Source of Magic, Part 5
Okay! When we last left our heroes, they had basically forced Jewel into coming with them on their quest to find their missing friends because, uhhmm, they might find a potion to fix Bink after or during that quest, and Jewel needs to be with him so that he can fall out of love with her, and this is definitely Jewel's problem to help solve because, uhhmm.
Anyway! It's all okay, because Jewel is well on the way to falling deeply in love with the guy she's known for two days.
Then the worm lurched, striking a different type of rock, and Bink was thrown forward against the nymph. “Uh, sorry,” he said, righting himself, though indeed he was not very sorry. “I, uh—”
“Yes, I know,” Jewel said. “Maybe you’d better put your arms about my waist, to steady yourself. It does get bumpy on occasion.”
“I … think I’d better not” Bink said.
“You’re sort of noble, in your fashion,” she observed. “A girl could get to like you.”
“I—I’m married,” Bink said miserably. “I—I need that antidote.”
“Yes, of course,” she agreed.
MANPAIN! And, you know, I kinda feel for Bink just a tiny, tiny bit because it is difficult falling out of love with a spouse and trying to work out what to do about that. But Bink either hasn't fallen out of love with Chameleon or (if he has) won't own it because it would hurt his self-image so there goes all my pity right off the bat because I'm not a fan of him being a disingenuous ass.
And for two, Bink's biggest complaint about his wife seems to be that she has a magical ability that he knew about before he married her, whereas Chameleon's issues with Bink include him impregnating her without her consent. So this is already skewed artificially towards the manpain by ignoring Bink's bad behavior in order to play up his status as a poor darling who loves this interesting new nymphy girl more than his shrewish wife.
Bink then angsts that Jewel might abandon them to the demons she says may be able to help them:
Now Bink was afraid she would not wait, that she would take this opportunity to leave them, to betray them to the demons. That way she would be safe from pursuit, either vengeful or romantic. But he had to trust her. After all, he loved her.
That's...that's great, Bink. Also we get another uncomfortable glimpse into the Chester/Cherie home-life as Chester muses how much he'd like to know Cherie's magical talent because it would make her uncomfortable. Definitely a very loving husband, this one.
“Say, good,” Chester said, like a colt with sudden access to the farthest and greenest pasture. He pondered briefly. “Cherie—I’d sure like to know her talent, if she has one. A magical one, I mean. Her and her less-magical-than-thou attitude—”
Then everyone gushes about how Bink is so amazingly idealistic and loyal on the grounds that he doesn't want to leave his friends to die (WHITE MAN EMPATHY! PRAISE IT!) and I just have all the gurgling cackling hilarity at the idea of Bink--he who left his pregnant wife to sort out that whole baby-delivery on her own until she got pretty again--as "loyal".
“I think he’s noble.”
“Don’t flatter me,” Bink warned her. “It only exaggerates the effect of the potion.”
She looked startled, then prettily resolute. “I’m sorry the potion had to—I mean, you’re such a nice, handsome, courageous, decent man, I—I can’t say I’m sorry it happened. When we get back maybe I will take a drink myself.”
And then Jewel kisses him and it's a SPECIAL kiss because it's their first VOLUNTARY kiss, I could not make these quotes up if I wanted to.
Jewel stepped up and kissed him on the mouth. “I like your honesty, too,” she said. “Let’s get going.”
Bink, momentarily stunned by the potency of this first voluntary kiss, forced his mind to focus on the mission.
Let us move on. Chapter 11 (Brain Coral) has Bink and Chester and Jewel finally catching up to Grundy and the bottle containing Humphrey and Crombie. There is almost-kissing between Bink and Jewel but oh-oh! they are too late and the Brain Coral (who has been Bink's secret unknown enemy all along) finishes the process of possessing Grundy and summons Humphrey and Crombie from the bottle as its minions to face off against Bink and Chester. What does Jewel do? Well, when Humphrey grows some trees by accident, she harvests shoes because women amiright.
Soon the plants were flowering. Now their species were identifiable. Lady slippers produced footwear of a most delicate nature, causing Jewel to exclaim in delight and snatch off a pair for herself.
Also Humphrey has been keeping fairies in a bottle because why wouldn't you, I guess.
Desperately Humfrey opened bottles, searching for something to further his cause. Three dancing fairies materialized, hovering on translucent, pastel-hued wings, but they were harmless and soon drifted over to consult with Jewel, who put them to work picking up stray gems.
Then there is this passage which I don't even know how to comment on. It is THAT terrible.
