Welcome back to the Valdemar re-read! This week, we’re taking on chapters three and four of Arrow’s Flight.
Herald Destria has been injured! She broke both of her legs while saving some children from a flood, which is the kind of thing that happens when your country is mostly flat and a river runs through it. Heralds Kris and Talia are being rushed into the field to take over the circuit in her sector (which is Sorrows Two, for those of us who like knowing about Valdemar’s internal administration).
Last week, we did some Valdemaran history and geography. This week, we get to do a word problem!
Herald Talia wakes up at noon with a hangover and finds a note explaining her upcoming assignment on her door. She takes a bath, has breakfast, and then spends “several hours” learning the arrow code from Herald Kyril before meeting up with Heralds Kris and Dirk. Together, they go to the Quartermasters’ Office and requisition “the whole kit” with “the special rations” by signing a bunch of forms. When will their supplies be ready?
a) That’s hilarious!
b) Seriously, probably never.
c) Valdemar is a magical kingdom, so it will take about a week. They should check the inventory really carefully.
d) Before first light tomorrow morning, with bonus llamas.
(It’s D. It’s always D.)
When they hand out the award for Most Efficient Bureaucracy in a Mostly Flat Country, Queen Selenay should have a speech prepared. Also, Valdemaran llamas are called chirras and have fur between their toes. They are completely sweet. I want one.
In other revelations about Valdemar, we learn that Vanyel’s Curse continues to protect the Forest of Sorrows. Roads are mentioned again, and the mages who paved them are still nameless. Despite this tragic ongoing omission, this section is AMAZING for Valdemaran policy wonks. Kris tells us a bit more about the elaborate system of tax incentives that encourage businesses to serve Heralds. This information will be very helpful in my efforts to evaluate real estate investments and small business opportunities in Valdemar.
Kris’s description of the tax system is also useful anyone trying to understand how the Valdemaran government maintains pro-Herald cultural hegemony. Valdemar doesn’t have a state religion—in this case, tax breaks are the opiate of the masses. I have concerns about the impacts of these policies on Valdemar’s other spending priorities. It’s fortunate that defense of Valdemar’s northern border is handled by Vanyel’s ghost. He’s budget-friendly.
In addition to all of that, this a great section for readers who like deep background on characters. Talia’s friends throw her a farewell party, both to wish her well on her internship circuit and to remind us how much she means to people we will not see for most of this book. I love this scene because it has Skif in it. He calls Talia heart-sister, because the legacy of Skif’s childhood on the mean streets of Haven is Velgarth’s sweetest collection of terms of endearment. And also his very useful breaking-and-entering skills.
Kris says farewell, too—he plans to spend the evening with Dirk, but winds up having a drink with his uncle, Lord Orthallen. Orthallen lurked in the background of Arrows of the Queen. He holds a seat on the ruling Council, and hates Skif. He’s not too fond of Talia either—he’s dropped by Kris’s quarters to concern-troll about her unusual mindGift and the possibility that she is misusing it. Talia might be manipulating Elspeth. She might be manipulating the Council. She might be using her empathy to read members of the Council, and then influencing them in more conventional ways. She might not even know she’s doing it. She might be a better politician than Orthallen. Orthallen is very, very worried. He hopes that Kris can get to know Talia better over the next year-and-a-half, and will share everything he learns when they return to Haven. I am absolutely confident that Orthallen has made up these rumors himself. Kris is annoyed, but his five years of experience as a Herald have not prepared him to deal with the possibility that his uncle is a slimeball.
Kris and Talia will spend most of this section talking to each other as they travel the North Trade Road to Sorrows Two. Talia provides more details about her family and her childhood. Kris says a few brief words about himself. They spend a lot of time talking about Dirk, who seems like a character in this book, but will not actually appear again until book three.
I made my feelings about Kris clear last week, and I don’t feel I need to rehash them on a weekly basis. However, there will be occasions when Kris does something particularly egregious and deserving of special note. Like here, when Kris asks Talia about those rumors his uncle is so worried about. He’s not trying to hurt her feelings—he just wants her to know what everyone is saying. This conversation is pointless. Kris and Talia have other pressing matters to discuss. They’re riding towards the sector where they will spend 18 months addressing local conflicts and concerns, and they should probably be running through some hypotheticals. They haven’t yet established enough of a relationship to have a meaningful discussion of Orthallen’s completely unsubstantiated concerns, or about Kris’s inability handle political intrigue. Kris doesn’t have any ideas about how Talia could prove the rumors false, and he’s suspicious of his own growing affection for Talia. It would be great if Kris and Talia could each have a private conversation about this issue, perhaps with a highly ethical supernatural being that understands Heralds’ Gifts better than they do. But Kris and Talia just ride their Companions, rather than talking with them. The miasma of distrust between them is reflected in the unpleasant autumn weather. These kids are going to be miserable for a while.
What’s the worst thing about Orthallen? Where should I locate my chirra farm/Herald-friendly bed-and-breakfast? Tell me in the comments and tune in next week for chapters five and six—Kris and Talia reach their sector and start Heralding.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.