Xanth: Nothing Worth Gaining

[Xanth Content Note: Rape, Misogyny, Whorephobia, Slavery, Violence]

Castle Roogna, Part 5

OK, before we go any further, one of you wonderful people sent me a link to this and it is wonderful: Revisiting the sad, misogynistic fantasy of Xanth. (I'd credit the sender, but I don't know if you want to be credited, so let me know if you'd like and I will!) Update: Sent by the wonderful mcbender, who is okay with being credited. Thank you! :)

Now. We're halfway through the book and I'm cranky and sleep-deprived so let's see how far we can ride this train before we have to stop for peanuts. Or however that metaphor goes. Chapter 7 (Siege) is about an army of barbarian Mundanes besieging the Zombie Master's (ZM's) castle because there's a sexy girl inside and maybe also treasure.

The siege was serious. The Mundanes were reasonably apt at this sort of thing, since they were an army. Motivated by vengeance and greed and the knowledge that at least one measurelessly pretty girl was inside the castle, they knew no decent limits. They closed in about the castle and readied their assault.

We're seriously going to have the stakes in this little siege here be "will Millie get raped or not". That's stellar, really. Millie, in the meantime, will be cooking in the kitchen making sammiches for the men.

Millie went over the living and cooking facilities. The Zombie Master, a bachelor, had a good store of provisions but evidently survived mainly on those that required least effort to prepare: [...]

Millie set about making more substantial meals. She found dried fruits in the cellar, and dehydrated vegetables, all neatly spelled to keep them from spoiling, and cooked up a genuine handmade mashed peach and potato cobblestone stew. It was amazing. 

More on that later. In the interim, ZM will make the zombie elixir for Dor and will query him about why he needs it. Dor's policy on this subject is to basically tell everyone except Millie because her lady-brain couldn't handle knowing she's about to be a sad ghost for 800 years and that there will be a happy ending at the end of that, so Dor cheerfully tells ZM his own future (without knowing that ZM and Jonathan are the same person).

“I am from eight hundred years in your future. There is a zombie in my time I wish to restore to full life as a favor to—to a friend.” Even in this moment of confidence, he could not quite confess his real interest in Millie. This vial would make her happy, and himself desolate, but the thing had to be done.

Ya'll. Dor will be desolate if the woman who raised him like a second mother fucks someone else. I'm not even going to try to unpack all that, because I don't even know how. Then we get the justification for why we are not going to tell Millie what Dor's mission is, even as he tells literally everyone else who asks (all of whom are men):

“A—a lady.” The thought of letting Millie learn of her eight-hundred-year fate appalled him, and he resolved not to utter her name. He had not had much luck in keeping such resolutions before, but he was learning how. What horror would this knowledge wreak on so innocent a maid, who screamed and flung her hair about and kicked her feet so fetchingly at the slightest alarm? Far better that she not know!

“And who is the zombie?” the Magician prodded gently. “I do not mean to pry into what does not concern me— but zombies do concern me, for surely every zombie existing in your day is a product of my magic. I have a certain consideration for their welfare.”

Dor wanted to balk, but found that, ethically, he could not deny the Zombie Master this knowledge. “She—the lady calls him Jonathan. That’s all I know.”

The man stiffened. “Ah, the penalty of idle curiosity!” he breathed.

“You know this zombie?”

“I—may. It becomes a lesson in philanthropy. I never suspected I would be doing such a favor for this particular individual.”

“Is he one of your zombies here at the castle?” Already Dor felt a tinge of jealousy.

“Not presently. I have no doubt you will encounter him anon.”

“I don’t want to—” No, he could not say that. What was to be, was to be. “I don’t know whether it would be wise to tell him—I mean, eight hundred years is a long time to wait for restoration. He might want to take the medicine now, and then he wouldn’t be there for the lady—” Which was itself a fiendishly tempting notion he had to suppress. The elimination of Jonathan from his own time would not only rid him of competition for Millie’s favor—it would eliminate his whole reason for coming here.

I am going to say that I do admire how ZM can casually work "anon" into a conversation like that. I respect that. That is one of many reasons why he is on my Least Awful Male Characters of Xanth list. What I'm less thrilled about is that even though he now knows (or strongly suspects) his and Millie's future, he doesn't make any attempt to warn her or comfort her or anything. We can't even handwave that he did so off-screen because the ending makes it pretty darn clear that Millie wasn't told about all this ghost-zombie-restoration drama.

