. It is dangerous to leave the ritual half-spoken – very dangerous.”

It was the hooded figure speaking, and Simon could feel the red priest’s questing thoughts shaken.

“Wh . . . What?” Pryrates spoke like a man new-wakened.

“Perhaps you do not understand what you are doing here,” the black shape hissed. “Perhaps you do not comprehend who and what is involved.”

“No . . . yes, I do . . .” the priest stammered […]

Horribly, a part of Pryrates’ thought had not left Simon’s mind, some clinging tag-end that the priest had not pulled back: he could almost taste the alchemist’s quivering expectancy as Pryrates pulled up Breyugar’s head, could sense the priest responding to the low murmuring of the hooded ones. And now he felt something deeper, too, a chill wedge of horror driving into his raw and sensitive mind. Some inexplicable other was there in the night – a terrible ‘something else.’ It hovered over the hilltop like a choking cloud, and burned inside the seated figure on the wagon like a hidden black flame; it dwelt also in the bodies of the standing stones, infusing them with its greedy attention.

Pryrates finishes the ritual and slashes Breyugar’s throat, the blood spilling on the coffin – Simon can still feel Pryrates in his mind – and the coffin begins to open. The open coffin reveals, through a purple haze, a long gray sword. The soldiers flee in terror as the priest pushes Elias to pick up the deadly blade. As he does, the wind subsides and the five black shapes at the wagon wait silently. Elias hails the ‘Storm King,’ and thanks him for the gift – as he does, the fifth black shape on the wagon turns into a mass of red light, and at this point, Simon flees down the hillside, eventually falling down and succumbing to sleep (again).

Commentary

Another chapter that is really hard to summarize due to the very important conversations which take place, but I did my best.

This is part two of a series of chapters in which Simon is lost, friendless, and on his own, and does not know how to handle the various things he witnesses and experiences. By accident, he stumbled upon not only the people who wanted him dead, but the entities who were behind everything, and the only thing he could do at this point was flee. I bring this up specifically because of this: I believe it was at this point in the series, my first time reading it through, when I began to truly realize what kind of story we were in. No, I don’t mean an ‘epic fantasy’ story, though that definitely makes itself known here as well, but rather a story about a regular, everyday hero who just has to make the best of what life throws at him.

Simon is very different from just about every other single fantasy protagonist ever, minus a very obvious Mr. Frodo Baggins, in that he has no powers. Simon is never to grow up and gain cosmic, world-shaking powers, and he is never to become one of the finest knights in the lands. He does have a heritage, and he does – according to Morgenes – have ‘abilities’ he doesn’t even know about yet, but I attribute that more to his strong willpower than anything else. And that is the ‘kind’ of story I’m talking about. I began to realize here that we would not ever be reading about ‘Simon the Brave World-Conquering Chosen One of Prophesy, Light, Good, and Awesomeness,’ but would rather always be reading about ‘Simon the Brave, but otherwise rather ordinary guy who somehow manages to make the best of horrible situations’ – and frankly, I was okay with that.

You see, this series was the second of ‘real’ fantasy novels I ever read, after The Belgariad, and I had already had my taste and fill of world-shattering superpowers. So I was actually very much looking forward to this. What I did not know to expect was how well Mr. Williams would eventually do at making me accept that an ordinary person such as Simon could actually become a real hero – he doesn’t Crack the World or anything, but he is one of the people who makes it possible for Good to overcome Evil at the end. And that is important. It makes the story a very inspirational one, all things considered – kind of like a The Karate Kid with magic and swords.

Where was I going? Oh yeah – of course, at this point, all I truly understood was that I was reading a book about a guy who had no abilities, and would possibly be running for his life in most situations, and as I said before, I was okay with that. Which makes it even more obvious to me how well-written Simon the character is as a believable person.

Onto the chapter itself, I quoted part of Simon’s dream because I believe it is the first mention we see of the ‘Three Swords,’ though not in such obvious detail that someone who hadn’t read the books would know what was going on. I find this very curious at this point in the story, because it happened before Simon’s horrifying experience within Pryrates’ mind up on the hill. Why is that important? Well, I may be missing something (likely?), but I think what we’re seeing here is some sort of ‘dark prophecy’ already pushing its way into Simon’s mind. You see, I know that eventually, we find out about the ‘Three Swords’ being important for the bad guys, and before that, we spend a lot of time thinking they’re important for the good guys. But before that, the first true indication we get of their importance is in Simon’s venture on the Dream Road with Binabik and Geloë (later in this book). Well, we know that the prophecy of the ‘Three Swords’ is part of the whole ‘False Messenger’ thing we eventually hear so much about, but right now in the story, in my mind, there is no real reason that Simon should be seeing anything about these swords. He has no idea or indication that they are even remotely important, and at the time he had that dream, there was no real reason for the bad guys to be putting visions of the Swords in his head, since he’s not important yet, and he’s not connected with Pryrates yet. So yeah, ‘Why did he have that vision?’ – I guess is the purpose of that massive paragraph.

