Friday, July 29, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Chapter Five, part one - The Palmer or the Tiger?

Palmer reluctantly opens his eyes to find that yep, once again he's been transported to another man's body in a world of sailing ships and hideous marids, one of which is standing outside his cell with a spear "so sharp it tapered to nothingness rather than a point."  Don't you hate it when that happens?

But something's different this time.

"Now I'm for it," moaned Jan.

And he startled himself.

"Now I'll get the galleys."

He blinked and said it over again.  "Now I'll get the galleys."

Well, what galleys?  And how did he know there would be any galleys in the neighborhood?  Further, what reason did he have to think that galleys would be in use?

Yes, our main character isn't acting quite in accordance with his earlier behavior, and suddenly, mysteriously, knows things.  This has of course happened many times over the course of our journey through the writings of L. Ron Hubbard, but in this case the cause is something in the story, rather than the shortcomings of the story's writer.

So when Palmer sits up from his slumber he mutters stuff like "Let'm flog.  Let'm string me up by the thumbs.  But I'll see 'em all in hell before I'll haul an oar," and he calls the marid guard a "one-eyed farmer" in a dangerously dismissive tone to use when talking to such a brutish jinni, all while Palmer wonders whether he's delirious.  When the marid concludes that "Tiger"'s talk from the night before was all a big lie, Palmer acts more like Palmer as he insists he wasn't drunk and has no idea what this Isle of Fire he almost ran into was.  He's genuinely surprised when the marid talks about some of Tiger's escapades with Admiral Tyronin, even moreso when Palmer rolls back a pant leg to see burns and old scars from a battleaxe, proof that his flesh at least remembers what his mind does not.

The marid suggests it's a good thing that Palmer-Tiger is getting transferred to another ship, because the other crewmen of this vessel are still none too pleased with him for driving them onto that reef last night.  Sure enough, when more marids escort the prisoner topside, all the ship's humans are growling and glaring at Palmer.  Then there's several paragraphs of boat stuff.

Look, I'm sorry if you're into this sort of thing and want to know how the ship's lateen was set up on its mizzen and all that, but I'm not interested and none of this is relevant to the plot.  There's plenty of hot nautical action in the next book, but in this one we're about to get back to terra firma.  So I'll just say that the vessel Palmer finds himself on is an old ship from the early age of sail, with brass cannons and a flag of a golden bird on a scarlet backdrop.  The other ships in the harbor they're docked at are a diverse bunch, all captained by ifrits with marid soldiers and human crewmen.  So this probably isn't a port on Earth, is what we should take away from this.

The weird thing - well, the weird thing in addition to Palmer being in a world ruled by jinn - is that he somehow knows the names of most of the ships and sailors in this port, and grumbles to himself about probably getting assigned the Pinchoti, "the worst puller of the lot."

A werewolf, in his human identity, must often feel the beast stirring uneasily within him, threatening to spring forth uncalled.

Depends on the nature of the curse, I believe.  In some stories the poor schmuck is oblivious to his condition and blacks out during full moons, in others he's pretty wolfish no matter what the moon's doing.

More and more, as time went along, did Jan experience just that sensation, except that, in his case, it was more like that Malay demon, the were-tiger.

What, the harimau jadian?  According to Wikipedia that's a case of someone using sorcery to transform into a murder-kitty so he can better defend his plantation at night, or punish those who wronged him... which come to think of it may end up being a better comparison to Palmer's situation than the lycanthropy Hubbard's talking about.

Scholar that he was, he knew considerable [sic] about lycanthropy

Heh, yeah.  And "Arabianologists" at respectable universities have accumulated considerable evidence proving that civilizations of genies existed at one point in history.

but never in his life had he thought to experience such a thing, even in a reasonable way,

What is a reasonable way to experience any variety of therianthropy?  Do you make a weekend of it, put in a security deposit beforehand, check with your doctor to make sure you're in the right physical condition to transform into a were-beast?  Are there retreats you can go to?

but now, certainly, things were happening to him which he could not begin to discount.

I dunno, you could probably write all this off as an extremely vivid dream.

Were-Tiger was certainly the only name for it.

Mmm, not quite.  This will become clear as the story progresses.

He was vaguely conscious of latent wells of knowledge within him, of information which he could almost - but not quite - bring to the surface of his brain.  It was as though he had always known these things but was suffering, at the moment, a slight lapse of memory.

