In the thirteenth chapter of Battle Magic, IT’S STARTING, ISN’T IT? OH GODS. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Battle Magic.
Trigger Warning for death, warfare.
OH GOD oh god OH G O D
This chapter starts out with a bang (I COULD NOT RESIST IT, SHUSH) and ends with SADNESS, and it’s here. It’s happening now, and I’m so nervous. I view Briar’s little accident at the start of this chapter as sign that he’s been knocked off balance in a more metaphorical sense. Yes, it’s a demonstration of the power of Rosethorn’s burden, but Briar never truly regains his momentum or concentration for the rest of this chapter. The Yanjingyi army is rapidly approaching, and Rosethorn is leaving Briar’s side. Evvy is back at Fort Sambachu, too! None of this helps Briar to feel any better about what he’s got do, even if he tries to focus on the task at hand.
I mean, the guy falls asleep for an entire morning while on horseback. Yes, I know the physical reason for it, but I’m reading things way too deeply BECAUSE IT’S ENTERTAINING TO ME. It’s how I’m dealing with the constantly-building tension in this chapter, you know? Plus, the entirety of this chapter is narrated from Briar’s perspective, and I think that’s intentional. Pierce imbues the text with Briar’s anxieties about the war, about Weishu, and about Rosethorn, and it’s inescapable. You can’t read this chapter without acknowledging it! Yet it’s not just about Briar. In the scene where the first village’s leaders refuse to believe that Yanjing has declared war, I think you can read a different anxiety in the text. These people distrust their own army. You don’t have the same dynamic as seen in Yanjing, where there is unending devotion to this kind of power.
But eventually, the leaders trust the message sent from the God-King, and the group moves on, helping to transport the refugees to their temporary home. There’s a neat scene where Briar helps to fix a young kid’s leg, and AGAIN, I wonder if this is a kind of foreshadowing. Is this a mirror of a scene we’ll see later where Briar acts as a medic on the field? Is this a preview of what is to come? Perhaps I’m focusing on the wrong detail. What if Briar’s exhaustion at the end of the day is what I’ll see more of in the future?
And what of Rosethorn? In one sense, I’m comforted by the fact that her burden is so heavily guarded. We get multiple demonstrations of the magic that surrounds it and protects it, and GODDAMN, that thing is powerful. From knocking Briar out cold and projecting him through the air to the screeching, grinding noise it made when Rosethorn tried to pass through a magical barrier, the magical protections it contains are ridiculous. Which is good, for the record. It’s about the only thing that comforts me.
More on that in a second, though. I am still flabbergasted by the images of the figures on the rocks. What the hell was that??? I thought that perhaps Briar was hallucinating because he was so tired, but this is Emelan, folks. It’s not like it’s out of the realm of possibility that these drawings could come “alive,” so to speak. But what does that scene mean? Why would they wake for Briar? Why would they not show themselves to Jimut? Are they offering up themselves for a later time? WHAT DOES THIS EXCHANGE MEAN?
Something tapped his shoulder. He looked. It was one of the snakes. Slowly he turned. The naga queen leaned forward from her boulder and kissed his forehead.
“Real,” Briar whispered.
The queen and all of her snakes nodded.
“Have a good day,” he said, entirely unsure of what else to tell her.
She smiled as they all retreated back to their flat, painted selves.
WHAT THE HELL. I don’t get it. At all.
Really, though, if the events of this chapter left me feeling nervous and off-balance myself, the final scene is really what made me freak out. It’s the undeniable sign I’d been waiting for this entire time: buzzards. A group of the dead. And even worse than the thought that the Yanjingyi warriors had managed to push this far into Gyongxe was what Briar and Rosethorn witnessed the following day as they approached the Temple of the Tigers. Given that buzzards were awaiting the inevitable meal they’d get from war (and they’d already gotten a taste from the skirmish along the way), I was expecting Pierce to push any major twists until the next chapter. But she puts something extremely daunting and upsetting at the end of this chapter, and then follows it up with A CONFIRMATION THAT WE SHOULD FEEL TERRIBLE ABOUT THIS.
Briar has what amounts to a panic attack as he imagines the sheer size of Weishu’s armies and the damage they’ll be able to wreak compared to the thousands of warriors that the Gyongxean people have on their size. It’s a terrible burst of anxiety for him, and it’s not long after this moment that his anxiety is given validation: bodies begin to float down the river. Gyongxean bodies, as far as I could tell. Not one or two of them, but a whole group of them.
The Yanjingyi army is close, y’all. TOO CLOSE.
So it felt like a punch right in the heart that it was at this moment that Pierce put Rosethorn’s goodbye. I have never seen Briar so unnerved by anything, and it’s sad to know that he’s now truly alone. Yes, he’s got plenty of folks around him, but his two best friends are gone. Evvy is back at Sambachu, and Rosethorn… well.
Parahan grabbed his arm. Slowly, from the edges in, Rosethorn and her horse disappeared from sight. All that remained was an empty road.
AND AN EMPTY SOUL, BECAUSE IT’S HAPPENED. IT’S DONE. She’s gone, all three characters are now separated, and the war is just up the river. Oh gods, I’M NOT READY.
Mark Links Stuff
– I am now on Patreon!!! MANY SURPRISES ARE IN STORE FOR YOU IF YOU SUPPORT ME.
– I will be at numerous conventions in 2016! Check the full list of events on my Tour Dates / Appearances page.
– My Master Schedule is updated for the near and distant future for most projects, so please check it often. My next Double Features for Mark Watches will be Death Note and Neon Genesis Evangelion. On Mark Reads, Diane Duane’s Young Wizards series will replace the Emelan books.
– Mark Does Stuff is on Facebook! I’ve got a community page up that I’m running. Guaranteed shenanigans!