Greetings, from Dogpatch (Skin Deep #3)

Image result for greetings from dogpatch skin deep book cover

 

This isn’t a mistake. I wasn’t thinking about whether there would be novels for the first two, so I’m beginning my review with the third, but the fact I’ve read this many should warm anyone else who hasn’t heard of this STELLAR online comic, and I may even perhaps go back eventually and review the first two for funsies. The bugbear Myra, Eustace, a fox spirit, Marshall, the raven spirit, and Gabe, the angel are currently driving into Arkansas in May, this being 2005. Myra is quite annoyed by her passengers and complaining about the reason Gabe is even along for the ride when he could fly, Eustace unable to shed light on his reasons, nor why he took the skull which had been given to a demon by Myra (this all being explained, here). Their next conversation has to do with whether Gabe is male or female, until he/she puts a stop to it, and they continue on their ride to Dogpatch.

When parking, Gabe notes how they had to get down there in an odd fashion, Eustace explaining how a tram used to be lowered down to the theme park when it was still open, a dryad currently keeping the place well hidden, even though it was right off the highway. After Myra points out how a Bigfoot was currently watching their movements, Gabe steps up to get the attention of whoever lived there, wanting to speak to the big kahuna, a chickadee, Hank with a shotgun sporting a trucker hat popping out near his feet. Myra’s had enough and states how Bigfoot let them pass, even though Hank was confused by how the group hadn’t been stopped, she then telling of only being there to pick something up and would be out of there quickly, since the place didn’t seem right. Marshall then steps up to vouch for Gabe being cool and they wanting to speak to Old Ivory about the guards.

Hank takes Gabe’s word when showing him the “nightmare” he was attempting to weed out the owner of, so Hank leads them all to where Old Ivory is, Marshall and Eustace then discussing how they agreed with Myra’s instinct about Dogpatch being out of the ordinary. The two then get into the last time Michelle and crew had run into the nightmare which was then related to the demons which were setting them up (Orientations and the One Eyed Bear being reference, the links, above). Hank then can’t stop himself from gabbing at Gabe due to not having ever been in the presence of an angel before and deciding to relate the communities history of where they traveled and how they picked up their guards. Then, before Hank could get into it, Gabe shuts down any questions he may have on religious topics and so Hank instead goes in to inform Ivory, a woodpecker of his visitors.

Gabe then interrupts to toss the nightmare into Ivory’s hands, he not knowing how the skull could’ve gotten to Missouri, nor how the demons picked it up, they having been searching for “her” for some months. Ivory then states how he’d been training some animals to take over his jobs when he was no longer there, Gabe inquiring into how he’d believed spirit animals were incapable of death, but Ivory’s case was due to most of the specific sort of woodpecker he represented had been dying out, and he was on the verge of being done, so he’d been having the other animals take care of the daily tasks whilst he trained them for the long-term workload, and Ivory didn’t have any hard feelings for humans causing the death of his species due to his long lifespan and curiosity of what came next.

After Ivory calls over the two who had been handling the responsibilities, but only one, Ricky arriving since the other, Obi was taking care of some specific sort of task, he apparently not being responsible for her disappearance, and they figuring she’d run away. Gabe asks a few pressing questions which suggested they hadn’t done much to aid the recovery of the nightmare, but Ricky makes clear how they’d been quite worried, and was annoyed when learning Gabe had found the nightmare a little while ago and hadn’t brought her back sooner, they then hearing a scream, Ricky believing Obi was in trouble and hoping the Howler didn’t have him. When they approach his yells, they see Myra looking pissed and relating how Obidiah was the cause of everything being off, and was getting ready to let the Howler out on them all, they thinking she’d gone crazy, but she adamant of Obi’s intentions being ill and making clear, bugbears were impossible to deceive.

Gabe questions further on Obi’s attitudes being odd recently, the critters confirming he’d been acting ill when the nightmare had left, but was working even harder as of lately, Obi agreeing he’d been getting too tired from work and pled to be released from Myra’s grip. Gabe then agrees Obi should be let down, but surprises everyone by bringing out his own weapon, Damien the demon then showing himself and looking pissed. As Gabe attempts to learn more about why Damien was turning up and seemingly trying to get closer to Michelle, Damien’s smart ass answers are getting on Gabe’s nerves, he making him pay for it with more pain. When Damien finally gives him a reason for the “Dark Lord’s” reason for tracking Michelle, Gabe is again thwarted by Damien’s resistance in divulging more. Gabe then tears Damien out of Obi, Gabe turning on the group of creatures to learn whom had figured out their close friend had been infested and no one stepping forward, Gabe properly pissed, and when inquiring if Myra had sensed any other demons about, she confirming there were none.

Then Obi describes how he hadn’t any control over himself and what it had felt like, not recalling much of anything whilst he’d been overtaken. Hank then elaborates about the caves nearby when Gabe considers how quickly the demons seemed to be able to return upon his sending them to hell, and demands Obi show him to this “not much sink” cave. Gabe then explains how hellmouths work and the one in the cave being shut could waylay a demon fairly well. After Obi shows where the cave was, he meekly asks to go, since he didn’t want to tempt another demon with his bod, Gabe agreeing to this, he then divvying out tasks for the other creatures whilst he dealt with what was within the cave, the one for Eustace being hilarious and adorably simple.

Marshall notes his tone to Eustace, but Gabe dismisses him what with not feeling he should have to keep an eye on him for he not being a fighter, Marshall and Myra following him deeper into the cave. Soon they approach an orange oozing mess from their high vantage point, Myra stating of it most likely being part of the cause for the odd senses she’d gotten from the place. Gabe then suggests Myra help him deal with some demons whilst Marshall brought along some buddy birds to draw attention, a view of an oddly shaped hole with what look like teeth coming out of the ground shown, which then reveals why a hellmouth is named as such. Myra is hella happy to do her duty and Gabe encourages her to do so, since some demons were currently taking the opportunity to crawl into the world, Marshall using his birdy friends to distract them as Myra walks up, big bear form ready to do some damage.

As Myra baits one of the creatures, Gabe stabs the other and takes a smoke break, the crows, meanwhile, do their job of flying about, but many also get too close to the teeth and are smushed. Gabe then steps up to attempt another phrase in whatever language which is shown, chopping at the hellmouth head right after another demon comes out, whom apparently was a bunch of other demons’ distractions, but fortunately, Gabe commands Marshall to continue his attack at the mullet demon and Myra informs Gabe of their coming,  so he begins saying some more magic speak. Damien had returned once more, and his buddy Mikhail upon seeing Myra, ditches the crew when one of the others suggest they attack them, but Myra gets up in Mikhail’s face as he explains how he didn’t want to fool around with her or Gabe. As Myra has the demon in a bear hug, another demon is looking irritated about their hellmouth dying, but as Gabe is fighting another, the little demon pushes Gabe into the hellmouth as it makes one last roar of defeat (to be fair, I’m feeling a little badly for the hellmouth, it didn’t do nuffin’ and Gabe takes him out easy as lemon meringue).

This new development pauses Myra and Marshall, but they then see Gabe’s spear pierce through the hellmouth, and when he emerges looking grim, one out of three of the demons have booked it, the other two standing and staring in shock. This definitely doesn’t help the two though, since Gabe lets out his anger and envelops them in holy light, Myra properly impressed. Gabe turns on her and notifies of the demon she’d been cuddling had escaped, Mikhail still sprinting for freedom, and feeling close to success when seeing the outside, but upon climbing the rock face out, realizes his strolling out into the world won’t be so cut and dry. As Gabe, Marshall, and Myra rush off after him, Eustace is looking pleased and gives props for Gabe having thought to give him his coat to hold, this being the item which had recaptured Mikhail (who has a multiple way of spelling his name, apparently), and Eustace not catching the look of surprise on his face. As Mikhail pleads for Gabe to let him stay, the latter gives him the opportunity to make himself useful with the need for information, but Mikhail has none to offer, so Gabe takes him out. He then relates now the hellmouth was closed in the area, the demons would have a more difficult time coming back, and wouldn’t be able to do so anywhere near Dogpatch. Eustace and Marshall also inquire if Michelle was still in danger, Gabe’s answer not a comforting one, and when Myra states she still didn’t understand Gabe, he was cool with it.

Another interesting episode, and onward I go!

 

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The Golden Days (The Story of the Stone, Vol. 1)

Image result for the story of the stone vol 1 book cover

The reader is presented by a question which may arise during the book’s beginnings, it possibly seeming to cross the line of odd, but more happening under the surface. Years previously, Nü-wa, a goddess, fixes the sky, she using a mountain to make “building blocks” and using all, but one which is left near Green-sickness Peak in the Great Fable Mountains. The block, or Stone contains powers, due to having been constructed by the goddess, it able to move and change its size.

The Stone is also self-aware, knowing it hadn’t been wanted in the reparations of the sky and feeling left out. During this bad mood, it notices a monk and Taoist walking quite a ways away, but are approaching the peak the Stone is on, the two chatting whilst resting. The monk sees and picks up the Stone, it having made itself smaller, and speaks to it of knowing it was special and planned on etching on it to show others the same who wouldn’t be able to travel there; the Stone was quite pleased. The monk stows the Stone away, and wouldn’t reveal the destination he planned for it, the Narrator not knowing, either.

