The Dark Tide Chapter 3 Part 1

Just before noon, cold and weary, Tuck, Danner, Tarpy, and Patrel trudged into the Thornwalker encampment set in the fringes of the Spindlethorn Barrier at Spindle Ford.

Uhhhh… they left the cairn at DAWN. They were five miles away from the camp. It seriously took them five or six hours to walk five miles? I could somersault faster than that, even if I include breaks to puke.

 
Hai roi! Patrel! Ho! Where’s your ponies? Welcome back!

What does “hai roi” even mean? I googled it and it either told me about some obscure Bible name or a Nigerian clothing designer.

So after these idiots have been yelling at the group for a few minutes, they finally figure out that something might be wrong. NO SHIT! He left with six ponies to get four recruits, and comes back with NO ponies and three recruits. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that something bad is going down!

So the other Thornwalkers do what any disciplined yet sensitive military force would do: they follow Patrel and Co. to the headquarters like a bunch of rubberneckers. It must be really boring there if THAT is all they have to do.

 
The interior was but a single room that somehow seemed too large for the building that contained it.

And for some reason it was run by this time-traveler guy who kept dying and coming back with a new body.

There, two Warrows dressed in Thornwalker grey relaxed in wicker chairs while having a pipe together.

I wonder how often they set those chairs on fire. Also, since this is a permanent structure in a military installation, why do they use lawn furniture?

So one of them is in his prime buccan years, whatever that means, and the other is a granther which apparently means he’s elderly. I think. It’s not really explained. Sounds more like a grandmother panther.

 
“Patrel! Welcome back. These are the recruits, I take it. Ho, but wait, I see only three. Where’s the fourth?”

You know, given that there are rumors about Vulgs going around KILLING WHOLE FAMILIES, you would expect the Thornwalkers to be SLIGHTLY more alert.

So Patrel tells them that a Vulg killed Hob, and for some reason this is deeply shocking to the two older guys. So, uh, are these two just really out of the loop, or have they reached the “denial” stage of military preparation? I mean, that’s the whole reason they’re drafting new recruits! Are these guys high?! Are they senile? Did they just FORGET?!

“What? Vulg?” The old buccan snapped, thumping his cane to the floor and rising. “Did I hear you say Vulg? Are you certain?”

“Yes sir, we went up and checked to make sure it wasn’t a German Shepherd, and once it bit off Hob’s head and ate his organs, we decided that there was a 96% chance that they were Vulgs.”

 
“We were set upon by five at the Rooks’ Roost, where our companion, Hob Banderel, was slain. But that’s not all: it looks as if the brutes got Arlo Huggs and his wife, Willa, too.”

… and probably their neighbors, since the dumbasses are planning to fend them off with farming tools.

So the old guy is depressed at this news, but he gets over it and introduces the other guy as Captain Darby and himself as Gammer Alderbuc. No, I don’t remember who they are, and I’m too lazy to look it up.

Also, “Gammer” is a term used for an old woman. I know because google tells me so, and the Internet never lies.

 
“Patrel, you and your three friends come and sit by the fire. Tell us your tale, for it is important. Have you eaten? And introduce us.”

Is this guy on speed? He seems to be havign a little trouble focusing.

Then, we’re given detailed descriptions of two characters we will never see again after this chapter, but who are treated with more attention and detail than JRR Tolkien gave Aragorn in his first scene. Ever feel like your time is just being wasted because the author had a word count requirement?

 
He had about him an air of command.

… and it smelled faintly of beans.

 
Yet, as arresting as Captain Darby’s appearance was, Gammer Alderbuc’s was even more so, and the eyes of the trio were irresistibly drawn to him.

He was just so damn sexy! His animal magnetism was more than they could resist!

 
Old he was, a granther,

We know! He’s been described that way like three times already! We don’t even really know what it means!

So we get some details about old codger here – apparently he was the First Captain of the Thornwalkers, and he came up with the Wolf Patrols, but handed over the reins to Captain Alver because he’s too old. ‘kay. But again, we’re never gonna see this character again, so why are we being told so much about him?!

