Keeping It Real Chapter 6

Am I the only one that hates how assassins are portrayed in a lot of stories? Like here, Zal gets a death threat with an exact time of when they’ll move on him. How stupid can these people get?

I mean, being an assassin has to be a pretty tough job as it is. You don’t have the support of the law, the people you’re after do, they also aren’t typically eager to join the conga line in Valhalla. So why would you do something like warn your target and give them a date to pencil in on their calendar? Are all these assassins former cable installers? ‘Hi, this is just a friendly reminder that TED will be by on the 12th to kill you sometime between eight and noon. Please stand near a window during this time period to ensure service delivery on this day.’

Lila is headed back to the studio to do a quick scan of the place for bugs. Remember how I complained about Lila’s security practices last chapter? Apparently Robson knows better because Lila comments on how easy it was to get inside the studio. The security guard didn’t even ask her for ID, they just waved Lila on in. Lila says that she’d have him fired if it were up to her.

Lila doesn’t find any new bugs, just the one from earlier that she failed to do anything about. She calls for a colleague and then walks around scanning for it. She finds the receiver in an old sedan that’s unoccupied. Somehow, Lila not only knows that the bug is in the car, but that it’s inside the stereo and that the hard drive it’s recording to is three quarters full, all without having to physically examine the thing.

Robson needlessly informs us that this is a human form of surveillance. As if we suspected the elves of possessing radio equipment and hard drives when she’s established that elves hate technology. You don’t need to state the obvious, Robson. Your audience isn’t a bunch of drooling glass lickers. Though some of them might be on loan from the Paolini series when they’ve run out of energy to enthuse about dragons online.

Proving that her superiors would have been better strapping a gun on a Roomba and putting it in charge of the investigation, Lila starts poking around the car. At no point so far has she mentioned to anyone that there’s some surveillance equipment being used on her charge. Not even a quick email off to her boss. ‘Hey, FYI. Found a bug and am investigating. Found receiver in car, plate number URDUMB. More to follow.’

When Lila opens the trunk a black shape leaps out. It shifts between a couple of animal forms before running off and then Lila examines the roof of the trunk and sees the blood for the charm already disappearing. This means the owners will soon know their equipment has been tampered with. Then she whines about how perfectly ordinary and useless she is.

Lila’s scalp smarted and she realised with annoyance that the creature had managed to snag a few of her hairs. She had to bite on her frustration that her help hadn’t appeared sooner so she could have caught and traced the charm, but she had no ability with aetherial creations of any kind, being simply human and simply machine. All she could do was watch the telltales flicker and die in the daylight, shut the lid and leave the car to continue doing its work.

Again. I’m not seeing why her superiors put her in charge of this mission. It’s not a bad thing from a literary sense as Lila then has an actual weakness and not a large artificial one like too clumsy or too cute. But it defies basic logic in-universe. They know that Zal is facing magical threats from other elves. At the very least I’d say put a magic user as the investigator and Lila as the muscle.

And what the hell does being human have to do with magic? Can’t humans do some magic or are they all useless? Didn’t the bassist Luke get charged with possession of alchemy stuff? Or did he have to buy them off of one of the better and prettier races because humans are just weak.

A fairy shows up, Malachi, who’s all black and gets mistaken for a demon often which he likes. Lila and him chat for a few minutes, minutes which are spared from us, before getting down to business. They make a joke between each other that I don’t get then Malachi scans the building. He says there’s something there that’s old and has possibly been there since before the bomb.

Then Robson explains that the explosion instantly separated the worlds, created histories for them all and scattered things across al their individual timelines. Which is probably just going to turn out to be a sort of reusable plot coupon which Robson will cash in often. Though being as it’s part of the universe and will has already had a direct impact in the course of events, by making the world the way it is, I’ll allow it.

Though I won’t allow how Malachi examined the studio and not the car with the bug. I guess I should just be grateful he has a name and isn’t just a generic person there to advance the plot like Paolini would have.