An unknown amount of time later, another monk passes the same area and sees a rock with a length of text written on it. Vanitas the monk reads about the rock’s origins and how after he’d been brought to society, he’d lived as a human and achieved nirvana, then came back. The history of his life follows, the one piece of information not shared is the era this occurred, a little poem following, which wonders whom would go about sharing its story.

Vanitas replies to the rock directly of his feelings on how the story would be perceived without certain details and not making much of a hit, the Stone stating how its story put many perspectives uniquely which would separate its story from those already out. Vanitas breaks it down for it, the risque escapades and depravity of females only supplying interest to a certain sort. Most of its stories involved an assortment of differently themed “romances”, Vanitas continuing to explain why the genre wasn’t a strong one, the Stone defending the possibility it had some redeeming qualities, also speaking of how no part was exaggerated.

Vanitas gives in upon a second reading when seeing the Stone’s words were true. Upon returning, Vanitas had begun “in the Void (which is Truth)”, and returns there, deciding to be called “Brother Amor, or the Passionate Monk”, since he’d regained the Truth through Passion, as well as giving the book the new title of “The Tale of Brother Amor”. The book from there receives four more titles through the years, Cao also being mentioned titling it, “The Twelve Beauties of Jinling“, and the title eventually being given its original one back. Regardless of this, the details within, all being based in reality (which is apparently true after having skimmed the introduction), but the characters and occurrences not being vouched for, at the same time.

Many years before, the world angled differently, the city of Soochow had a certain section which was among the richest. Near this area lived a man, Zhen Shi-Yen with his wife, Feng-Shi, the two not high in financial standing, but had respect from those living in the area. Shi-Yen was an unassuming personality with only a daughter, Ying-lian. One day, Shi-Yen falls asleep whilst reading and views a Taoist and monk strolling and chatting. They discuss where the monk planned on placing the Stone to experience life alongside everyone else.

The monk explains how the Stone had gotten as far as it had by chance, and had located a fairy. This fairy housed the Stone temporarily and bequeathed it “the honorary title of Divine Luminescent Stone-in-Waiting in the Court of Sunset Glow” (a mouthful, which is why I’m being picky about what to share). The Stone spent its time near Magic River where he began giving water to Crimson Pearl Flower, she partially heavenly, so with this additive, transforms into a girl (the more I read makes me see how Madeline Bassett would adore this story). Crimson Pearl is soon plagued by how she’d return the favor to the Stone, believing the only way would be to live a life together as humans. So, for this reason, the monk was bringing the Stone to where the fairy planned to send the assortment of entities to experience human living.

Shi-Yen believes he is overhearing a crazy rant, then hears the monk say some words which worry him, Ying-lian being grasped more tightly by him, the Taoist and monk then decide to meet up again later, Shi-Yen wishing he’d spoken up to inquire about the monk’s words, but is interrupted by a student – Jia Yu-cun, as Shi-Yen was now near his own door, some background then given on the young man’s hard times. Yu-cun greets him warmly, Shi-Yen explaining his being outside was to calm Ying-lian from being upset, he then offers Yu-cun to sit inside and chat with him, due to the slowness of the day.

A servant leads the girl inside as Shi-Yen heads for his office with Yu-cun for tea, soon after, having to rush out for a Mr. Yan having dropped in, Yu-cun entertains himself with looking through some of Shi-Yen’s books, until seeing a girl outside picking flowers, she fetching somehow, then by chance, catching sight of him, she also pleased with his looks. When she turns to leave, then glances back twice at him, Yu-cun takes this as a sign of interest, he waiting only a little longer after learning from a servant boy this guest may be staying for supper, he deciding to go, and when Shi-Yen eventually gets his guest out, decides he wouldn’t be asking him to return when noticing Yu-cun had left.

Later, Shi-Yen goes to offer dinner to the young man after the Mid Autumn festival and supper with his family had been finished. Yu-cun was still thinking of Shi-Yen’s servant girl, Shi-Yen walking in on Yu-cun spouting poetry in relation to her, the two reconvening in his office for wine and food. As they drank and ate, the two become more comfortable with each other until Yu-cun bursts out with more poetry, Shi-Yen congratulating his talent with more wine.

Yu-cun then gets serious about his means of acquiring a lucrative career due to travel costs (I feels ya, buddy). Shi-Yen had been hoping this subject would be broached, since he hadn’t wanted to insult him by offering, but now he’s confided in him, he insisted on fronting all cost for his journey and immediately takes care of everything. Yu-cun didn’t make a big deal out of Shi-Yen’s charity, the two having fun until after twelve at night. When they parted, Shi-Yen sleeps in until noon, and upon waking, plans to set up a place for Yu-cun to stay, but learns he’d decided to leave before dawn, so the issue was let go.

Fifteenth Night brought bad tidings when Shi-Yen has a servant take out Ying-lian to look at the lights, and when the man leaves her on a step whilst relieving himself, the child goes missing, the servant searching until dawn and when not recovering her, leaves town in shame without informing Shi-Yen. He and his wife send out a search party, but Ying-lian isn’t found, the two becoming sick after a month or so, doctors looking after them until a monk living in the Temple next door, has an accident with oil and many houses are destroyed, including of course, the Zhens.

Shi-Yen is distraught over this misfortune, and had planned for them to move to their farm in the country, but the area had become dangerous, so Shi-Yen sells his land and they hole up with his wife’s father-in-law, Feng Su, whom whilst not happy with how they’d turned up, was comforted by his finances from his farm, he supposed to locate them a comfortable new place, but taking half and setting them up with a crap hut and unhealthy land. Not knowing how to recover his bad luck, Feng Su didn’t make his life easier by offering crap advice and then talking shit about Shi-Yen behind his back, he hearing of it later, and this helping his health get worse, his older age not aiding his recovery.

At some point in the future, Shi-Yen is taking a walk and hears a Taoist repeating some words, as he approaches closer, he asks for the man to clarify, since only hearing two words repeated, the monk declaring the words to be important ones and so had understood enough, Shi-Yen then offers more verses, the Taoist pleased, and Shi-Yen deciding then to accompany the mad man and informing no one. Well after this, his wife hears by rumor and is broken by the information, Shi-Yen not found when she’d sent for updates of him. She moves in with her parents and contributes by quilting, and one of her two maids was shopping when a bureaucrat is brought past, she recognizing him, but not recalling where. In the night, Feng Su is dumbfounded when learning someone from his house was wanted at the bureaucrat’s headquarters.

Yamen runners outside inform a smiling Feng Su, Shi-Yen was being summoned and when Feng Su shares how Shi-Yen had left a year previously to become a Taoist, the runners take him instead, his family and servants in fear of what could be happening. It was well into the night before Feng Su had gotten back home, everyone having questions, so Feng Su describes how this new mandarin, a Hu-zhou named Jia used to know Shi-Yen way back when, and had deduced he’d moved and was tipped off they would know where he was because of the woman, Lucky selling quilts in the doorway, and when Feng Su explains where Shi-Yen had gone, was unhappy to learn of this, then upon discovering what had occurred to Ying-lian, decides to send his own search party, expecting better results, and after speaking with each other a little more, Feng Su readies to leave, and Jia gives him silver pieces, his wife stunned by his story and the night passing calmly. Early in the day a package from Yu-cun is delivered to Feng-shi, as well as a letter to Feng Su to inquire if Feng-shi would allow him to take Lucky as his second wife (how sweet…), Feng Su pressing how significant it was she should comply, so they immediately ship Lucky off, and Yu-cun is so happy, he showers them with gifts, especially Feng-shi, to keep her occupied until Ying-lian was found.

Lucky apparently caught a good turn, since she bore Yu-cun a son fairly quickly, and was upgraded when Yu-cun’s first wife dies. Yu-cun’s progress after finishing school is followed, he getting the position of magistrate of the district fairly fast, but unfortunately, had a bad habit of out-thinking the higher-ups and making them seem foolish, so he was soon given a bad report of conduct, getting fired, but takes the news well, settling his family in his hometown with the riches he’d accrued and beginning to travel.

Yu-cun was in Yangchow when learning a Lin Ru-hai was also staying in the area, the man’s background being related to royalty, but his family line dying off and his only son having been lost the previous year. He had a daughter though, Dai-yu, she showing promise and so was educated a bit to take their minds off their son dying. Yu-cun had been ill recently and upon recovering for the most part, realized he needed to replenish his funds, so upon running into some buddies who knew the Salt Commissioner, Lin Ru-hai he was able to secure the position as tutor.

Due to it seeming the little girl dictated when she’d be taught, Yu-cun had plenty more time to recuperate, then Dai-yu’s mother falls ill and dies, the young girl’s lessons falling to the wayside in her grief, she also now becoming periodically sick, Yu-cun beginning to take strolls more often to ease his idleness. One day he walks out of town and sees a temple going to ruin, he reading the name of the place and the gate which had a poem written upon it, curious to learn the history of the place, but upon entering, only finding a deaf and half blind monk, whom wasn’t able to answer his inquiries.