“Jewel!” Bink snapped.
Timidly the nymph stepped toward him. “I’m afraid of you when you’re like this, Bink.”
And she had been afraid during the battle. He could have used her help when the evil eye was stalking him, instead of having to rely on the extremely questionable aid of the golem. She was an all-too-typical nymph in this respect, incapable of decisive action in a crisis. Chameleon had been otherwise, even in her stupidest phase; she had acted to save him from harm, even sacrificing herself. He loved them both—but he would stay with Chameleon.
Jewel has known Bink for two days. He has sexually assaulted her. He still wants, deep down in his bones, to rape her because of "love" magic that he is still struggling with. Of course she is afraid of him! She is afraid of him because he constitutes a threat to her. Because he is a stranger that she barely knows. Of course she didn't help him in his fight--a fight that could have gone very badly for her if Bink had lost and she'd identified herself as their ally. And a fight that didn't have a clear Good Guy / Bad Guy dynamic; the Brain Coral (and the Demons who advised them on their way here) all believe that Bink is the bad guy in this narrative. Depending on your point of view, they are right.
And then there's this... what? Concession? That Bink will stay with (a) the woman he loves, (b) who is carrying his child or going through labor right this moment, (c) who he married and presumably promised to stay with for life. But he's going to stay with her not because he loves her or wants to or anything like that but because, when the chops were down, Jewel wasn't the upgrade she seemed to be.
Bink orders Jewel to heal Crombie--WHY IS SHE EVEN HERE, THIS IS NOT HER FIGHT, OH RIGHT SHE LOVES BINK--and she impresses Bink and Crombie by shielding Bink with her body. And, oh god, I just realized that Jewel probably loves Bink because his talent probably made her love him so that she could be one more line of defense between him and hostile magic. Oh, wait, I think that's explicitly canon:
You very nearly reached the bottle in time, by turning the liability of your infatuation for the nymph into an asset— your talent outmaneuvered the coral neatly there!— but here the coral’s magic is stronger than yours, and so it got the bottle first.
I mean, you could read that as Bink turning Jewel into an asset by asking/forcing/pressuring her to come with them, but you could also read that as his talent making her fall in love with him so that she would go along with what he needed her to do. So that's obviously awesome. Anyway, Jewel tries to protect Bink, who she loves after two days and of course she doesn't know that he just got finished thinking about how she's not good enough and human enough for him to dump Chameleon for her.
Jewel jumped between Bink and Crombie. “Don’t you dare!” she cried at the griffin. There was the odor of burning paper.
For a long moment Crombie looked at her, his colorful wings partially extended, beating slowly back and forth. She was such a sup of a girl, armed only with the bottle of elixir; there was no way she could balk the magnificent animal. Indeed, her body trembled with her nervousness; one squawk and she would collapse in tears.
Yet she had made the gesture, Bink realized. This was an extraordinary act for a true nymph. She had tried to stand up for what she believed in. Could he condemn her because her courage was no greater than her strength?
And, I guess I will just note here that while stories of sacrifice and love are fine, it's really telling that so far the only way women can protect men in these books is by sacrifice. Chameleon takes Trent's sword in the stomach for Bink, girl-griffin becomes a gold statue for Crombie, and now Jewel. Again, we don't get the variety of a powerful woman protecting a man by, say, chopping monsters' heads off.
Chapter 12 (Demon Xanth) happens and Bink tells Jewel she doesn't need to stay with them because she's "free" to leave, which has all the implications about her not being free to leave before all this. I especially like that he dwells on how he'd like to imagine her, because definitely Jewel being happy (and compensated!) for her part in this adventure is less important than Bink's preferred way to remember her.
“But since the antidote is evidently out of reach, there is no point in keeping you. I’m sorry I inconvenienced you for nothing. You are free to go, now.”
She caught at his arm. Bink automatically moved his sword out of the way. “Bink, I—”
Bink yielded to his desire at last and kissed her. To his surprise, she returned the kiss emphatically. The scent of yellow roses surrounded them. Then he pushed her gently away. “Take good care of yourself, nymph. This sort of adventure is not for you. I would like to believe that you are safe and happy with your gems and your job, always.”
Jewel doesn't leave, because they've apparently been doing a walk-and-talk and they've reached the source of magic which is a chamber where a demon the size of a universe and as incomprehensible as Cthulhu is voluntarily "trapped" as part of a live-action role-playing game that demons his size play. The mortals stumble around the chamber and bump into his incomprehensible thought-bubbles so that Bink can be jealous about what Jewel might be experiencing vicariously.
