I've twice now lost my progress while attempting to start this installment. I think the universe itself is out to stop me from braving the horror that is this chapter.
Fasten your seatbells, fellas. It's gonna be a bumpy (and looooong) ride.
Chapter 17: Slathbog
Alas, Alex and company's stay-of-indeterminate-length in the elf realms must come to an end, so he bids goodbye to Calypso and her creeping creeper ways. But as he leaves, he notices that the leaves are getting all color-turny, and the world seems to be entering the colder part of Spratumminter.
Either they chose to stay with the elves for a long time, or the elves kept them there. Either way, having to cross the wastes in winter was totally avoidable
and is very much somebody's fault.
As they say in Springfield, HA HA!
Of course, everything being dead in winter
isn't really a problem, since... apparently everything's dead anyway. Because they are in the lands of PURE EVIL!
And what good would any self-respecting evil be if it didn't create a 200-mile radius of dead plant life and barren soil?
Sadly, the deadness means... they cannot bring the horses!
Noooo! Shahreesnootybootsschnuckle! But Arconn did his Friend To All Living Things
bit and told them, so they're just gonna hang out in this random patch of place for as long as it takes them to return... which could be months, apparently.
Yup. They're just gonna... hang out there, them horses. Sounds exhilerating.
Through the cold and awfulness, our team presses forward, with some banter that's probably supposed to be inspirational about how good Alex has gotten about conjuring fire. Which will apparently help them not make fire that the dragon can see. Except fire is the same as any ordinary fire. And if they're still several weeks' walk from the hoard, a dragon's chances of flying out to them are still kind of low.
Whatever. At this state of the game, minor logic squabbles like that are really small potatoes. It's only the really egregious (take a drink) stuff that stands out anymore. I'm just numb at this point.
Aside from everyone discussing how nervous they are to fight the dragon and how little they'd like to meet him in a dark alleyway, this is mostly a Travel Montage
again. Alex and the adventurers can't travel anywhere without several weeks of padding between them and their destination! It also lets Alex muse on the Varlo-ian scenery, which would be so gosh durned purty
if it weren't for that darn dragon
In the long list of "just onces" this book is inspiring me to see, I'd like to add to that, "I would like to just once see an evil being take over a beautiful land and leave it in a pristine state." Or "I would just once like to see an evil being take over a land that wasn't a looker to begin with." But no; Evil Likes Eden, apparently.
On the seventh day, they find a stream! Hey—isn't that the one that supposedly leads into the back entryway? By golly, it is! And if its proximity to the Grand Capitol of Pure Eviltopia didn't inform you of that, the grimy, oily water would!
Wait, Slathbog runs an industrial complex? Aha! So that's
the true nature of his heretofore unspoken evil! He's a Corrupt Corporate Executive
who enforces unsafe mining and refinement practices to hoard gold, so he can influence the world market in uncertain economic times!
...The sad thing is, I think I would totally read that book. Hell, I might write
it some day if I need another new idea.
But no, the water's just Evil. We never find out how or why Slathbog excretes oil. ...Evil!
Oh, and since digging underwater would provide too much excitement,
we find that the path's already caved in and cleared itself. And we're up to how
many things that would be interesting to read that get totally averted, again? Plus, you'd think that, if Slathbog knows his den as well as he's claimed to, he would've found this passage already.
So it took them about a week and a day to get here. Keep that in mind, kids.
As Alex is scanning the snowline, he spies the first plant he's seen growing since he entered the wasteland. What could it be? Dandelions? Grass? A small seedling?
The plant's broad, dark green leaves were covered at the base with blood-red flecks—Dragon's Bane. Alex was sure of it; he recognized it from Iownan's book.
Ahhh! Right! Dragon's Bane!
plant that we all knew would help him kill the dragon since way back in Chapter...
Chapter...? I mean, c'mon, the way he suddenly finds it, it being a big shock and all, is clearly
meant to invoke something from an earlier chapter, right? It's—it's from Iownan's book, so it has to be chapter, what, 8? 9? I... it has to be in here somewhere, right? And we've had so many interludes with him just sitting and reading that darn book in the middle of the travel sessions that it has
to have been mentioned at least once
before! How could we have not heard of something this cluebat-y before? It... it has to be in here somewhere! It has to be! I don't believe that he'd introduce a stupid and obvious Deus Ex Machina this
late in the game! I won't
believe it! No one could be that
maladroit, could they? No one who managed to get published would shoehorn in such an obvious and poorly-placed clue without even hinting
to it before! They wouldn't! They can't!
