Richard and Kahlan start off on the next step of their quest, discussing Adie. Kahlan says that she’s a sorceress.
Richard glanced sideways at her in surprise. “Really? I don’t know exactly what a sorceress is.”
“Well, she is more than us, but less than a wizard.”
Richard smelled the aromatic fragrance of the balsam needles, then cast them aside. Maybe she was more than he, Richard thought, but he wasn’t at all sure she was more than Kahlan.
Wait, hang on, I’m getting confused about who’s more or less than who. Is it Richard > Kahlan > Adie or Richard > Adie > Kahlan? I feel like I should be making an equation of some kind to sort this out.
He remembers Zedd and Adie seeming afraid of her at first and wonders what her m y s t e r i o u s s e c r e t is. I’d be interested in her mysterious secret as well, if we hadn’t already been told what it is.
“What’s Adie doing living here, in the pass?”
Kahlan pushed some of her hair back over her shoulder. “She became tired of people coming to her all the time, wanting spells and potions. She wanted to be left alone to study whatever it is a sorceress studies; some sort of higher summons, as she called it.”
This is understandable, but also a tad selfish. Could it be another Objectivist Thing? Weigh in on the comments.
More travelling along the narrow trail ensues. Lots of walking, and more walking, and then more walking.
Richard wondered what they were going to do once they reached the Midlands. He had depended on Zedd to let him know the plan once they crossed the pass, and now they were without Zedd, without a plan. He felt kind of foolish to be charging into the Midlands. What was he going to do once they crossed over?
Let the record show that I brought up this exact same point last chapter.
The path goes along some extremely rough terrain- like straight up a vertical rock- but they can’t go around these obstacles because the boundary could be nearby on either side. Essentially, Goodkind has come up with a reason to turn his story into a 2D platformer.
^Kahlan and Richard
Magic, he thought suddenly. The Midlands was a land of magic. Maybe someone with magic could tell where the box was. They had to look for someone with the right kind of magic
Wait, hang on, I didn’t quite catch that. Did you say magic? You need someone with magic to use magic so they can find the boxes with magic?
As they walked along, Richard recited the Book of Counted Shadows to himself, trying to find a way to stop Rahl. Since it was an instruction book for the boxes, it should have a way to stop their use
Who else forgot that this book thing even exists?
The book contains instructions for how to counter various problems that can come up with the boxes (you know, outdated drivers and stuff), which means it should be theoretically possible to reverse-engineer a way to throw a spanner in the works, but unfortunately Richard doesn’t actually understand most of the book, considering that it refers to a lot of unknown Midlands concepts (the Midlands of course being utterly foreign and unknown, what with having been cut off from Westland for all of twenty years).
Verification of the truth of the words of the Book of Counted Shadows, if spoken by another, rather than read by the one who commands the boxes, can only be insured by the use of a Confessor . . . . .
A Con-fess-or, eh?
Richard and Kahlan are taking a break when Richard sees something creepy hiding behind a tree.
Off through the woods there was something standing partly behind a tree trunk. It wasn’t a person, but was about that size, with no definite shape. It looked like a person’s shadow standing up in the air.
Goodkind seems to actually have a pretty good imagination for horror, or at least horror-infused fantasy.
The shadow doesn’t follow them or move, and before long they lose sight of it. You know what would be super creepy? If they kept spotting it through the trees but never saw it actually moving. That would be super cool.
The idea of seeing the things from the boundary again was frightening. The idea of seeing his father again was terrifying
Richard thought of the things that were scary, and was scared.
Kahlan looked around at the woods, turned to check behind. She stopped suddenly, grabbing his arm. In the trail, not ten yards behind, stood a shadow.
They walk away quickly and it once again doesn’t follow.
“Kahlan, do you remember when you told me of the shadow people that Panis Rahl sent forth?
Could those be shadow people?
I had to go back and re-read my own posts to remember what Richard is talking about. Here’s a quick recap:
PenisPanis Rahl used floaty “shadow people” who could survive any physical attack and make people burst from the inside out, so the Midlands kingdoms employed a “great and honourable wizard” to help them. We don’t learn his name right away, which means it’s totally either Richard’s dad or Zedd.