Bink emerged from the thought-eddy and saw Jewel standing transfixed, meshed in a different current. Her lips were parted, her bosom heaving. What was she experiencing? Bink suffered a quadruple-level reaction: horror that she should be subjected to any thought as crudely and sophisticatedly compelling as the one he had just experienced, for she was an innocent nymph; jealousy that she should react so raptly to something other than himself, especially if it were as suggestive a notion as the one he had absorbed; guilt about feeling that way about a nymph he could not really have, though he would not have wished the concept on the one he did have; and intense curiosity.
Humphrey explains that the Demon Xanth is in the middle of a time-out that he can't leave until someone mortal willingly frees him. So, theoretically, he could be here forever, but in practice he will be here maybe five more minutes because Bink, like all EMPATHIC WHITE MEN empathizes up to privilege and never down to marginalized people. Bink then objects that it's stupid for someone to willingly submit to what is essentially a ten-minute time-out penalty, which would seem to indicate that Xanth has literally no concept of sport, but he manages to find a parallel to the fact that Bink submits to his version of a time-out penalty, i.e., marriage.
“But he only plays the game for entertainment! He can quit anytime!”
“The game is valid only so long as its rules are honored. After investing over a thousand years in this aspect of it, and being so close to success within the rules, why should he abridge it now?”
Bink shook his head. “This makes little sense to me! I would not torture myself in such fashion!” Yet a thread of doubt tugged at the corner of his mind. He was torturing himself about the nymph Jewel, honoring the human convention of his marriage to Chameleon. That, to a Demon, might seem nonsensical.
Bink literally thinks that marriage is a game that men play against each other, trying to see who can manage to stay in their time-out penalty box the longest. The thing keeping Bink from cheating on Chameleon isn't the fact that to do so would hurt her (and he doesn't want to hurt the woman he loves), but because it would be poor sportsmanship.
He asks Jewel if she thinks he should free the demon--and I will here note that no good reason is EVER given for freeing him besides Honor--and she tries to bribe him with sex so that the narrative can again get all nasty and whorephobic at us about women who offer Bink a thing that he wants so that they can survive.
“Oh, Bink—I never would.” She hesitated prettily. “I know you took the potion, so this is unfair—but I’m so afraid of what that Demon might do, I’d do anything for you if only you didn’t free him.”
Again the Good Magician nodded. Nymphs were fairly simple, direct creatures, unfettered by complex overlays of conscience or social strategy. A real woman might feel the same way Jewel did, but she would express herself with far more subtlety, proffering a superficially convincing rationale. The nymph had named her price.
Please also note that Jewel's unsophisticated "social strategy" is to NOT DIE. When Bink frees the demon, he will eventually decide to kill everyone (including Jewel) who knows about him. Which is not exactly a huge leap of the imagination given that he's Cthulhu with all the powers of God.
Bink has the very clever idea of being all High School Debate Team, and assigns Humphrey the job of arguing for freeing the demon while Bink pretends to argue (badly) in favor of keeping him trapped. This is a great story-telling device because it means that you can make Humphrey look extra-duper wrong for wanting to keep the demon trapped in spite of his great arguments to the contrary (hypocrite!) and you can make Bink look fair-minded for being willing to make incredibly weak arguments for keeping him trapped. Also these weak arguments will be very strawman and selfish and whiny sounding. SCORE!
Also we get to read the MOST PRIVILEGED PASSAGE EVER WRITTEN:
“You can not weigh rights and wrongs on a scale, Bink,” Humfrey said, becoming passionate in his role as Demon’s Advocate. Now Bink was sure it was the Good Magician speaking, not the brain coral. The enemy had had to free Humfrey, at least to this extent, to allow him to play this game of the moment. The Magician’s mind and emotion had not been erased, and that was part of what Bink had needed to know. “Right and wrong are not to be found in things or histories, and can not be properly defined in either human or Demon terms. They are merely aspects of viewpoint. The question is whether the Demon should be allowed to pursue his quest in his own fashion.”
[...]Humfrey spread his hands. “I can not debate that. The only real war between good and evil is within the soul of yourself—whoever you are. If you are a man, you must act as a man.”
Right and wrong is totally subjective! You can't measure them based on things like "how many fantastical people stop existing the moment the Demon Xanth is freed and leaves" or "am I choosing to genocide entire races by interfering in this LARP game". Instead you have to find right and wrong in things like "what does the most privileged person in the room want" and if you look inside your heart you will know that is the answer.
