We don't need Live Blogginations!
We don't need three-legged troll!
This dark sarcasm in the forums,
Author leave them kids alone!
HEY! AUTHOR! Leave them kids alone!
All in all, you're just a—
'Nother brick in
Chapter 18: The Wall
Mad points to anyone who actually attempted to sing the above. Too bad the Game of Life is Whose Line Is It Anyway?
Although my sanity took a hit the day before yesterday, I did some chanting in the name of Xel'lotath
and have thankfully recovered most of my meter. Thank goodness, too, because seeing real life suddenly cut out with prompts to "buy the sequel"
was really freaky. But we've got promises of Tayo dying (maybe) to fulfill! So how's he looking, then, in the hall that's Not On Fire?
Days passed but Tayo remained unchanged.
Yes! I think we might have some dying here! Yes? Yes?
If anybody but Alex cares, they don't show it, as they spend the rest of the time... sorting through the treasure.
...OK, back in the "First Bag" chapter, you showed us—you showed us
—that you don't have to sort treasure,
you can just get up next to a pile of it and shove it in there. Why is that suddenly not possible here?
It's also explained, over Tayo's prostrate form, that if one adventurer saves another's life, a debt of honor is owed and pay it back or else DISHONOR blooming Category 5.
Did we mention that Andy's family owes Tayo (Tayo pulled Dad out of a jam years back), but haven't yet repaid him, and if Tayo dies, Andy's family equals = dishonored FOREVER?
I dunno about you, but that seems like a really screwed-up system. Wouldn't he have an estate or something you could give to? No will
or anything? And if it's Dad's debt, why the heck is the burden on Andy?
Alex senses that Tayo is not yet over The Wall(TM). But he's close. They're losing him! Alex asks Arconn if he'll do what Calypso did and pull Tayo back. But Tayo's too far gone, and it's dangerous to go
But who cares about that right now, eh? Time for more Storytime with Expositch!
Arconn explains that, now that the dragon's dead, the lands should be purty and spring-y by the time Spring comes. Also, no one's found Iownan's crystal yet.
Say, isn't that a... MAGICAL FORTELLING CRYSTAL? Liiiightbuuuulb! Thank you!
Arconn knows what he's thinking, but warns him to be careful. One, there is a lot
of treasure to sort through, and it's just one ball. Two? There Are Things Man Was Not Meant to Know
! I would like to add, also, three: It isn't yours,
kid! Careful with that thing!
But then I have to remember that this is Alex.
He can find anything, handle any knowledge, and manhandle others' property all he wants. He Is All. Prologue and Epilogue. Introduction and Denouement. The Perfect Being. You Will Be Assimilated. Resistence Is Futile.
At least Arconn seems acquiesced to this:
"A noble task, though dangerous. Perhaps more for you than any of the others."
He's quite deadpan about it. He seems to realize that his lot in life is that of the designated encyclopedia for a horrible world-twisting abomination of a Gary Stu
, and he's come to be... OK with it. Sure, it's not the job your mother can brag to all her friends about, but whatever pays the bills. And while I'm sure he's already contracted for a spate of sequels, I'd like to think he finds better work after this. I imagine the Artemis Fowl
universe is always looking for a few background elves, though height might be an issue in Arconn's case.
It takes three more days to search through the chambers, but Tayo doesn't have much time left. He's coughing
now. That's always
the beginning of the end. Of course, in the case of Tayo's end, there's still an awful lot of end left, since he's been exceedingly near to The Wall(TM) for the past week,
and he still doesn't look anything like done.
This is taking too long!
Alex is frustrated, because he's so confuuuused
(damn I thought we were past that already) as to whether the crystal ball would've been honored in a special place, or just another treasure. Amazingly, despite his recent proclivity for remembering out of thin air things that didn't exist until they needed to for the sake of the plot, Alex can't
think of any spells that might help him find a book.
If it doesn't have to do with fire, he can't help you; sorry!
But what kind of Sue/Stu would Alex be if the plot didn't hand itself to him on a silver platter? He suddenly
spots a glimmering crystalline thing that just happens
to be at the top of a pile of nearby treasure!
