Friday, August 12, 2016

Slaves of Sleep - Chapter Ten, part one - Breakout

So last time we had a whole lot of exposition dumped on us.  We learned about the true nature of sleep, the duality of the human soul, and the mind-boggling lengths genies will go to if it means they can get someone to carry them around on a palanquin.  We also learned that Zongri got loose and plans to enact a horrible revenge on Tarbutón in general and Palmer-Tiger in particular, that rascal.  But our hero is going to take action, and use an incredible magical artifact to... visit a temple dancer who resembles someone Palmer has a crush on in his home world, and Tiger's fine with this because she's hot.

He stood squarely before the door and Jan took a deep breath as though for a plunge into cold water, and Tiger fingered the great seal upon his wrist and chuckled.  The ring had struck Zongri's fetters from him and now, now he would investigate its efficacy on other types of locks.

"By the Seal of Sulayman!  Open wide!"

Unfortunately, an invocation that works on manacles and chains is quite different from one that would work on a bolted door, so Palmer ends up looking like an idiot while the door remains closed.  The guards outside, however, hear him shout about the Seal, and with unusual initiative for marids, proceed to rush in and subdue the prisoner, capturing the artifact for

Jan almost leaped out of his wits at the resulting crash, so certain was he that it would be heard by every Jinn in the palace.  On the instant of command every bar, inside and out, leaped upward from its bracket and fell down with a clang.  The great lock was rended as though a bolt of lightning had struck it.  The portal smashed back against the wall and Jan stood facing three astounded Marids.

Just kidding, of course it works.  And though Tiger is still stunned by success, he recovers faster than the marids and proceeds to dodge their attacks and ultimately tackle one marid and more or less ride him down the stairs.  He springs to his feet, "like his name," and is off and running through Queen Ramus' palace.

There's not a whole lot to say about the escape, since it's mostly a foregone conclusion that our hero will be able to evade all the jinn's attempts to apprehend him.  I will note how Hubbard describes said hero, however - he's inconsistently named "Jan" in one paragraph and "Tiger" in another.  Assuming this isn't sloppiness, I'd say it's an attempt to show that the two souls are working together or something like that, but if this is the intent, I don't buy it.  Palmer isn't taking over at moments that require scholarly thought or anything like that, instead Hubbard uses "Jan" when our hero is clobbering five genie officers at once, or sliding down a vine like it was a zipline.  Okay, there is a moment where Tiger's first impulse is to fight, and it's Palmer who remembers to use the miraculous ring that lets him open any door, but other than that, this escape is all Tiger, and Palmer's just along for the ride.

Palmer runs right through Ramus' great audience hall, and she spams Caps Lock as she cries his name and tells his guards to stop him and warns that he'll be killed if he goes that way.  He ignores her and keeps running, comes across a well-guarded door, invokes the Seal of Sulayman to bust it open, and proceeds to charge right into a genie general's office.  Oops.  This is the point where Tiger forgets about the thing he just used to get access to the mess he's in.

Tiger had no time to think about it.  Battle was battle to him.  But Jan cried out, "By the Seal of Sulayman!  Down with the wall!"

With a thunder of cracking stone, the front of the room fell outward, obscuring everything in a white cloud of mortar.  The flash and roar which had followed the order and the sunlight which abruptly poured in upon them held the soldiers for a terrified instant.

I mean, what is a wall but a particularly large and stubborn lock?  That can only be opened with battering rams or siege engines?  Or maybe the Seal is unlocking the door that could have been built into the wall if the architects had been more considerate.

So Tiger blasts a huge hole in a capitol soon to be attacked by an overwhelming enemy force, shimmies down a vine, and flees the palace.  A marid policeman manages to spot and pursue him despite all the chaos, but our hero neutralizes this threat by simply running around a corner, pressing against the wall, and extending a leg so the jinn trips when he charges around the bend after him.  Then "Like the sailor he was" he climbs a drainpipe to the top of a building, and spends an hour jumping from roof to roof.  Again, there's a moment when the narration refers to "Jan" considering whether to use his "broadjumping skills," but I'm pretty sure it's Tiger who did the leaping and bounding from building to building.  Unless Palmer is one of them Action Nerds who does parkour and judo but still flinches from human interaction and lets himself get pushed around by an overbearing auntie.