So, Yu-cun leaves and heads for a neighboring village inn for some wine, there meeting an acquaintance, Leng Zi-xing, he having a good sense of business and the two admiring the other. Yu-cun asks how he’d come to be there, Zi-xing having been visiting a buddy by chance, the two then sitting and catching up on their lives since they’d last spoken, Yu-cun asking about anything notable happening in the area, Zi-xing recalling a small event in regard to a distant relative of Yu-cun, his family not normally considering themselves a part of the others family, due to their high class. Zi-xing describes how apparently their houses had fallen a bit, the time in which it occurred surprising Yu-cun.

Zi-xing states how the relation of how it happened would take some time, he clarifying how they hadn’t lost everything, but there having been the cinching of the belt, inwardly, the main problem stemming from the male progeny not living up to standards. Yu-cun is shocked to learn the families wouldn’t have continued the degree of education they’d been known for, Zi-xing giving background of the two heads of households, the men being brothers, one, Ning’s grandson becoming a Taoist and uninterested in any other matters, he having a son, whom in turn had a son, whom was currently a teenager, his father not taking responsibility and living a life of debauchery and no one willing to snap the man into shape.

The other side, Rong’s eldest, marrying into a well known family and having two sons, after he passed away, his wife surviving him, and his eldest taking over responsibility in title but not doing what was necessary for the household, his younger brother being urged to continue his education and going up the ranks in his field, he marrying and having a son, this son dying young, but also having a son, his wife then having a daughter after, and another son born with a piece of jade in his mouth twelve years later, this being the odd part Zi-xing was referring, Yu-cun unable to argue.

This youngest son, Bao-yu had been tested with objects of the family mixed in with different sorts of trinkets, he drawn to the items which were female in nature, his father displeased, but his grandmother doting on the boy. It didn’t end there though, Bao-yu now ten and naughtily clever, the boy precocious, Yu-cun saw this boy’s heritage in a certain light, Zi-xing wishing for him to clarify, so Yu-cun lists good men verses the bad ones, and stating their circumstances, as well as how it related to their current state of living in the world, the state of the world currently on the upswing of good tidings, and how pure humor over “perverse humours” tended to dissipate in certain environments, and on the off-chance the two should meet, being in constant opposition, they sometimes made their way into a human host, then upon this person’s upbringing, excelled in certain areas, which regardless of status, showed itself in some way, he again listing good and bad men.

Yu-cun then relates an experience with a small boy he’d been tutoring whom would also be among the bad, and Zi-xing mentions how like the little boy’s female counterparts, the girls in the Jia family were also good and clever. They then discussed how this family named their girls like the boys, which was unusual, Yu-cun learning his current employer’s late wife was named similarly, Zi-xing offering he research his words, but Yu-cun realizing it must be true with how her daughter, Dai-yu wrote and spoke, she also a part of the Jia family on the Rong’s side. They then wonder who the younger generation would be married off to, Sir Zheng having another son after Bao-yu, from one of his concubines.

After which they discuss Sir She’s having a son, as well, and also how this son had already gotten married within the family, to a cousin through marriage, and whilst he helped manage the family estate, his wife overshadowed him in more ways than one. Zi-xing then decides they should continue to drink after their hearty chat, Yu-cun noticing how the hour was getting on and they should walk and talk, so they made it to the city gates before they shut for the night, and right when they’re readying to leave, Yu-cun is recognized and given commendation, as well as being told of this person having fortuitous information for him.

Yu-cun recognizes an associate of his, Zhang Ru-gui, he also having been let go, and this area being his hometown, he sharing how he learned of ex-officials getting rehired, so there being a possibility for himself to get set up with a new position, he sharing this information with Yu-cun and then hastening onward, Zi-xing believing Yu-cun should use his connection to Ru-hai so he could do the same, Yu-cun agreeing, and the two going their separate ways.

When Yu-cun returns he makes certain the news was authentic before asking Ru-hai, but when he does inquire, the man was eager to do him this favor, then sharing with Yu-cun of having written a letter to his brothers-in law, Yu-cun’s distant relatives, Jia She and having addressed it to the younger brother, Jia Zheng. Ru-hai then states how much easier it’d be if Yu-cun accompanied Dai-yu to the capital, she not wanting to leave, but her grandmother and father convincing her what with having more female role-models by moving, she reluctantly going, and when Yu-cun arrives, he gets seen by Jia Zheng in good time, Ru-hai’s recommendation on top of his being impressed by Yu-cun’s scholarly nature, helping him get his job back as magistrate in another city.

Dai-yu, along with her maids are greeted by covered chairs from the mansion when stepping on land, they having traveled by barge. She notices the odd quality of servants and watched herself in case she made a wrong move. They were brought to the Rong Guo House, her maids helping her out of the curtained chair and walk through the grounds until meeting some loitering ladies who mention of Lady Jia having recently inquired about her, the attendant announcing she’d arrived and her grandmother greeting her with emotion, Dai-yu kotowing after they’d calmed. Her grandmother then introduced their female members of the family and sending for the children, two out of three of the girls each having a distinct virtue, the youngest only seeming still a child.

When tea was readied, the subject of choice turned to the events surrounding Dai-yu’s mother’s illness and death, refreshing her grandmother’s upset, she declaring how Dai-yu’s mother had been her favorite, so was understandably broken up. They then ask about Dai-yu’s obvious health issue, she stating no doctor had been able to cure her, so she only taking ginseng, they then hearing someone loudly pleasant approaching and announcing of being late, a lady entering whom was breathtaking and dressed like royalty, Lady Jia introducing her by a nickname of Peppercorn Feng, but a cousin revealing this was Jia Lian’s wife, Wang Xi-feng, Dai-yu using her given name when greeting her, and after Xi-feng gives her a once over, is quite candid about her beauty and she taking after the Jias, she then offering Dai-yu any comfort she desired and to let her know if someone was mean to her, she also commanding servants to be sure rooms were readied for her servants, she also making certain where the platters of food coming in were set.

Meanwhile, Dai-yu overhears her Aunt Wang discuss with Xi-feng there being silks brought so they could make some clothes for her, Xi-feng having taken care of it, and when her grandmother was ordering servants to take Dai-yu to her uncles, Xi-feng offers to accompany her, she taking Dai-yu by the hand and leading her out, they being driven to Xi-feng and She’s residence. Xi-feng has him called when they enter, but he wasn’t feeling well at the moment, but wanting Dai-yu to feel comfortable enough to tell her family if she needed anything to feel even more at ease and at home, Xi-feng then invites her to dine with her, but Dai-yu knew she was still expected by her other uncle, Zheng, she being escorted by the servants, back to the Rong mansion, Dai-yu seeing an ornate side of the home she had yet experienced, the hall within resplendent with beautiful furniture and scripts on the walls.

Dai-yu is brought to her Aunt Wang, in a side room, she sitting in a chair and brought tea, but is requested to move to where Wang was in another part of the room on some cushions, Dai-yu again refused to sit in her uncle’s place of honor, opposite Wang, but she coaxing Dai-yu to sit near her, explaining her uncle wouldn’t be able to see her today, but having to speak with her of the three girls they for the most part being well-behaved, but her son a major nuisance and of whom should be ignored.

Dai-yu then realizes this must be Bai-yu she referred, Wang explaining how due to his grandmother spoiling him, he continued to stay with the girls, so she shouldn’t trust what he says due to his chaotic nature. Wang then receives word it was time for supper, so leads Dai-yu across the grounds, also showing her where Xi-feng lived in case she had any requests, they then going to her grandmother’s quarters, where she resisted the place of honor, but learned it was her because her elder cousins wives wouldn’t be joining them, so Dai-yu goes through the proper etiquette before sitting.

The custom between dishes was certainly new to Dai-yu, they having tea for rinsing their mouths and different tea for drinking. Grandmother Jia then requests to speak to the children alone, everyone leaving, Grandmother Jia inquiring what books Dai-yu was studying (the four books, I presume), the girl asking about what her cousins were reading in return, and Grandmother Jia stating they could barely read and write, Bai-yu then being heard, and when entering, his appearance given (the poetic parts of this story isn’t cumbersome or hard to understand like some, and brings a nice airy description which is pleasant), Dai-yu somehow recognizing him and wondering why, he greeting Grandmother Jia, and she instructing him to visit his mother and return, he off to do as she bid and coming back quickly in different clothes, the boy even getting a song to go with his appearance (Moon on West River as background) and personality, it made quite clear he was a brat.

When his grandmother instructs he say hello to his cousin, he assesses her for some time before voicing her thought of having met her before, he then asking her questions about study and giving her a school name, he then asking if she had a jade, she stating it wasn’t common, which Bai-yu has a fit over, his grandmother attempting to calm him as he explains how his cousin, whom was so angelic didn’t have one and questioned it being of good value, quite upset.

Grandmother Jia comes up with the story of Dai-yu having used to have one, but buried it with her mother, this calming the boy, two servants then asking Grandmother Jia where she wanted Dai-yu to sleep, she deciding Bai-yu would bunk with her and Dai-yu would have his place, but Bai-yu convinces she let him stay with the girls. One of Bai-yu’s nurses hears Dai-yu still up after they’d all settled in the tent and asks what was wrong, her nurse explaining how terribly she felt for setting Bai-yu off and would’ve been responsible if he’d broken the jade.