 
At the bidding of Captain Darby, the four young buccen shed their backpacks, cloaks, and down jackets and drew near the fire in wicker chairs.

“Aaaagh! My chair is on fire! Whose idea was it to have wicker furniture?!”

So Patrel tells them what happened, and thankfully McKiernan doesn’t actually quote anything he says. In the meantime, Tears brimmed in Tuck’s eyes. Take a shot. Ah, sweet nectar.

 
“When you four came through the door,” his eyes touched each of them,

BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH!

“I thought, Ah, here is Patrel and the recruits, but I was wrong, for you are not raw recruits. Instead, you are now four blooded warriors, Thornwalkers all, who have met a foul enemy and given good account of yourselves – at high cost, to be sure, yet it is a price that sometimes must be paid whenever emissaries of fear are challenged.”

“Yes, that’s very nice sir. Can we use the bathroom now? I haven’t pooped in two days and Tarpy’s already wet himself.”

So then some food (unspecified, for some reason) arrives and the four Warrows start eating. They eat a lot. They don’t talk. Then they sit by the fire, extinguish their chairs, and start smoking pipes. And talking. I guess the exhaustion and trauma are really getting to them if they just are hanging out with the geezers.

 
“Ye’ve done the right thing, raising the alarm through the countryside,” said the Gammer.

“… and by ‘raising the alarm through the countryside,’ I mean you told one farmer who is probably dead now.”

 
“Now the brutes’ll meet prepared Warrows. And that ought to put a stop to the disappearances.”

Yes, the ripoff hobbits and their tiny bows will be able to kill all the evil animals in the ENTIRE BOSKY… which has worked SO well with those Wolf Patrol things. Which have apparently been sitting around with their thumbs up their butts, because they haven’t patrolled any of the areas HIT.

But Captain Whatsisface keeps babbling about how they’re going to warn everybody in the Boskydells about the warg-ripoffs… although I’m not entirely sure how this can possibly help except by making people panic. I mean, apparently you can’t keep them from breaking into your home, it takes a LOT to kill them… all you can do is avoid taking moonlit walks! And given though it’s been snowing since September, I imagine people aren’t doing that much.

“Uh? Captain Darby,” said Tuck, “would it be possible to send a patrol out to look for the ponies that survived? My grey seems to have gotten away, and one pack pony, with Patrel’s lute strapped to it. Two others fled, also.”
“My chestnut,” said Danner.
“And my piebald,” added Patrel.

… are they fucking kidding? The captain just said that they’re going to be alerting the whole COUNTRY about pony-sized Warp-ripoffs who are killing people for no adequately explained reason… but these idiots want him to spare manpower to look for their PONIES? Which could be dead, or just have wandered off to WHO-KNOWS-WHERE.

 
Tarpy said nothing, for, full of good food and drawn up to a warm fire, exhausted by the all-night battle with the Vulgs, he had fallen asleep, his pipe slipping from his lax fingers to drop to the plank floor.

“HOLY SHIT! The floor is on fire, you idiots! Quit smoking and PUT IT OUT! WAAAAAA…”

 
“You must be weary,” said Captain Darby, his eyes soft upon the sleeping young buccan.

This guy is being weirdly familiar for a guy who’s a MILITARY leader. Does he get this cuddly with all the recruits?

He also announces that the next day they’re going to send search patrols out to look for Vulgs…. and no, I don’t know why they didn’t do this before. Was it just too much work for hobbit ripoffs to do when they could be setting lawn furniture on fire? Darby also comments: “Ah, but if we only had Dwarves as allies, then could we root out the underground haunts of these beasts.” What, is the Bosky riddled with mine tunnels? Giant caves? Just how many underground areas do they have if they need DWARVES to help?

 
“Tomorrow we also shall begin night patrols, Vulg hunts, and Thornwalks to keep more of the beasts out.”

“Because we’ve been sitting on our asses up until now. Aren’t we awesome?”