Beyond that, we get to see Sorrow/Jingizu, and we get to see it have an immediate effect on Elias, stupefying him quite literally ‘out of the box.’ That should have been an indication of Bad Things to Come, and I know that Elias does have occasional moments of clarity later on – I guess we just have to assume that his willpower is not what Simon’s is, and he could not overcome the temptation and evil of the sword.

Not much else to say except, “Hey Miriamele, next time you want to greet a scared, lonely boy in a graveyard after he’s been running for his life, try to make your encounter with him a little less terrifying.” That’s all.

15 – A Meeting at the Inn

Summary

Simon awakens around noon on the first day of Maia – Belthainn Day – to find himself still uncomfortably close to Thisterborg. He knows something horrible happened in the night, but his memory is strangely clouded. He begins following the Aldheorte Forest line, and eventually finds the Old Forest Road and signs that he is approaching civilization again. For a moment, he ponders searching for work in a village close by, but then realizes that the Erkynguard would likely find him if he did so. He eventually sees a crossroads ahead.

Topping a rise, he saw the road before him intersected by a dark swath, a crease of wagon tracks that emerged from the forest and meandered south across the fields; a woodsman’s road, perhaps, a route from the woodchopper’s harvesting-place to the farmlands west of Erchester. Something dark stood, angular and erect, at the meeting point of the two roads. A brief twinge of fear passed through him before he realized that it was too tall an object to be someone waiting for him. He guessed it to be a scarecrow, or a roadside shrine to Elysia, the Mother of God – crossroads were infamously strange places, and the common folk often mounted a holy relic to keep away loitering ghosts.

As he neared the crossing he decided that he had been right about it being a scarecrow – the object seemed to be hanging from a tree or pole, and swayed softly, breeze-blown. But as he came closer he saw it was no scarecrow. Soon he could no longer convince himself that it was anything other than what it was; the body of a man swinging from a crude gibbet.

He reached the crossroad. The wind subsided; thin roadway dust hung about him in a brown cloud. He stopped to stare helplessly. The road grit settled, then leaped into swirling motion once more. The hanged man’s feet, bare and swollen black, dangled at the height of Simon’s shoulder. His head lolled to one side, like a puppy picked up by the neck-scruff; the birds had been at his eyes and face. A broken shingle of wood with the words “M THE KINGS LAND” scratched upon it bumped gently against his chest; in the road below lay another piece. On it was scrawled: “POACHED FRO.”

Simon stepped back; an innocent breeze twisted the sagging body so that the face tipped away to stare sightlessly across the fields. He hurried across the lumber-road, tracing the four-pointed Tree on his chest as he passed through the thing’s shadow. Normally such a sight would be fearful but fascinating, as dead things were, but now all he could feel was sick terror. He himself had stolen – or helped to steal – something far greater than this poor sneak thief could ever have dreamed of: he had stolen the king’s brother from the king’s own dungeon. How long would it be until they caught him, as they had caught this rook-eaten creature? What would his punishment be?

Simon runs from the gibbet and eventually reaches the village of Flett, but decides not to stick around. Once past the village, he curls up near a stream and goes to sleep. He awakens (from a rather disturbing dream) to the sounds of a crowd of people coming up the Old Forest Road toward Flett. Everyone is singing and having a grand ol’ time, celebrating Belthainn Day and the raising of the Maia Tree, and Simon desperately wants to join them, but has to force himself to stay away. He follows from a safe distance, and watches the merry-making continue for a long time, feeling very sorry for himself for not being able to join the jubilant crowd. Later, a woman stands up and sings a beautiful song, then sits back down with her ‘young man.’

As the black-haired girl sat down again the fire crackled and spat, as if in mockery of such a damp, tender song.

Simon hurried away from the fire, his eyes filling with tears. The woman’s voice had awakened in him a fierce hunger for his home; for the joking voices of the scullions, the offhand kindnesses of the chambermaids, his bed, his moat, the long, sun-speckled expanse of Morgenes’ chambers, even – he was chagrined to realize – the stern presence of Rachel the Dragon.

