Last time, Yuyu vs Holok! Somehow, neither dies. It’s all very sad.
Back to Wren, who’s enjoying his tea.
She had brewed the tea herself, pouring fragments of black leaves into boiling water, then serving the tea in delicate porcelain painted with the graceful image of soaring gulls.
I’m torn between saying how this isn’t how you make tea and the possibility that this is how tea works in Exalted. So I’ll just settle for saying that the porcelain should have been destroyed for clashing with the rest of the decor, which appears to be uniformly goth. They’re currently sitting on black silk cushions, which is ridiculously so. No soaring gulls allowed.
Anyway, there’s pounding at the door. Unforgiven Blossom gets up to answer, and Wren stands to move away from the tea so it won’t be spilled. Of course, then he heads over to the orrery, which Unforgiven Blossom would clearly also like to keep out of the coming shitfest. Wren’s going to do exactly the opposite, so his reasoning here is pretty weird. It would be far better if he said he wanted to be standing to have a better chance in the upcoming fight, since that’s how his actions will end up reading.
“I believe he’s over by the orrery, if you must know.” Unforgiven Blossom’s answer was bland, but Wren could sense an undercurrent of gleeful malice directed at the looming figure in the hall. “He’s been having tea.”
“Please tell me that you’re joking.” Ratcatcher sounded exasperated.
While I can understand disbelief, I don’t see why this is a bad thing for Ratcatcher. He wants Wren. She’s successfully detained the guy. Now he can get Wren back.
She adds that Wren’s now sporting a shiny Zenith mark, but hey, good luck nabbing him.
Wren reports Ratcatcher seemed completely cowed by the woman before him, his manner equal parts
bluster and frustration because Ratcatcher is now more pathetic than a mortal. And he’s only going to get lamer.
So, Ratcatcher enters, sees Wren, and flips out for no discernible reason. Wren chucks a porcelain spoon at him, which is a pointless attack so I guess he just really wanted an excuse to smash something. They start hopping over each other, then Wren grabs a pillow to block Ratcatcher’s punches, then more hoppity with some kicking. It’s like they’re a bunch of rabbits. Ratcatcher finally flings the entire tea table.
Wren tried to dodge, but his foot found a puddle of spilled tea and he tumbled to the floor. That saved him, as the table went soaring overhead and crashed to the ground perilously near the bottom of Mars’s miniature orbit.
I’m of the opinion this sort of business tends to be a subclass of sueism. In general, accidents don’t help you out in battle. This should be used sparingly and only when characters regularly make other mistakes that are actually detrimental. Otherwise, better for a character to dodge on purpose than by luck.
The table almost hits the orrery, and Unforgiven Blossom says that’d better not get damaged. Since she did provoke this and was gleeful about making Ratcatcher struggle to subdue her guest, I feel she deserves the inevitable destruction. Thus wouldn’t be an issue if, as you’d expect, she was trying to be helpful and stop him from escaping, but her behavior toward Ratcatcher makes it impossible for that to be true.
Naturally, this leads to Wren hopping onto one of the planets, which are apparently that huge, on wires that strong, and attached to a motor with enough surplus power to keep the whole thing spinning even with added weight. It’s like the author really wanted one of those abandoned yet mysteriously active factories to set his fight scene in and figured the orrery was as close as he could get.
Also, apparently the orrery contains nebula clusters, despite the fact nebulae are just clumps of stars extra far away and Creation has a flat sky.
The wires finally start to bend from the two of them hopping, bits start to collide and warp things more badly, and naturally, Ratcatcher is the one who ends up battered to a bloody pulp by it while Wren hops off untouched.
“I am deeply sorry,” he said to Unforgiven Blossom, still standing before the door with a stricken look on her face, “I truly am.” And to his surprise, he truly was.
I’m not sure what the genesis of this weirdness is. It resembles how either women can sometimes have a weird protected status within a story, where conflict between them and the male main character is extremely muted while men are treated as enemies, or the reverse in which male opponents are worthy respected foes but women are just hateful. But this is quite similar to how Holok is acting toward Yushuv just before.
My best guess is there’s a similar division using a characteristic we can’t see, because some of this reminds me of how things can go when players want their characters to interact amicably and make sure things go that way regardless of setup, or even the difference between an NPC who’s getting highlighted as important rather than one made up on the spot. I’m not entirely sure if what’s going on here is coming from exactly that direction, but it does match up enough that I wonder if there’s some influence there, at least in attitude.