Anyway, back to the siege and a woman's place during one.

Millie remained inside—to watch for hostile magic, conjurations and such, they told her. No one wanted to put her on the ramparts during the violence, where her cute reactions would serve as a magnet for Mundanes.

This is what I mean. I don't even know how to address THAT. It's not even logical or factual: the Mundanes are already there. I mean, if we're going to give Millie magic sex appeal draw, put her somewhere that distracts them and causes them to fight badly because they can't focus on the zombies what with their raging boners getting in the way or whatever. And, yes, they did stuff Millie into the kitchen by telling her to watch for magic from Mundane attackers

Then there's this, which I love:

War was not nice. If Dor ever got to be King, he would see that problems were settled some other way if at all possible. No one would ever convince him that there was any glory in battle.

...spoken by a character who is perfectly happy to be friends with the Evil Magician waging a war via his curse-talent because that's just a philosophical game and not people dying. At least, not in front of Dor, which I think we can all agree is the important thing. (And, YES, this is a GREAT philosophical mind-wank to be having over an invading force of rapists motivated by rape.)

And, like, again, this all just flies in the face of the world-building, which makes it that much more obvious and fetid to me. Later in the book, Dor will come across a colony of naked sexytimes nymphs and fauns who happily ask him to live with them in peace and plenty and all the wild sex you could ever want. So why are the Mundanes here, really? There is plenty of sex to be had in the wilds of Xanth. There is also rape, if they prefer rape, and without having to wade through crowds of hostile zombies. There's some handwave of treasure, but there's no realistic justification of it. This army is literally just conjured from the ether for this conflict to work.

Then there's Murphy. I'll get into this later when we hit the Vadne Problem, but the short version now is that it's ridiculous to pretend that the only options for stopping Murphy's war is to either kill him (dishonorable!) or be his privileged bestie. These people live in a world where every third magic spell is mind-control magic. There are love springs that make people willing to say or do anything to get sex from their target (though not to "harm" them, according to Bink and Jewel). And, OH BY THE WAY, Roogna's talent is literally changing Magic X to Magic Y. He could make any one of a million mind-control spells to get Murphy to stop killing people with his magic. He doesn't.

Later, Dor goes and angsts to Millie about how awful it was to kill rapists. She comforts him in ways that make him want to rape sex her. I can't strongly enough remind everyone that this is the literal Nice Guy position: that non-rapists are owed sex for not raping women.

“But they were storming the castle! You had to fight. Or we would all have been—” She squiggled, trying to suggest something awful. It didn’t come across; she was delectable.

And, as was pointed out to me by a friend, this literally means that the narrative will say rape when people are planning to COMMIT it, but it shies away from the word and the horrific implications of rape when a character is talking about having to SUFFER it. Which we will note was an on-going problem with Chameleon: it was okay for Bink to think about raping her (at the trial and then all the scenes after), but we never got to hear her side of things as the one being raped.

Here, have some more about Millie's ass:

It was grossly misplaced, but her sympathy gratified him strongly. His tired body reacted; his left arm reached out to enclose her hips in its embrace, as she stood beside him. He squeezed her against his side. Oh, her posterior was resilient!

“Why, Dor!” she said, surprised and pleased. “You like me!”

Dor forced himself to drop his arm. What business did he have, touching her? Especially in the vicinity of her cushiony posterior! “More than I can say.”

“I like you too, Dor.” She sat down in his lap, her derrière twice as soft and bouncy as before. Again his body reacted, enfolding her in an arm. Dor had never before experienced such sensation. Suddenly he was aware that his body knew what to do, if only he let it. That she was willing. That it could be an experience like none he had imagined in his young life. He was twelve; his body was older. It could do it.

I didn't add the emphasis there, by the way, that helpful "It could do it" was in the text. And, I mean, I realize that the second "it" there is supposed to be "sex", that the sentence it supposed to read "[his body] could do [sex with Millie]" but it's hard to look at that framing and not be reminded of all the many, many times in this book that Millie has been reduced to an object.

He stood up, dumping Millie roughly to her feet. “I have to get some rest,” he said.