Aroma, as Bai-yu named her, or Pearl, makes Dai-yu aware of how this was pittance to what Bai-yu could be like, so she should calm herself and sleep, Dai-yu grateful to hear this and doing so. Early next morning, after greeting Grandmother Jia, Dai-yu goes to her Aunt Wang’s and learns from another family member, Xue Pan had killed someone and need the help of the family, it already under investigation and they discussing whether to have him stay with them.

So, Dai-yu walked in to hear Aunt Wang speak with the messengers of her eldest brother and wife about their Aunt’s family in Nanking being a part of this manslaughter case, and due to Wang being busy with this, Dai-yu and the other girls go see Li Wan, her husband, Jia Zhu having died at a young age, but giving her a son, Jia Lan, now five and already starting his education. Li Wan was the daughter of Li Shou-zhong, whom when becoming head of the family, decided the females wouldn’t continue to receive a higher level of education and focus on needlework, what with a big believer of a dumb woman being virtuous or some shit.

Dai-yu is able to easily adjust to life among these ladies, though due to their mild natures. Now, Jia Yu-cun had begun his position as yamen in Ying-tian-fu, the manslaughter case soon becoming a part of his workload, it involving two sides fighting over the payment of a slave, one side getting fatally injured. Yu-cun hears first from the murdered man’s side, a worker of this man, whom relays how his “master” hadn’t known the slave he’d bought had been stolen goods, and the seller supposed to have deposited the slave to him three days later, but the seller instead turning around and selling her to Xue Pan. This man and his master going off to retrieve the slave, and Xue Pan sicking his bodyguards on them, beating his master to death, and Xue Pan along with the other guilty parties going to ground, this man waiting a year for justice, pleading with Yu-cun to locate the guilty parties.

Yu-cun is outraged by nothing being done, but catches the eye of a door-keeper before issuing a summons, he instead clearing the room, save this man, whom speaks of having known Yu-cun for over ten years, and after a hint of having met at the Temple, remembered him as a young monk, this man deciding to change his career after the fire. Yu-cun then asks why he’d halted his duties, the man informing Yu-cun how officials usually had a manual which listed the most powerful people of their district one would be better off not touching toes with.

Yu-cun hadn’t heard of this, and so the man continues why Xue Pan hadn’t been brought in being because of this, the man then showing the pamphlet, after which they hear a ring indicating Mr. Wang had come, Yu-cun dealing with the man, then returning, the door-keeper finishing his chat by stating how many influential people Xue Pan had to help him, Yu-cun confessing how he obviously had to deal with the case somehow, he then presuming this man must know more, which he doesn’t deny and even offers to detail.

The murdered man was called Feng Yuan, and he had no relatives when his parents died, he having been surviving off his minuscule inheritance, only eighteen or nineteen years old and gay, but apparently saw this slave and was ready to make an honest woman of her, which is why he’d decided to wait three days to give the impression it was similar to a wedding, so when both sides discovered what had happened, they caught him before he could get away and beat the crap out of him, but the issue stemming from both sides wanting the slave and not wanting what they’d paid returned to them, so Xue Pan had Feng Yuan assaulted and brought home, he expiring three days later.

Before all of this had occurred, Xue Pan was already planning to go to the capital, so he still left with the slave and his family, acting like a pampered rich man would, and leaving the clean up to his help. The clincher, though is whom the slave was, Yu-cun learning it was Ying-lian, which this door-keeper knew, since he’d been a playmate of hers way back, and also knew the kidnapper had a system of raising girls until old enough to sell them, he also recognizing her birthmark.

The door-keeper had gotten wind of her presence because the kidnapper rented one of his rooms, Ying-lian staying quiet when he confronted her out of fear of repercussions, then breaking down and admitting she recalled nothing, but this young man being certain of her origins. The night the kidnapper had been paid, Ying-lian started talking with him and felt like she would finally have some peace, until she learned of the three day wait, this young man’s wife seeing her to instill optimism, she stating how the future date meant she’d be living like a woman rather than a worker, and how much he paid showing the amount he cared, and not to worry about the time-frame, and her words seeming to have worked, but then Xue Pan getting involved, and he not having considerate intentions for her, beating her until she willingly came with him, this young man not knowing whether she still lived, so the fact Feng Yuan had gone through all of this with plans to settle only to be killed was a terrible fate. Yu-cun thought Feng Yuan’s sudden change of sexual interest must mean it was kismet, and poor Ying-lian, so close to being pardoned by her lot in life, only to have her suffering prolonged intimated the same.

On top of this, Xue Pan is a man whom divided his time with other women, and it being a terrible situation which Yu-cun now had to decide how to handle the next move, legally, the young man reminding him how Xue Pan may be related to the Jias through marriage, but Yu-cun already being on good terms with one of the family, so perhaps he should make himself even more esteemed to them. Yu-cun noted his newly appointed position being in a delicate area, since it was still so new, but the young man making the point of he not doing his job properly, and how would he could show he’s truly grateful for it, but no matter what he decided, it dictated careful consideration.

Yu-cun takes a moment before inquiring the young man’s opinion, he having thought the next day, Yu-cun should go about business as usual, but with a firm hand, bringing in Xue Pan’s family and workers to be questioned, and the young man would be getting Xue Pan’s people to claim he’d died of a sickness which would then be corroborated by their neighbors, Yu-cun would then get a special table to speak with the afterlife and offer anyone being allowed to come, and proceed by stating Feng Yuan had unfinished business with Xue Pan from a previous life, which he dealt with after death by making Xue Pan ill, and due to this whole debacle being started by the kidnapper, he alone would from there on be held accountable and all others free of guilt.

The young man would then get the kidnapper to agree to confession, and then the people would have no reason to question Yu-cun’s claims. He then would give the Fengs reparations for cost of the funeral, and Xue Pan already being rich, wouldn’t bat an eye about the cost. Yu-cun was entertained by the young man’s idea, but would give it a bit more of a ponder to ensure the public wouldn’t gossip. Yu-cun speaks with the Fengs the following day, the young man correct about they only wanting money and bringing the case to court because Xue Pan had denied them, so he had the Fengs agree to an amount and then wrote a couple letters detailing the issue had been handled. Yu-cun then became paranoid by how much the young man knew, and so waited until he caught him in a minor crime and had him sent to the military, this easing his mind.

Next, Xue Pan is followed, his father dying whilst Xue Pan was a boy and his mother spoiling him to the point of damaging his character. Due to his family’s wealth, he loved expensive things and spoke in a snotty manner, and regardless of education, was practically illiterate. He loved gambling and the sights, he also being technically employed by way of his father and grandfather, but only collected a paycheck without doing any work.

Xue Pan’s mother was the younger half sister of Wang Zi-teng and younger sister of Lady Wang, she over fifty years old now, and as for Xue Pan’s sibling, she called Bao-chai, younger and beautiful, was favored by their father, so was educated and smarter than Xue Pan, but upon their father’s death, she gave up continuing her education in order to help her mother.

The “upside” to this was the females of important officials getting the chance to be chosen as educational partners for the younger female royals. Due to this, and Xue Pan wanting to experience the grander life in the capital, he had a few reasons to go, which included having his sister available to be chosen and replenish his allowance. So, all of this had been in motion well before meeting Ying-lian and second-hand murdering her seller. Hence, he going on his merry way, expecting to only need to pay a fine which his servants would handle in his absence. Whilst they were traveling, they learn his Uncle Wang wouldn’t be present due to a promotion, which Xue Pan didn’t share he was happy about, since he felt he could now truly let his freak flag fly.

Xue Pan proceeds in convincing his mother they should have somebody make certain the servants of the houses hadn’t let their friends stay, due to how long they’d been unoccupied, his mother not seeing the point of rushing, since they had plenty of time and room. Xue Pan considers how busy everyone will be in helping his uncle get ready to go as they turn up, but his mother reminds him, this was what the Jias were for, but she sensing what his problem was, and even suggesting he go off to pick a place for himself, whilst she and Bao-chai continued to his Aunt Jia’s, Xue Pan acquiescing to her wishes, since he knew he’d be required to stay regardless of her words.

Meanwhile, Lady Wang was calmed upon learning Xue Pan’s case was being handled by Yu-cun, but was apprehensive by her older brother, Wang Zi-teng leaving. So, the news of her sister having arrived with her kids and servants put her back in high spirits, they reuniting with emotion, visiting Grandmother Jia, giving their presents, and then having a grand family get-together during which Jia Zheng sends a note to Lady Wang offering to have her sister stay in the secluded house with her kids, Wang having wanted to invite them to stay with her, Grandmother Jia wanting the same, so Xue Pan could have an eye kept on him, believing if he had complete freedom, he’d get into more trouble, Xue accepting the offer and beginning to move them all in.

The home was located next to Lady Wang’s, the two sisters chatting daily along with Grandmother Jia, Bao-chai happy to mingle with Dai-yu and the other girls, Xue Pan the only one dissatisfied, to start with at any rate. He still planned on moving elsewhere, but had to agree to stay temporarily whilst his servants prepared another home. Xue Pan’s opinion soon changed upon hanging out with his male family members, they sinking him into worse depths, the patriarch of the family, Zheng too busy to keep everyone in check, he having become the go-to for Zhen, whom was supposed to be the one in charge. So, upon Xue Pan realizing he was in no danger of being reeled in, he and his newfound best buddies came and left when they pleased, their adventures to follow.