Oddly, Ratcatcher is somewhat of an outlier here in his buttmonkeyness, despite being a very prominent part of this. So possibly the other characters reflect what the author feels are normal player characters, while Ratcatcher gets to go off and do his own faily thing.
Certainly he’s getting an absurd death. Bludgeoned half to death by rogue celestial bodies, and now, the enraged Unforgiven Blossom is ignoring Wren’s apology in favor of her plan to stab a hairpin through Ratcatcher’s eye.
For some reason, she doesn’t care that her orrery was destroyed because of Wren, or even that Wren deliberately dragged the fight there by jumping onto it. She just tells him to get going because if he’s going to get caught by the Prince she’d rather it was elsewhere. Bit late for that to do any good.
A smile quirked the edge of her mouth. “A pity you will be dead soon, and that we did not finish our discussion.
I think a similar plotting issue as the characterization issue is going on here. You can imagine this playing out on a tabletop – the player decides to try the orrery in the hopes it’ll give him an advantage, then the person actually running things has to bend things to explain why he’s let go after its inevitable destruction. Now, you could edit things so that this is more reasonable, like making it so Ratcatcher took to the orrery first for some reason, or even just having them duck into it instead of treating it like a jungle gym. Or even have Wren take a hit from Ratcatcher, get smacked under it, then Ratcatcher follows, so it’s not Wren’s decision at all. Then it’d make sense for her to limit blame to the only person to actually jam the orrery up and damage it.
But instead the fight scene, like so many, has a terrible ad-libbed feel as if the author was only thinking two seconds ahead at the most and didn’t realize he could change things when he was done..
She tells him to get running, and Wren does so.
Back. Down. This wasn’t actually pointless, but it does sort of feel like it when Wren flees downstairs, goes back upstairs for tea, then flees downstairs again. He’s heading for the door, again.
This is another editing issue. It’d have been better to avoid Wren’s initial trip and have Unforgiven Blossom collect him quickly, after he realized he couldn’t get out the courtyard. This makes for less repetitive reading, and it avoids the trouble of trying to explain why his first impulse is to go down. This time there’s a reason, he can hear pursuit coming and doesn’t have a choice.
On the second trip, there’s guards around – it’s unclear why there were none before – but they’re just corpses and it’s easy to take them out while running.
As one tottered he grabbed the man’s halberd and plunged it into his chest, pinning him to the floor; then spun and did the same for his partner.
That’s perfectly reasonable for an exalt.
The Prince appears right before he starts lifting the bar, and explains the fact it’s a terrible idea, rendering Unforgiven Blossom’s speech earlier unnecessary. He continues to argue that this is a bad idea as Wren laboriously lifts and removes the bar, then opens the door.
You’re mine now, body and soul, and I’ll not have you throw yourself away. I’ll not allow it.”
“Not allow? Shall we bring all of those who claim me here to debate what I can and cannot do? You can’t stop me, you know, not unless you kill me.
It is entirely possible to beat someone only mostly to death and drag them back to their cell, but apparently the Prince can’t.
In a coherent universe, this would be the confirmation that the Prince invested all his points in social things. He’s not capable of stopping Wren and seems to recognize it’s futile even to try, instead attempting to win social combat and failing because Wren’s got high mental defense and is stunting his refusals. It’s possible Wren could actually escape just by running past the guy at this point.
That is not how things actually go, of course. When Wren tries to escape the Prince finally tries an attack – shooting lightning, which I don’t think is a real charm and the probably equivalent, crypt bolt, is based on lore skill, not a regular combat ability. The lightning misses and Wren falls into the darkness beyond the door.
And my reading isn’t the intended reading.
Gently, the Prince of Shadows closed the door. It clanged shut softly and without any undue fuss. With one hand, he lifted the heavy ebon bar that Wren had barely managed to hoist, and he slid it back into its track effortlessly.
The book intends the Prince to be the big bad, or at least one of them, so the narrative continues to claim he’s powerful. It’s just at odds with what he’s actually accomplished.
Once again, there’s an easy fix. All it requires is that the Prince doesn’t arrive until Wren has opened the door. Talking when someone’s standing on the edge of a cliff is more understandable than waiting around for them to unbar a door.
The Prince then seethes a bit and mumbles about how he’ll still get Wren’s soul, a pretty empty threat when he’s just lost the guy, and we end both this chapter and the entire Wren/Ratcatcher section of plot.