Then Bink fantasizes that Chameleon would totes support his terrible decision, which is a nice trick given that (a) she is at various times the smartest woman in the world and (b) she's not here to dispute his fantasy.
“Oh, Bink!” Jewel cried, smelling of myrrh. “Don’t do it!”
He looked at her again, so lovely even in her apprehension, yet so fallible. Chameleon would have endorsed his decision, not because she wished to please him, but because she was a human being who believed, as he did, in doing the right thing. Yet though Jewel, like all nymphs, lacked an overriding social conscience, she was as good a person as her state permitted. “I love you, Jewel. I know this is just another thing the coral did to stop me, but—well, if I hadn’t taken that potion, and if I weren’t already married, it would have been awfully easy to love you anyway. I don’t suppose it makes you feel any better to know that I am also risking my wife, and my unborn baby, and my parents, and all else I hold dear. But I must do what I must do.”
“You utter fool!” Grundy exclaimed. “If I were real, I’d snatch up the nymph and to hell with the Demon. You’ll get no reward from X(A/N)th!”
“I know,” Bink said. “I’ll get no thanks from anyone.”
Then he addressed the huge demon face. “I free you, Xanth,” he said.
AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA WHITE MALE TEARS.
We have 20% of the book left; Bink needs to tour Xanth to see how badly he's fucked everything up and then his talent has to magically fix everything as a deus ex machina and then everything has to go back to normal and we can all pretend that this book didn't happen. Chapter 13 (Magic Loss) is the manpain tour. We'll cover some highlights.
Bink closed his eyes and cried. There was a great deal of dust in the air that needed washing out of his eyes, and he was wrackingly afraid, but it was more than that. He was crying for Xanth. He had destroyed the uniqueness of the world he knew; even if he survived this cave-in, how could he live with that?
He did not know how the society he had belonged to would react. What would happen to the dragons and tangle trees and zombies? How could the people live, without magic? It was as if the entire population had abruptly been exiled to the drear realm of no-talents.
Do you pity Bink for destroying everything in Xanth? You should, the poor dear. But he had no choice, because he was governed by principles which mandate that when you stumble into someone's LARP game, you should definitely futz around with their roleplay. (I like to think there's a Demon Dungeon Master who is, right this very minute, crumpling up his notes and swearing at how he's going to have to redo his whole damn plot now. Fucking minis and their fucking free will.)
Oh, by the way, Grundy is dead because he was a magical construct. Grundy who was in the room with Bink. *jazz hands*
Bink closed his eyes again, experiencing another chill seizure of grief. He had done what he had felt was right—but he had not truly reckoned the consequence. Fine points of morality were intangible; life and death were tangible. By what right had he condemned these creatures to death? Was it moral for him to slay them in the name of his morality?
Oooh! Oooh! PICK ME! *raises hand to answer* Then Bink gets to move beyond the crying phase of manpain to the sulky sullen teenager phase because SOME BITCH isn't appreciating his manpain PROPERLY.
She stirred. “Don’t wake me, Bink. Let me die in peace.”
“I’ve killed everyone else,” he said sullenly. “At least you will be able to—”
“To return to my job? I can’t do it without magic.”
There was something strange about her. Bink concentrated and it came: “You don’t smell!”
“It was magic,” she said. She sighed. “If I’m alive, I’m alive, I suppose. But I really do wish you’d let me die.”
Bink has to kill a snake in order to demonstrate how much harder HIS life is without magic (ya'll, he has to be decent at his sword instead of counting on the magic spells on the sword to do the trick) and also to get pissy at Jewel for handing him the sword point-first instead of with the hilt extended. This book, ya'll. He snaps nastily at her, which might be evidence that he doesn't love her anymore (the love potion turned off when the magic left), but he was snapping at her when he was loving her, so I don't even know anymore.
“Oh, this is awful! No magic—” She looked as if about to cry. As Bink knew, real sternness of character was not to be found in nymphs. They seemed to have been fashioned by magic to accommodate man’s casual dreams, not his serious ones.
Yet he had cried, too, when he first grasped the immensity of what he had done. How much of his perception of the nature of nymphs was human-chauvinistic?
LOOK! LOOK AT THE GLIMPSE OF YOUR OWN MISOGYNY! No, we'll not hear of this again, and it's just another smokescreen to make Bink barely tolerable while still being an asshole forever without changing a thing. (In fact, I kinda like to think that someone--some editor, maybe?--inserted this two-sentence paragraph when no one was looking.) Then Bink asks for a kiss out of habit, and glories that he doesn't love her anymore because this totes will not hurt her feelings after her earlier confession of love.