It's not possible! I refuse to believe it! No one!
Why why why why
Stupid stupid stupid
No no no no
Nuh-uh no way no how
You already gave us the sword we had the stupid sword
you didn't need
any more you already thwacked us with that
bat we know
you don't have to really at least it showed some planning
Cora: *THWACK!* Get Ahold Of Yourself Man
Cora? Wait, Cora Dorado? The main character of the fantasy novel that I wrote, that I've been whining to everyone in Yack Fest about over my inability to get published?
What are you doing
I'm popping out of your subconscious to give you a talking-to, that's what! You can't just freak out on me like this! You've gotten too far to give up now!
...OK, let me reemphasize that. What are you
Did you or did you not create me out of open disdain
for this type of fantasy novel?
The type of novel where the protagonists have no spine,
the events are random
, the characters flat and unidentifiable
, the experts are instant,
and everything drains toward the center
with absolutely no sense of reality?
Well, your parody was supposed to be mostly affectionate,
and—hey! In-character, you're not supposed to know anything
about most fantasy!
Exactly. I know pretty much what this guy knows, in-story. But I'm not in
story now! I'm talking to you as my agent
and my creator.
And you poured you blood, sweat and tears into my creation, because you'd read one too many goddamn books like this and want to rib 'em for all they were worth. I exist
because you were strong enough to say, "Fantasy novels, I love you, but this is goofy as hell.
" There is no reason
something lame as this should break you!
But... it's such an awful book!
I wouldn't be here if you weren't the kind of woman who can take awful books and grind them into the dirt.
...You're right. I... I have to go on. For me. For everyone.
For all the wannabe writers out there who can't help but think, "I can write something better than this crap."
There you go! Now... I'd probably better get out of here before your self-satisfactory ego trip outstays its welcome. Sayonara, 'Yator.
...Well. Now that that's other with. I'm a big brave dog, I'm a big brave dog, I'm a big brave dog...
Alex carefully uproots his
Dragon's Bane and stores it. He also remarks to Arconn that he can "feel the dragon." He feels his feelings.
That he feels.
What does a dragon feel? Hate and dark thoughts, but, interestingly, curiosity and longing as well.
Doth mine eyes decieve me, or is that perhaps a spark of... sympathy
on the horizon?
Still, Arconn tells him not to dwell on it, lest he draw the dragon. Alex thinks happy thoughts. But will he magically begin to fly?
Oh, and Arconn knew a dragon once who was an OK dude. But we can't talk about him, because dragons are supposed
to be Always Chaotic Evil
, so let's just forget him for now.
Alex falls asleep and dreams of dragons, and—
Oh, god. Oh god oh god oh—
*KA-THUNK* Gotta stay firm. Anyway:
Page 1 wrote:
Page 308 wrote:
Alex and his friends gathered around the small opening, preparing for what they were about to do. His eyes fixed on the darkness in front of him and a shiver ran down his back...
Alex and his friends gathered around the small opening, preparing for what they were about to do. His eyes fixed on the darkness in front of him and a shiver ran down his back...
It's the prologue. It's the copypastaed prologue.
I saw this coming,
no joke, the instant I read
that prologue almost a month ago. Before I even decided to liveblog this. Back when I still had some hope that maybe, just maybe, there was a kernel of an enjoyable story here.
Or, as we say on TV Tropes
BEFORE I EVEN CLICKED ON IT.
They take a single torch and enter the cave, which is, like the river, mysteriously oily and slimy. Maybe Slathbog has a really flaky scalp, and needs to use one of those super-heavy-duty shampoos. (Hey, could be!) Dwarfbeard asserts it's "the dragon's filth," but I don't think even dragon, er, filth would be that
consistency unless he subsisted entirely on vegetable oil.
