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Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Gathering Dark - Chapter 5



Jodah returns to the army of Ghet.


Chapter 5 - Sima

Most of the histories of the Dark portray the Church of Tal as a monolithic, single-minded faith ruling over, and often contending against, a double handful of rebellious city-states. While it is true that the church was more unified and organized than the city-states, much to its advantage, it was not a single monolithic structure. Records of the period indicate that it was a confusing tapestry of smaller saint-faiths, usurped local religions, and holy cults of personality. Add to this the wide variety of divided dogmas and outright heresies within the Church of Tal's ranks, and it becomes obvious why the inquisitions, and later crusades, were formed. Of course, it should be equally obvious that those inquisitions and crusades were infested with the same disputes over dogma, cults of personality and outright heresies as the rest of the church hierarchy.

-Arkol, Argivian scholar

Jodah makes it back to the Almaar River, with a camp set up by the Alsoor on side and a camp by Ghet on the other... and no swords are drawn. It turns out that after the Battle of Pitdown, the church negotiated a peace, he's quite free to cross to the other side. Stragglers from the battle have been trickling in for the past week.

When Jodah asks if he's free to go on towards Alsoor, the guard says he's free to do that as well, but he doesn't suggest it. Plague has hit the city, one they call the cold grippe. It's one of the reasons why so many people are headed in the direction of Ghet.

The other reason is the church.

As part of the treaty, Primata Delphine herself will be traveling with an appropriate amount of church followers, and with them they're bringing heretics, wizards, and sinners who'll be burned at the stake the day they make it to the city. Sort of as a celebration.

With this information, Jodah heads back to the Ghet side of the river. After he reveals he's a survivor of the battle, he's told he's been assigned as a part of the Church Guard for the trip back. Then he'll be reassigned or perhaps even discharged since the war is over.

Jodah can't believe his luck. The perfect cover to be close to the prisoners. And Voska.

Jodah walks on over the hub of activity in the camp to take a look. When he spies Primata Delphine, fights the urge to run away and tells himself that his beard and attire should pretty much make him seem like anyone else in the camp and not the escaped apprentice wizard from weeks earlier. Then Primata Delphine looks at him, as if she knows he's watching, and his blood freezes until her eyes pass over him without any recognition.

A heavy hand grabs Jodah's shoulder, and he jumps. When he turns around he finds the familiar face of Corporal Togath, glad to see another one of his men still alive. Togath tells him they've been assigned to the rear guard and so they stand and watch as the army marches on by before they take their places.

As the prisoner wagons pass by, none much bigger than the one that took Mother Dobbs away, Jodah carefully scans each one for his mentor. Instead of Voska he sees the girl from the alley! Just like the primata, the girl with the heart-shaped face and short bangs seems to sense him looking at her. But this girl recognizes him back and gives him an almost indistinct nod allows a small smile to touch her lips.


...Later that night...

With some convincing and a bottle of rum as a gift, Jodah is able to convince Togath that they should guard just one specific prisoner. When the time is right, Jodah asks for some privacy so he can talk with the girl, and Togath finally thinks he understands what all this is about, and he just tells Jodah to make sure things stay quiet and he'll keep a look out for the watch commander. And who knows, maybe he'll want to "talk" to the prisoner later as well. She's going to be toast soon enough anyway.

(That's a little disappointing. I understand that this is a part of the culture of this society, and this is a dark time, but this is no A Song of Ice and Fire AKA Game of Thrones where I expect a harsh world. Here I'm just rather a bit disappointed in the character of Corporal Togath, whose skeptical insights were enjoyable up to this point.)

The girl tells him that it's about time he got there, but Jodah doesn't immediately go about freeing her. He wants information. If she wants to be freed, she has to tell him what happened to Voska. What she tells him isn't want he wants to hear.

Voska is dead.

He fought back after Jodah fled, but was filled with crossbow bolts soon after. The rumors that Jodah heard about his capture were purposefully let out in an attempt to capture and kill Jodah in a rescue attempt. Instead the girl found herself getting capture as they lay in wait.

With that said, the girl asks if they can get out of here now. The unfortunate thing is that Jodah doesn't have a key. He can't free her.

The woman sighed impatiently. "Of course you can. I can't, because they are welded onto me. If I try, the feedback will overwhelm me. You can. Just open them with a spell."

(Ooooh... just use a spell. Of course. Because anyone who can do magic can open locks... I guess?)

When Jodah says he doesn't know of any such spell, she yells at him in frustration.

"So make it up!" hissed the woman. "What's your color?"

"My what?"

After a quick series of questions she's able to discern that he summons magic from the plains and is a white mage. She then tells him to summon that power now, and imagine a ball of light and then to slowly flatten it into a disk. Make it narrow enough that it will be able to fit into a seam of the manacles.


...Outside...

Togath gave the boy a lot of space initially, but then soon enough came back when curiosity took hold of him. He's surprised to find that the boy really did just want to talk with the girl, although he can't make out anything they're saying. However once a light flickers inside, he decides it's a time to put an end to it. He'll attract too much attention.

When he takes a look, he's surprised to find the girl's manacles on the ground and prisoner freed with both her and the boy looking at him like rabbits ready to spring away from a predator.

Then the woman raised on hand and balled it into a fist.