Seriously, we’ve already been told that the Wobbits KNEW there were potential threats, and that there were VICIOUS ANIMALS ATTACKING. They’ve been training new cannon fodder for their military, apparently on the basis that they need everyone they can get except the wimmenfolk because McKiernan hadn’t learned feminism yet. Apparently information about disappearances and deaths have been circulating for weeks.

… and yet they weren’t in a state of at least yellow alert? They didn’t think that ANYTHING weird was going on besides the weather? They were building up their military forces… but weren’t planning to patrol or hunt until one of their own TOLD them they had ACTUALLY BEEN ATTACKED?!

I’m sorry, but they need some real leaders, not these knuckleheads. Apparently when there are attacks by large vicious carnivores and rumors of a Sauron-ripoff invading the world… they just eat and smoke until somebody confirms that something bad is happening. And they gather new soldiers, but don’t add new maneuvers or patrols to MAKE USE of those soldiers. WHY IS THIS HAPPENING?

The only POSSIBLE reason for this is that McKiernan really wanted his protagonists to do something heroic and impressive BEFORE their main quest, so he had them get glory for uncovering the obvious. Whee.

Having caused my brain to hemorrhage, they all start to leave, but Gammer decides that he hasn’t had enough dialogue, so he announces that he’s going to tell them something. This scene would work better if he was giving all the troops an inspirational speech, which this isn’t. It actually drains inspiration from the world. He babbles about how he organized the Wolf Patrols and how wolves are scared of the Warrows, and the only reason they’re entering the Bosky is because of the rotten winter.

Except we KNOW the attacks aren’t from wolves, so we don’t even know if wolves HAVE been entering the Bosky. I think Old Lady here is just losing his marbles.

 
“But, none of us thought that we’d be dealing with Vulgs. Oh, to be sure, there’s been talk of Vulgs in the Bosky for two or three weeks, but it’s just been tavern talk heretofore, rumors.”

  1. Yes, because wolves wipe out entire families without a TRACE, like Vulgs would do.
  2. Because that’s how wolves work. Guh, these guys are dumb.
  3. And wait… there have been rumors about Vulgs in the recent past… and these STUPID OLD COOTS just ignored them?
  4. I mean yes, a military shouldn’t rely on whatever old Squibbles McGee babbles when he’s drunk. But… ignoring EVERYTHING unless it’s been confirmed by a military person? Really?
  5. And NOBODY thought that? NOBODY? Despite the people vanishing mysteriously and the large intelligent vicious carnivores roaming around, NOBODY thought that the Vulgs MIGHT be responsible?
  6. And this is even stupider because… we’ve already established that the Big Bad of this trilogy is Modru… who commands Vulgs… and controls COLD WEATHER like they’re having… and who is threatening the neighboring kingdom… and has returned to his old stronghold of Barad-Dur Gron.
  7. And despite this, these stupid idiots don’t think that Vulgs are a possibility… DESPITE EVERYTHING ELSE POINTING IN THAT DIRECTION.
  8. It’s like if the sky had turned red with mysterious radiation and the graves of the dead were suddenly empty… but the military and police refused to consider the idea of zombies because those people being bitten by the walking dead were just “rumors.”

So he infodumps us about how the subcultures of the Hobbit-knockoffs, because they’re living in a big building that “symbolizes the four kindred.” I think it’s better to have a building that serves its purpose, but I’m weird that way.

“The logs represent the trees where dwell the Quiren Warrows, my folk, and I dare say ancestors to Tarpy and Patrel”

So…. how can you tell? I mean, do they have beaks and feathers? How can you tell just by looking?

 
“the stone represents the field houses of the Paren Warrows, perhaps kith to Danner, here, by the look of him”

…. how? Does he have stone dust on him?

Also, “kith” means friends. It is not synonymous with “kin.” Pretty sure your friends don’t alter your appearance.