If only some visionary scientist-philosopher-spiritualist could come up with some sort of treatment that would allow people like Palmer to unlock their latent potential, for very reasonable rates.

Now, the narration says "wells of knowledge," but it forgot to mention the puddles of dickery.  Because Palmer notices a man working on a sail, and suddenly knows that the guy's called Lacy, and he's an unlikable coward.  And Palmer, who is not one for pranks, let alone normal jokes, suddenly notices that one of the marid guards has slung his musket on his back in just the right way for Palmer to pull the trigger and send a bullet whizzing right under poor Lacy, terrifying the man.

"Marvelous," chortled Tiger.

"No!  My God, no!" gasped the appalled Jan.

Nobody turns to him and stares at Palmer like a madman, so I'm not sure whether he's saying this aloud like the Gollum/Sméagol conversations from the Lord of the Rings movies.  On the other hand, no one reacts when Palmer covers his eyes with his hands so he can't see the object of temptation, so it could be that marids and sailors have a high tolerance for weirdness.

At any rate, Palmer - or perhaps Tiger - just can't resist, and quickly reaches out to pull the trigger of the guard's matchlock musket, and I guess when you have one of those you always keep a match going, even when you're carrying the gun on your back.  The musket jumps from the recoil and bonks a marid in the face, the bullet goes through the sail two feet away from poor Lacy, the sailor freaks out and ends up swinging from a rope fifty feet over the deck, all the other crewmen start laughing, the first mate starts bellowing, and a good time is had by all some.

The ifrit bosun, a Mr. Malek, starts roaring at Palmer and is about to bash his face in with the butt of a musket, but the human crew starts sticking up for him, insisting it was one of the stupid marids who misfired while playing with his weapon.  The ship's captain, finally given the name of Captain Tombo - a good Middle Eastern name, Tombo - puts an end to the disruption, and passes Palmer-Tiger-Whoever off to Boli, "a portly and foppish Ifrit who fanned the air before him with a perfumed handkerchief to fend off the odor of sailors."  And since this guy is ugly and kind of effeminate, it'll be okay to torment him.

Captain Tombo hands Tiger into Boli's custody and advises caution, since the guy has quite a reputation.  Boli agrees that this is a case that ought to go directly to the crown, then he and his guards and their prisoner start to load up in a little boat to take them across the harbor.  The human crew of the ship, their earlier animosity forgotten, give little encouragements like "Give'em hell, Tiger," and our protagonist grins back at them.  But Palmer is also feeling "things stirring inside him and was too frightened to think the matter through, afraid lest he discover another awful plot within him."  Yes, he's not quite out of dickery to perform this day.

To summarize nearly three pages of this chapter: while offering to assist M'Lord Boli as he boards the little boat, and while crying "Don't pull her in, you fools!", Tiger does something to make the boat capsize, something about a barge going under the ship's stage in the wrong way or whatever.  The important thing is that Boli ends up nearly drowned and Tiger gets to none-too-gently revive him with "artificial respiration" that nearly breaks the jinni's ribs.  It's... funny, I guess, and very satisfying.  This minor character we just met sure got taken down a notch, didn't he?  It could only be better if Tiger smeared spaghetti sauce all over his face in front of Boli's favorite actresses.

So all the human sailors, and even Captain Tombo, are quite happy to see a drenched fop.  Boli is furious, and rants that all of Tiger's heroic feats, like the rescue of Admiral Tyronin from the Isle of Fire or his actions during the Battle of Barankeet, none of that will save him from whatever charges are against him now.  Yes, Tiger is going before "the queen herself," a revelation that makes Palmer gulp and nervously fumble for glasses that are not on his nose.  But since this is such a long chapter, we'll have to meet Her Majesty next time.

You may notice I'm starting to refer to our protagonist more and more as Tiger instead of Palmer.  That's because, well, Tiger's really the hero of this story.  We had our one chapter with Palmer in Tiger's world, but from here on out, Palmer will have less and less influence on Tiger, to the point where even the narration will refer to the protagonist as Tiger instead of Jan.  Hubbard will try to say towards the end of the book that the personalities are mixing together to make a more balanced individual, but you'll have to judge for yourself whether or not that's true.

So I hope you enjoyed the novelty of an atypical Hubbard protagonist, because from here on out it's pretty much business as usual.

Back to Chapter Four

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