Monday, September 26, 2016

Masters of Sleep - Chapter Thirteen - Race to the Dead End

We go from Palmer being shot and arrested in one world to Tiger waking up at dawn in the other, and since he comes to with the echoes of madmen's screams in his mind, we can infer that Palmer didn't lose consciousness after taking the bullet, but got carted back to the mental hospital and fell asleep at a normal-ish time.

Though I have to wonder, if "Jan the Tiger" is once again aware of his dual nature and the twin worlds inhabited by humanity, why didn't he try to go to sleep early so he could switch to Tiger the Palmer?  Get a head start on the search for the Two-World Diamond in Genie World and all that.  But that wouldn't make this chapter as dramatic, I suppose.

Tiger gets up and takes in the crew swabbing the Terror's deck, and there's some foreshadowing or symbolism or whatever because the sunlight makes it look like the decks are being "scrubbed with blood."  And don't bother nitpicking about whether the dawn sun is red or not, let's just appreciate this effort and move on.  Tiger immediately goes to find Muddy McCoy, the Genie World counterpart of the communist ex-lumberjack-turned-diamond thief Chan Davies, but he's vanished.  Inconvenient, that.

So up Tiger goes into the rigging to look around and spell out the situation for us.  His pirate fleet is making full speed toward the island of Denaise, their base of operations where they can try to make a last stand.  Racing them to this destination is Arif-Emir's fleet, which has joined forces with the remnants of Tombo's fleet, "unconditional surrender" be damned.  The genie fleets are lagging behind since they had to go around Frying Pan Shoals due to Tiger's roadblock, and the pirates would have been able to make it to Denaise about a day ahead of them, but two enemy frigates have leapt to the front and are slowly gaining on the freebooters.  And then there's a complication, a cutter that has ditched the pirate fleet to run for some islands and reefs, a ship that Tiger knows is carrying Muddy McCoy thanks to his patented Tiger Sense.

Tiger gives his new orders - change course and intercept McCoy's cutter.  No, Tiger doesn't know for certain that the Two-World Diamond is with McCoy right now.  And no, he doesn't know how to use the Two-World Diamond, despite his hopes that it can magic all his problems away.  "But Tiger knew he had to take that chance to save himself in two worlds if he could and to save these buckaroons and humankind as slaves to the Jinn."  You know, that thing he didn't do last time he had a terribly powerful artifact in his hand.

So we get a naval chase as promised in the chapter's title of "The Chase."  It's probably exciting if you're nautically-inclined - Tiger tells his men to run out the stern chasers, whatever those are, and then they dump all the auxiliary boats the ship is carrying in order to squeeze every last knot out of it.  After a page of this the enemy frigates get in range and start taking potshots, and manage to land one hit on the Terror, but all it does it take down Tiger's "fore-r'yal yard" and kill a nameless gun crew.  Nothing that seriously impacts Tiger's ability to win, just enough to create the illusion of danger.

Tiger has his men load chain shot, which if you don't know is two cannonballs linked by a chain, which causes the projectiles to whirl around and rip through rigging with ease.  The story at least is helpful enough to explain this to us in the text itself, instead of not featuring it in the glossary like most of the other nautical garbage.  The bad guys try a proper broadside, but Tiger watches the enemy officers and tells his helmsman to "Brace and trim!" right when he sees the genies give the order to fire, so the Terror dodges all but one shot to the bow.  In response, Tiger has his batteries fire and wreck both enemy ships' mizzen and rudder and stuff, inflicting enough damage that they'll have to stop for repairs, if only for a time.

As the Terror sails on, one parting shot from an enemy ship hits its counter... oh hey, that's in the glossary for once, "(n.) the curved part of the back of a ship."  It won't be enough to end the Terror right then and there, but the ship starts to slowly sink even as it continues to chase after McCoy's cutter, while the thief tries to force a retread of Chapter Eleven by losing the Terror in some rough reefs.

But hey, you know how Tiger has been itching to figure out what the Two-World Diamond actually does?  And a couple chapters ago he took a high-ranking genie captive, a genie who had been intent upon getting the Diamond for himself, and knew stuff about it that Tiger didn't?  Well, it's only now, when his ship is sinking and the brig is flooding, that Tiger decides to question Admiral Tombo about the Diamond, demanding information in exchange for freeing the genie from a watery tomb.  Tombo is hysterical, though, raving about being caught and trapped.  Hmm.  And there's something about that fanged face that makes Tiger stare for a moment...