She made no further sound, but only stood there, eyes downcast. He knew he had hurt her terribly. She had committed the cardinal maidenly sin of being forward, and been rebuked. But what could he do? He did not exist in her world. He would soon depart, leaving her alone for eight hundred years, and when they rejoined he would be twelve years old again. He had no right!

But oh, what might have been, had he been more of a man.

In case you were wondering what that Cardinal Maidenly Sin of Forwardness is, she tried to kiss him on the mouth. We are literally more purity culture / sex shaming in Xanth than the actual medieval historical societies that are supposedly being modeled or parodied or whatever here. (This quoted piece will be recycled later for Humfrey to make the point that manliness is actually increased when you refuse to sex a sexy woman.)

Incidentally, the ZM asks Dor permission to pursue Millie but doesn't bother asking Millie's permission despite her being in the room.

The Magician looked nonplused. “I have not had company in some time. Perhaps I have forgotten the social niceties. So I must inquire somewhat baldly: would you take exception, Dor, if I expressed an interest in the lady?”

A green icicle of jealousy stabbed into Dor. He fought it off. But he could not speak.

Now Millie turned her large eyes on Dor. There was a mute plea in them that he almost understood. “No!” he said. Millie’s eyes dropped, hurt again. Twice he had rejected her.

This is one of the reasons why Jonathan is a Nice Guy. Possibly the least offensive Nice Guy in the canon, but still a Nice Guy. You do not ask guys "yo, dude, do you have dibs on this chick?" You ask the woman herself, ideally in private or in a safe space where she doesn't have to worry about Dor hurting her if she gives an answer he doesn't like, whether she's okay with you trying to court her.

Dor does not get to call dibs. Especially when Millie may not even want Dor to have "dibs" on her. He's a hulking barbarian who throws her over his shoulder and paws at her, she might be praying to all the gods of Xanth that this Magician guy may protect her from this asshole. But, no, we're once again putting Dor in the White Male Magician Privilege Club and extending all these privileges to him on the assumption that he's probably groovy-pants because aren't we all really. And by "we" I mean fellow White Male Magicians.

Just gonna drop this in here, that Millie can't just Be Pissed Off:

Millie inquired somewhat coldly. She was still sweetly angry with him for his rejection of her.

Now we need to establish ZM as a tragic figure and/or explain why he doesn't rule Xanth with an iron fist and his army of unlimited zombie warriors who require no food or upkeep and follow his every command.

Against my preference, I achieved far greater status and isolation than any other of my time. It seemed that many others desired what I could do for them—making zombie animals to guard their homes, or fight their battles, or do their work—but none cared to associate with me on a personal level. I became disgusted; I do not like being used without respect.”

Millie’s softening became something more. “You poor man!” she exclaimed.

“You three are the first who have associated with me without revulsion,” the Zombie Master continued. “True, you came begging favors—”

“We didn’t understand!” Millie cried. “These two are from another land, far away, and I am only an innocent maid—”

“Yes,” the Magician agreed, looking at her with muted intensity. “Innocent, but with a talent that causes others to react.”

“Except for the three of you,” she said. “Every other man has wanted to grab me. Dor dumped me on the floor.” She cast a dark look at him.

“Your friend restrains himself because he is not of your world and must soon depart, and cannot take you with him,” the Zombie Master said. Dor was amazed and gratified at the man’s comprehension. “He can thus make you no commitments, and is too much the gentleman to take advantage on a temporary basis.”

“But I would go with him!” she cried naïvely.

Jumper interjected a chitter: “It is impossible, maid. There is magic involved.”

Her chin thrust forward in cute rebellion.

And, yes, Millie is literally invoking the Aren't You Going To Ravish Me trope and being pouty and pissy about the fact that all the other men try to rape her so why don't these men IT IS VERY VEXING. *sigh* And I know that something something mumble fixit that she just means she likes these men and she wishes there were a middle ground between assault and being ignored or whatever, but we really are in a place where the only real female character in this book is upset that the Nice Guys aren't trying to rape her properly. I don't care how we try to fix it, that's a problem as-written.

As is the fact that Millie apparently can't just BE PISSED.