Even the Shoulder Moon Ring Narrator knows this is contrived—he outrate states that Alex knew
the ball hadn't been there a second ago!
Alex scrambles up the pile o' assorted loot (you know—gold coins, extrordinarily large gemstones, ogre hearts, crystallized demon blood
—the usual)—and grabs the ball.
Iownan gives him her blessing for commadiering her extremely dangerous and precious magical artifact by appearing shimmering in its surface for a while before fading away. More and more faces appear in its surface, and he stares into them for a while, meditating on the grooovy colors, maaan.
Because dude, that stuff is dangerous you little twit,
Arconn has to swing by and snap him out of it. But hey! Alex found the item for their Fetch Quest
! (Ooooof course he did.) Alex put the Crystal Ball in the KEY ITEMS pocket!
And apparently, the swirling faces told him what to do to bring Tayo back. Yup. All them... swirly faces. Alex? I think you've been hitting the Dragon's Bane a liiiiittle too hard, man.
Screw Arconn and his fretting; Alex is goin' in there anyway and pulling Tayo back!
Because there's nothing
an elf can do that Alex can't blow out of the water. He doesn't know the meaning of failure! That mess isn't in his
"It will be dangerous... What lies beyond will call to you again, and you are not a trained healer."
The way he drops "healer" then at the end of the sentence makes me think that all "healing" in this world consists of waiting for the afflicted to go into a coma, and then invading their subconscious to literally yank them back from the brink of death. Yes, I know that's not the intent—death-yanking is just one of the many abilities possessed by healers, I'm sure—but like the "extra gray horse," the impression just won't leave me.
Alex is almost as dismissive of Arconn as I am of this book. Whenever a normal person nonchalantly says, "I'll be fine,
" that's usually the cue for things to get messed up.
It's probably second only to "What Could Possibly Go Wrong?
?" in terms of things to never say
before attempting something dangerous. But this is Alex, so there's nothing to worry about. Unfortunately.
He even disses Arconn's attempt to help him:
"There will be no need, my friend. I will be safe."
...You know, I haven't really dealt with it much in this liveblog (since it would require even more
quoteblocks than I typically employ), but Alex has the irritating problem of not talking like an actual teenager.
He speaks in the same affected "fantasy dialect" as everybody else. In addition to making him even less
distinguishable from the trees in the background, it makes him even repulsively
unbelievable. Even moreso than the rampant Stuishness, this
is one of the things that bugs me the most about Alex—he doesn't talk like any
teenager I've ever met, regardless of where they're from.
I mean, it's true that when you spend a lot of time around someone, you tend to talk more like them, especially if you're talking to
them. I used to have an e-pal from Poland, and I often noticed myself subconsciously mimicking her second-language English. I'd adapted my "speech" (or typing, in this case) to be more like hers. But have you ever known someone from a place with a really thick accent—like, say, New York—and while they'd lived in a different place for a while, and adopted a more neutral accent, there were times (perhaps when they got really emotional) that their original one just slipped out? Alex's friend is dying, and he thinks he might be able to save him. But it's very dangerous. I'd think he'd be pretty emotional.
Heck, even that isn't necessary. My grandmother hasn't lived in Iowa for at least fifty years, but I still
hear her using Iowa regionalisms and pronounciations I never hear from anyone else.
But... back to the story, I suppose. I am amused and bemused that Alex just somehow
knows how to do the Vulcan Mind-Meld or whatever that lets him go to the wall with Tayo. Did the swirling faces tell him that, too?
But he ends up in the same strange limbo as before. Tayo is waiting on a hill, high above The Wall(TM).
...Close, my aunt Fanny.
So Alex asks him why he's camped out on that hill (waiting for a rare spawn?). Apparently, the Oracle told him to "wait for a sign."
Wait a minute, how the crap did Iownan get in here? She can do long-distance brink-yankings? Oh, come on
now! That's just—
Wait, she told him back at the Tower?
Ooooh. So wait, Tayo's known this whole time he was going to bite it?!
Geez! Well, I guess that
explains why he's been so cagey this whole time! I mean, that
makes sense; if I knew I was going to—
...Wait a minute. That... that... that makes sense.