Dai-yu had become another favorite of Grandmother Jia, she receiving the same attentiveness as Bao-yu, the other girls holding each other in high esteem and much closer, since they were treated differently. Now Bao-chai had joined them, Dai-yu felt put off by her beauty and how well-liked she’d become with everyone, due to being unaware how personable she was, and Dai-yu setting herself apart because of how serious she acted about being proper. Bao-yu, on the other hand still maintained the attitudes of a child, so had no differentiation between family members unless living more closely to them, like with Dai-yu, he speaking too roughly with her and attempting to make up for it, which she was big enough, or gullible enough to accept.

As this occurs, Zhen’s wife, You-shi invites Grandmother Jia, Lady Xing and Wang to a party, her son, Jia Rong accompanying her, they having an uneventful time, up until Bao-yu decides he’d like a nap, Grandmother Jia preparing the servants to attend to him when Qin-shi, Jia Rong’s wife volunteers to take care of him, Grandmother Jia acquiescing, but Bao-yu immediately offended by the art on the walls of the room she’d led him to, and the phrases on the wall clinching his desire to leave, Qin-shi then offerring her own bedroom, which he agrees to, but the servants shocked by the idea of an uncle sleeping in a nephew’s wife’s bed, but she believing he was too young for the sort of thoughts the servants had in mind, speaking of her brother being around the same age as Bao-yu, he then wishing to meet him, but the boy currently away, and upon getting to her room, is overcome with sleepiness as a pleasant smell assaults his nose, and this room’s art and scripts more to his acceptance, Qin-shi then having some noisy cats on the roof outside attended to as Bao-yu sinks into unconsciousness and feels like Qin-shi is still with him, leading him to a stream near some trees, it looking as if humans had yet set foot there, and Bao-yu completely taken with the place. Then he hears a lady singing out of view, she heading in his direction, the poem which follows showing she was otherworldly, it being the description of the appearance of a lady like herself. Bao-yu knew she was a fairy and smiles warmly at her, requesting she show him around for not knowing where he was, she introducing herself as Disenchantment and she living in the Sea of Sadness, her home being in the Land of Illusion. She also describes her relation to the human world by connection of varying romantic dealings and had gone to this spot for sensing karmic love in the area and was gauging if her services could be given, Bao-yu a candidate. She then invites him to tea at her home, nearby and how she’d written a musical composition called “A Dream of Golden Days”, Bao-yu so overcome by the offer, he’d forgotten to wonder where Qin-shi had gone, he following Disenchantment to her home, Bao-yu curious about the details of her job, which unbeknownst to him, had given access to his body to a demon of Lust, his becoming tainted.

They walk through an area with buildings designated by certain themes, Bao-yu wishing to see inside them, but Disenchantment relaying it wouldn’t be right to have him see the females files regarding their future, but Bao-yu nags her until she allows him a moment to view inside the Department of the Ill-Fated Fair, it lined with cabinets labeled by city, Bao-yu seeing his and inquiring what else the label meant, he learning it contained the twelve best ladies in his area, two more cabinets detailing two dozen more, and all other females remaining unlisted. Bao-yu takes a look at one of the other two, and opens a hard-case folder with a picture and verse on the two pages he viewed before looking at a different cabinet, still confused by the album he chose, and looking at the main cabinet, and unable to understand the words, and knowing Disenchantment wouldn’t explain it, but he continuing looking through the book, filled with pictures on one side and an accompanying poem, which warned and spoke of love, loss, and possibly even danger. As it goes on, the fate of women Bao-yu may know is spoken of in riddles. When Disenchantment believes he was becoming too wise on the information he was reading, she takes the book and decides they should move along, Bao-yu next within the back part of the mansion, he hearing Disenchantment hurriedly coax other fairies out to meet him, but they being unimpressed, having been expecting a reunion with Crimson Pearl, Bao-yu now uncomfortable, and Disenchantment explaining how she’d been going to retrieve Crimson Pearl, but was waylaid by two Dukes asking for her services of which she couldn’t pass, involving Bao-yu and their request to have his virginity taken on the chance it would sober his nature and aid him to navigate life with a clear mind. Disenchantment decided to fulfill their wish, his look at the records not doing the trick, so leading him there so he could experience a good party, she bringing him inside. Bao-yu then inquires the scent he smelled, she sharing it was nothing he’d be able to detect on his world, and giving the name.

After they sit, Bao-yu tastes the tea given him and is again desirous to know what it was called, Disenchantment telling where it came from, as well as what it was called, Maiden’s Tears. He surveys the room they were in before asking the names of the other fairies, they all having odd monikers like Disenchantment. When they sit at the table for wine and food, Bao-yu asks about the wine, it coming from flowers and tree extracts, twelve dancers then entering, Disenchantment requesting they perform her musical. She then informs Bao-yu may want to read about the piece so he could better understand it, the poems of the performance, following. The description has each songs lyrics, telling of past lovers, in twelve songs not including the prelude and epilogue, and by the conclusion, Disenchantment could see Bao-yu had lost interest, he requesting to be allowed to nap, she leading him to a little bedroom where a fairy girl sat, she exuding similarities to both Bao-chai and Dai-yu, Disenchantment stating how lust played into all attraction, regardless of men saying it was beauty they were attracted by, she confessing his lust was the strongest she’d seen which her affection for him stemmed, Bao-yu intimidated. He confides how he didn’t truly understand the meaning and believed he was still too young to be listed as such. Disenchantment clarifies her meaning by defining how many sorts of lust there were, his type being listed as “lust of the mind”, which couldn’t be described. She goes on to confide this is why she’d shared tea and wine with him, as well as the musical, and would also be paired with her sister, Two-in-one or Ke-qing to marry, they being bid to hook up this evening, so he could learn the construct of love and obtain an understanding and following of philosophy for everyone’s benefit.

Before Disenchantment leaves them to it, she advises Bao-yu on some techniques, he implementing them stupefied and baffled, but getting the deed done, Bao-yu by morning, in pure contentment, and the two walking out holding hands and somehow discover themselves surrounded by perils, Disenchantment yelling after them to return the way they’d come, Bao-yu inquiring where they were, and she explaining it was a place which could only be crossed by way of two ferrymen, demons then reaching for him to pull him into the water, he crying for Ke-qing’s help, his servants returning to him in fear, and consoling him, Qin-shi outside and taking care of the noisy cats and dogs, surprised to hear him call out her childhood name, and curious how he could know.

Qin-shi doesn’t look into it, though and Bao-yu is getting helped by Aroma to straighten his pants, she feeling something like jizz, Bao-yu looking embarrassed, and after being returned to looking properly, finishes his meal with Grandmother Jia and then has a moment with Aroma when she supplies him with clean undies, he pleading she not say anything and then coaxed into sharing how it had happened, but she laughing at him when he was about to share the sex part of his dream, Bao-yu then makes advances on Aroma, she allowing this after some playful denial, this being part of the reason she had been given to him, and from then on Bao-yu gives her extra regard, she more loyal to him, as well, and his story now being left.

The next area to be covered is decided on with the arrival of this person happening on the day this was being recorded. The Rong mansion is visited by a local called Wang, this person unknown by most of the family, other than Lady Wang and her brother, Wang Xi-feng’s father. The grandfather, whom had known Xi-feng’s grandfather, the father of Lady Wang, dies and has his son carry on, Wang Chang, he leading a farmer’s life, and when he died, his son, Gou-er continuing this work with his wife and their two kids, Ban-er and Qing-er, Gou-er inviting his wife’s mother, Grannie Liu to live with them and help with the kids. She readily accepts his invitation, but soon has to put her food down when Gou-er is seen to be drunkenly making trouble for her daughter, due to his own stresses of the farm and winter closing in.

Grannie Liu reasons with him to take his stupidity to the city, since he couldn’t stop spending the little money he made, she believing they could still think of a remedy, and leave the details to God, she then remembering his relation to Lady Wang, Gou-er’s wife worried they’d get turned away and look ridiculous for the trip, Gou-er buoyed by the possibility, suggesting Grannie Liu go first to survey for them, but she stating how they wouldn’t know her, until Gou-er suggests she take Ban-er with her and call on Zhou, whom knew his father, Grannie Liu seeing the logic behind his idea and having herself and Ban-er ready in the morning, the four to five year old boy gladly learning some phrases Grannie Liu taught him for the ladies at the mansion. They soon arrive and she leads them through a side entrance and speaks with some men loitering on the grounds, eventually being told to hang about at a certain gate where she’d be met by someone from the house, but an older man advising she see Zhou’s wife, since he was currently away on business, then directing her to where she could be located.

Grannie Liu asks a young boy where Mrs. Zhou lived upon following the directions, he showing them and calling out to her, Zhou Rui coming out and soon recognizing Grannie Liu and inviting her inside. Grannie Liu doesn’t share the true reason she’d come, instead stating how they’d come to see her and see “Her Ladyship”, Zhou Rui’s wife fairly able to deduce Grannie Liu’s real reasons for visiting, but knowing her son-in-law’s father had helped her husband when he’d required and was wanting an excuse to show off her own power, so responds with great charity, explaining her usual job and willing to go against protocol to relay a message to Her Ladyship, she sharing how her niece, Wang Xi-feng managed the place now, Grannie Liu thanking her for her kindness and she dismissing it for it not being an issue. She sends a maid to see how far along Lady Jia’s lunch was, and upon hearing what part they were in, gets Grannie Liu to join her before Mrs. Lian became to busy, she having the two wait whilst she spoke with Xi-feng’s closest servant, Patience whom decided the two could wait inside with her.