Gripping the Jinn's throat through the bars, Tiger yanked him close.  "Tell me the power of that diamond!  What can it do?"

"Let me out!  I'm caught!  I'm trapped!" screamed Tombo.  "Anything, anything!  But let me out!  He's a maniac!  I'm caught, I'm trapped!"

The phrase about the maniac completed the identification for Tiger.  For a moment he had thought this might be the prefrontal case, but that was not so.  Tombo was Dyhard in another world!  A Jinn!

Uh... wut?

Let's rewind to Queen Ramus' talk with Tiger last book.  When she discussed the nature of the Land of Sleep and souls and all that, she only described human souls as traveling between the worlds and inhabit different bodies, there was never any suggestion that genies did the same.  Why would they need to, when jinn like Zongri are able to physically travel between the worlds?  Why would Zongri's imprisonment in a copper jar so terrible if he had another body in another world to fall back to?  And if a genie can live tens of thousands of years in one world, how could they live as a brief mortal in the other?  Would their soul just go to a new human body each time the old one kicks it?  If souls can do that, why does Tiger need to risk his life in this world to save his body in the other world?

I don't know, maybe Hubbard thought this would be more satisfying for us, allow us to combine all the hate we feel for Dyhard with all the "meh" we have towards Tombo.  It's certainly convenient for the author, since it lets our hero deal with both antagonists in one fell swoop.  But that's next chapter.

Tombo tries to resist Tiger's demands for information, since that would betray the entire race of jinn, but when our hero keeps encouraging Tombo's panic by reminding him how he's trapped. the genie spills his guts.  The trick to using the Diamond is to make the "banishing sign," whatever that is.  Aim it down and the Diamond can send jinn anywhere whether they want to go or not, while if you aim it up, the thing conjures up the spirit of Sulayman himself, who famously commanded the jinn to do his bidding.  No magic words required, just flip it one way or the other, and tell it what you want it to do.

And that's the Two-World Diamond.  It moves around between the two worlds when a human has it in their possession, which is how it gets its name, but its main power is over genies.  The jinn use it when they grow old and want to steal another jinni's body, but don't want humans to have it because then one could summon the ancient king that enslaved their entire race.

Arif-Emir wore the thing in his hat.  During a parade.  Surrounded by cheering humans.

Hubbard Villains, man.  Well, after Tiger learns the secrets of the Diamond, the sinking Terror hits a reef and starts to get battered apart by the surf.  As you might expect, Tiger manages to escape the wreck as it disintegrates around him, and soon he, a sodden Tombo, Wanna, Mr. Luck, Stagger Ryan, and probably some nameless background characters, all find themselves stuck in the lagoon of the island McCoy had been running toward.  Oh, and Muddy McCoy's ship has wrecked as well, so he's there to be chased down by Tiger, who grabs the thief by the throat.

But it was not Muddy McCoy's throat he wanted.  It was the lump in Muddy's sash.  With eager fingers Tiger too unto himself the Two-World Diamond.

Well, I say "thief," but I guess it was Davies who actually stole the Diamond in the other world, McCoy just woke up with the thing in his possession and decided to run off with it.  While pursued by a vast fleet after that very item.  And he ran towards a very small island with no escape route.  And managed to wreck his ship in the process.

Or does McCoy even know he has it?  Maybe he was trying to save his own skin, hide while the genies took out Tiger, and never knew the Diamond was in his bag.  We'll never know, because he isn't mentioned in what remains of the book.  For all we know Tiger throttled him and McCoy's corpse is slowly drifting across the lagoon.

Seaward, the Ras Faleen

That's one of the jinn frigates, by the way.  The other was the Mount Kaf, if you're interested.  It's also the Mount Kaf if you're not interested.

was standing in as close as she dared, gun ports open, the black mouth of grape-stuffed cannon hungry to cut down the Terror's crew as it struggled toward the far beach.

This is a stupid cliffhanger, Tiger just captured the obscenely powerful magic item that gives him control over jinn.  If you wanted to have one last page of tension in the story before the ante/anticlimax, end the chapter with him pursuing McCoy as the enemy ship bears down on him, so there's the question of whether he'll get the Diamond back before he's blown apart in a hail of lead and shrapnel.

Next time, we'll wrap this up in a way that's just as, if not more unsatisfying than the end of the last book.

Back to Chapter Twelve

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