 
“the wicker comes from the fens of the Othen Warrows, like Captain Alver down in Reedyville; and the sod represents the burrows of the Siven Warrows, Captain Darby’s folk, and it seems Tuck’s, too.”

Yes, please cram this a little harder down my throat. But HOW CAN YOU TELL? No physical differences between the Warrows have been mentioned except for eye and hair color. So… how can you tell?!

And if the Siven Warrows are the only ones who live in burrows, why do Danner and Tarpy also live in a community that seems to be made up of burrows?! At least no other kind of dwelling has been mentioned!

 
“But whether Bosky folk live in tree flets, stone field houses, fen stilt houses, or burrows, none are safe where the Vulg walks, for Vulgs slink in secret through the night.”

Somebody give Captain Obvious his prunes. He’s going off on one of his speeches again.


“I remember back in my day, young whippersnappers…”

So blah blah blah Gammer thanks the buccans for doing so well, and Tarpy flatters the old coot by calling him “eld buccan,” which results in a whole paragraph of humble denials and WILL SOMETHING PLEASE HAPPEN ALREADY? I’m really, really bored.

 
They could also hear Captain Darby giving orders to summon the squad leaders to the headquarters building to tell them of the Vulgs in the Bosky and to lay plans.

“But first, we have to organize catering services! I want donuts at every table!”

Later, Tuck wakes up in the middle of the night and updates his journal again. Very significant, I’m sure, and we really don’t hear anything about what he put in it. So clearly it was very important.

And the next thing, Patrel is waking them up and demanding that they “Stir your bones, break your fast, meet your squadmates.” What, all at the same time? “I’ve got our orders. We stand the early nightwatch at the ford – sundown to mid of night.” So why the hell is he waking them up NOW? Wouldn’t they be better off sleeping in a little longer so they’ll be well-rested while on duty?

So they go to a washtrough where they splash themselves with ice water, and Patrel informs them that their squad can use the laundry/bathing tent on Tuesdays (and they have to chop wood, haul water and crap to do laundry and bathe). If this is set in a fantasy world with its own cosmology, why is there a “Tuesday”? That day is named after a very specific Norse deity, namely the one-handed god Týr.

Patrel infodumps us about how they have to cook, clean, chop firewood, and do other crap like that. And while they’re eating breakfast, our attention is drawn to…

The Great Spindlethorn Barrier. Which, of course, is a souped-up steroid-abusing version of JRR Tolkien’s High Hay.

 
Dense it was; even birds found it difficult to live deep within its embrace.

A better question would be: why would it embrace birds?

An even better question: WHY would birds want to live there?

 
Befanged it was, atangle with great spiked thorns, long and sharp and iron-hard, living stilettoes.

… Sounds like a furniture store I once visited.

 
High it was, rearing up thirty, forty, and in some places fifty feet above the river valleys from which it sprang. Wide it was, reaching across broad river vales, no less than a mile anywhere, and in places greater than ten. And long it was, stretching completely around the Boskydells, from the North wood down the Spindle, and from the Updunes down the Wenden, until the two rivers joined one another; but after their joining, no farther south did the ‘Thorn grow.

… okay, what the HELL? So this ginormous natural barrier just HAPPENS to grow in the proper “wall” form, just HAPPENS to grow on the borders of the Boskydells, and just HAPPENS to be exactly what the Warrows need?

 
It was said that only the soil of the Bosky in these two river valleys would nourish the Barrier. Yet the Warrows had managed to cultivate a long stretch of it, reaching from the Northwood to the Updunes, completing the Thornring. And so, why it did not grow across the rest of the Land and push all else aside remained a mystery, though the grandams said,It’s Adon’s will , while the granthers said, It’s the soil, and neither knew the which of it for certain.

And henceforth it shall be called the Thorns of the Holy Plot Convenience, for they Sound Cool but Do Not Make Any Sense And Are Never Adequately Explained.

Actually, that’s not quite correct. They’re NOT plot convenient… because they have nothing to do with anything. Seriously. I have read this whole series, and the Spindlethorn Barrier does… nothing. In fact, later in this same trilogy, McKiernan features the baddies invading the Bosky… and it completely fails to keep them out. Hell, it can’t keep ANIMALS out.

