So it turns out that Beacontor is a signal fire calling for the muster of any and all who could see it throughout the entire region. Clearly the region is a small one, because I don’t think a single fire can be seen THAT far away.
Now it was Beau who groaned. “Oh, my.”
Just a warning: In a few chapters, you will want to kill Beau every time he says “Oh my.”
“As I said, what with Drearwood just to the east, and beyond that the Grimwall, and these Rucks and such sneaking ’round, I think those of us hereabout are in for some hard times. I mean, look at what happened right here at your mill—the fighting, the dead man, the slain Rucks and the Hlok.”
“Give me a minute to reiterate everything I said five minutes ago, and mention what happened in Chapter 1.”
“Shut up, Beau.”
Tipperton announces that the signal fire being lit means that there is trouble in the WHOLE REGION… even though this signal fire isn’t mentioned as being part of several. So yeah, either it’s huge and high up, or they live in a very small region.
“Oh, Tip—regardless of this, that, or the other, it spells woe.”
“See the signal fire, Tip? See it? It’s shaped like three letters: W… O… E.”
And even though we’ve been told that, uh, it’s a summons which presumably is only used when URGENT STUFF IS HAPPENING, the two of them stand there babbling about war and how they don’t have any idea who has started it, or who it’s with, and the fact that they… well, don’t have a clue.
“No, no, Tip”—Beau shook his head—”I mean, if it’s war, who’s behind it? And what would they hope to gain?”
… uh, the usual? Power, wealth, and possibly world domination?
“All I can say is that fire on Beacontor not only spells woe, but it might spell wide war as well.”
“Generic fantasy villains get REALLY angry when you set signal fires!”
The blood drained from Beau’s face, and dread sprang into his amber eyes. “Oh, my. Wide war. I wouldn’t like that at all—ghastly wounding and maiming, to say nothing of the killing.”
… yes, those things tend to be a part of war, unless we’re talking about playing Battleship.
Also, uh, wounding, maiming and killing tend to be a part of SMALL-SCALE war as well as WIDE war. They tend to be a part of war in general, or people wouldn’t bother avoiding it.
“Nevertheless, Beau, that may be what’s afoot, in which case it’s your skills that will be needed more than mine.”
“Your talents at kimchi-making, beading and making Donald Duck voices will be essential to the war effort.”
So since this is clearly urgent and they have information that could save lives and help AVERT a war, the Wobbits decide to go build a funeral pyre for the dead guy instead of, uh, doing that later. I mean, it’s freezing out, so I assume he wouldn’t go bad that fast.
The answer: the author is planning to have them go off on a quest pretty soon, and so obviously they won’t have time to go dispose of a dead body. The problem is, when an air-raid siren starts going off, you don’t stop so you can wedge Grandpa into his coffin. It just doesn’t make any friggin’ sense.
It took most of the morning to build two pyres—one for the man, the other for the Rucks.
HELLO?!?!?!?! CRISIS! WORLD WAR! Why are you people not hurrying?!
Since they have LOTS of spare time and nothing important is happening, Tip and Beau spend lots of time building a pyre, washing and dressing the dead man they’re about to burn, and then have a debate about the right way to burn him. I’d like to mention that there doesn’t seem to be any concrete afterlife mythos in this series – I mean, it’s made obvious that there IS an afterlife, since ghosts occasionally appear and one character apparently comments on it right before he dies. But I’m not sure why these funeral traditions exist.
one of the Rucks were laid on the wood at the man’s feet— “Where a Human hero’s slain enemies belong, I think.”
Tip shrugged but added, “I thought it was supposed to be the man’s dog, but perhaps a Ruck or Hlok will do.”
HIS DOG? What kind of sick fucks kill a dog so they can burn it with its owner?!
So then they start piling the Rucks on the OTHER pyre… which probably isn’t big enough to burn that many bodies enough. And then… Beau finds something! It’s a penny! No, seriously, it’s a standard.
“Huah! What do you make of this, Tip?”
…. did he just cough something up? Or was that a belch?
Beau held up a square of ebon cloth. Crimson on black, it held the sigil of a burning ring of fire.
… you’re really going to make me do this joke, aren’t you? All right:
“Looks like a standard to me,” said Tip.
“Yar,” replied Beau,
“Beau, why did you suddenly start talking like a pirate?”
“Shiver me timbers!”
“Seriously, stop that.”
“Sixteen men on a dead man’s chest!”
So since basic info on the Forces of Generic Evil is in short supply around here, they don’t know whose standard that is, so they just… take it with them. Oh, and they set fire to the pyres, and since we have PLENTY of time to dick around because there’s no general alert or anything, it’s time for a eulogy.
“Even though I didn’t know him well enough to grieve, he was a hero, you know, a powerful fighter. He probably saved my life, for if he hadn’t slain those Rucks and such, they might have come sneaking upon the mill when I was asleep . . . and it’d be my pyre you’d be setting aflame.”
“Actually, if he hadn’t been there to save you, nobody would know you were dead until later, and I’d still be fast asleep.”
“Shut up, Beau.”
“Also, I don’t know why they would bother going into your mill. I mean, if they stopped to ransack every place they passed, they would never get ANYTHING done-”
“Shut up, Beau.”