Grannie Liu first is overcome by the perfumed room and then its grandeur, Patience deciding to be polite once viewing the old woman and invites her to sit, everyone getting comfortable before proceeding with tea, Grannie Liu noticing a loud ticking and then being surprised by a loud bell sounding, all servants and Mrs. Zhou readying for Xi-feng to appear, the two going to the next room whilst Grannie Liu waited to be called, Zhou Rui’s wife coming in for her and Xi-feng not realizing she’d brought her in already, Grannie Liu showing her respect and Xi-feng requesting she stop for not knowing how they were related, yet and after, Ban-er too intimidated to give respect to his “Auntie”. Xi-feng then has Zhou Rui’s wife see if Her Ladyship, presumably Grandmother Jia, was busy, Zhou Rui’s wife returning to relay Grandmother Jia wouldn’t be seeing them, but to share any message with Xi-feng.

Grannie Liu declines and Zhou Rui’s wife giving a look which spoke of she getting a final chance to confess her thoughts, and so was about to do so when interrupted by the arrival of Xi-feng’s nephew, Jia Rong, whom had come to inquire on the behalf of his father to borrow a little glass screen which she at first pretended had already been borrowed, but soon has Patience get the key, Jia Rong so happy he goes off to gather his own servants to carry the load rather than have hers be put out, but Xi-feng asks he return, so later she could share something with him, and when he leaves once more, Grannie Liu gets into how destitute they were and food being scarce, then attempting to get Ban-er to say his little phrases, but he being too busy eating sweets, Xi-feng mercifully allowing this to pass and states she didn’t have to continue, ordering a guest-sized meal to be brought to them, Zhou Riu’s wife doing so, and the speaking with Xi-feng in private of what Grandmother Jia had said in more detail, it about how Grannie Liu wasn’t a blood relative, but was quite close to the family, so would leave it up to Xi-feng as to how much she chose to help them, Xi-feng then returning to relay how she knew they must be living in hard times and would give them some silver to return home with, Grannie Liu relaying how grateful she was before following Zhou Riu’s wife out, she speaking with her for some time after, before leaving the home.

Zhou Riu’s wife goes to Lady Wang, but discovers she’d gone to see Aunt Xue, so she goes after her, she waiting with Bao-chai, since she’d found her speaking with her sister, Zhou Riu’s wife asking if she’d been well the last few days, since she hadn’t come by, she admitting she’d been ill and explains how it wasn’t dangerous, but also had no cure, a monk relaying it was only an overheating problem and supplied a home remedy which surprisingly worked. Bao-chai then explains why she couldn’t describe the powders used, due to when it’s administered affecting how it worked, and as they speak, Lady Wang calls out to them and Zhou Riu’s wife goes in to share the happenings with Grannie Liu, after which Aunt Xue invites her to stick around and hands off a box of fake flowers for the Jia girls to wear. When Lady Wang suggests she keep them for Bao-chai, Aunt Xue shares how the girl was picky about accouterments to her attire, Zhou Riu’s wife then going back out and speaks with Golden about the young lady Caltrop, learning she was the one involved with the murder trial, and when seeing her up close, notes how her features reminded her of Master Rong’s wife, Golden thinking the same, and upon questioning Caltrop, learns nothing due to the girl’s blocked memories.

Zhou Riu’s wife continues to the girls quarters and delivers the flowers, she staying and speaks with a nun about whether the Mother Superior had gotten the monthly donation and where she was, currently. The nun didn’t know, but relays the woman’s whereabouts, and after a little more conversation, moves along to Xi-feng’s, Patience helping her complete her task and then plans on going to Grandmother Jia’s when she runs into her daughter, whom is full of questions, which Zhou Riu’s wife takes lightly, instead inquiring if she also had any issues, since she sensed it was one of those days, her daughter admitting to this and had hoped she’d be able to help her husband. Zhou Riu’s wife agrees to see to it after delivering the remainder of the flowers, going to Dai-yu’s, whom was with Bao-yu, the girl not pleased with the idea of receiving the leftovers of the flowers, and as Bao-yu sends a maid to deliver a message to Bao-chai, Zhou Riu’s wife exits, it being told her daughter’s husband was Yu-cun’s old friend, Zi-xing, he in trouble over some issues with some ancient items bought, Zhou Riu’s wife certain when she brought it to Xi-feng’s attention the issue would be handled.

As evening came, Xi-feng updates Lady Wang on the day’s events, beginning with gifts sent by the Zhen family and having shipped them gifts in return, also informing of gifts also being ready for the Earl of Lian’s mother, and continuing about how she had been invited by Cousin Zhen’s wife to come over the next day, making sure she was allowed to attend, the night then ending. Bao-yu decides he wants to accompany Xi-feng to visit Cousin Zhen’s wife, You-shi, her son and daughter also present. They sit down for tea, Qin-shi then informing Bao-yu to go see her brother, he quickly doing so, but Xi-feng deciding she also wanted to meet Qin Zhong, the boy arriving and awkwardly greeting her, then having the usual inquiries answered of his studies, etc.

When the ladies move on to a card game, the boys leave to chat, the two each having similar thoughts of envy of the other and how they hated they weren’t the other’s equal, so they could be close buddies, and once initializing conversation, become familiar with each other, Bao-yu learning Qin Zhong was currently tutor-less and waiting to get a new one, Bao-yu offerring a school situation his family had set up and suggesting Qin Zhong ask permission to go with him, the two boys agreeing the idea was a good one, they returning to discover Xi-feng had won the card game and a show would be set up as her winnings in a couple days time, Xi-feng then giving her opinion about an old belligerent worker, Big Jao, whom had been asked to accompany Jia Rong home, but was insulting everyone, the man needing to be sent away, she then leaves with Bao-yu, Jia Rong commanding the servants to restrain Big Jao, since he continued prattling on with his threats, Bao-yu making the mistake of inquiring about one he’d heard and Xi-feng threatening to inform his mother, he pleading for her not to and apologizing. Xi-feng changes her anger to comfort and shares how she’ll be speaking with Grandmother Jia about Qin Zhong joining his school.

When they get back, Bao-yu shares with Grandmother Jia his wishes and why it was a positive choice to allow Qin Zhong to join him in class, Xi-feng also supplying her agreement which Grandmother Jia is affected in a good way, Xi-feng then inviting her to the play which was being set up for her, and Grandmother Jia tagging along on the day with Lady Wang, Dai-yu, and Bao-yu, but Lady Wang and Grandmother Jia leave early, Xi-feng having so much fun, she stays much later. Meanwhile, Bao-yu had wanted to watch more of the plays, but had left with Grandmother Jia and then decided to call on Bao-chai, but is held up by some men his father had belittled, and when they release him, a nurse learns they’d left Sir Zheng before he’d taken his afternoon snooze, Bao-yu glad he didn’t have to avoid his father, now and goes straight to Bao-chai’s, but not before being stopped once more by some men who ask about getting some calligraphy by him due to having seen some of his about town, then finally being greeted with familiarity by Aunt Xue, she sending him in to see Bao-chai, he finding her sewing and when Bao-yu speaks, greets him respectfully, the two sitting over tea and speaking of their other cousins.

Bao-chai then states of how she’d been wanting to see his jade more closely for quite some time, he handing it to her, the Narrator reminding this was the same as the stone mentioned at the start of the tale at the Greensickness Peak, listing a poem about it along with the words the monk scraped onto it. When Bao-chai’s maid notes how she had a similarly written message on her necklace, Bao-yu is intrigued to see it, she agreeing and Bao-yu gleefully agreeing the two sounded like two parts of the same script. Bao-yu then smells something on her clothes, she believing it was the pill she’d taken, Dai-yu then entering and making a joke of having come at the wrong time, since Bao-yu was there, talk then turning to retrieving his cape due to it having begun to snow, after which a Nannie Li tells of how she’d gotten flack for Bao-yu drinking wine a time before, since he’d requested a cup this time to go with some goose-foot preserve.

Aunt Xue eases the woman’s mind by assuring she’d take the blame if it came to it, so Bao-yu gets his wine as Dai-yu gives her maid a hard time when she brings her a hand-warmer, Bao-yu having to plead for more wine and Nannie Li warning him to watch himself, since his father may call him later, this sobering Bao-yu’s good mood, but Dai-yu speaking up for him which in turn amuses Bao-chai, Aunt Xue then supporting Bao-yu’s drinking, he feeling better upon her invitation to dinner. When his Nannie goes off to change with instructions to watch Bao-yu closely, the other maids ignore this and go about their business, Aunt Xue discreetly removing the wine when necessary, and replacing it with tasty soups, along with strong tea, believing this would recover him, Dai-yu then mentioning it was time to go, so Bao-yu tags along, the two greeting Grandmother Jia, whom hadn’t dined, yet, she instructing Bao-yu go sleep it off, but when he returns, he’s told by Skybright to use up the ink she’d mixed for him, he inspecting her job of pasting his characters outside, Dai-yu joining them and praising Bao-yu’s work, he then inquiring whether Skybright had received the dumplings he’d sent her, she agreeing and had planned to save them when Nannie Li had taken them for her grandchildren, and also had drank all of the tea being saved for him, this pissing him off, but Aroma stating how if he got rid of her, all the other maids would go, so he stops complaining as they undress him, he falling to sleep almost immediately.