He squeezed her. “Thank you for saying that. Do you mind if I—” He stopped. “I forgot! I’m not in love with you any more!”
Then he calls her ugly. I just don't even with this man.
Bink wanted to rest, for he was tired, but dared not. If he rested, he might sleep, and that could be disaster. Of course he could have Jewel watch while he slept—but she was after all only a nymph—rather, a young woman, and he was afraid the goblins would overwhelm her in such a situation. Her fate in goblin hands would probably be worse than his.
He glanced at her covertly. This rough trek was taking its toll. Her hair had lost its original sparkle and hung in lusterless straggles. She reminded him somewhat of Chameleon—but not in her beauty phase.
Then there is more confessing of love, and, like, I just can't even. Jewel compliments him for not using the potion as an excuse to abandon his quest, but no one points out that he used the potion as an excuse to drag her along on his quest. Not to mention that he's put her life in danger multiple times and additionally he broke her entire EVERYTHING after mentally calling her a whore when she begged him not to break her entire everything. Here, enjoy the Bink-worship:
“You loved me then, and I didn’t love you,” she said. “You were devious, and I was simple. You lured me in close, then grabbed me and kissed me.”
Bink fidgeted. “I’m sorry, Jewel. I—it won’t happen again.”
“That’s what you think,” she said, and flung her arms about him and planted a passionate kiss on his half-open mouth. Dirty as she was, it was still a remarkable experience; almost he felt the tug of the love potion again. He had loved her before without knowing her; now he knew her and understood her nymphly limitations and respected her for trying so hard to overcome them, and he liked her more than was entirely proper. A genuine affection had been developing beneath the artificial love, and that affection remained. What would Chameleon think, if she saw this embrace? Jewel released him.
[...] “When you took the potion, you remained an honest person,” Jewel called. “You were strong, stronger than any nymph could be. You never used the potion as an excuse to betray your quest or your friends. I respected and envied that quality in you, and tried to use it as a model. The only exception was that one kiss you stole, so I stole it back. I love you, Bink, and now—”
“But you never drank that potion!” he protested. “And even if you had, now that the magic is gone—”
“I never drank that potion,” she agreed. “Therefore the loss of magic could not take my love away. Growth was forced upon me, driving out my nymphly innocence. Now I can perceive reality, and I know there can be no antidote but time, for me. I can not go with you.”
“But you have no life down there!” Bink cried, appalled. His love for her had been magic; hers for him was real. She loved better than he had. Her nymph-hood was, indeed, behind her.
Oh and also Bink totally respects her for loving him, but not for, you know, risking her life multiple times in order to help him finish his quest.
“Farewell, Jewel!” he called, hoping she would hear. “You may not have my love, but you do have my respect. You are a woman now.”
Anyway. Back to the manpain. You guys, I'll bet EVERYONE knows that this is all Bink's fault and I'll bet they all plan to punish him and I'll bet Jewel only left him because she knows that they'll all turn on Bink when he gets back to the castle.
Tomorrow he would have to face his friends at the palace and tell them—
But surely they would already have guessed his guilt. It was not confession that bothered him, but punishment. Jewel had been wise to avoid him; he had no future at home.
But first! We should see some people celebrating Bink and also tie up the plot threads of the stone men and the gold griffin. Also we haven't had the chance to call anyone a bitch or a slut for awhile.
“Who’s looking for Trolla?” someone demanded. It was a huge, ugly troll. Well, an average troll; they were all huge and ugly.
Bink’s hand hovered near the hilt of his sword. “I only want to talk with her.”
“ ’Sokay,” the troll said genially. He cupped his mouth with his hands. “Bitch, get over here!”
A dozen young women glanced his way, startled, thinking he meant them. Bink covered a smile. “Uh, the gorgon,” he said. “What happened to her?”
“Oh, we were going to string her up, after we, you know …” the troll said. “She was a good-looking slut, except for those snaky tangles in her hair.
Bink stays the night but refuses any female company because "He had broken too many hearts already!" and not, you know, because he is married. Then we get to him musing about how Chameleon, trapped in her "normal" phase, and who I remind you is supposed to be the phase Bink loves best, will eventually be "dull" for him, which is definitely what love looks like to me.