The High Hay is the only reason I can think of for this thing to exist, because it serves the same function as a wooden fence.

It turns out that the thorns, amazingly, did not form entrances and exits. Instead we hear about how the Warrows worked long and hard to make passages for commerce.

 
Oh, not to say that the Barrier couldn’t be penetrated without travelling one of these Warrow-made ways, for one could push through the wild Spindlethorn. It just took patience and determination and skill to make it through, for one had to be maze wise to find a way, usually taking days to wriggle and slip and crawl the random, fanged labyrinth from one side to the other.

McKiernan has pretty obviously NEVER gone through a blackberry bush, because there is no “maze” inside any kind of wild thorny bush… or any kind of wild bush. The only way there is a maze inside a bush is if you plant and trim it into a particular shape. Otherwise, you can’t find a “way”; you just sort of push through getting scratched.

 
But the work was arduous, for the Spindlethorn itself was hard – so hard that at times tools were made of its wood, such as arrow points and poniards, fashioned directly from the thorns.

  1. No, we never see any thorn-based tools.
  2. Poniards are not tools. They are daggers.
  3. Arrow points aren’t tools either.
  4. Okay, if it’s so hard that you make tools out of it…. how do you cut it?

As if this stupid hedge weren’t getting ENOUGH attention, we’re told that it won’t burn, and so the Wobbits (yes, I’m going to call them that) have to chop their way through. But wait! There’s MORE! And as if the Spindlethorn itself somehow could sense the commerce, the ways stayed open on the well-used routes; but on those where travel was infrequent, the ‘Thorn grew slowly to refill the Warrow-made gap. Holy shit, this is getting ridiculous. So now it “knows” where to grow back in the way most convenient to the Wobbits? Is there such a thing as a Plant Sue?

So Tuck is thinking about this, while Patrel tells everybody else about the Vulgs and what happened. I don’t know WHY he’s doing this, since I’d expect that their commanders would tell them about this. But no, Patrel has to tell everybody so the other recruits can stare at them with a high respect akin to awe.

So some squad member that we’re probably never gonna see again takes them for a tour.

 
“Ar, so you actually fought with Vulgs, and killed some, too,” said Arbin

Ar, me mateys! Swash me buckles and shiver me timbers, but these Wobbits talk stupidly! Can’t they stick to any accent for more than a chapter? ARRRRRRR!

So they start talking about the adventure the four of them had, as if this one encounter makes them experts.

“Asking a Vulg for a ride would be like begging a Dragon to warm your house in the winter,” snorted Danner. “He’d warm it, all right – right down to the very ashes.”

“Are you saying that the only way you’d get a ride from a Vulg is on the inside?” Arbin asked.

sobs hysterically

Man, these characters are STUPID. Yes, Danner, we can figure out the implications of “asking a dragon to warm your house” without having you spell it out for us. And the line “Are you saying that the only way you’d get a ride from a Vulg is on the inside?” makes me want to slaughter some editors with the jawbone of an ass.

 
“Wull then, I don’t believe I’ll ask a Vulg for a ride,” said Arbin, “or a Dragon to warm my house, either.”

Please tell me he dies soon.

So Arbin takes them into the Spindlethorn Barrier, and he infodumps about how it’s sooper-dark in summer when the leaves are there (WHAT KIND OF LEAVES? What kind of plant IS this?!), and in the fall and winter they need to clear it out. And we get some details of the Thornwalker camp, but really… fuckit, I’m not going to bother summing up that part because after this chapter we are literally NEVER going to see this spot again, so none of it is really important.

 
Across the ford they could see the mouth of the tunnel as it continued on through the ‘Thorns growing on that side, where the Barrier reached another two miles before the Realm of Rian began.

What is the Realm of Rian, you ask? I don’t know! We’re never told! In this entire series, we see maybe three characters from it and NO DETAILS about it except that it’s another Ye Olde Generic Medieval Kingdom.

