Swallowing Darkness – Chapter 40: It’s a Trap!

Chapter 40 begins with me celebrating how close I am to the end of this completely worthless, boring book. However, Merry is not celebrating. Instead, she’s lost in the darkness, totally blinded by Queen Andais’s power. She’s laying on the ground, groping for whatever she can get her hands on in the crushing darkness to get some sort of feel for what is surrounding her. Finally, someone takes her hand, so she knows she’s not alone, but she doesn’t know who is with her. The ground is covered in frost, which makes Merry think about her Frost who is off somewhere traipsing around as a fucking deer.

I regretted the babies inside me, and I thought, “I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I couldn’t save you.”

Is regretted the right word here? Merry’s basically giving up, about to throw herself into the darkness because she believes she has lost both Doyle and Frost and doesn’t want to live without either of them, so wouldn’t she have sorrow for the babies? Regret makes me think that she is disappointed she even conceived the babies. Who even knows or cares what Merry’s motivation is anyway, it changes constantly throughout these books, and the fact that she’s going to throw herself away because of losing Doyle and Frost, when she’s on the cusp of saving Faerie itself is incredibly selfish and wasteful.

I hate this book.

I prayed, “Goddess, help me save them. Help me fight for them.” I had no power in me to fight the dark and the very air made it too heavy to breathe, but I prayed all the same, because when all else is lost, there is always prayer.

Ughhhhhhh.

So, obviously the Goddess answers her because the ground suddenly gets immensely more cold and she realizes that she can now breathe. The heaviness of the air seems to be clearing.

The frost thickened under my hand until it was like touching a young snow. The air was so cold that each breath hurt, as if ice were stabbing me. Then the frost thickened more, and moved under my hand. Moved? Frost didn’t move. There was fur under my hand, something alive, growing out of the very ground.

Gee, I sure hope it’s not another mud man!

I kept my hand on that furred side, and felt it go up and up, until my hand was stretched tall to follow the curve of something. I stroked my hand down that furred but strangely cold side, and found the curved haunches of something. It was only as my hand followed the curve of the leg to find a hoof that I thought I understood. The white stag had formed out of the frost. My Killing Frost was here, beside me. He was still a stag, still not my love, but it was still him in there somewhere. I stroked his side, felt him rise and fall with breath. The stag’s head had to be far above mine, and if he could breathe, so could I. I rose slowly to my knees, keeping one hand on the stag’s side and the other in the hand that still clung to mine. The hand moved with me, and its owner got to their knees.
It was Orlando, next to me, who said, “I can still breathe.”

Yeah no shit you can still breathe, we’ve already established that paragraphs ago. Why are we still focusing on how surprising it is that everyone can still breathe??

Merry starts calling out to Frost, to see if she can trigger his memory of her. Instead, it gets up and starts walking away. Merry has kept her hand on its side the entire time, though, so she follows alongside it, dragging Orlando along with her since she’s still gripping his hand. She overhears Sergeant Dawson order his men to shoot Andais once they can see again, so obviously it’s still completely dark. Merry thinks on her aunt, realizing that although her father had loved his sister, Merry does not share that love, so she doesn’t really care either way if Andais survives or not.

Eventually, they make it out of the darkness, and the men surrounding Merry start shooting, which causes the Frost stag to bolt. Merry screams after him, but it’s for nothing. The men are shooting at another field of darkness that Andais had called in to cover herself and her son.

Then, one of the men screams that “they’re behind us!” and the rest of the soldiers turn to begin shooting at the group approaching from behind. Merry notices that it is not her aunt’s group approaching, but rather allies of hers, and she begins screaming at the soldiers to stop shooting at the Red Caps.

When I was sure that my people wouldn’t shoot them, I walked to meet the Red Caps. Jonty was in the front. He was nearly ten feet tall, with scaly gray skin, and a face nearly as wide as my chest. His mouthful of jagged teeth and nearly lipless mouth had become something more human, more…handsome. My magic had changed the Red Caps to something more Seelie, though I had not done it on purpose. Jonty wasn’t the largest of them, but my eyes went to him first. Maybe it was because I knew him and he me, but the other Red Caps let him be ahead of them without arguing. Goblins are all about strength, the ultimate survival of the fittest, and Red Caps are the most violent, the most wedded to power and strength. For them all to fall back and let him lead them said that it wasn’t just my eyes that saw the power in Jonty. Or course, I sensed it; the Red Caps had probably made him fight for those few feet of respect.

I had been under the assumption that Jonty was the leader of the Red Caps, but who even knows anymore. I don’t have it in me to go back to previous books to double check.

Jonty tells them that the Red Caps felt Merry’s hand of blood call to their magic, so they came to aid her. Merry then realizes that Kurag, the goblin king with whom she has a treaty, did not send any of the goblins to assist her. Jonty tells them that it’s likely because he knew Merry battled Cel and Andais and refused to stand against the queen. Since the Red Caps came against Kurag’s wishes, they cannot return to the goblin mound after the battle, and Merry realizes that they’ve become yet another group she’s personally responsible for.

The darkness in the air starts fading, and once it completely dissipates, Merry realizes that both Andais and Cel have disappeared. A few of Cel’s group remained, however, and Merry wonders if Andais had left them to be punished or left them because she was not powerful enough to transport them all.

Merry rushes over to the group to Doyle laying on the ground. The remaining of Cel’s group start calling out for mercy, and Merry orders them away from Doyle’s prone body. Jonty suggests to Merry that the Red Caps fan out to protect her from the remaining group’s magical attacks, to which Dawson takes offense because of course the humans would take offense to some faeries. Dawson tells Jonty that his soldiers are protecting Merry, and Jonty, again being the best character in this dang series, agrees with Dawson and suggests adding the Red Caps to that protection. When Dawson finally assures his men that the Red Caps are there to protect Merry as well, she is able to rush to Doyle’s side.

I fought my breathing until it came more smoothly. I fought until my breath was deeper, more even. I would not lose control of myself. Not in front of the men. Later, in private, if….
I cursed myself for a coward and made myself reach out those last few inches to that long, black hair. The hair was thick and rich and perfect as it moved under my hands, so I could find his neck, and check his pulse. My fingers brushed something hard. I moved back and stared at the smooth line of his neck, exposed to the moonlight. There was nothing there but the collar of the designer suit that Doyle had borrowed from Sholto.
I shook my head and reached for his neck again. My eyes told me I was touching skin, but my fingers told me there was something in the way. Something hard, but cloth-covered, something…. There was only one reason that my eyes and my fingers weren’t telling me the same thing.

So Merry closes her eyes, because she believes that the body of Doyle is bespelled, causing the miscommunication between fingers and eyes. Once she shuts off that sense, she realizes that the body she’s touching is dead, but it also isn’t Doyle’s. The hair is short, the lines of his face don’t match, etc, it’s a different body shape, etc… Merry tells Dawson and the rest that this body isn’t Doyle’s, it’s an illusion made to look like Doyle.

“Why are they holding the glamour in place to make it look like Darkness?” Jonty asked.
Until that moment I hadn’t thought about it, but he was absolutely right. Why would they not drop an illusion guaranteed to make me angrier at them if they were truly giving up? Answer: they weren’t giving up, and they hoped to gain something through the trick. But what?

They start to move away from the body, and the chapter ends with the body exploding and Merry and her crew being rocked backwards by that explosion.

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