Delia apparently shares my feelings, as the next scene opens up with her ranting to the Duke about how Jonathan never shows up to stick it in her anymore. The Duke tells her not to worry because he has other plans, and also strokes her hair and calls her “pretty one.” So I guess Roger’s sleeping with her too. The Contes: they keep it in the family.
In October another sickness happens, and the Queen falls ill once again. Damn, Roger, you are a one trick pony. Alanna, for once, notices that shit’s suspicious and asks Myles about it, pointing out that the best healers in the kingdom are in the Palace and hey, shouldn’t they be able to help the Queen not catch a deadly disease every few years? And hey, remember how the Sweating Sickness might have been caused by a sorcerer? How about that, huh? Myles hears her out and tells her not to make accusations, as it’s too dangerous, but says it in a way that makes Alanna realize he feels her feels. She takes this as her cue to accuse the fuck out of him, because Alanna of Trebond is a fantastic listener. Myles tells her that she has no proof—which, dude, haven’t you been saying that ALL ALONG, Alanna?—and asks if she hates the Duke. She responds with the Tortallan version of “duh, bro.”
In an unrelated incident, that winter she nearly drowns because someone salts the ice of a pond she’s skating on. NO PROOF.
Her little swim under the ice spurs her into action, and she goes up north to the City of the Gods to visit Thom. (She initially just wrote him some letters, as per usual, but her messengers were ~mysteriously killed, go fig.) George comes along, not because she invited him or wants him with her, but because he shows up at the gate and won’t take no for an answer. La la la, everyone who wants to bone Alanna is gross and awful, the end. On the way up they stop in at Trebond to visit Coram, who’s planning to come down to the Palace when Alanna has her Ordeal. Because that’s still a thing, btw! The Ordeal is still gonna happen and Alanna is still super worried about it. You can tell by the way she hasn’t mentioned it at all for the whole friggin’ book.
They get to the City of the Gods, which is suitably gloomy and imposing, and are greeted by Si-Cham, the Chief of the Masters and the head of the Cult of Mithros. He wearing black and gold robes and described as both “ancient” and “yellow.” Which… yikes, bro. “Yellow”? Really?
Racism aside, Si-Cham is a friendly dude until he leads them to Thom, at which point he clams up and gets all cold and grim. Thom—who isn’t at all surprised to see them, by the by—explains once he leaves that this is because he’s finally stopped pretending to be stupid and took the written examinations for the Mastery (which is apparently a hugeass deal if you are a wizard person, dear reader). Alanna tells him about the continuing attempts on her life and asks him to come live at Court to help keep her (and her fake gay prince lover) safe from Duke Roger. Thom agrees and then starts to paw at the ember stone, accidentally melting the chain with his magical powers.
… I’m sorry, I just had this moment where I realized I’m blogging about a book in which someone’s magical twin melts part of the costume jewellery a deity gave him. The world is such a silly place.
Anyway. The visit caps off with Thom telling Alanna that he’s not worried about being FOREVER ALONE, because he has the Gift and that’s good enough for him. It’s a pretty sad and awkward moment, not least because Thom does not seem to understand how sad and awkward it is. I like the little Thom moments we get scattered throughout these books; they always make me want him to have his own series. Preferably one that keeps in all the dodgy Thom/Roger stuff, because I will never stop being sad that that was left on the cutting-room floor.
Alanna and George ride back to Corus, and George gets shot by a bunch of dudes who refuse to say who sent them. When Alanna tries to question them they die, and the ember stone shows Alanna traces of orange fire on their bodies. Shocking. We already know that neither Alanna nor George will die, so it’s basically one of those sit-through-it passages; the upside of it all is Alanna heals George and he’s like “lol didn’t know you cared bb.” George, you’ve surprise-kissed her like twenty times at this point. If she didn’t care about you you’d be dead.
Back in Corus, time passes, aaaaaand it’s Alanna’s birthday again! And this time she gets PRESENTS, namely a suit of gold-washed armour and a fancy-ass new saddle (and a ring from George, because dude just can’t stop being inappropriate). Finally, an answer to the timeless question, “What do you get the fake gay squire who has everything?” Alanna’s totally overwhelmed and gets all emo about it to Jonathan later (when they are dry-humping, because that’s what they do now, ugh). She tells Jonathan that she’s afraid her friends will hate her when she eventually reveals her vaginality to them, and he’s like “lolololol who could hate your vaginality sweet thing.” That’s a lie. What he says is, “Don’t you think some of them have already guessed?” Somewhere, Myles’s ears are burning.
This leads them to the question of who’s going to supervise Alanna’s ritual bath on the night of her Ordeal. Jonathan suggests she tell Gary and ask him to do it, after she’s finished bathing on her own. Alanna’s like “lol you just don’t want Gary to see my downstairs business.” Rather than respond to light-hearted teasing like a normal person, Jonathan gets all cranky and starts whingeing about how he loves her but is afraid to say it because she’ll run away and crap. Dude, she’s leaving after she gets her shield anyway, what even?
Anyway, she says she loves him too, and he’s like “I know, I just wanted to be sure you knew too."
Will Alanna finally face her Ordeal? Will Roger try to kill her again again? Is this fucking book nearly over, for serious? Find out next time in CHAPTER NINE: THE ORDEAL, OR, ALANNA GOES INTO A LITTLE ROOM, BECOMES A KNIGHT, AND SAY! THAT’S THE TITLE OF THIS SERIES!