Oh. I cut out a previous part of the chapter where Dor was thinking how he needs Millie to manipulate the ZM into helping Roogna because that would mean Roogna could win the game that he and Murphy are playing. (NOT SAID: And then hundreds of Xanthians wouldn't be brutally raped and murdered.) Dor never really mentioned that to Millie, but he seems to have forgotten that because now he leaps in to slut-shame Millie and talk about how immoral it would be to use her sex appeal to convince ZM to not stand by and idly watch the world burn from his literal ivory tower.

“I realize your primary interest is elsewhere,” the Magician said, glancing obliquely at Dor. “But if, accepting the fact that you cannot be with him, you would consider remaining here with me—”

“I have to help the King,” she said. “We promised to—”

The Zombie bowed to the inevitable. “For you, I would even indulge in politics. Ad hoc. Employ my zombies to—”

“No!” Dor cried, surprising himself. “This is wrong!” The Zombie Master glanced at him expressionlessly. “You are after all asserting your interest in the lady?”

“No! I can’t have her. I know that. But we stay here only because we are under siege, and the moment the siege lifts we’ll go back to King Roogna. It is dishonorable to let her play upon your loneliness only to gain your help for the King. The end does not justify the mean.” He had heard King Trent say that, in his own time, but had not appreciated its full meaning until now. End and mean—or was it ends and means? “You have been generous to me and Jumper, because you understood our needs and respected them. How could you respect Millie if—

For the first time, they saw Millie angry. “I wasn’t trying to use him! He’s a nice man! It’s just that I made a promise to the King, and I can’t just go off and do something else and let the whole Kingdom fall!”

Dor was chagrined. He had not really understood her innocence. “I’m sorry, Millie. I thought—”

“You think too much!” she flared.

“Yet your thought does you credit,” the Zombie Master said to Dor. “And your naïveté does you credit, too,” he said to Millie. “I was aware of the ramifications. I am accustomed to trading for favors. This is not an evil, when the conditions of exchange are openly negotiated. I am simply prepared to compromise, in this circumstance. If it is necessary to save the Kingdom to make the lady happy, then I am prepared to save the Kingdom. Quid pro quo. I am pleased that the damsel keeps her word to the King so stringently; I can reasonably suppose that she would similarly keep her word to you, Dor. Or to me, were she to give it.”

“I haven’t given it!” Millie protested. “Not to anyone! Not that way.” But she seemed subtly flattered.

In case you are counting, this is now the THIRD major conversation in these books thrashing out under what circumstances it is and isn't acceptable for a woman to use sex work in an attempt to save the lives of people, and the SECOND where the "lives of people" means hundreds if not thousands of people. Also, please excuse me while I barf into my trash can for an hour or two about Dor leaping forward to call Millie a WHORE and insist that no one could ever respect her again if, omg!!, she was using the promise of a tumble to save the kingdom. (Though I didn't notice him objecting when she was using the same promise to save his best friend.)

And, yes, you did just see Jonathan the Zombie Master state that he wouldn't lift a finger to save the lives of strangers but he will if it comes down to affecting someone he cares about. Which is, again, the third time that has come up, too. Also, by the way, we are not only NOT going to tell Millie about her future, we are going to disclose it to other people because, for reals, it is super-not-okay for ZM to be saving the lives of Xanthians on the hope that he might get sex if there is even a chance that he might NOT get sex because THAT WOULD BE BAD MMKAY?

“Are you really going to help the King?” Dor asked. “I mean, if we break the siege here?”

“Yes. To please the lady. And to please you.”

Still Dor was troubled. “There is something else I must tell you.”

“You are about to risk your life in the defense of my castle. Speak without inhibition.”

“The lady … is doomed to die young. I know this from history.”

The Zombie Master’s hand froze, with a translucent piece of puzzle held between gaunt fingers. The piece changed from warm red light to cold blue ice. “I know that you would not deliberately deceive me.”

Maybe he had spoken too uninhibitedly! “I would be deceiving you if I failed to warn you. She—maybe death is not the right word. But she will be a ghost for centuries. So you will not be able to—” Dor found himself overcome by remorse at what he could not prevent. “I think someone will murder her, or try to. At age seventeen.”

“What age is she now?”


The Magician rested his head against his hand. The puzzle-piece turned white. “I suppose I could make a zombie of her, and keep her with me. But it wouldn’t be the same.”