They hit a sudden dark patch, but it leads to some stairs. These lead to the great entry hall of Varlo, apparently.
Because evil always bears a great wind with it (and no, not that kind
), the torch suddenly goes
out. And... gasp... Not even Alex's Inferno magic can relight it!
Dayum. If Slathbog can extinguish Alex's
flames, he might actually stand a chance! At the very least, I think the next chapter title ("The Wall(TM)," if you recall
) guarantees he at least gets to bump somebody
Hey! No single being in this story is aloud to be more powerful than Alex! He suddenly remembers something from his book that'd help! Just like he learned in Chapter... uh... Chapter... um...
...Freezair. Let. It. Go. It's not good for you.
Thousands of torches suddenly light everyone!
That'll teach 'im to out-Stu me!
How about we all take a moment to gawk at the thousands of piles of treasure?
Yo' treasure-pile so fat, it sat on Planck's constant and broke the h-bar!
Although I do have to wonder where the floor
is in all of that treasure. Or is there none, and does the following confrontation just take place on a sea of coins? Mmmm; sounds slippery.
At least Arconn realizes the place sucks. They've got to move and find a better place to face him! Say... where is the baster', anyway? He clearly knows his castle is being invaded, since he sent the spell to kill the lights. Why is he just letting these people invade his castle?
Could that be... another twinge of sympathy? Might our villain, appearing in any
capacity besides second-hand talk for the first time ever
in this story, not be such a Complete Monster
They keep talking about looking for a spot to "ambush the dragon." Fellas, he knows you're already here. You Keep Using That Word
. And unlike the whole "stand good" ordeal, I can actually confirm
you didn't make this phrase up off the top of your head.
Olaf Leaderson takes the time to inform us, as they all hide behind a pillar, to avoid the wings. They're apparently sharp as razors.
I wish I could remember the name of the dragon from How To Train Your Dragon
that supposedly cuts off treetops with its razor wings, because that'd be a great obscure nerdy joke to throw in here. But, alas and alack, it is not to be.
And hey! Guess what, guys?
Thank the Lord. For once, the author isn't afraid to assume we don't know what a dragon looks like. So no mincing words; let's get to the action!
Shaking slightly, he drew Moon Slayer from his belt and prepared to meet his destiny.
If airbrushed van art were written, I'm pretty sure this is what it'd read like.
Aaaand Slathbog kicks things off with a killer
fireball! He misses, but darn if it didn't put the fear of god into their hearts for a second, didn't it, Bob?
Right you are, Jim! We've got Leaderson kicking his team off into a strong start, but they're flinching like a thirteen-year-old with braces going in for the first kiss! That's gonna cost 'em.
Oh! What's this, Bob? It looks like Number 8, the new recruit Taylor, is staring down Slathbog!
He seems almost mesmerized by his "beauty and power"
Oooh! A rookie mistake if ever there was one, Jim.
Ah, but he breaks free of it! He feints! He gets the drop on Slathbog with a fierce tackle to the tail! Ooooh,
that's gonna leave a mark, Bob.
Yes, but so far, Slathbog is only attacking defensively! An interesting choice from a player hyped up as one of the adventuring league's most offensive, wouldn't you say, Jim?
Indeed, Bob! In fact, if one didn't know his personal history—and I didn't before today, Bob—I'd say it seems almost out of character!
Unless there's more here to Slathbog that we don't know about.
Well, Jim, they say every player's got his secret side. Some guys take ballet, some guys knit, and Slathbog—hey, maybe he's just a big softie after all.
Ooh! Slathbog's noticed Taylor! He moves in with some trash talk!
The ref's blowing the whistle, but he doesn't notice! He says he's going to enjoy beating Taylor, and from the tone of his voice, I might just believe it! How's Taylor going to respond?
Oh—Bob! Bob! He's looking into Slathbog's eyes!
] Jim, what's gonna happen now?
There were no happy thoughts inside Slathbog's mind. Alex saw, though, that there was a terrible longing for happiness inside of Slathbog because joy was the one desire he did not know how to feel.
It's sympathy! Sympathy, Jim! He's misunderstood! He's misunderstood! What's Taylor going to do now? Is he going to try the Dragon's Bane play his team just practiced?! Can it cure him?!