Togath felt something warm and wet spread over the front of his brain. Then the woman pulled her first toward her, and the wet something seemed to be pulled through the front of his skull . It was as if she had dug a fishhook into his brain, and just... pulled.

It happened very quickly. Togath managed to say "What the..." before slamming into the soft earth.


...Immediately...

Jodah asks what she did, and she tells him that she cast an amnesia spell. He'll forget they were ever there. But now it's time to go. There's a place she knows of where they can hide before taking a ship west.

Jodah has other ideas. He won't leave unless the other prisoners are freed as well.

She threatens to leave him.

Jodah nodded, "You could. But you said the primata's trap caught you when you went looking for Voska. You went after Voska for a reason. I think that same reason will keep you from abandoning me now."

(Oh? Where'd he get all that? I thought she went after Voska because she knew him, much like Jodah was doing. I didn't think it had anything do with Jodah. Is it because magic users need to stick together?)

He asks her to tell him what she knows about the other prisoners, and she says they're mostly penny-ante alchemists, so-called fortune tellers, and scholars who spoke up too loudly. There is one person who claims to be a necromancer can actually do real magic.

(So since she doesn't care about saving Mr. Necromancer, I guess the connection as to why she'll stay for Jodah isn't a general "Us magic users need to stick together.")

The plan that Jodah comes up with is fairly simple. She frees the necromancer first, then the others, and goes for the horses. He'll create a distraction on the other side of camp. When asked about what weaspons they have, the girl accepts Jodah's knife but says that he better hold on to that mirror of his.

"You really want to do this? You don't know these people?"

Jodah snorted. "I don't even know your name, and I helped you."

The woman straightened, stung by Jodah's words. Then she said, "Sima. I am Sima of the City of the Shadows . And don't worry, you can count on me to do my job. I'll free the other prisoners and be along presently."

(Sima? Doesn't ring a bell. Why'd Grubb take so long to reveal her name? I have no idea. But I did learn that while I thought the city with the Fountain of Youth was the City of Shadows after such a big deal was made about the strangeness about it, looks like I'm probably wrong about that one.)


...In the night...

Jodah makes his way to the other side of camp, clinging to his mirror as a talisman, and drops small seeds of magic into the ground around a great wagon owned by the Church of Tal. When a guard questions why he's out of his quarters, Jodah ignites them all, with one flaring right in the guard's face. The wagon ignites and all the books inside go up in flames while Jodah starts screaming that goblins are attacking the camp.

The guards look for an enemy that isn't there.

As a group of prisoners cross his path, Jodah points away from the camp and they all hobble in the direction, still chained together but at least able to move about. The sight of guards fighting against armed skeletons is a clear sign that Sima was successful in freeing the necromancer, and Jodah finally makes his way towards their meeting spot.

(Wait what? Jodah doesn't actually lead the prisoners to the meeting spot? He just wanted to free them and everyone goes their separate ways and hope to escape?)

Sima is glad to see him and is eager to leave, but Primata Delphine has other plans. Delphine declares that the light of Tal let her know that her books were beyond saving and that the culprits would need to acquire horses if they they wanted to escape, and now she has them right where she wants them.

The primata was quoting scripture now. "Bathed in the hallowed light , the infidels looked up on the impurities of their souls and despaired." As she spoke, her form began to glow, first like a tent lit from within, and then bright enough to bathe the entire hillside in near-daylight. The ivory-shaded mount, thundered their hooves against the ground and tried to uproot their stakes.

(I assume that the word is "mounts" and not just "mount." The book has had at least one clear typo/spell-check mistake per chapter up to this point.)

Jodah looks towards Sima for help only to find that she's curled up on the ground clutching at her belly.

The priamta quotes more scripture and a sword of fire forms in her hand. She swings and Jodah lifts his hands on instinct, mirror still clutched in his hands. The sword strikes the mirror and its fire turns upon the primata and sets her aflame.

They take the primata's horse and ride away.

When they finally feel safe enough to stop. Jodah declares that he doesn't know what he's going to do now with Voska dead.

"Then come with me. There is a safe house we use south of here. I could use your help in reaching it. And you need some real training in magic."

* * *


Voska

Looks like I was right. He really is gone. The last bit of Jodah's old life is gone. Jodah gets his closure and now it's time for this new leg in his journey to begin. But rather than heading off with the Rag Man, it'll be with Sima instead.


Sima

It's only been a chapter, but it feels like it's been much longer since we've last seen Sima. A whole war began and ended since that time. What are her reasons for sticking with Jodah? Does she know that Voska had taken on the descendant of the legendary wizard Jarsyl?


Rag Man

When's he going to make his move! I suppose a couple months isn't that much considering Ith has been caged and tortured for more than a dozen years... but come on! He's not going to live forever.


Church of Tal

What was the opening journal entry about? Considering it was about the various sides of the church, and all we got was more of the same... it seems like we got the exact opposite of what it was implying.


1 comment:

  1. The Rag Man, and much of its actions, are subtle. It never really seemed to be a true 'guide' more like something that pushes if Jodah goes in the wrong direction.

    As for the opening entries, they seem to give mostly a worldview of the state of the world, not always necessarily something directly relating to each chapter, though at times, it does.

    Also, nearly all the main characters in Grubb's trilogy here are new. Very few are seen in flavor texts, if anywhere.

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