Was life really worthwhile, without magic? Well, Chameleon would be locked in her “normal” phase, the one he liked best: neither pretty nor smart, but rather nice overall. Yes, he could live with that for some time before it got dull, assuming that he was allowed to—
Then Bink runs into a centaur--Cherie, his best friend's wife, but he doesn't recognize her because she's not pretty anymore (no really)--and of course the first thing we need to hear about is whether her torso is "well proportioned" and/or saggy. (And I remind you that she has just recently had a child, which is still nursing. Don't worry if you forgot--the narrative will make sure you remember later.)
There, standing on a beaten path, was a lady centaur. She was not especially pretty; her flanks were dull, her tail tangled with burrs (naturally a lady would not be able to curse them off), and her human torso and face, though obviously feminine, were not well proportioned.
[...] Strength, not beauty. She had been a magnificently breasted creature, in the time of magic; now she remained ample, but she sagged somewhat, as most human or humanoid females of similar measurement did. Her face had been delightfully pert; now it was plain. What could account for the sudden change—except the loss of magic?
Uuuuuugh, then there's a lot of stuff that I'm not going to quote that's really vicious nastiness about how Cherie's talent is to make herself look pretty (wow, what a new and original talent for a woman to have!) and she's appalled by this because centaur society is super grossed out by magic talents (which they consider obscene) and Bink "forces" this revelation on her (no really).
And she gets frustrated and semi-attacks him and Bink makes a big mental deal out of how he's being awesome by now drawing his sword on the woman who saved his life once and is his best friend's wife and who he's just informed is a widow and then he's beaten her down to force her to accept an obscene talent. Yeah, you're a real prince, Bink. Then Cherie gets all wistful about trying to get the magic back because then she'll be pretty again.
...by the way, did I mention that she still thinks Chester is dead? I guess? It's all over the place.
Bink and Cherie then run into the actress-pretending-to-be-an-ogre (no I don't know how that works since ogres are supposed to be huge and super strong, don't ask) that the ogre decided to marry earlier in the novel. Bink does his whole human-male-gaze thing again because it's just so weird for a woman to want to look pretty for her husband as opposed to looking pretty for Bink.
Then he remembered: she was no true ogress, but an actress, playing a part in one of the fiend’s productions. She could probably look beautiful if she tried. Why, then, was she not trying? “Uh, one question—”
The female, no dummy, caught his gist before he got it out. “True, me once have other face,” she told Bink. “Me glad get out of that rat race. Me find man better than any fiend; me like it best, by he be queened.”
So the prima donna had found a husband worthy of her attention! After meeting the fiends, Bink found himself in agreement with her choice. She was maintaining the ogress guise, which was in any event merely a physical reflection of her normal personality,
Keep in mind the fact that this woman is a "prima donna" with a terrible personality only comes from the assertion of her former acting troupe who cursed her and therefore weren't reliable witnesses in any sense of the word, but Bink is bound and determined to accept it as fact because that's the kind of guy he is. Cherie is still a maybe-widow, so of course her mind is on how to please Chester when he's recovered at the end of the novel, and the answer is of course to work out a complex sexual power exchange and make the man think he's winning at everything always.
“How do you keep his love?” she inquired with a certain female mischief. “Doesn’t he like to go out adventuring?”
Bink realized she was thinking of Chester, perhaps unconsciously. “Me let he go, me never say no,” the ogress said, full of the wisdom of her sex. “When he come back, me give he crack.” She struck the ogre with a horrendous backhand wallop by way of example. Just as well, for Bink had been about to misunderstand the reference. “Make he feel like beast, then give he feast.”
Crunch’s face contorted into a smile of agreement. He was obviously well satisfied. And probably better off, Bink thought, than he might have been with a natural ogress, who would have taken his nature for granted. Whatever faults the actress might have, she certainly knew how to handle her male.
Bink then helpfully confirms that yes, this is totes true about all men, because something something manly. This is also where we get him musing about how Chameleon, trapped in her "normal" phase, and who I remind you is supposed to be the phase Bink loves best, will never turn him on again, so I guess men also need a pretty face in addition to being made to feel like a winner, so lucky for Cherie that she has that whole sexy-talent thing!
The ogre couple went on its way, and Cherie resumed her run. But she was thoughtful. “Bink, just as a rhetorical example—does a male really like to feel like a beast?”
“Yes, sometimes,” Bink agreed, thinking of Chameleon. When she was in her stupid-beautiful phase, she seemed to live only to please him, and he felt extremely manly. But when she was in her smart-ugly phase, she turned him off with her wit as well as her appearance. In that respect she was smarter when she was stupid than when she was smart. Of course now all that was over; she would stay always in her “normal” phase, avoiding the extremes. She would never turn him off—or on.
