Swallowing Darkness – Chapter 29: Too Much Power

Chapter 29 starts off with the woman Galen had been talking to last chapter, human wizard Paula Gregorio, shaking Merry’s hand a little too hard like some men will when they want to test another man. Ugh.

But the fact that she didn’t like me from the moment she saw me was not a good start, since, theoretically, she was here to keep me safe and alive; it would have been better if she’d liked me. But one flick of those big dark eyes to Galen let me know exactly why she didn’t like me. What had he been doing out here for the last few hours with Specialist Gregorio to make her look at him that way and me the other?

CALLED IT.

Also, no she doesn’t have to fucking like you! Neither Walters nor Page seem to like Merry either, and Merry doesn’t have a fit about that. NO ONE ACTUALLY LIKES MERRY. Merry is one of the most unpleasant protagonists of a series I’ve ever read, and she’s not written to be purposefully unpleasant. We’re all supposed to love and respect her. Instead she just constantly comes off as a petty, jealous, conniving, worthless character. She has 0 agency, she lets the men around her decide everything and overrule her constantly. Even during the sex scenes, she mostly just exists in them while the men do stuff to her. All her power and influence comes from A LITERAL GODDESS TAKING HER OVER and showering her in gifts.

Anyway.

Another wizard shows up and politely introduces himself to Merry, letting her know what an honor it is to protect her. He shakes her hand, and Merry notices that he doesn’t seem to challenge her in the same way Gregorio did, but while their hands are clasped, there’s a small flare of power and a sound like bells chime while the scent of flowers fills the air.

“What was that?” he asked, in a voice gone just a little breathy.
“I didn’t hear anything,” Gregorio said, but she looked out into the dark, past the lights. She trusted Dawson’s instincts. I bet he had a lot of odd hunches that proved to be right.
“Bells,” Galen said, and he moved closer to Dawson and me. He looked at me over the wizard’s shoulder. He and I shared a moment of knowledge.
Dawson noticed it. “What is it? I heard the bells too, but you both know what it is. Is it something dangerous?” He was rubbing his hands on his arms as if he were cold, but I knew he wasn’t cold from the winter chill. Though I had no doubt that his skin ran with goose-flesh, as if someone had walked over his grave.
I started to say something ordinary to hide it all and not spook him more, but what came out of my mouth was the opposite. “Welcome home, Dawson.”
“I don’t know what that….” But the words died on his lips, and he simply gazed at me.
Gregorio turned back to us. She jerked Dawson by the arm hard, so that it broke our eye contact. “We were warned about her effect on men, Sergeant.”
He looked embarrassed, and then stepped away from me so that he addressed his next words to the night beyond us. “It’s not that I’m not flattered, ma’am, but I’ve got a job to do.”
“Do you both think that I just tried to seduce the sergeant?” I asked.
Gregorio glared at me. “You just can’t seem to leave any men for the rest of us, can you?”

A part of me wishes that this series wouldn’t be so incredibly predictable, because the concept is just so wild it has the potential to be great. But it always just boils down to how Merry is so perfect and everyone is just jealous. Same with Anita Blake. God, I yearn for this series to be redone by an actual competent author.

Merry’s men realize that Merry’s power called to Dawson’s blood, and that he has some faerie blood in him. Merry doesn’t understand, of course, so they explain it to her in great detail.

Rhys and Galen moved close to me. Rhys said, “Your power called to his blood.”
“You mean his genetics?” I asked.
“I suppose so,” Rhys said.
Doyle moved up behind me, putting his hands on my shoulders, drawing us all in close to talk. “Is this what it means to call someone’s blood?” I asked.
Rhys nodded. “Yes, it’s been so long since any of us could do it that I’d forgotten what it meant.”
“I don’t understand,” I said, pressing myself back into the curve of Doyle’s body. Sholto and Mistral were on either side of our group, but they were watching outward while they listened, as if Doyle had told them to do it. He probably had.
“You hold the hand of blood, Merry,” Doyle said against my hair. “The power to call blood isn’t just calling it out of the body.” Rhys said. “It’s also being able to call the magic in a person’s body. It may be now that you’ll be calling to any fey blood in the humans around us. That’s good on one hand; it will up their power level, and maybe yours. But it’s going to creep out the humans you do it to until you figure out how to do it a little more quietly.”
“What does it mean, exactly, that my hand of blood calls to Dawson’s blood?”
“It means that your magic calls to his.”
“Like calls to like,” Mistral said, his eyes still directed out into the night.

All of this makes perfect sense to me, but Merry still seems utterly confused by the concept. The men think it’s probably a good thing, because Merry will be able to call half-blood fey to her cause and help to increase their power. Merry still doesn’t understand.

I looked up, trying to see Doyle’s face, but he laid his cheek on top of my head. Not to stop me from seeing his face, but just for comfort, I think. “What does that mean?”
Doyle spoke low, his chest and throat so close to me that his voice vibrated against me. “Once, to hold some hands of power, you could call the humans to be your army, or your servants. You could call them to your side, and they came willingly, lovingly. The hand of blood was one of the few that could make humans want to join you. Literally, if you have all the power that the hand of blood once held, you call to the magic in their blood, and they will answer.”
“Do they have a choice?” I asked.
“When you master this power, they will not want to have a choice. They will want to serve you, as we do.”
“But….”
Rhys put his fingertip on my lips. “It’s a type of love, Merry. It’s the way that men were supposed to feel for their lord and master, Once it wasn’t like it is now, or has been for so long.” He lowered his finger, and looked utterly sad. “I could do it too, call men to me. I gave them safety, comfort, joy. I protected them, and I did love them. Then I lost my powers, and I couldn’t protect them. I couldn’t save them anymore.” He hugged me, and because Doyle was so close, he hugged us both.
Rhys whispered, “I don’t know whether to be happy that this kind of power is returning to us or sad. It’s so wonderful when it works, but when it went away, it was like I died with my people, Merry. They died, and they were pieces of me dying. I prayed for true death then. I prayed to die with my people, but I was immortal. I couldn’t die, and I couldn’t save them.”

So the chapter ends with Merry saying she doesn’t know if she wants that much power, and Doyle telling her that she likely has no choice.

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