Also, this sentence is REALLY clumsy. I had to read it three times before I could figure out what McKiernan was saying. I think. I’m not sure.

 
They looked up and down the frozen length to where it curved away beyond seeing, a white ribbon wending between two looming, fifty-foot high, miles-wide walls of thorn. Overhead slashed a bright blue ribbon of sky, impaled upon the long spikes, tracing the course of the waterway.

So… the thorns just STOP over the river? These fifty-foot-tall, mile-wide SuePlants don’t grow over it or anything?

And wait, a river runs through it? Um, that would make invading the Bosky ridiculously easy because all you need are some rowboats. Hell, birds and animals wouldn’t need to work too hard at it – they could fly, swim or just wade on the banks.

And when it’s frozen… they can just WALK ON THE ICE. Yes, they have guards there, but since they’ve totally failed to keep Minions of Generic Evil from breaking through, and will CONTINUE to fail… I would not feel very secure.

 
“It’s a wonder, ain’t it?” asked Arbin, pointing both ways at once, his arms flung wide. “Kind o’ gives me the shivers.”

Yep. But not in the way you mean.

Blahblahblah about the point buccan blahblahblah more details about this place we’ll never see again, blah blah blah

“The Beyonder Guard always has a point buccan, one with sharp eyes, good hearing, and a swift pony, out at the far edge of the Spindlethorns, out where the Bosky ends and Rian begins.

… so they have just one guy at the border of one country two miles away, and not the… OTHER country they’re bordering on? That seems kind of stupid. Are they assuming that an invasion could come from only one direction? If so, a smart enemy would just go out of their way a few miles, loop around into this other country, and surprise them by coming from a different direction.

 
“If someone approaches, then he’ll come pelting back here ahead of ’em to warn us.”

“Look out! My ex-wife is coming this way!”

 
“If it looks like trouble, and if there is time, then we’ll open the wall and in he’ll gallop and we’ll slam shut the barricade behind him.”

“Whew! The Jehovah’s Witnesses almost had me there!”

 
“If by some chance the foe breaks through here, then there’s the aft-barrier on the other side of the ford where we’ll get to. Beyond that is another one, and finally the Deep Plug back at the campsite. And the Deep Plug will cork up this tunnel till Gyphon, Himself, comes back.”

… and precisely how does it do that? I mean, is a a childproof Deep Plug?

And what if something bad happens and they plug it up, but then the bad guy is defeated. Is it removable?

At the mention of Gyphon’s name, Tuck felt a deep foreboding, and a cold shudder ran up his spine as if from an icy wind blowing.

Oh dear, I wonder if the main story will have something to do with Dollar Store Morgoth.


“Now think about what you did, young man!”

So that night our heroes are sent to sit behind the Thornwall, and Tuck keeps writing in his diary. He’s going to run out of pages at that rate, especially since NOTHING INTERESTING has happened yet. And… nothing does. They go home, the next morning some of the ponies are found, and the next week is spend doing nothing much.

As if we weren’t bored enough yet, on the first time the squad is going out to look for Vulgs and Wolves… the protagonist gets left behind. Yes, Tuck gets left behind to cook where he spends the whole day acting like an OCD grandmother who always insists that you eat everything.

 
An hour passed, then another, and Tuck worried about the food and felt anger that they hadn’t come to eat it when it was first ready.

Our protagonist is being kind of an asshole, isn’t he? It’s not like they’re out partying. They could be DEAD. They’re hunting the creatures who killed one of your compatriots the other night, which could easily kill them too… and all you care about is the food?

Anyway they finally come back and announce that the last of the ponies is dead and Patrel’s lute is destroyed. NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!! Not Patrel’s lute! It was the most interesting character in this whole damn book!

 
“We searched for hours but found no Vulg dens. Ah, me, but I’m tired.”

Well, that was gloriously important.

