[The triumphant return of Let’s Read The Thing! Updates may still be sporadic for a while but we’re mostly back on track]
Richard awakes from his de-thorning, which is not a sex thing even though it kind of sounds like it should be.
Warm midday light filled the room, and the wonderful, tangy aroma of spice soup filled his lungs.
“Spice soup” appears to be the main staple food of this world, they eat it or talk about eating it all the damn time.
Richard goes out to eat with Zedd and Kahlan and then a whole bunch of bullshit happens that I’m not going to bother summarizing (it involves our old friend INANE FUCKING BANTER) . Anyway Richard has figured out Zedd is the wizard, although somehow Kahlan hadn’t suspected a thing until he announces it.
After some back-slapping and twee declarations of friendship Zedd ambles into the house and emerges with a sword, which is the Sword of Truth, so Richard can become the Seeker. This is all drawn out as if it’s some sort of mystery even though literally everyone in the world figured it out weeks ago.
As if in a trance, Richard closed his fingers around the hilt and pulled the sword free, the blade making a ringing, metallic sound that hung in the air. Richard had never heard a sword make a sound quite like it.
That’s because none of the other swords you’ve ever handled were in bad fantasy novels.
Unless something is missing from my copy the following two sentences appear directly next to each other. See if you can figure out what’s going on:
He felt as if a part of him was now complete.
From deep within, he felt his anger stir, brought to life, searching direction.
I assumed “searching direction” was a typo caused by the conversion to PDF but according to Google Books this is actually what it says. I have no idea what that means or why we’re suddenly hearing about Richard’s “anger”.
Actually I’m going to quote this whole bit because it’s hilariously bad.
As his rage rose, he felt an awakening power rushing into him from the sword: the twin to his own anger. His own feelings had always seemed independent, whole. This was like having an image in a mirror come to life. It was a terrifying specter. His anger fed on the force from the sword, and in return, the wrath from the sword fed on his anger. Together the twin storms spiraled through him. He felt like a helpless bystander, being dragged along. It was a frightening and at the same time seductive sensation that bordered on violation. Fearful perceptions of his own anger twisted with tantalizing promise. The bewitching emotions rushed headlong through him, seizing his anger, soaring with it. Richard struggled to control the rage. He was on the brink of panic. On the brink of abandon.
Such stirring imagery.
Kahlan fell to her knees in front of Richard, head bowed, hands held behind her back. “I pledge my life in the defense of the Seeker.”
No Kahlan what are you doing ditch this loser and go on awesome adventures.
Zedd also declares his allegiance to the Seeker and the united states of Wherever and then Richard is like “wut”.
Richard is naturally confused about all of this, because in epic fantasy novels important information must be concealed for as long as possible just because, so Zedd spends a lot of time explaining things we’ve either figured out or been explicitly told several chapter ago.
Also, Zedd stored the Sword of Truth in a “wizard’s cabinet”, which is invisible. I know this book was published in the 90s but I’m getting a really strong “it’s the 60s and everyone is stoned out of their gourds on weed” vibe from a lot of this.
Richard is terrified to learn that stopping Darken Rahl is now his responsibility. On one hand this is a very realistic way to react, but on the other hand I hate it when fantasy character do this while “I no I can’t possibly be the chosen one” song and dance because we fucking know they’re going to do it eventually.
“There is a magic,” he began, “an ancient and dangerous magic of immense power. It’s a magic spawned from the earth, from life itself. It is held in three vessels called the three boxes of Orden. The magic is dormant until the boxes are put into play, as it is called.
Yes, we know, because you won’t stop saying it.
The magic ofOrden is the power of life. Like all power, it simply exists. It’s the user who determines what use it will be put to. The magic of Orden can just as easily be used to help crops grow, to heal the sick, to end conflict. It’s all in what the user wants. The power is neither evil nor good; it simply exists.
You see this crop up in fantasy a lot, where some magic power that makes its user omnipotent or whatever is said to be neutral and neither good nor evil. That might be true in a strictly literal sense, but in practice the danger of such a power being mis-used is so great that it would be much safer to just treat it as inherently destructive and stop anyone from getting their hands on it.
Anyway, once you “put the box into play” (which isn’t the same as opening it) you have a year to open one of them, but you need all three before any of them will open. This naturally makes me wonder why anyone would ever activate a box if they didn’t already have all three, but I guess Darken must have his reasons. If he doesn’t get the third one before the first day of winter he’ll die.
Didn’t the wisp thing say earlier that if Richard and Kahlan don’t stop Darken Rahl by the first day of winter they’ll die? Defeating him isn’t actually the same as making sure he doesn’t win; in the scenario Zedd is presenting they could technically just sit around until the first day of winter and as long as Rahl doesn’t find the last box he’ll keel over without anyone else needing to lift a finger.