For no apparent reason, Lila then head’s to Incon’s headquarters to see Sarasilien, He’s the elf who saved Lila from her magical wounds, because they were apparently magical, and he works with everything. My guess is he’s going to serve as the Spock or Holmes of the series and be a font of “logic”. He might also pull double duty and be a forensic investigation team all in one.

Lila realizes she has no idea why she’s there. Great, even the author has given up explaining Lila’s reasons. Bearing out my prediction, Sara—because typing that whole mess will sicken me—asks her if she’s well without showing much emotion. Remember kids, smart people don’t show any emotions. Which is exactly why Feynman and Einstein were never photographed smiling.

Lila says she’s not sure she can do the job, Sara suggests because Zal is an elf and Lila says it’s because he’s not an elf. Because elves may be special compared to humans but Zal has to be special compared to them or else Lila couldn’t love him. So Sara asks Lila to tell him all about it, or not quite.

“Tell me the facts.“

Yup, he’s just a blond Vulcan. I guess it’s easy to mix the two being as elves and Vulcans both have pointy ears and show up on TV. So Lila tells him about the hate mail and hands him the letter and knife. Though she doesn’t tell him about the ”game” Zal and her are playing. She suspects that Zal wasn’t telling her everything about the letter as Sara examines it.

Sara cuts himself on the knife and the letter bursts into flames when his blood touches it. He freezes it in time, because Incon is just lousy with element 99, then tells Lila that the blade was made to want to cut elven flesh. He says that it would have done more than put Zal to sleep and that there’s more than elf magic in it. Sara says that this assassination attempt isn’t about race hate or purity though it will masquerade as it.

Lila asks what it is but Sara says he can’t tell her because Robson doesn’t want to tip her hand so early. Sara asks if she’s playing a “game” with him, and she admits it. Then she asks where to find out about him as there’s no living record and Sara suggests Lila check the death records. Sara also mentions that the healing Zal did with a crow feather isn’t elf magic but rather a thing of “demonia” or “thanotopia”.

Then Sara explains what the letter says. It says that Zal’s blood will be the catalyst for a magical bomb which will sever the realms. Only the blood of one blah blah blah, portentous crap which will make sense when Robson gets around to explaining it. Then Sara says that she needs to stop the “game” with Zal.

Then Robson dumps a huge load of info on what a game is. Apparently it’s “wild magic” that happens when an “adept”—that is a magical being—encounters resistance of some sort. There are rules though they change from “game” to “game” and that it’s dictated by the “opener’s” intentions. Apparently once you’ve figured out the rules that makes you bound to play until it’s over. Oh yes, and fraudulent gaming once collapsed the Otopian economy and so it’s outlawed.

Robson remains murky on what the game is and how it’s done. First it’s “wild magic” which should mean it’s uncontrollable and now it’s controlled by their intent. Basically the game is a way to make people do what Robson wants because magic is involved. So when Lila does something incredibly stupid, she can just say it’s part of the game Lila was playing with Zal.

Sara tells Lila to end it and show his “andalune” which means he’s serious. He says that even if she has to lose, Lila has to end it. Because the biggest threat to Lila’s mission is clearly the nebulous and ill-defined magical bond and not the assassins waiting to kill Zal.

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3 Responses to Keeping It Real Chapter 6

  1. maeverin says:

    so a magic user comes across, say, a cyborg and suddenly a “game” is in play that they both participate in willingly (i’m assuming) and…nope, totally lost. can you try to explain it again but more stoopider?

    • vivisector says:

      I’m not sure I get it either but I think it’s supposed to go something like this. Magic user sees something they want, magic maifests that they can get it by satisfying certain conditions and so everyone has to play. Why magic behaves like this is beyond baffling to me. I can only assume it’s an excuse for Robson to force her characters through a series of romantic cliches.

      • maeverin says:

        so we should expect something like this:
        Lila: so in order for your protection spell to work, we have to bathe together in the hot springs?
        Zal: can’t help it, babe…magic won’t work otherwise.
        Lila: and why is Poppy running around naked?
        Poppy: Breezy!

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