So we then have another TEN DAYS of monotony where the Wolf Patrols… really don’t accomplish anything. They just ride around looking at stuff. I would feel SO secure if I were one of the Wobbits, since to date the Thornwalkers and Wolf Patrols have done JACK-SHIT.

 
Someone suggested that perhaps the Vulgs were laired inside the Barrier, and special missions to examine the ‘Thorn forayed out repeatedly, to return scratched or pinked by the spikes.

That particular Wobbit later got his ass kicked repeatedly by anybody who had to go do extra work because of him. Especially since apparently there’s no sign of them in there or anywhere else, and even using dogs doesn’t work.

 
“Ar, they tried dogs over at the Eastdell Second,” said Patrel, “and they had no more luck than we. You know, it’s as if the Vulgs came to the Bosky on somemission and, having accomplished it, are now gone. But what that mission may have been, I cannot say.”

But we know what that mission may have been! It was to get the main characters involved in the story and make them look impressive instead of like noobs!

 
Neither, of course, could anyone else say, and again Tuck felt the icy fingers of an unknown doom walking up his spine.

Then he realized it was actually a very large spider, and he screamed like a little girl.

And the next day… something HAPPENS. Granted it doesn’t actually happen onscreen or to any of the characters, but after being tortured by the descriptions of first aid, tours and cooking drama, I’m pretty much ready for anything.

 
A waggon train of refugees from Challerain Keep had passed through, following along the Upland Way; their goal was the Realm of Wellen to the west. Danner, who had cook duty, described the train.

“It was long and it had SMOKE and it went choooochooooCHOOOOOOOOO…”

No, it was a wagon train full of various crap, old people, women and kids. So probably an evacuation or a refugee train… which is not surprising because we already heard about this a few chapters ago, and the reason for it.

You know, this whole plot would have worked a thousand times better if that tavern scene had just been omitted. Then the threat of Vulgs would have come as a surprise because One-Off Characters wouldn’t have told us that the Big Bad commands them. The military leaders wouldn’t look like lazy assholes for ignoring all the mysterious disappearances attributed to Vulgs. And the sudden passage of refugees would be mysterious and startling.

Yeah, the editor should totally have just cut that whole scene. I’m sure McKiernan needed it for padding, since this book is pretty skinny by high fantasy standards. But there were lots of other things he could have inserted to make our brains melt from boredom. Like how about Tuck’s journal? We could have had some excerpts from that instead of just telling us that Tuck is writing in it and neener neener you don’t know what it is.

 
“Big, those Folk are – nearly twice my size, and I’m no tiny dink like Tarpy, here.”

“We’re like hobbits, but much Suier! Have you noticed how hobbity we are yet? We’re like Hobbits, except without yucky giant feet!”

 
“And the escort, soldiers on horseback, with helms and swords, and spears, too. Lor! Big horses, big Men.”

Thank you. We get it. Everything is big to you because you are shameless ripoffs of hobbits.

Danner tells us some very vague details, which he managed to absorb despite being put in charge of cooking everybody’s food. Somehow I suspect the food got pretty burned if he was off watching what the escort captain was doing.

And that night, Captain Darby comes over to talk to them…. DRAMATICALLY!!!!!! Seriously, he’s not even subtle about it – he even jumps on a bench to talk to them.

 
“Buccen,” Captain Darby began, his voice raised so that all could hear, “some of the rumors are true: There is trouble brewing up north, beyond the Keep.”

“And regarding those rumors about me, Lieutenant Dipsy, the transvestite strippers, the Shetland pony and the gold-plated corkscrew, I have NO COMMENT.”

 
“High King Aurion prepares for War: War with Modru, the Enemy in Gron.”

IN CASE YOU’VE FORGOTTEN WHO THE VILLAIN IS!

 
A collective gasp of dismay welled up from the assembled Warrows, for this indeed was dire news, and many muttered grim words and spoke with their squadmates.

“Does this mean we actually hafta do something other than just ride around in circles?”
“Does this mean I actually have to use a weapon? I bleed easily!”
“Whose side are we on again? I forget.”