He only takes a breather when he's in sight of his objective, at the base of a hill crowned by the genies' temple, a "great, varicolored cube which, like the head of some monster, swallowed and disgorged thousands of Jinn."  This comparison comes right after he gazes "admiringly" at the place's architecture, so maybe Palmer-Tiger thinks it's hideous but well-made?  At any rate, the temple is crawling with guards and constructed like a fort, so Tiger reluctantly decides to wait until nightfall to make his attempt at infiltrating it.

Luckily, our hero knows a place to lay low in, and fill his belly to boot.

Though he well apprehended

Another one of Hubbard's patented "technically correct but not the best word for the job" vocabulary choices.

the danger of entering the town again, he was aware of thirst and hunger and suddenly bethought himself of a certain deep dive where the proprietor was indebted to him through said proprietor's undue faith in dice.  Jan smiled as he very vividly remembered a night when Tiger had won the place, tables, hostesses

Wait, what?

and kegs and had magnanimously loaned it all back forever.  It was weird to recollect such a thing because Jan had never experienced it himself, just as Tiger couldn't have told one end of an astrolabe from another.  But now Tiger could work an astrolabe and, no doubt, Jan could shoot dice with maddening precision.

Still can't help but feel that Tiger's gotten a raw deal.  Yeah, the sailor has belatedly learned how to navigate using a certain instrument, but he's also got this dweeb stuck in his head, while Palmer now knows how to kick ass and take names.  Both are learning from each other, but it's not close to an even exchange.  If I was Tiger I'd be upset that my otherworldly counterpart was such a disappointment.

Anyway, Tiger makes his way through the alleys of Tarbutón and arrives at the right tavern, and lets himself in through the back.  The owner is shocked to see the most wanted man in the city, and says that just ten minutes ago a squad of marids searched the place as a likely hiding spot.  Tiger concludes that this means the lazy jinn won't bother checking the dive a second time, and breezily asks for some grub.  The bar's owner isn't surprised at Tiger's lack of fear, and after Tiger assures him that in a worst case scenario he'll claim that the guy didn't recognize him, he agrees to set out a plate if Tiger takes a seat against the wall, mostly out of sight.

And no, the barkeeper is never named.  Or maybe he is, but Hubbard will only reveal it several chapters from now in a different character's conversation.  But he's just the "proprietor" or the "tavern keeper" for this section. 

While waiting for his lunch, Tiger is puzzled.  He's good at remembering faces and names, and while he thinks the people sitting next to him look familiar - a hook-nosed guy with evil eyes and a fat, oily fellow - he can't quite place them.  When they realize he's staring at them and confront him, Palmer suddenly recognizes them as Shannon and Green!  ...You remember them, right?  The lawyer and business executive we last saw six chapters ago?  Well, if you do remember them, and thought they were shady characters back in Seattle, the poor hygiene and sinister appearance of their counterparts in the Land of Sleep should make it clear that their villains in either world.

The two scoundrels are agitated when Palmer starts laughing at them, but it's such a strange situation, with someone insisting that they are other people, and Tiger is so physically intimidating, that they back off.  The poor, nameless barkeeper complains about Tiger provoking "Dauda's jackals" and asks him to leave when he's done.  Who is Dauda?  I can't tell you, the book doesn't tell us here, and if Hubbard explains things in a later chapter, it was so crucial to the narrative that I've completely forgotten it.

So that's how Tiger broke free from the palace of a mighty jinn queen - he waggled an old bracelet that knocked down any physical obstacle, then outfought and outmaneuvered purportedly-threatening monstrous humanoids.  Next time he'll try to gain entry to the jinn's most sacred site, a heavily-guarded temple-fortress.

Boy.  I wonder how he'll manage that?


Back to Chapter Nine

No comments:

Post a Comment