Swallowing Darkness – Chapter 21: This is the call that never ends

Chapter 21 starts with them now inside Sholto’s office. It’s all dark wood and a horror scene of a tapestry.

There was a wall hanging behind the main desk. It was faded, but the threads still sowed a scene of the sky boiling with clouds that held tentacles and sights best left to horror movies. There were tiny figures on the ground of people running in terror. One figure, a woman with long yellow hair, gazed up at the clouds while everyone else ran or hid their eyes. As a child I had gazed at the hanging while my father and Sholto did business. I knew from asking that the hanging was almost as old as the Bayeux tapestry, and that the blond woman was Glenna the Mad. She had made a series of tapestries of what she’d seen when the wild hunt had come through her countryside. The tapestries gradually became more bizarre as her senses left her.

I feel like LKH meant to use “tapestry” in place of “wall” in that first sentence. Again, her editors suck and basically just let her do whatever, so it’s no wonder this was missed.

They finally get one of the police officers on the phone, Major Walters. I do not remember from previous books if he’s a good cop who will do anything to protect Meredith, or if he’s one of those jerk challengey cops who thwart her at every turn. There’s always one. As Merry is talking to Walters and asking him for an escort out of faerie, the rose/mistletoe crown on her head keeps wrapping tendrils around the phone, trying to tug it away from her.

I explained that my uncle’s people were outside my refuge and were threatening war on the sluagh unless they handed me over. “My uncle is absolute ruler of the Seelie Court. He’s convinced them that the twins I carry are somehow his, and he’s their king. He claims that the sluagh stole me away, and the Seelies want me back.” I didn’t try to fight the catch in my voice now. “They want to give me back to my uncle. Do you understand?”
Doyle finally had the tendril unwrapped. I felt it move back up with the rest of the living crown.
“I heard what he’s accused of, and I am sorrier than I know how to say, Princess Meredith.”
“Accused of, Walters? Nice that you don’t admit that you believe me.”

Ah, yep, challengey. Or at least that’s how Merry is reading him. He’s just being a normal freaking cop, following normal “innocent until proven guilty” policing.

“You should have a doctor look at you before you get on a plane.”
I put a hand over the receiver and hissed, “Stop!” The vine stopped in mid-motion like a child caught with its hand going for cookies.
“Princess, we’ll come and get you, but on the condition that you let a doctor look you over before we put you on a plane.”
“We melted the walls of the room I was in. Do you really think the hospital wants me back?”
“They’re a hospital, and they want you safe. We all want you safe.”
“You don’t want me dying on your watch is what you mean.”

She is just needlessly picking fights with him.

Anyway, Walters tells her that they will come to retrieve her, but it will take a while because they have to mobilize the National Guard in order to do so.

“After what happened last time, Princess, we’ve been given permission, or orders, depending on how you want to look at it, to have the National Guard with us. Just in case the sky boils and monsters come out again. I know your man Abeloec helped heal the ones who went mad, but enough of them remember some of what happened that this is more than a straight police matter.”
“Mobile Reserve can’t handle it?” I asked.
“The National Guard has witches and wizard assigned to their units now. The police don’t.”
“Oh,” I said. “I’d forgotten that. That horrible thing that happened in Persia.” It had been on the news for days, in horrible living color.

So why didn’t we hear about it?? This sounds rather awesome, actually.

So Walters says he’ll start making the calls, but then starts asking Merry more questions, like how long they can safely stay in the sluagh mound. Do the Seelie actually believe the King’s claims? Why would Merry’s mother be part of the crowd that believes the King over her own daughter, etc… So, knowing that it’ll take a while to mobilize the NG to come get Merry, why are we wasting pages to describe things we as an audience already know?

“Are you setting us up to help you get rid of your enemies, Princess?”
“No, I’m doing the only thing I can think of that might, just might, avoid any more bloodshed or violence. I’ve seen enough for one night. I’m part human, and I’m going to embrace that part, Major Walters. They keep saying I’m too mortal to be sidhe, well, I’ll go be mortal. Because it is too dangerous to be sidhe right now. Get me out of here, Major Walters. I am pregnant with twins, and I have some of the fathers of my children with me. Get us out of here before something fatal happens. Please, Major Walters, please help me.”
The tendril curled back away from the phone. Doyle held me against his body. Sholto still had his arms wrapped around my legs, putting his arms between Doyle’s body and mine, but it was all right in that instant, it wasn’t competitive. Sholto laid his cheek against my legs, hiding his eyes.
“I am so sorry, Meredith, about your grandmother. Please forgive me.”
“We punished the person who killed Gran. You know, we all know, that it wasn’t your hand that did it.”

Wait, is the conversation with Walters over? Did they ever hang up the phone? *scans rest of chapter* Nope, it’s never addressed, and Walters never speaks again for the rest of the chapter. Cool. Anyway, tells Merry that he cannot leave his people and return with them to L.A., but Merry wants him there because he is the father of one of her children. He immediately conveniently remembers that his magic allows him to pass between areas easily, and since the L.A. property contains a beach, he can use that to easily travel back to faerie. The chapter ends with them all agreeing to go into exile.

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