Tayo's taking advantage of the lull! He's in with his spear! He's got him down, Jim!
Oh no! Slathbog's got him too, Bob! It's a Wingplay and TAYO'S DOWN! TAYO'S DOWN! What's Taylor going to do now? Is he going to try the Dragon's Bane play his team just practiced?! Can it cure him?!
OH MY GOD, JIM! I DON'T BELIEVE WHAT I'M SEEING! ROOKIE TAYLOR JUST PLUNGED HIS SWORD INTO SLATHBOG'S CHEST! SLATHBOG'S DOWN! TAYLOR WON THE PLAYOFFS! HE WON THE PLAYOFFS!
Here's The Thing About Fa *RecordNeedleScratch*
No! No music! We are past
such frivolties at this point! You! Do! Not! Introduce! The! Element! Of! Symapthy! At! The! Last! Minute! And! Then! Have! The! Hero! Suddenly! Murder! Them! Anyway!
You have just
told me that this dragon—to whom you gave zero
screen time before this date, and attributed zero
evil deeds—is in fact a tortured soul longing for a happiness he could never fulfill, and your hero's first course of action is Impaled! With! Freaking! Extreme! Prejudice!
Either your villains are sympathetic and defeated with remorse and sadness
—"in another lifetime we may have been friends" sort of thing—or
you make it really freaking apparent
to us why
they are a Complete Monster
! You do not
hype a character up as a Complete Monster
, turn them into an Anti Villain
during our final confrontation, and then have our hero not react to this at all
unless they are a really callous friggin' bastard!
Or they have a deep personal vendetta! Alex has no
beef with this dragon! He just hates him because he's been told to! If he had any characterization at all, he'd be reacting
to this with some interest and possibly confusion! Hell, given his magnanimousness, I bet he could pull off a desire for redemption; I'm sure
he's powerful enough to pull off a Heel Face Mind Screw
spell! But no! This plot element is introduced solely to be instantly abandoned, just like EVERYTHING ELSE IN THIS GODDAMN STORY!
At least we got our death. Somebody is going to die. Tayo is dead. Please. Let me at least have that bit of promised foreshadowing.
...No, because Alex is going to make a potion to save him.
From the Dragon's Bane.
It is called Dragon's Bane. It was introduced out of nowhere, directly before the confrontation with the supposedly unstoppable "evil" dragon.
It did nothing about the dragon and instead is being used to make a healing potion.
...Pardon me for a moment. Let me step outside.
And, somewhere in Japan, a salaryman wonders why his pen suddenly decided to roll off his desk.
I would love to stop here for comedic effect. I really
would. But this chapter is still pages away from ending, and the stupidity still isn't done.
Alex's potion for Tayo needs milk, honey and tea. From those ingredients, I'd surmise Tayo has a cold, not a... cut-almost-in-half. Or something. Because we don't actually get a description of what his injuries ARE.
I find it a bit odd that the tea they have is green
tea, given that's pretty Asian and most of the food thus far has been American, but it's the milk
that gets me. They've been on the road at least
two weeks since the elves, if not more. Maybe even a month. Even in a fridge, milk doesn't last a super-long time. How cold are
those ice rooms? Are they just freezing
We also naturally get more references to Tayo being unprepared to die.
Now... this is supposed to be a serious scene, right? Tayo's almost dead, they're all trying to save him, Slathbog is oozing blood all over the treasure—dramatic yes? And this—this
—is what Alex says:
"He's not dead yet!"
...This writer must be the unnerdiest fantasy writer in existence
if he thinks he can seriously
drop that line in the middle of a serious death scene
and not expect his readers to start thinking...
"No really, I think I'm getting better!"
"No, he's Only Mostly Dead
! Mostly dead is still partially alive!"
Et cetra, et cetra, recite the rest of these scenes, by heart, at your leisure.
More references to The Wall(TM).
Aaaand Alex sets Slathbog's entire corpse alight with a single
Inferno, in the middle of the hall,
and the heat somehow does not overwhelm them
, melt the gold coins, or set the entire freaking castle on fire WHAT THE HELL.
And, just like Alex this is my cue to collapse.
Oh. My. God.