In the morning, Bao-yu overhears Jia Rong come with Qin Zhong to speak with Grandmother Jia, whom was impressed with him and has the other ladies in the family meet him, the visit keeping them into the evening, she also offerring he stay with them if ever his studies kept him too late. When Qin Zhong returns home, he informs his father, Qin Bang-ye of the day he had, it being told of the position he held and his adoption of two children, the boy dying, and Qin Zhong being his progeny late in his life, he happy to know he now needn’t worry about a tutor. The only issue was in thinking of what he’d have to spend to keep Qin Zhong properly started and supplied, but knew it was for the best, so he gives the teacher his raised tuition, whilst paying respect with his son, they then only waiting for Bao-yu to decide when they’d start, the day they go being an eventful one.

Bao-yu wishes to begin their schooling immediately, so sends word they would go in two days. Bao-yu then gets some advice from Aroma about what she’d packed for him on the morning he’d be going, and for him to stay on top of designating someone keeping the place warm, Bao-yu assuring her he’d be all right, and for the maids to keep themselves busy by staying with his cousin Lin, he then going to see Grandmother Jia, Lady Wang, and his father, Jia Zheng, the last being candid about what he believed his son capable of, and wishing he’d go away, his literary guests attempting to keep the mood light and hurry him on to breakfast, but Jia Zheng calls in Bao-yu’s pages as he waits outside, he asking them to inform him of what Bao-yu was actually doing in class, he choosing Nannie Lin’s son to speak, whom honestly informs how far into a book of poetry he was reading, in fear of repercussion. Jia Zheng instructs they tell the teacher to begin him on the Four Books, his attendants agreeing and walking out, they making certain Bao-yu had heard and instead of making it up to them if he disappointed his father and one of them received a beating, they implored him to obey the rules from time to time. By the time he gets back to Grandmother Jia’s quarters, Qin Zhong was waiting with her, the two then walking out, Bao-yu saying goodbye to Dai-yu and then going off to school.

Description of how the Jia school stayed funded and its location are given, then Bao-yu and Qin Zhong are introduced to their fellows upon arrival and get straight to their assignments. The two boys were joined together from then on, Grandmother Jia even looking after Qin Zhong for her gathered affections bringing about getting him clothes and having him stay for multiple nights. Bao-yu soon decides their formalities of being nephew and uncle would be forgotten and they’d from then on treat each other like buddies and siblings, which at first Qin Zhong hesitated to agree to, until Bao-yu kept insisting and led by example, Qin Zhong eventually complying. Like in any school, there was a variety of personalities and classes within the school, their commonality coming from the relations to the Jias, and due to the two boys being close friends, it gave the other students room to start rumors. Xue Pan took advantage of the school by seemingly using it as a sex service. Xue Pan soon had two ‘regulars’ and Bao-yu and Qin Zhong also were taken in by the pairs charm, which Bao-yu and Qin Zhong were unaware was so obvious. Then, Qin Zhong gets a moment with one of the boys and is rudely interrupted by another student, whom threatens to spread lies and speak with the Jia Rui about this boy harassing then, but due to Xue Pan paying him off, he was biased, and since Xue Pan was currently off of Jia Rui and Darling, the boy Qin Zhong was speaking with, he decides to put Darling down which also shames Qin Zhong by association. Jokey Jin, the bully takes advantage of this by furthering the rumors of the two boys taking the time alone to make out etc.

Jia Qiang, related to Jia Rong was being raised by Cousin Zhen, and the sixteen-year-old stood up for the under-dogs. Jia Qiang, thinks strategically the best way to handle the situation since both sides had an in with his relative, so gets the help of Tealeaf, the youngest and most impressionable of Ba0-yu’s pages, Jia Qiang describing the terror Jokey Jin would be if not taught a lesson, so Tealeaf confronts him, Jokey Jin gets permission to ditch class, since Jia Rui is a pussy, Tealeaf gives him crap and Jia Rui notes Tealeaf’s foul language. Jokey Jin is about to have Bao-yu deal with his servant, when Qin Zhong notes something flying by him from the table of Jia Lan and Jun, related to a second Lan, whom was the son of Li Wan and was Bao-yu’s nephew, and whilst Jia Jun was at first indifferent, he gets hooked in by a water bottle hitting his desk, his buddy, Jia Lan keeping his rage from manifesting to more damage. Jokey Jin though, is furious by this, Jia Lan holding him back from returning fire, but Jokey Jin too incensed, throwing a bag of books instead of the inkwell, but his aim not catching the culprit and instead hits Bao-yu and Qin Zhong’s table, Jokey Jin then launching himself at the original thrower. Jokey Jin, meanwhile had picked up a bamboo pole and was whipping it around, hitting Tealeaf, whom then calls in three more pages to assist.

Some students took cover whilst others joined the fight or hooted and urged others on as they stood on desks, Li Gui entering the hubbub and giving the pages the most crap for not keeping their cool, but Bao-yu having final word as he aids Qin Zhong after sustaining a head wound, he declaring they were leaving and would be informing his great-uncle Dai-ru of the unprofessional behavior they’d suffered. Li Gui suggests he leave Dai-ru out of it and blames Jia Rui for not stepping in, he defending himself, but Li Gui stating plainly why the boys had stopped respecting him, and if he didn’t stop Bao-yu from outing them, he’d go down with the rest. Bao-yu declares nothing would sway his decision to speak with his great-uncle, Qin Zhong speaking for justice in the expelling of Jokey Jin, Bao-yu reasoning it would be in Jokey Jin’s future once he told their story and when Jia Rui asks whom Jokey Jin was, Li Gui decides to refrain sharing so as to spare Jia Rui of the pain. As they hear Tealeaf through the window bad mouthing Jokey Jin’s aunt and her bad conduct, which has Li Gui yelling at him to be quiet and Bao-yu deciding now he knew whom Jokey Jin’s aunt was, he’d instead speak with her, Tealeaf then stating proudly, how he’d bring Lady Jia to him, Li Gui pissed off by this and threatening Tealeaf, finally getting the young man to shut up, and hoping his discretions wouldn’t be brought to light and had fixed the problem by pleading with Bao-yu and Qin Zhong separately, Bao-yu eventually deciding the matter would rest pending Jokey Jin admitting he was sorry, he refusing until Jia Rui and Li Gui convince him to relent, he doing so, and Bao-yu changing the condition to have Jokey Jin kotow to them, which would be shared in the next chapter.

Jokey Jin kotows to Qin Zhong, Bao-yu then agreeing the issue was resolved, but Jokey Jin grudging Qin Zhong his closeness to Bao-yu, but his mother hearing him as he spoke to himself, reminding him how lucky he was to be in this school. So, he does as he’s told and continues with his classes next day. Jokey Jin’s aunt was wife to Jia Huang, they living a humble lifestyle, receiving help from Xi-feng and You-shi when close to inability to pay their bills, His aunt decides to visit her sister-in-law about Jokey Jin’s run-in with Qin Zhong, thinking he was responsible for the negative outcome and see if she could get permission to speak with Qin Zhong’s sister. Her fire subsides though, as she sits with You-shi, the lady explaining how Qin-shi was feeling ill and her little brother, Qin Zhong had informed her of the school fight, You-shi then sending him to Bao-yu’s whilst she calmed Qin-shi and had her eat breakfast. She then inquires of Mrs. Huang if she knew a decent doctor, of which she had no information and decided against mentioning her true reasons for coming by, agreeing she should make certain Qin-shi wasn’t pregnant before giving her any definitive remedies.

After a pleasant visit, she leaves, You-shi then describing to Cousin Zhen of the uneventful visit, and then moving on to what they needed to do for Qin-shi. Fortunately, Zhen knows someone they can contact, believing Zhang will definitely visit them the next day, You-shi pacified, and then inquiring what they should do for their father’s birthday the day after, he revealing how their father wanted no part in any family parties for himself, so You-shi plans a two-day party for the family on his behalf. They receive a message from the doctor, promising to drop by next day and put down his own abilities as a practitioner before agreeing, due to respect, to visit Qin-shi. As promised, Dr. Zhang comes by, Zhen greeting him, the doc again explaining his lack of practice as a medical doctor, Zhen believing him humble, and then sends him to Qin-shi where he takes her pulse for some time before going outside with her husband, Jia Rong. The doctor explains his theory not being the conclusion of pregnancy, and he would prescribe her a treatment which if was responded to positively would give her a better chance of living. The list of herbs are given with how much to include and the doctor states she could make it if surviving the Spring, then leaves, Jia Rong relaying to his parents what he’d been told. The chapter after this supplying Qin-shi’s reaction to the medicine.