“She—if you’re helping the King to please her—or to please any of us—we’ll all be gone within the year. So it may not be worth it, to—

“Your honesty becomes painful,” the Zombie Master said. “Yet it seems that if I am to please any of you, I must do it promptly. There may not again in my lifetime be opportunity to please anyone worth pleasing.”

One. Jonathan. Zombie Master. Buddy. You have literally forgotten that you have the power to restore any zombie to life. (Also I kinda need to point out that zombies in this setting can talk and reason, and earlier you were treating them as a valuable and worthwhile separate species, so, um. I'm a little unclear on the personal morality of zombifying other peoples' dead relatives but not your own? Just saying.)

And while you are, for the record, still the LEAST awful man in these books (yay you very well done good happy!), I wouldn't at all object to you giving Dor a Look and telling him that, you know, maybe you're doing this because you don't want to stand by and watch while Xanthian women just like Millie are subjected to war crimes by the army of barbarians right outside your door.

Two. This is classic Xanthian honesty: Dor is disclosing a woman's future to a man because that man is doing a good thing that will save lives but he might be doing it in exchange for sexytimes and it is possible that the sexytimes might not happen so BY GOD HE DESERVES TO KNOW. Later, Dor will lie-by-omission and then graduate to outright proactive lying-lies to Millie and Irene because women shouldn't know things, but he is eager to share details he shouldn't be sharing for a LOT of reasons, because a man deserves to know if he might not get his sexytimes as promised.

Like, let's be clear: Dor seems to genuinely believe that Jonathan is doing this in exchange for an item (Millie's Sexuality/Virginity) and that if there's a chance that he can't obtain that item because she gets murdered first, then he was sold a False Bill of Goods and Dor can't live with the stain on his character for selling an item that has a short shelf-life.


Chapter 8 (Commitment) follows Dor as he goes off into the wilderness to speak to the king of the monsters about getting them to come lift the siege of Mundanes so that we can get back to Roogna and face a new siege of harpies and goblins. (CREATIVE WRITING WIN.) Why don't they get Millie away from the siege of rapists, you are wondering, and the answer is that she is too stupid to remove safely from the place of danger.

That night Dor and Jumper departed the castle on the spider’s line. It would have been possible to convey Millie out in the same manner, but they cared neither to subject her to the risk nor to desert the Zombie Master, even had circumstances been otherwise. There were Mundane sentries posted; Millie would have screamed, and that would have been disastrous.

There are some schenanigans with messages to King Roogna being mislaid (because Murphy), so we get to cuddle up to him again for being such an awesome privileged dude:

We shall send a diamond from my nest to your King, along with the paper; he must return the diamond with his spoken reply. No lesser man would give up such a jewel, and no other but you could make it speak.”

By the way, Millie's talent doesn't seem to work on women, but it does work on DRAGONS. In case you were wondering.

“One could almost get to like a creature like that, human though she be,” the dragon said reflectively. “There is something about her—”

Chapter 9 (Journey) has Dor and Jumper split up from Millie and Jonathan so that we can shame women who aren't Millie. Yay! Dor meets a Hulder who seems genuinely very nice but he's horrified (for some reason?) by her being basically a fleshlight. There's no sense that she would harm him in any way, it just... wouldn't be the same? As with a nymph? I don't know.

Dor, uncertain what to do in this case, did nothing; therefore she succeeded in enfolding him. Her body was cool and firm, her lips sweet; they resembled the petals of roses. His body began to react, as it had with Millie; it wanted to—

“Friend,” Jumper chittered, standing behind the green-leafed woman. “Is this customary?”

“I— don’t know,” Dor admitted, as her lips reached hungrily for his.

“I refer to the shape of the female,” the spider chittered. “It is very strange.” Maybe it was, to a spider! “It— seems to be—” Dor paused, for her lips had caught up to his. Oh, she was intriguing! “To be a good shape,” he concluded after a moment. Those breasts, that slim waist, those fleshy thighs—

“I hesitate to interrupt your ritual of greeting. But if you would examine her backside—”

“Uh, sure.” Her frontside was fully interesting enough, but he did not object to seeing the rest. His body well knew that an attractive woman was interesting from any side.