They speculate that the shadow people know they’re there but can’t see them, and so aren’t attacking. They start appearing near the trail increasingly frequently.
Maybe the shadows were trying to make them bolt, to run from the trail, and cross over
accidentally into the underworld
Since they have no idea where the boundaries of the underworld are one of the shadows could just stand in the middle of the trail and they’d be completely fucked.
The soft scraping sound was nearer, all around. It sounded like . . . It sounded like claws on rock, he thought.
I have to give Goodkind his due, he is actually pretty good at evoking an atmosphere of eerie dread. This is quite a bit more interesting than just hordes of not-orcs or morally questionable people stabbing each other in the ass.
They finally get to the narrow part of the trail and I’m somewhat confused, because Richard says he’s going to have to use the night stone to create light but earlier Adie described the Narrows as a chasm cut down the middle of a huge rock, so presumably it would be impossible to step off the trail anyway.
In the warm yellowish illumination, they could see a wall of the shadow things, hundreds of them, not an inch between any two. They formed a half circle less than twenty feet away. On the ground were dozens and dozens of hump-shaped creatures, almost looking like rocks at first. But they weren’t rocks. Gray armor bands interlocked across their backs, jagged spikes poked out around the bottom edge.
It’s probably a good thing you took out the stone, then.
The Grippers and the shadows start chasing them into the chasm. Or at least I think so, they’re described as sort of trundling and floating along slowly, which doesn’t sound all that menacing.
The warm light illuminated the hillside where the Narrows path should have been. Spread out before them as far as they could see was a mass of rubble. Rocks, tree limbs, splintered wood, and mud, all tumbled together. A slide had recently plunged down the hillside.
The Narrows trail had been swept away.
But enough about that, IT’S TIME TO ROCK AND RAHL
So, two notes before we continue.
1) This chapter gets pretty grimdark, so reader discretion is advised. We’re getting our first Rahl-centric POV and Goodkind goes for the low hanging fruit. No, lower than that. Lower. Lo- okay just start tunneling into the earth, I’ll tell you when to stop.
2) A large chunk of this is going to just be me quoting things, because there’s nothing I could possibly add to what you’re about to read.
We’re in D’hara now, getting the lowdown on Panis Rahl’s tomb in Darken Rahl’s evil doom palace (which is called “the People’s Palace” because do you see). Remember earlier, when Richard was blathering on about their enemies being cold-hearted bastards and so they had to be prepared to out-bastard them, and I said this could only be redeemed if there was some complexity to the villains? WELL.
White roses, replaced every morning without fail for the last three decades, filled each
of the fifty-seven gold vases set in the wall beneath each of the fifty-seven torches that represented each year in the life of the deceased. The floor was white marble, so that any white rose petal that fell would not be a distraction before it could be whisked away. A large staff saw to it that no torch was allowed to go spent for longer than a few moments, and that rose petals were not allowed to rest long upon the floor. The staff was attentive and devoted to their tasks. Failure to be so resulted in an immediate beheading
Staff positions were filled from the surrounding D’Haran countryside. Being a member of the crypt staff was an honor, by law. The honor brought with it the promise of a quick death if an execution was in order. A slow death in D’Hara was greatly feared, and common. New recruits, for fear they would speak ill of the dead king while in the crypt, had their tongues cut out.
No, seriously. I didn’t write this as a parody.
It gets worse.
Darken Rahl himself is visiting, which means that no torch is allowed to go out, nor can a single petal from one of the white roses fall onto the floor or it’s execution time.
Panis Rahl’s coffin is inscribed with an ancient language detailing how to travel to the underworld. No one else knows how since everyone else in D’Hara who spoke the language has been executed.
Darken Rahl ran his delicate fingers over the carved symbols on his father’s tomb
The hero is of course manly and rugged, whereas Emperor Darkness here has “delicate fingers”. I do actually like that Goodkind avoids playing up the feminine man = evil thing by giving Darken Rahl relatively non-ostentatious clothes, as opposed to something like this:
An immaculate white robe, its only decoration gold embroidery in a narrow band around the neck and down the front, covered his lean frame to within an inch of the floor. He wore no jewelry, other than a curved knife in a gold scabbard
Hey just for fun, what was Richard’s brother wearing during his one and only appearance?
