In the twenty-third chapter of Battle Magic, EVERYTHING GOT WEIRD AND I COULDN’T BE HAPPIER. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to read Battle Magic.
Trigger Warning: For talk of warfare, blood.
The irony is so sweet and beautiful, y’all. I AM SO PLEASED, especially since this chapter started out on such a dire, terrible note. The image of Weishu on the God-King’s throne was about the worst thing to open the chapter. YET THERE HE WAS, sitting smugly, lording over everyone, and making me wish I could reach into a book and shove a fictional character off a cliff. I hate him so much, and despite knowing that Briar, Evvy, and Rosethorn didn’t end up as permanent members of Weishu’s court, I was still so worried.
You know who wasn’t worried? The God-King. Much like Evvy in the previous chapter, he exhibits his courage openly. Despite being held by a collar on a leash (!!!!! WEISHU IS THE WORST), he still defies the emperor, over and over again, never appearing reluctant or unsure or uncertain. Just like Parahan, he planned on defying this disgusting man until the very end. I imagine that the God-King knew that he might be killed for talking back to Weishu, but it was worth it. It meant that he could prove to Weishu that Weishu can’t just have what he wants.
Well… sort of. The beauty of this chapter is that after trading barbs with Weishu, the God-King gives the emperor of Yanjing exactly what he wants. He hands over Gyongxe to him in the best way possible. He starts this off by asking a very necessary question:
“When you studied this realm before you began your conquest,” the God-King asked seriously, “did you wonder why so many religions begin in Gyongxe, and why so many religions have a least one temple here?”
Unsurprisingly, Weishu doesn’t actually care about this. He never has. His greed is superficial. He wants what he doesn’t have, he only examines anything in terms of what it can get him, and then he just takes it. Yet there’s a reason Gyongxe is appealing, and it’s not just because the temples have their own wealth. See, Gyongxe is a very special place. So, the God-King shows Weishu exactly what he’ll get if he conquers Gyongxe:
Weishu yanked on the God-King’s leash. The metal cracked to pieces and fell on the floor. “People come here to be close to the gods,” the boy told the emperor. “Things happen here that happen nowhere else.” As the emperor straightened, ready to shout an order, something that looked like a metal snake with a skull for a head slid down the filament over him and dropped to his shoulders. Swiftly it wrapped itself around the emperor’s neck.
TAMORA PIERCE BRINGS BACK THE WEIRD, AND SHE BRINGS IT BACK HARD. If Weishu wants Gyongxe, then he’s going to get it. He’ll get the cave snakes, and the deep runners, and the peak spiders. He’ll get the god paintings, those windows to another realm, and he’ll get the gods of so many religions that he can’t even count them all. And the cherry on top? He’ll still get the ambient magic that Evvy, Rosethorn, and Briar have and that he was so determined to underestimate. I think one of my favorite storytelling tropes is when an antagonist’s bias forces them to underestimate their adversaries, and IT’S DONE SO BEAUTIFULLY. It’s not just the throne room that’s beset with creatures from inside the mountains. No, Luvo summoned a whole lot more than that, and Diban Kangmo (WHO GREETS EVVY IN THE BEST WAY!!!) shows Weishu just how screwed he is:
There were creatures out there. Horse-like ones with eagles’ heads, thin legs, and metal hooves fought the cavalry, their golden beaks and silvery hooves cutting deadly wounds on horses and riders. Lions that looked, impossibly, as if they were made of ice fought beside snow leopards, cave bears, and nagas, fully fleshed, not painted. Cave snakes shone as they slithered through the ranks of foot soldiers. Peak spiders walked among them, casting webs over several soldiers at a time. Giant vultures attacked from overhead. Whole companies of soldiers were giving the creatures the great bow, their foreheads on the bloody ground.
It’s a visceral, bloody, and terrifying display of power, perhaps the only one that could have truly shown Weishu that this land was not to be fucked with. I appreciated that Pierce did not sanitize this, either. I think if she had, it would have felt tonally jarring to her descriptions of warfare earlier in the book. No, this is a disgusting and scary thing that’s unfolding outside the gates of the city. These creatures are dying to protect Gyongxe as much as the Yanjingyi soldiers are being killed, too.
So I admit that I thought that Weishu would die by the end of this chapter. Either Hengkai would kill him or one of the Gyongxe allies would. I just didn’t see how he would survive! However, I admit that like Evvy and… well, probably most people in Gyongxe, my need for revenge and a personal sense of justice kept me from seeing the big picture. If Weishu and his top mages/general were killed, someone else could easily rise up and take his place, namely his heirs. And then what? It would repeat, over and over again, because you can’t just change the culture of an entire nation by killing one person. No, the God-King is a lot smarter than that. It is much better to get Weishu to agree to a treaty so that he leaves them all alone.
That’s in the best interest of everyone.
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