Swallowing Darkness – Chapter 18: Family Matters

Chapter 18 begins with Merry, Doyle, and Mistral exiting Sholto’s bedroom and talking to the two guards stationed outside: Sholto’s cousin, Chattan, and their uncle, Tarlach, who is a nightflyer. Merry greets Tarlach as “Uncle Tarlach” and then there everyone goes surprised by Merry’s respect for ancient traditions. Tarlach reminds them that he hasn’t seen respect like that since he last spoke with Merry’s father, which reminds me that we’re on book freaking seven of this series and she’s never bothered even once trying to solve her father’s murder. You’d think that would be a really awesome plot of one of the novels, but nope. Instead we get six baby daddies and tentacle sex.

Merry explains her plan to call the police to assist them getting away from the Seelie stationed outside the sluagh mound, and Tarlach agrees that is a good plan, but the police cannot help in the fight that Sholto faces.

“Let us walk as you explain,” Mistral said.
Tarlach looked up and gave the tall sidhe a look that was not friendly, though I wasn’t certain that Mistral would be able to read it. I’d grown up staring into the face of a nightflyer, so I could.
“The sidhe do not rule here.” Then he looked at Doyle.
“Once the queen ordered me to come and try to be your king, but you rejected me, and the sluagh’s vote is final. I did as I was ordered, nothing more.”
“It left a bad taste on our skin,” Tarlach said.
“The queen orders, and the ravens obey,” Doyle said, and old saying among the Unseelie that I hadn’t heard in a long time.
“Some say the princess is only a puppet for the Darkness, but you have remained silent.”
“The princess does well enough on her own.”
“Yes, she does.” Tarlach seemed to decide something, because he began to walk down the hallway. As graceful as they are in the air, they are less so on the ground.
“We heard that the sluagh had voted a new proxy king because they feared Sholto would not wake in time to deal with the Seelie,” I said as I fell in step beside him. Mistral and Doyle came in behind me, much as they would have for the queen herself. Chattan brought up the rear.
“It was more than that, Princess Meredith. The bower you had created was terribly Seelie, though the bone gate was a nice touch.”
“It was made of magic from Sholto and myself.”
“But it was mostly flowers and sunshine That is not very Unseelie, and most definitely not very sluagh.”

It has always bugged me that Seelie and Unseelie are capitalized but not sluagh.

“I cannot always choose how the magic will come.”
“It is wild magic, and it chooses its own way like water finding a cleft in a rock,” he said.
I simply agreed. “Is there a chance that they will try to dispossess Sholto?”
“Some fear that in joining with you he will destroy the sluagh. They have chosen a full-blooded nightflyer in his place as proxy. Only the fact that Sholto has been the best and fairest of kings saved him from waking to a kingdom that was his no more.”
“Forgive me,” Doyle said, “but could the sluagh simply vote their king out of office?”
Tarlach spoke without trying to look back at Doyle. “It has been done before.”

They get to the office but before they enter, Merry feels the sluagh sithen roar to life, calling her, and she knows she must join Sholto immediately. Both Tarlach and Chattan tell her that she’s too sidhe to be of any assistance to Sholto, and of course they have to argue about it for a while. Finally, Tarlach is like “if you’re really Sholto’s queen, the sithen will listen to you” so Merry asks the sithen to open a path directly to Sholto for her. Which of course it does.

The walls of the sithen split and Merry sees Sholto standing in a large sandy pit facing a giant nightflyer who is aggressively taunting him. The chapter ends with Sholto telling Merry that she shouldn’t have come, and the entire crowd of sluagh break out into a fight.

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