A stricken look swept over Beau’s face. “Well, I’m glad he was around then, though I’m sorry he’s dead.”
“I just couldn’t LIVE without you!”
And he and Beau stood with their heads bowed as Beau said, “Adon, receive this unknown but worthy man unto your care.”
“Or… whoever deals with dead people, since Adon is actually a corporeal being who is never really mentioned as dealing with the non-physical worlds… and it’s never mentioned what gods rule over the afterlife… our belief system is full of holes, really…”
So they set fire to the pyres and just… stand there watching the smoke be poetic. Are they ever going to get off their asses and start moving, or are they going to have breakfast and give each other foot massages first?
While Beau peered out the window, keeping an eye on the fires, Tipperton set about straightening the chamber and washing the floor clean of blood, pausing only long enough for Beau to bandage the minor cut on his foot, and then returning to his task. When all was set to rights, he began packing a knapsack.
HOLY CRAP, they really aren’t going to go, are they?! I was just kidding before, but apparently before they can answer a GENERAL EMERGENCY SUMMONS that indicates that a war is starting, and report that enemy troops have attacked nearby… they need to mop the floor and tidy the house!
What is WITH these two?! Do they have ANY sense of urgency at all?! The entire town could have been slaughtered by the Forces of Generic Evil, and they wouldn’t have warned anyone because heaven forbid they leave Tip’s house a mess! That’s right, Wobbits: if the locals get slaughtered, it’s ALL YOUR FAULT.
Beau looked at him and sighed. “As soon as you’re ready, and the pyres burn out, we’ll go to my place and I’ll pack, too. After all, Beacontor calls.”
Really? It is? I had totally forgotten about that! It explains why you’re both rushing around in SUCH a hurry!
Tip nodded abstractly, his mind elsewhere.
“I wonder if Beau knows how wildly sexy his pirate voice is!”
So then a bunch of humans from the nearby town arrive, and they’re all armed. Well, at least SOMEBODY is taking this damn emergency seirously, because the Designated Heroes sure as hell aren’t! And for some reason, they’re pointing arrows at the mill even though they can clearly see that there are only two people there.
“Are you all right, miller?”
“Indeed,” called back Tipperton,
Is “yes” too short a word?
Yet wary, Prell waited until Tip and Beau were well clear of the mill. Then he signaled to the men, and bowstrings were relaxed, though arrows remained nocked.
“If Beau starts saying ‘oh my,’ shoot to kill.”
So Tipperton tells the mayor what happened the previous night, and thankfully that happens between scenes because this book is too slow as it is.
“And before he died he gave you this coin?”
“No, he gave it to me AFTER he died. DUUHHHHHHH.”
“Yes. To deliver eastward to someone named Agron. And, oh, yes, he said to warn all. Warn them of what, he didn’t say.”
Obviously, he needs to warn all the Agrons. Wow, the dead guy was pretty unhelpful, wasn’t he?
So there’s a brief argument about whether “Agron” is Elvish, Dwarvish, German, French or Esperanto, or even if it’s a person rather than a place or thing. None of this actually leads to anything, because it turns out Agron is a human king, and we don’t even see him until the second book. That’s right, people – this whole book is dedicated to a quest that doesn’t even come CLOSE to ending in it, and which doesn’t really have much else happening. It’s like if JRR Tolkien wrote a fourth LOTR book, except it sucked and was nothing but filler.
Now Prell’s eyes widened. “Say, now, miller, are you sure he said Agron and not Argon?”
“He might have been telling us to go warn the noble gases! Or maybe to go warn a shitty fantasy book!”
“I mean, the Argon River is to the east, just beyond the Grimwall. And they sound a lot alike. He was wounded, as you say, and might have garbled—”
Is this guy suggesting that they go warn a RIVER? And he’s actually an elected official? Who was the other option, a pig with delusions of grandeur?
“No, Mayor. It was definitely Agron he said and not Argon. Besides, if it was a river, what would we do? Cast it into the waters?”
You might as well. If you’re lucky, a creepy little serial-killer might kill his cousin to get it, then spend a few hundred years living in a cave.
So after everyone reiterates that they don’t know what the hell Agron is, the mayor tells Tip to describe the rider. And no, this will have absolutely no significance until the second book. I bet Tip wishes he hadn’t been so eager to burn the guy’s body now, huh?
Again the mayor looked about at the men, but once more they all shrugged or shook their heads.
“A stranger, then, I would say,” said Prell.
You know, in a community that small, you would think everybody would know if someone was MISSING ALL NIGHT.
So then someone comes up with the bright idea of checking the horse for a brand. Fortunately, the pyromaniac Wobbits haven’t bothered to burn THAT, and they’re able to check the horse’s butt. And it has a brand of…. A CROWN. That can mean only one thing…
Haha, no. That’s just my wishful thinking. It means this horse belonged to the High King. And no, don’t ask me what he’s king of, because supposedly he’s High King of Mithgar, except Mithgar is supposed to be an entire dimension and we later see that there are plenty of kings who aren’t under his sovereignty.
Thankfully, the chapter ends there.