In the twelfth part of Mastiff, Achoo makes a horrifying discovery, Farmer does something “a little odd,” and the group arrives at a new location that will certainly complicate things. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Mastiff.
Trigger Warning: For child death, dead bodies, slavery, and body horror.
“A little odd.”
A LITTLE ODD.
Sweet mother of gods, Farmer, I have NEVER SEEN SUCH AN UNDERSTATEMENT IN MY LIFE. To be fair to Farmer, I know he didn’t intend to unleash such a hellish trap. He didn’t know it was there until it was too late, so it’s not his fault that this happens. Still, I went into his little demonstration of magic expecting something surreal but ultimately pretty damn cool. I say that because I was immensely relieved that the grave that Achoo found was not the prince. LOOK, QUEEN TAMMY HAS PULLED THE RUG OUT FROM UNDER ME A NUMBER OF TIMES IN THE PAST, I THINK IT IS ABSOLUTELY FAIR OF ME TO EXPECT THIS AGAIN. I was instantly full of dread when Achoo circled it because I had already said that this was a possibility.
Still, I don’t want this to come off as me diminishing the horror of what the group discovers. It’s still vicious and awful and depressing, made only worse by how willing these mages were to misuse and disrespect the dead. After Master Farmer uses one of the COOLEST bits of magic in this whole series (HE HAS ALL THE BEST MAGIC, I SWEAR), the group finds three slaves in the ground, all women, and it’s just… hell. Gross. Revolting. Extremely sad. It’s probable that they were killed or died completely independent of the mages’ influence. This is the reality of the slave trade: bodies are valued based on their ability to be productive, to make people money, and for the labor that’s stolen from them. Sick bodies or babies are ultimately worthless to these people, which is why it’s an added insult to injury that one of the mages plants a trap in their corpses. Even in death, they are used for the purpose and will of someone else.
It’s one of the more upsetting things in the Tortall universe, full stop.
They do find another clue on one of the bodies prior to the trap being triggered. One of the slaver brands matches the brass token that Beka found on the beach back near the Summer Palace. I’m guessing this proves that the mages either hired this specific slaver to provide cover for them, or it was the nobles who funded and organized this whole thing. The slaver must be obscure enough that no one recognizes their brand, though.
Anyway, let’s talk about the next Worst Thing Ever. You know, when that corpse started talking, I assumed that Farmer had gotten through to Orielle, who was pissed that someone had interrupted her. But Farmer kept quiet, which didn’t seem right, and I completely missed the part where the mage said she’d left a trap. I DON’T KNOW, I still thought that maybe Orielle meant a trap somewhere around the Palace? THIS IS TERRIBLE, I KNOW IT. Thankfully, I did come to understand that the one of the powerful mages had set the trap and Farmer had enough to power to fight off their attack. Still, the mage was able to block Farmer’s attempt to contact Gershom, which is VERY DISTURBING. Seriously, are both the mages with Gareth black robes? Because shit, they’re so powerful!
I’m hoping that Farmer can find a way to use his amazing spell at some point, far away from the influence of the mages that keep slowing up the hunters. At this point, the exchange of information is vital to catching the people who’ve kidnapped Gareth. Plus, we still don’t know if Their Majesties have started feeling the effects of Lazamon’s magic, do we? What if it’s already begun?
I DON’T WANT TO THINK OF THIS. There are just so many disturbing implications here, and Pierce addresses them openly within the text. These nobles and mages are intentionally wasting lives, all to enrich their own.
“I hate the waste of it, the waste of life that criminals leave behind,” he said wearily. He fumbled at his belt, trying to undo the ties that held his water flash. I slapped his hand away and freed it, then opened it for him. Master Farmer took it with a nod of thanks. “Each of us has power, a kind of magic,” he told me, speaking as if I were a scholar like him. “We spend it somehow as we live, in great and lesser ways. Those three never even had a chance to use theirs.”
It’s not lost on me that the criminals here used the bodies of slaves, as I brought up before. And given what we get to next, I’m starting to wonder how Pierce is going to deliver her endgame this time around. While the plot is nowhere near as complex as the narratives in Terrier or Bloodhound, I think the political and social issues here in Mastiff are certainly dense and challenging. The reason I bring this up is because the group follows Achoo right into the grounds of Queensgrace Castle while she tracks Gareth’s step. Obviously, I’m super confused as to why the slavers and the mages would go to such a heavily populated place, but I think that concern was a bit ill-informed. Remember, earlier in this book, there was the possibility that the mages were hiding Gareth in plain sight in Corus. So it’s not like taking them to a larger city is a terrible idea. There are more people to hide in, you know?
But what worries me here is the fact that the group has, for the last week or so, dealt with purely rural and poor folk. That has had its own set of challenges for them, but I think the nobles they’ll come across will be way worse than anyone else they’ve met so far. On top of that, Prince Baird, who the nobles and high mages enjoy, is in Queensgrace Castle, and shit could get weird or awkward real fast. It’s good, though, that Lady Sabine is with them. Her ancestral ties to some of the families in Queensgrace clearly gives them some advantages, namely that the people in the surrounding villages and towns respect her a great deal. She commands respect at Queensgrace, too, and that’ll work to the group’s favor as they deal with Niccols the steward. I hope, I should say. What if news of the prince’s kidnapping has gotten out? What if the nobles here know of it and want nothing to do with reuniting the prince with his parents? WHAT IF, Y’ALL.
I’m so nervous.
The videos contain use of the words “mad” and “idiot.”
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