And the ever-popular:

So apparently the wagon train escort leader said that all the High King’s allies are being called to come help him, and for some reason the Boskydells haven’t gotten the message. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that we don’t know what he’s the High King OF, and a High King of one country isn’t very high since the surrounding countries seem to have their OWN monarchs thankyouverymuch.

 
“But I believe that it will, and so we must begin to think upon going.”

“I’m delighted because leaving the Bosky means I can get away from my ex-wife.”

So of course the Warrows are freaked out by this, which isn’t too unexpected. Tuck of course has another mini meltdown where he asks a lot of questions of himself. And he suddenly turns this into a revenge quest too:

 
Yet how best to avenge Hob – face the enemy here, or in a far Land?

Uh, it’s not like the bad guys specifically targeted him or anything. He got bitten by a giant pseudoWarg. He was a Redshirt.

And again, it’s never really shown that these guys knew each other very well. Usually revenge is reserved for people you’ve exchanged more than six words with.

 
He was caught up in a dilemma: Could he leave the Boskydells to answer the High King’s muster if Modru’s Horde marched this way?

Well, if he doesn’t, this will be a very short and boring fantasy trilogy. No, make that bone-crushingly dull. Whoever heard of a hero’s journey where the hero stayed home?

But on the other hand, could he refuse the High King’s call to colors at the Keep?

Bring your crayons and coloring books!

 
For if he and enough others answered the summons and went north, perhaps the Enemy in Gron could be defeated ere War came south.

  1. I’m pretty sure that a few dozen Wobbits are not going to make a massive difference in a war against a Generic Dark Lord.
  2. Realistically, that is.
  3. In the actual story, they’re presumably going to be vitally important because… they’re main characters.
  4. And because hobbits made a huge different in LOTR, even though they really didn’t make any military difference.

 
What to do?

Several hours later, Tuck was still sitting there with smoke coming out of his ears.

 
Torn between love of home and duty to King, Tuck realized, but knowing this did not help resolve the question.

Torn between… what? What king? The Wobbits don’t apparently have a king, and there wasn’t any mention of them being ruled by said king.

So having totally confused us about the politics of this fictional world, McKiernan finally introduces something SEMI-INTERESTING: apparently the forces of evil have…. SOMEHOW created a giant “wall of darkness stalking down the Land from the north.” It completely blocks out the sun and allows the evil creatures to do whatever the hell they want without being destroyed by it. This… is actually a rather clever idea, and off the top of my head, I can’t remember any analogous material in LOTR. But I may be wrong.

 
“Eerie it is, and frightening, too, like a great black shadow.”

“Sort of like Helena Bonham-Carter, but with less lace and hair.”

 
“And there be fell creatures within that blackness, Rucks and such, Modru’s lackeys of old, a gathering of his Horde.”

And they are led by the most fell creature of all…

Shouts broke out among the Warrows. Black shadow? Rucks and such? Modru’s Horde? This is awful! Legends come to life!

Yeah, you had me until the last part.

  1. Why is this so surprising to them? Um, hello, some of your buddies fought Vulgs a couple weeks ago! Have you already forgotten about that, or did you figure that since ONE “legendary” creature was real, none of the others would be?
  2. It’s a really, really clumsy sentence.
  3. Um… again, why are they surprised? This has been rumored for WEEKS!
  4. Where does this “totally disbelieve all rumors until they’re proven” attitude come from? I make a point of NEVER waiting for an authority figure’s permission to believe something, because they usually hold out on you.

 
“Hold on, for we know not whether these things be true, or are common events made dire in the telling.”

Um, an actual soldier who was THERE told you about this. How much damn proof do you need?!

So apparently despite these events, they… aren’t doing anything until the High King actually calls for them, they’re going to do exactly what they’re already doing. Yeah. That’s it.

 
“Yet when King Aurion’s muster is sounded, then you must choose.”

“Will you stay here and be ineffectual, or will you go elsewhere and be ineffectual?!”

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