Once night arrives, Simon approaches the village again, hoping to find work at the inn. He stumbles into Cadrach, the monk he had met a year earlier in Erchester, and is excited to see someone he knows who is likely not after him. Cadrach offers to buy Simon a meal in return for Simon’s kindness the year before, and they both go into the inn and eat, Simon listening to Cadrach tell stories of his time as a monk, or even just comical tales. Eventually, the innkeeper approaches and demands that Cadrach pay up, as he’s got quite a tab. Cadrach tells the man they are almost done, and after the keeper leaves, pulls out his purse. He then realizes he has no money (commenting about pick pockets), and asks Simon to pay for the meal.

Simon heard Cadrach’s words only vaguely, a babble of sounds in his ale-muddled head. He was looking not at the hole in the purse, but at the seagull worked on the leather in heavy blue thread. The pleasant drunkenness of a minute before had turned heavy and sour. After a moment he raised his stare until his eyes met Brother Cadrach’s. The ale and the warmth of the commons room had flushed Simon’s cheeks and ears, but now he felt a tide of blood that was hotter still mounting up from his fast-beating heart.

“That’s … my … purse!” he said. Cadrach blinked like an undenned badger.

“What, lad?” he asked apprehensively, sliding slowly away from the wall to the middle of the bench. “I’m afraid I was not hearing you well.”

“That . . . purse … is mine.” Simon felt all the hurt, all the frustration of losing it come welling up – Judith’s disappointed face, Doctor Morgenes’ sad surprise – and the shocked sickness of trust betrayed. All the red hairs on his neck stood up like boar’s bristles.

“Thief!” he shouted suddenly, and lunged, but Cadrach had seen it coming: the little monk was off the bench and skittering backward up the length of the inn toward the door.

Cadrach runs out the doorway, but Simon is stopped by the keeper, who doesn’t believe Simon’s story and thinks the two are in on this scam together. He leads Simon outside to talk to some Erkynguardsmen who are in the village, but Simon is able to headbutt his captor and flee.

Commentary

Well, not really a lot to talk about in this chapter. This chapter seems to me to be one of those infamous styles of ‘the world keeps on turning’ type chapters in fantasy books, where the author shows how even though the Hero/Protagonist has been through great stryfe and adventure, the world has not noticed. We see it clearly as Simon muses on the fact that he has lost his home, his friends, and his safety, but the villagers of Flett still get to celebrate Belthainn Day.

Simon’s loneliness is pretty stark in this chapter, but it is not even close to the worst that he goes through. He is still just the innocent at this point though, so his burdens and the horrors he has witnessed seem all that much worse – sure, the torture he must endure at Inch’s hands later, or the loneliness and thought of dying in the snow before Aditu saves him, are both actually worse than this, but by those points, he has matured and come to accept (for the most part) what he is, and is able to weather those trials much better. Right now, he is alone, and completely unprepared to handle that feeling. It probably doesn’t help that he’s really hungry by now either.

And then Cadrach comes to make everything better. By which, of course, I mean that he does a lot of what Cadrach eventually becomes known for – making everything worse. I believe I mentioned before (and looking back, I am correct – I did mention) that I was always suspicious of Cadrach’s treachery with Simon’s first encounter with the monk, but that still doesn’t make this easier to bear. And the fact that Simon remembers so vividly the shame he had felt when he had first lost the purse only drives the act further home. It makes me sad that treachery like this exists – not thieves and the like, we know they’re everywhere, but rather those who would prey upon innocents, and take advantage of people who just don’t know better. I guess that’s what all thievery is in some way or another, but pretending to be someone’s friend and confidant, and then betraying them. . . well, that sucks, Mr. Cadrach/Paedrig/Whoever You Are.

What makes it even worse is, I have seen it done in almost the exact same way ‘in real life’ by actual living, breathing priests. My father is a minister, so I got to hear lots of the gossip of church folks growing up, and I saw firsthand a lot of harm that comes from people blindly putting trust and faith in someone just because that someone is a ‘man of God.’ None of this ever came from my father, of course – as far as I know, he was (and still is) one of the most honest men I’ve ever met in my life. However we did have a minister of youth at a church I grew up in that I found out later had had some rather horrible dealings with some of the young ladies in the church.

Tangents, they’re fun, right? So anyway, Cadrach, we’ll see you again (again), and try not to act like too much of a douche in the meantime, ‘kay?

******

So that’s it for this session. Part Six may be slightly delayed due to that whole ‘Christmas’ thing coming up soon, but I’ll try not to let it go too long.

Cheers!

E.S.

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