Something in this book makes sense.
Cue appropriate music.
Astounding as it may seem, folks, something in this book was actually explained in a way that actually makes sense.
And, amazingly, we aren't done yet.
Our "not done yet" comes in the form of a woman waiting on the other side of the wall, from whom Tayo has been waiting for a sign—but no such luck yet. Alex considers asking who she is, but instead tells Tayo to wait there while he goes to find out for himself.
(OK, so I guess I lied. We do have one
more female speaking role left in this story.)
The woman who waits on the other side of the wall is all sadface. ;_; Alex gets neighborly and leans over to talk to her. (What does that equal in real life, d'you suppose?)
The lady's conflicted. Yes, she's waiting for Tayo. She can't signal him, because she knows it's not his time to go. But she can't bring herself to dismiss him, because she longs to speak with him again. But if she calls him to talk, she kills him. But if she sends him away, she has to wait a looong time to see him again.
That's... actually a pretty sucky dilemma. Alex, however, politely offers to be the go-between. So she gives him a message:
"Will you tell him that his time is not yet, but that Elsa waits for him," she said. "Tell him I do not blame him for what happened, or for him not being there when I crossed the wall. Please tell him that he should seek life and happiness while he remains beyond the wall."
...I'll be damned. Somehow, deep in these stygian pits, amidst the clutter of Beige Prose
and Flat Characters
, steeped in bedraggled plotting that would make even a five-year-old roll her eyes during her bedtime story...
That's actually kind of touching.
Yo. Message from Elsa.
I'm an idiot. What kind of a jackass leaves his sick wife to go hunting treasure?
Hey, man, you didn't know it was that bad.
Yeah, but the very least I could've done was stuck around 'til the doc gave word.
Maybe, yeah, but what's done is done. She's waiting, man, but we're waiting, too. C'mon; let's blow this popsicle stand.
...I'll admit, there's some Fridge Logic
here. I do kinda have to side with Tayo's assessment of his jerkishness in abandoning Elsa during her illness. Unless there was something super mondo OMG urgent
about that particular adventure, I kinda agree he should've stayed home. Or at least waited to know how
sick she was. But as much as I hate to admit it, Alex does have a sort of point too, in that you can't dwell on your past mistakes. (Who knew, eh?) And everything's cool with Elsa, and she'll be there for him when he does eventually die. So it's time to perk up, Tayo.
So let's get this straight, for the record: A long-standing (and demonstrated) character trait of Tayo's ends up being the result of a past event, which we are not hit over the head with when it is revealed to us, but was exacerbated over the course of the book due to another event that, although logical, was also
not thrown in our faces and, instead, its effects were allowed to develop over the course of the story.
This is pretty much Good Fiction 101 right here, but seeing it here, in this
book, frankly amazes me. Too bad everything else about Tayo's charaterization is bass ackwards (real
quiet, isn't he?) but with regards to his fear of death—hey, man, props for the effort.
And then the book goes and mucks that
up, too, by having him wake up as an uproarious clone of Scald. Instant Character Development: Just Add Water!
...By this point, I just take whatever I can get.
Everything now is just down to dividing the treasure. So guess what time it is again? It's Uncomfortable Wealth-Heaping Time!
Because we all so craved another scene where Alex is made improbably rich against his own wishes.
Alex manages to talk Olaf out of giving him a wizard's three shares of treasure (since he didn't sign on as a wizard, after all). But he still has to take two shares—one extra for killing the dragon. But he also
gets all the odds of the treasure, as well as "any interesting artifacts." And
all the rewards from returing the other six bags. And
Andy walks away with almost nothing
because he has to fork it all over to Tayo. Tayo denies some of it, which increases his honor, except it doesn't, because he can't say his father's life meant nothing (Rrrrrg! Enough with the honor!
) and Alex only gets out of taking more from Tayo because he says Tayo's spear gave him the chance to go for Slathbog.
Oh, and dividing up the entire treasure takes like three months.
"Just point and tell it where to go." Suuuure.
Only two more chapters. Only. Two. More. Chapters.
We've almost escaped.