[...] Males need to feel wanted and needed and dominant, even when they aren’t. Especially at home.
And Cherie learns a Very Special Lesson:
“She’s a complete fake, a mere actress, yet he’s so happy he’d do anything for her. But lady centaurs can act too, when they have reason …”
Like, seriously, this book makes me want to cry for how much the narrative hates men. It is so horrible and awful. I know and love so many men who are not like this and it just breaks my heart to think of them reading this as a kid and feeling like they had to be this way in order to be "normal". These books are terrible for everyone, not just girls and women.
Chapter 14 (Paradox Wish) is the final chapter and I want to spin through quickly. Cherie nurses her foal, who has been running alongside them quietly the entire time even though Bink forgot he existed, and this seems to happen so that Bink can get in another dig at her breasts.
It made him realize one reason why Cherie did not seem as lovely now: her breasts were enlarged to the point of ponderosity, so that she could nurse her foal.
Does Bink know that some men go through life NOT rating the breasts of the women around them every five minutes? Anyway, they decide to go back to the Demon Xanth's cave because a deus ex machina might occur and when they get there, sure enough!, the demon is back and the magic is back and this isn't a ridiculously contrived coincidence because maybe the demon brought them back in order to kill them or maybe Bink's talent arranged for all this, SHUT UP THIS IS PLAUSIBLE.
Anyway, they try to convince the demon to stick around and not kill everyone with logic and he is all, "bah, it'd be easier to just base this decision on whether Bink can kill a shape-changing monster" so they do that instead. And Jewel shows up and the monster changes shape to look like her. Because sure, why not.
Oh, no! They sounded alike, too. “Jewel, I’m fighting a change-shape monster,” he cried to them both. “If I don’t kill him, he’ll kill me. One way or another. I’ve got to know which one he is.” Assuming the monster was male. Bink had to assume that, because he didn’t want to kill a female.
Jewel doesn't try to convince Bink that she's herself by, say, repeating some of their previous conversation or whatever. Instead she just basically says "fuck this, I'm out" and Bink has to pick someone to stab and he stabs Jewel. But is stabbed Jewel hot, I hear you ask, and IS SHE EVER.
The monster didn’t change. It still looked exactly like Jewel, with full bosom, slender waist, healthy hips, ideal legs, and sparkling hair—and blood washing out around the embedded sword.
Anyway! Bink kills the real monster in a fit of manpain rage, and the demon agrees to stay in Xanth and also everyone is healed up and recovered and there are no consequences for anything. Cherie demonstrates that she knows how to sexually power-play now, because obviously that was very important since we spent MOST OF CHAPTER 13 ON THAT, so here, enjoy the conclusion of that.
“So you went swimming without me!” Cherie said severely. “Here I stay home tending your colt while you gad about—”
Chester scowled. “I gad about because you spend all your time with the colt!”
“Uh, there’s no need—” Bink interposed.
“Stay out of this,” she murmured to him with a wink. Then, to Chester, she flared: “Because he is just like you! I can’t keep you from risking your fool tail on stupid, dangerous adventures, you big dumb oaf, but at least I have him to remind me of—”
“If you paid more attention to me, I’d stay home more!” he retorted.
“Well, I’ll pay more attention to you now, horsehead,” she said, kissing him as the arena dissolved and a more cosy room formed about them. “I need you.”
“You do?” he asked, gratified. “What for?”
“For making another foal, you ass! One that looks just like me, that you can take out for runs—”
“Yeah,” he agreed with sudden illumination. “How about getting started right now!” Then he looked about, remembering where he was, and actually blushed. The golem smirked. “Uh, in due course.”
[...] She paused, glancing at him sidelong. “In fact, I might even be amenable to a little flute music.”
Startled, Chester looked at her, then at Bink, realizing that someone had blabbed. “Perhaps that can be arranged—in decent privacy. After all, we are centaurs.”
“You’re such a beast,” she said, flicking her tail at him. Bink covered a smile. When Cherie learned a lesson, she learned it well!
The the Demon Xanth showers Bink with an Unlimited Wish and also he makes sure that Bink's newly born son is a Magician. I'll here note, because I don't think anyone else ever does, that Iris was pregnant with Irene when the magic went out, and her daughter is later born with not-Magician powers (though she later gets an upgrade in a later book) despite the fact that children of Magicians often have strong magic. Was Irene's development harmed when the magic went off? Who knows, no one cares to dwell on it. Time for us to all whoosh back to the castle where Trent confirms that he was fine during the lack of magic (because he is Jesus Christ and Bink's OTP) but Iris was "verging on a nervous breakdown" because women amiright.
