Swallowing Darkness – Chapter 4: The Fight That Never Ends

Chapter 4 begins with everyone in the room discussing the fact that Doyle has a small wound that is still bleeding. The sidhe heal quickly, so it is rare that Doyle would still be bleeding. He thinks it could be because of some man-made coating on the glass that cut him. Gran realizes that she is not strong enough, magically speaking, to withstand whatever magic the Seelie sidhe would use on her to get close to Merry or her men, so she tries to take her leave. They want to talk more about Cair and why she’d place the spell, because like all LKH books, the characters can never just let a discussion take place in one chapter. It has to bleed all over everything.

“What could they have offered to Merry’s cousin?” Galen asked. “Mayhap the thing they offered me centuries ago,” Gran said.

Now, this may just a an issue of the formatting on the Kindle version of the book I’m reading, but I haaaate when dialogue is formatted like this. Maybe I’m old school, but I firmly believe you should a) keep dialogue to one line per character, and b) make the conversation easy to follow, as in add markings so you know precisely who said what. LKH never does this, and I always find myself rereading long dialogue snippets multiple times. Anyway, to continue…

“What was that?” Galen asked.
“A chance to bed, and if with child, marry one of their Seelie nobles. No one will touch Cair for fear that her…deformity will breed true. I was only half human, and I worked in the court as a brownie, but I saw the Seelie and I wished to be a part of it. I was a fool, but it earned my girls a chance to be a part of that glittering mess. But Cair is always outside of it, because she looks too much like her ‘ol Gran.”

Sholto realizes that he experienced much of the same as Gran, or as Cair, in that even the Unseelie court had difficulty accepting him, and they are the more accepting of the two courts. Merry brings up how her mortality is seen as a failing of the sidhe, and they all share a laugh over how ironic it is that Merry and Sholto are part of the group working to save all of faerie. Gran then apologizes to Merry that she will not be around for the pregnancy or to help care for the babies, since she’s too easy to bespell against Merry.

“I just realized that I’m going to be a mother.”
“Aye, you are.”
“I hadn’t thought about anything beyond getting pregnant.”
She smiled at me. “It will be a few months before ya have to worry about mothering.”

Is this foreshadow???

Sholto then takes Merry’s hand into his and stares down lovingly at her. Merry feels ashamed, since she just doesn’t feel the same way towards him. Didn’t she JUST claim that she loves all her men as equals and would be sad if ANY of them had died/were lost? She then thinks about her mother, who was trapped in a loveless marriage because she became pregnant after one time bedding Prince Essus. She realizes that she should not have her mother, because she is now in a similar situation, being tied to her men who she doesn’t love as much as some of the others. She then pushes herself to admire Sholto.

Which Gran sees, and immediately starts a fight. You know, I wonder what happened to LKH during the course of this book that caused her to write off Gran like this. In previous books, Gran was just this super loving, caring person who would give Merry the world. Now she’s this bitter, angry hag that is picking at every single thing to force a fight. It feels similar to what LKH did to Richard in the Anita Blake series – he was a loving, caring person towards Anita and her first love in many years, but he was obviously based on someone in real life and that person did LKH wrong. So Richard totally twisted in characterization in the series and it just felt off and wrong. Perhaps a similar thing happened to whoever inspired Gran.

Anyway, Merry protects Sholto from Gran’s verbal assault, so Gran turns her attention toward Galen. “And how do ya feel, Galen, that you share her with so many?” It backfires, of course, because Galen is happy to share Merry if it means he gets her at all. So she turns on Doyle, which we all know is the most intelligent thing to do. Except Merry notices that Gran’s voice doesn’t sound at all like it should. It sounds like someone else’s voice, coming from Gran’s body…

That strange voice said, “We could let her keep you, let her be queen of the Unseelie. You would be no threat to us.”
“No threat to whom?” Doyle asked. There was no sight of the thread now. I didn’t know if they’d destroyed it, or just hidden it. I’d been too caught up in Gran’s strange state to notice. It wasn’t good that I hadn’t noticed, but the world had narrowed to the stranger in my grandmother’s eyes.
“But you, Darkness, you are a threat.” There was no accent now. There were simply well-spoken words, and because it was Gran’s throat saying it, the words still sounded vaguely like her, but a person’s voice is made up of more than just their larynx and mouth. There is a piece of yourself in your voice, and the words she spoke now belonged in someone else’s mouth.
She glanced across the bed at Sholto. “Shadowspawn and his sluagh are a threat.” Shadowspawn was a nickname that even the queen rarely said to his face. A lesser fey, even my grandmother, would not have risked such an insult to the King of the sluagh.
“What have they done to her?” I asked.

And the chapter ends with Gran turning to Doyle and power bursting from her hand towards him. Merry realizes that Gran never had that sort of magic, just as the white light flashes across Doyle’s body. Galen throws himself on top of Merry to protect her, and as usual, she can’t see what’s happening in the room.

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