[...] From behind, she was hollow. like a plaster cast made of some object, or a pottery bowl shaped on a rock. She was a mere solidified shell. She had no functioning internal organs at all, no guts. Cracks of light showed through the apertures where her eyes, nostrils, and mouth were in the front.

“What are you?” Dor demanded, turning her about again. From the front she remained extremely womanly.

“I am a woodwife,” she replied. “I thought you knew. I comfort lonely men.”

A façade covering absolute vacuity! A man who made love to such a creature—

“I—uh, guess I don’t need that kind of comfort,” Dor said.

“Oh.” She looked disappointed. Then she dissolved into vapor, and drifted away.

Dor will spend much of the rest of the chapter shuddering about the narrow escape of... nearly making love to vacuity? I can't begin to peel back the onion layers of misogyny here. Then Dor and Jumper come upon a colony of nypmhs and fauns. 

People were there, in the water and on the mountain and prancing between. Lovely nude women and delicately shaggy men. “I think we have happened on a colony of nymphs and fauns,” Dor remarked. “They should be harmless but unreliable. Best to leave them alone. The problem is our best route passes right between mountain and lake—where the colony is thickest.”

[...] The nymphs spied Dor and cried gleeful welcome. “Gleeful welcome!” They spied Jumper and screamed horror. “Horror!” They did little kick-foot dances and flung their hair about. The goat-footed fauns charged up aggressively.

“Settle down,” Dor cried. “I am a man, and this is my friend. We mean you no harm.”

“Oh—then it’s all right,” a nymph exclaimed. “Any friend of a man is a friend of ours.” There was a shower of hand-clapping, and impromptu dances of joy that did marvelous things to the nymphly anatomy.

There's then a running joke about all the girls asking Dor to "play" with them only to tease that they meant Jumper (for swimming, climbing, etc.) and of course later they will ask for more "play" only to teasingly reveal that they meant Dor (for sexing). This goes on for pages and I am laughing forever about the next time someone complains about Mary Sues who are wanted by All The Boys because Xanth called and it wants you to know that there are whole colonies of women who want to sex you just for being male.

“I’m a naiad,” one nymph called from the lake. She was lovely, with hair like clean seaweed and breasts that floated enticingly. “Come swim with me!” “I, uh—” Dor demurred.

Nymphs might not be hollow in quite the way woodwives were, but they were not quite the same as real women either.

[...] Dor still had not learned how to handle this sort of offer, but again he remembered the hollow woodwife. “I, uh—”

Incidentally, in case you were wondering whether the world of Xanth would have any evolutionary demand (ahahaha) for beautiful boys who perform incredible sex and are constantly pleasant and eager to please and happy to do whatever a human-man or human-woman wants them to do OF COURSE NOT why would we need pretty boys THAT IS JUST SILLY.

“Suppose something happened to this place, so that you had to move? You should at least explore more widely, so you are prepared.”

“Why be prepared?” the orefaun asked, perplexed.

Dor realized that the difference between him and these creatures was more than physical. Their whole mutual attitude differed. To question the need for preparedness—why, that was childlike.

Well, he was gaining increasing understanding of the roots of the faunish disappearance in Xanth. Of course the nymphs had similar shortsightedness, but there would always be a market for lovely nude girls, so their survival was more secure. Anything that looked like a pretty girl had its market—even hollow mockups like the woodwives. Perhaps, like the harpies, the nymphs would evolve eventually into a single-sex species, mating only with males of outside species.

Then there is a nice orgy.

Soon the fauns responded to the anatomical signals, discarded their flutes, and joined the dance in a most unsubtle manner. Before long it was not a dance at all, but the realization of the ritual the dance had only suggested. These creatures did indeed do openly what the adults of Dor’s day did in privacy!

[...] “I, uh—I’ll just wait,” Dor said. His body certainly felt the temptation, but he didn’t want to commit himself prematurely to this life. The mental picture of the woodwife returned.

“As you wish. No one is forced to do anything, here, ever. We all do only what we want to do.” He watched the proceedings another moment. “Speaking of which—pardon me.”