But what will Bink do with a wish he doesn't need and Chester has an Answer he can't use? There's a lot of shuffling around and regifting and eventually Crombie ends up with the wish and he uses it to force Jewel to drink a love potion and Bink is relieved despite the fact that he knows firsthand how awful it is to drink a love potion and not have full control over your own mind. NO ONE OBJECTS TO THIS.
Bink marveled himself, but handed the wish-bubble to Crombie. “May I ask what you mean to use it for?”
Crombie fidgeted a moment, an unusual performance for him. “Uh, Bink, you remember that nymph, the one who—”
“Jewel,” Bink agreed. “I dread trying to explain about her to—”
“Well, I—uh, you see, I had this fragment of the magic mirror in the bottle, and I used it to check on Sabrina, and—”
“I fear constancy was never her strong suit,” the King interposed. “I don’t believe you two were right for each other anyway.”
“What about her?” Bink asked, perplexed.
“She was two-timing me,” Crombie said, scowling. “Right when she had me on the verge—but the other guy is married, so she was going to let on the kid was mine, and—I knew I couldn’t trust a woman!”
So Sabrina had deserted Crombie, as she had deserted Bink himself, before he knew Chameleon. Yet she connived to marry Crombie anyway—and it had been fated that he would have to marry her unless he married someone else first. “I’m sorry,” Bink said. “But I think it would be best simply to let her go. No sense wasting a wish for vengeance.”
“No, that’s not what I had in mind,” Crombie assured him. “I wouldn’t trust any woman now. But I think I could love a nymph—”
“Jewel?” Bink asked, amazed.
I love, and by "love" I mean "find hilarious" that men in Xanth can so easily be RUINED FOREVER by scheming women, but I know in my heart that if a women in Xanth said that she hated all men because one raped her or something, that would be UNFORGIVABLY UNCHARITABLE. I mean, be fair, NOT ALL MEN, Chameleon!!
Suddenly she came, smelling of pine needles and gardenias, bringing the healing elixir. I never saw anything so sweet in my life. She was weak and hesitant, just like a nymph. No threat to any man, least of all a soldier. No competition. The kind of female I could really get along with. And the way she stood by you—” Crombie shook his head. “That’s why I went back in the bottle, after pointing out the antidote for you. I wouldn’t do anything to hurt that nymph, and killing you would have torn her up. And if you got the antidote, you’d get out of love with her, which was how I wanted you. She’s lovely and loyal. But since she still loves you—”
“That’s hopeless,” Bink said. “I’ll never see her again, and even if I did—” He shrugged. “There can be nothing between us.”
“Right. So if you don’t mind, I’ll just take this wish and wish her to drink some of that love potion—and to see me next thing. Then she’ll feel about me the way you felt about her. Only I’ll be available, seeing as I have to marry someone anyway.”
And Crombie was a dashing soldier and a handsome man. Inevitably the love the potion started would become real. The hurt Jewel felt for what Bink had done to her, striking her down with his sword, would make the transition easier. Except—
“But you like to travel about,” Chester said before Bink could formulate the same objection. “She lives below, planting precious stones. That’s her job; she wouldn’t leave it.”
“So we’ll separate—and rejoin,” Crombie said. “I’ll be seeing her part-time, not all the time. That’s the way I like it. I’m a soldier.”
And that, neatly, solved Bink’s problem.
He actually asks if Bink doesn't mind, and Bink is all, hey, this solves my guilty-feels over her being in love with me after two days, neat! And no one even thinks to care whether Jewel would be okay with a husband who doesn't live with her. The next book establishes that for twelve years, he only comes home on occasional weekend passes! Is that what Jewel wanted for her life? Who knows! Who cares!
Bink’s thoughts turned to Chameleon. It had been only a week since he had left her, but it seemed like a year. She would be in her normal phase now, ordinary in appearance and intelligence: his favorite. Their mutual worry about the prospects of their baby was over; the boy was not variable like her, or seemingly without talent like him. His love for her had been tested most severely, by the love potion and availability of a most desirable alternative. What a relief to have Crombie going after Jewel … though that could be another action of his talent. At any rate, now Bink knew how much he loved Chameleon. He might never have realized, had he not had this adventure.
And that's the end of Source of Magic. Bink is the worst. Oh, and also Millie is going to be their maid and his child's (Dor) nursemaid for the next twelve years while Bink assiduously avoids her because of that whole sex appeal talent thing. Fun!