He wore baggy white trousers, and his white tunic with bloused
sleeves was cinched at the waist by a gold belt.
His features set off his eyes perfectly.
What does that even mean?
Many women had been taken to his bed. Because of his striking looks, and his power, some went eagerly. The others went despite his looks, but because of his power. Whether or not they were eager did not concern him. Were they unwise enough to be repulsed when they saw the scars, they entertained him in ways they could not have foreseen.
Because he’s EEEEEEEVIL you see.
Darken Rahl, as had his father before him, considered women merely vessels for the man’s seed, the dirt it grew in, unworthy of higher recognition
Rahl’s wingman, Demmin Nass, enters.
As he strode in, ignoring the guards, his sharply chiseled muscles stood out in stark
relief in the torchlight. His chest was covered with skin as smooth as that of the young boys he had a weakness for.
Yes, that’s right. We’re going there.
(IT GETS WORSE)
Of course this guy’s face is all pockmarked and hideous because evil men are either delicate and feminine, or ripped and ugly. Really evil men are both simultaneously.
Demmin straightened, his face set in a frown of displeasure. “Lord Rahl, Queen Milena has delivered her list of demands.”
She must be opposed to Rahl’s tax on space trains.
(She actually has the last box, and a wizard named Giller to protect it)
Darken Rahl stared through the commander, as if he weren’t there, slowly wetting the tips of the first three fingers of his right hand with his tongue and then carefully stroking his lips and eyebrows with them.
“Have you brought me a boy?” Rahl asked expectantly.
Yep, they both molest children! Boys, because then it’s even creepier apparently.
Up until this exact line of dialogue I would be willing to concede that there have in fact been people- some of them living in the last hundred years- who were more or less as megalomaniacal and self-absorbed as Rahl. But this is the point where it becomes apparent that Goodkind just got a bucket containing every evil character trait in the history of fiction and dumped it all over the page.
“The boy” is waiting for Rahl in the “Garden of Life”, whatever that is.
“Good.” A small smile spread across Darken Rahl’s handsome face. “Good. And he is not too old? He is still a boy?”
Yes, Terry, we got it the first time.
Darken Rahl’s smile widened. “You are sure, Demmin? Did you take off his pants yourself, and check?”
I spent about an hour looking for a facepalm image that would be worthy of this sentence, but there was no image. THE INTERNET HAS FAILED ME.
Okay, so. Somehow, for God only knows what reason, all of this ties into Rahl going to the underworld. No, don’t even bother thinking about it. Rahl also name-drops Kahlan in connection with, like, I don’t know. Whatever. More vague hints as to what a Confessor does even though I don’t care.
Darken Rahl nodded, leaned closer, and lowered his voice. “Demmin, do you kill your little boyfriends before . . . or after?”
Yes, okay, we fucking get it. Jesus Christ.
Rahl finds a single rose petal on the ground and pulls a Richard, sending one of his guards to behead some people, then they head to the Garden of Life because Rahl senses that Kahlan is close to the boundary. Oh also Rahl declares his intention to rape her so he can have an heir. Of course.
We also learn that Rahl is one of those vilains who likes to do things in the most complicated way possible in order to facilitate the plot. For example, he could just attack Queen Millenia and steal the box…. but he doesn’t. And he could just kill Kahlan, Richard and Zedd…. but he doesn’t. For lulz.
Small tables of lustrous wood stationed at intervals along the halls held vases with bouquets of fresh flowers that lent a light fragrance to the rooms.
REAL MEN have slabs of thawing beef all over their houses, not these girly flowers.
In the Garden of Life there’s a whole bunch of bullshit, including a boy buried in sand up to his neck. So I guess Rahl isn’t going to molest him, he’s just going to, I don’t know, tear out his bones and use them to build a motorbike that will take him to the underworld or something. We’re not actually told.
What a pile of fucking bullshit this book is.