The orefaun leaped forward to nab a passing oread. The nymph screamed fetchingly, flung her hair about, and kicked up her cute cloven feet, giving Dor a feeling of déjà vu and a glimpse of what clothing normally concealed. Then the faun brought her down and did what evidently delighted them both. Dor made mental notes; if he ever had occasion, he wanted to know how to proceed. He was already certain that never again would he see a nymphly girl kick her feet without thinking of this scene. A new dimension of meaning had been added to the action..

I'm pretty sure that means that every time Millie kicks her feet in simulated fear, she is secretly hoping for you to take an upskirt shot. I don't even with the implications. Also, just to be clear, there really is no concept of non-straight sexual orientation in these books. I know that's really surprising to everyone here.

“Come, join me!” a cute naiad cried, wiggling her delicately scaled hips dextrously.

“I regret—” Jumper began.

“I meant Dor!” she cried, laughing.

Dor noted what these laughs and screams did to the nymphs’ chest area; was that why they did such exhalations so often? “Take off those silly clothes, and—” She gave a little foot-kick.

[...] “At least you should try it once,” she said, as if reading his mind. Probably such mind reading was not difficult; there was only one channel a man’s mind would be in, at this stage.

Then we get to the passage that nearly made me throw my kindle at the wall. Because Dor is okay with going back in time, maybe-changing history, telling all the White Male Magicians all about his future time and potentially causing radical butterfly-effect problems, et cetera, but he has a Non-Interference Doctrine when it comes to the death and enslavement of people he doesn't give a shit about because goblins storm the area and take prisoners and even though Dor could easily save them, he doesn't. And all this is filtered through Jumper as the voice of reason and adulthood so that it's a Very Important Lesson. (Jumper is never, ever, ever wrong in this book. He can even thwart Murphy's curse through his amazing maturity.)

“Press gang! Press gang!” the goblin leader cried, making a gap-toothed grin of joyous malice. “Anybody we catch is hereby impressed into the goblin army!” And he grabbed a dryfaun by the arm. The faun was substantially larger than the goblin, but, paralyzed by fear, seemed unable to defend himself.

The nymphs screamed and dived for water, trees, and mountain. So did the fauns. None thought to stand up, close ranks, and oppose the raiders. Dor saw that there were only about eight goblins, compared to a hundred or more fauns and nymphs. What was the problem? Was it that goblins inspired terror by their very appearance?

Dor’s hand went for his sword. Goblins did not inspire terror in him! “Wait, friend,” Jumper chittered. “This is not our affair.”

“We can’t just sit here and let them take our friends!”

“There is much we do not know about this situation,” the spider chittered.

Ill at ease but respecting Jumper’s judgment, Dor suffered himself to be restrained. The goblins quickly ran down five of the healthiest fauns, threw them to the ground, and bound them with vine-ropes. The goblins were capturing, not slaying; they wanted men fit for their army. So Jumper had been correct in his caution, as usual; Dor would have gained nothing by laying about him with his blade. Not anything worth gaining, anyway.

Yet still his mind was nagged: what sort of creatures were these fauns who welcomed strangers yet refused to assist each other in an emergency? If they did not fight for their own—

“That’s five,” the goblin sergeant said. “One more good one, we need.” His darkly roving eye fell on Dor, who stood unmoving. “Kill the bug; take the man.”

The goblins closed on the pair. “I think it has just become our affair.” Dor said grimly.

[...after harpies show up...] Jumper threw up a noose, catching a dryfaun and hauling him down similarly. But the remaining three, together with the four goblins, disappeared into the sky. The other goblins ran away.

Had Jumper been right to chitter restraint? Dor wasn’t sure. He didn’t care about the goblins, but he was very sorry about the three lost fauns. Could he have saved them if he had attacked before?

We'll continue Chapter 10 next time, but here's something sweet about Jumper and Dor:

“I suspect our cycles differ,” Jumper said diplomatically. “In another quarter year I shall be dead of old age.”

Dor was shocked. “But I’ve hardly had time to know you!”

It is not how long one lives, but how well one lives that is important,” Jumper chittered. “This quest with you has been generally excellent living.”

Eleven people highlighted that. It's a good line, I'll admit. It's just tempered slightly by coming on the tail end of these characters standing by and refusing to aid people being actively captured and enslaved because it's not like they were anyone we cared about, amiright? They were just pretty faun boys, hardly anything worth gaining to rescue them.


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