Oh also, in a monumentally contrived set of conditions only one box will give Rahl his powers. Of the other two one will kill him and the other will destroy all life on the planet.
Open the other wrong box, and every bug, every blade of grass, every tree, every man, woman, and child, every living thing, is incinerated into nothingness. It would be the end of all life. The magic of Orden is twin to the magic of life itself, and death is part of everything that lives, so the magic of Orden is tied to death, as well as life.
I’m pretty sure that makes no fucking sense but whatever.
Richard assumes that Rahl is after him for the information that was contained in the book, which tells him which box is the good one and which ones to avoid. Given that, you’d think it would have been smarter for Papa Cypher to just destroy the knowledge in the book entirely, thus dissuading anyone from ever trying to open any of the boxes.
Or maybe the thinking is that the knowledge of which box to open would act as a kind of deterrent to prevent a power-crazed megalomaniac from just picking a box at random and nuking everything; as long as they didn’t actually get the information they’d be left chasing after it until they died.
Although frankly, once you bring life-destroying magic into the picture the idea of a magical dictator doesn’t sound all that bad. It would be vastly preferable to allow Rahl to open the correct box than it would be to risk him deciding to wing it and having a one in three chance of wiping out all life, but I’m guessing no one is going to consider that.
Also, Richard already knows all about the boxes but doesn’t tell Kahlan and Zedd about the book because reasons.
“A Seeker is a person who answers to no one but himself; he is a law unto himself. The Sword of Truth is his to wield as he wishes, and within the limits of his own strength, he can hold anyone to answer for anything.”
John Galt The Seeker?
You see, Richard, a Seeker does exactly as the name implies; he seeks. He seeks the answers to things. Things of his own choosing. If he is the right person, he will seek the answers that will help others, not just himself. The whole purpose of a Seeker is to be free to quest on his own, to go where he wants, ask what he wants, learn what he wants, find answers to what he wants to know, and if need be, do whatever it is the answers demand.
I’m getting serious libertarian vibes from this. The Seeker is an extremely important person, someone who may have to save every living thing in the world, and so naturally the best way to ensure they do that is to empower them with absolute autonomy to do as they please. And remember the Seeker isn’t actually chosen based on suitability for the post (this is what the council did to get Zedd so riled up); they’re simply born a Seeker, and no one can object to it.
Zedd even tacitly acknowledges this flaw:
What do you think you were doing in the high Ven? You were seeking the answer to the vine, to your father’s murder. You could have left that to others, others more qualified, and as it turned out, perhaps you should have, but that would have been against your nature, the nature of a Seeker. They don’t leave it to others, because they want to know for themselves.
This makes sense in a libertarian or Objectivist world where certain kinds of people are infallible supermen who can do no wrong, but it’s a terrible idea in reality.
It’s of no importance how he finds an answer, only that he does. As I said, there are no rules.
“The ends justify the means” is generally not seen as a good philosophy to base your actions on for a reason, but I guess no one told Zedd that.
Zedd tells Richard that he needs to get them across the boundary without alerting Darken Rahl. Richard protests that he has no idea how you could do this but Zedd says that of course he can do it, he’s the Seeker. That’s kind of a terrible position to be put in, actually.
“Zedd, I don’t think I’m qualified to be Seeker. I don’t know anything about the Midlands.”
“Sometimes it is easier to make a decision if you aren’t burdened with a knowledge of history,”
I’m starting to think Zedd is actually a spy sent to sabotage the quest by giving Richard really terrible advice all the time.
Richard pussy-foots around for a while about whether or not he’s going to take the sword and be the Seeker so Zedd tells Kahlan to explain how evil Darken Rahl is.
“Darken Rahl is a practitioner of an ancient form of magic called anthropomancy. He divines the answersto questions by the inspection of living human entrails.”
Richard felt his anger ignite.
“It’s of limited use; he can at most get a yes or no to a single question, and sometimes, a name. Nonetheless, he continues to favor its use. I’m sorry, Richard. Please forgive me for telling you this.”
If you remember, Richard’s dad has his intestines pulled out. I wasn’t really expecting nuanced characterization from a guy called “Darken Rahl” but this pretty much confirms we’re in stereotypical evil overlord territory.
Richard’s righteous anger comes spilling out or whatever and he accepts the sword. Turns out this was actually a test.
“I told you before. Weren’t you listening? A Seeker appoints himself. Before you could become Seeker you had to pass one determinative test. You had to show me you could use all your mind. For many years, Richard, you have kept part of it locked away. Your anger.
So the Seeker is a free agent unrestrained by rules or ethics who goes after “the truth” by any means necessary, by getting really angry. In other words Richard has just become the world’s most powerful Reddit user.
“Show me how the magic works, wizard.”
Now that he’s become Seeker Richard gets +20 to his asshole stat.