On the day of Jia Jing’s birthday, Zhen sent some gifts and instructions for the deliverer to note the man’s pleasure, and received the message of Grandfather would lead the prostration of the family from his home. Then, they learn Grandmother Jia wouldn’t be attending due to some dietary issue, they then touching on Qin-shi’s illness before Zhen goes to greet the recently arrived men-folk. You-shi continues to explain how they’d begun the doctor’s prescription, but nothing much had changed. Xi-feng is touched with emotion when learning Qin-shi had forced herself to get up the last time they’d met because of how much they’d bonded. Jia Rong then comes back with the news of their grandfather being happy with how they were conducting the celebration and would now continue looking after the men, but stating Xi-feng would be able to deduce how unwell Qin-shi was upon seeing her soon. You-shi then states how they should decide whether they’d dine inside or out, what with the show being prepared in the yard.

The decision was made to remain indoors and the table was set quickly. After they’d finished, Jia Rong gives a message to his mother of the men who had left and those who they would see at the show, as well as where all the presents were being stowed and the thank you notes and how the guests were treated before being sent off. Xi-feng then decides to visit Qin-shi before joining the rest, Bao-yu becoming affected by her words and Xi-feng turning it around light-heartedly, the reason they’d come, she then deciding to send Bao-yu back with Jia Rong, whilst she spoke a bit longer to Qin-shi. Xi-feng stayed as long as she could ignore messages from You-shi to come out, but finally readying to go, and still attempting to maintain Qin-shi’s positivity level, she then getting emotional as she agreed to visit as frequently as possible, and as she walked, is startled by Cousin Jia Rui, he obviously eye-balling her, she aware and pretending to enjoy his “charm”, they tentatively setting up some time to chat, she allowing him ample distance to move back toward the family, and thinking how she’d set him straight when the timing was right.

Xi-feng is then approached by one of You-shi’s servants, she informing Xi-feng she was now being sent for, You-shi makes clear how dedicated she was to Qin-shi, she then having her sit and drink with the other ladies, Xi-feng then instructed to choose a couple plays from the bill, since the two aunts had already done so, after which Xi-feng states how those two choices would be the final bit of the program for the players, but You-shi insisting she’d like the company, Xi-feng then seeing the men had left, a servant supplying they’d gone off to drink, and when the play was done, the party ended after the ladies had another course and tea, everyone beginning to leave. Cousin Zhen offers the ladies return the next day, but they choose to decline in favor of a day of rest. The day after brought another celebration, and this point onward, Qin-shi got steady visits from Xi-feng, her state of health fluctuating, Cousin Zhen, You-shi, and Jia Rong stressing more with her instability.

Whenever Xi-feng came over for Qin-shi, Jia Rui inexplicably turns up, and at the start of the final month to mark Qin-shi’s having begun the doctor’s treatment for almost a year, Grandmother Jia and ladies were consistently wanting updates of her health, it still not having normalized. Grandmother Jia decides Xi-feng should see how she was the next day, and to make certain her favorite food was in constant replenishment. Xi-feng saw Qin-shi’s lack of appetite having affected the skin on her face, but she still tried to keep her spirits up, and when she spoke with You-shi after, they wonder about Qin-shi’s surviving, You-shi tentatively having planned for the worst, she then reports to Grandmother Jia, being dismissed, and going home. She is then updated on her home’s calls, Jia Rui one of them, and after informing her servant why she was ready to take him on, the woman agrees with her, Jia Rui’s visit spoken of in the next chapter.

Whilst the two were still discussing Jia Rui, they were told he was now about to enter, and when he arrived, Xi-feng could see the pleasure in his face by her non-formal attire, he wondering why Cousin Lian wasn’t in attendance, hinting it could be due to a lady, he then declaring he wasn’t the sort whom flitted from one love to the next when Xi-feng comments all males were like this. He felt even more special when she’d commented how rare an attribute it was, the conversation progressing until Jia Rui states how he’d wile away the hours with her daily, if allowed. Xi-feng then shows how she believed him by comparing how two other men had proven themselves barbaric. Jia Rui became even more smitten, Xi-feng politely warning his movements were being surveyed by the help, he adjusting his body language accordingly. Xi-feng then decides he should ready to leave, but says he can meet her later in the evening when he protests, she quelling his worry of being noticed by anyone near their appointed meeting place.

Later, he arrives to the total darkness behind the side gate, but as he waits he hears the gate he came through being shut, the realization he was stuck there for the night his only company. He was properly chilled by morning and got lucky when an old woman came to be let in, he sneaking out without any trouble and making it home. His grandfather, Jia Dai-ru, whom had raised him, was certain Jia Rui had gone out carousing, since he’d kept him on a tight leash from the start, so Jia Rui decided to say he’d spent the night at his uncle’s house. His grandfather not buying this, whipping him good, then making him do extra homework all night, and not being allowed to have food, but this foo doesn’t learn.

A couple days go by, and he again goes to Xi-feng, she realizing his stubborn efforts hadn’t diminished, so she offers another task for him. Jia Rui falls for it, hard, he leaving her, as requested, and she informing those necessary to expect the berk later in the evening. Jia Rui had the misfortune of being waylaid by relatives joining his grandfather and he for dinner, then must wait for his grandfather to retire for the night, so when Jia Rui makes it to the agreed spot and sees no one, he wonders if he’d been stood up again. Someone does arrive though, and Jia Rui is so filled with lust he immediately goes after the figure and readies to do some poking, when Jia Qiang walks in with light. Jia Rui gets a glimpse of whom he was about to nail, it Jia Rong, Jia Qiang informing him of being expected by Lady Wang, whom was furious to learn Jia Rui’s obsession. He then decides a bribe was in order, Jia Qiang not needing much convincing, and when Jia Rong feigns a more difficult customer, Jia Rui ups his price and writes them an IOU, Jia Qiang then deducing Jia Rui must wait elsewhere until he located the route which would which would keep him “unnoticed”. Jia Qiang deposits him underneath a stair, the two leaving him, and during his short wait, is drenched in human feces,

Image result for 8 crazy nights whitey and porta potty Jia Qiang then returning to let Jia Rui know he could go through the gate now, he not wasting anymore time, getting a servant to let him in and wash. He thought how whilst Xi-feng had betrayed him, he was still overcome by her beauty, these thoughts not allowing him to drift to sleepy-land.

From then on, Jia Rui stayed away from her home, but Jia Qiang and Jia Rong dropped by often for their agreed upon moolah. Due to this stress, his grandfather’s strict homework assignments, and only the company of his hand, since Xi-feng was out of reach, he was stricken ill before the year was done, no remedies showing relief. By Spring, he’d gotten no better, his grandfather Dai-ru in a state, since no one could cure him. Dai-ru, in the end goes to Lady Wang, whom speaks with Xi-feng about acquiring pure ginseng for him, Xi-feng not going out of her way to comply though, she instead sending a crappy package-worth to Dai-ru, Jia Rui desperate to get better, so takes everything, and one day overhears a Taoist saying he could cure certain illnesses from the door, and when the Taoist states he wouldn’t be able to, but had a trinket which would keep him alive, he handing him an inscribed mirror. The Taoist shares how the fairy Disenchantment made it, and as long as Jia Rui resisted looking at the front, he’d be cure in a few days, the Taoist states he’d return for it then.

The Taoist then quickly exits despite those who’d heard, asked him to tarry. Jia Rui then looks at the mirror, seeing a skull, he covering it, and deciding to look at the front to spite the Taoist giving him a fright, he seeing Xi-feng enticing him to come, and boy does he, going through the mirror a few times before the last one, he getting pulled away before being allowed to reenter the real world once more, and everyone who watched this, seeing Jia Rui picking up and putting down the mirror until he stopped breathing, and as Jia Rui’s grandparents mourned, are ready to chuck the mirror in a bonfire and blamed the Taoist, they hearing a disembodied voice remind of Jia Rui having had a choice to obey the instructions. The mirror biffs off without help from anyone, and Dai-ru sees the Taoist outside catch it, and vanishes. Dai-ru is given contributions so Jia Rui’s funeral would be of good quality. Whilst Jia Rui had been dealing with his issues at the end of the year, Lin Ru-hai was also severely sick and requests a visit from Dai-yu. Grandmother Jia didn’t want to allow the girl to go, but makes the proper reservations for her to go to her father’s bedside. Bao-yu also was stricken, but accepted the girl’s departure, Grandmother Jia also had Jia Lian join her on the journey to Yangchow.

Xi-feng was affected with restlessness when Jia Lian had left with only Patience to converse with, the two considering how far into the trip he could be, Win-shi coming in as Xi-feng was close to sleep and Patience already asleep, she wishing to confide in her, since she also would be leaving soon. Qin-shi begins by speaking of some foretelling sayings about how whilst their family was currently respected, how it could fall from its perch easily. She continues about how Xi-feng could stave off too far a fall for them by preparing whilst they were still stable enough, and how there were a couple areas which Xi-feng could focus to make life easier if trouble should strike. Qin-shi explains the family cemetery and school both needed tending, which could be funded with the purchasing of property around the cemetery and the school moved on to said property to be paid for with the new purchases. The family would then share responsibility of tending to the school, which would keep everyone from complaining of having sole charge of the duties. So, in this way, the property would be safe from being taken to its charitable status, and would allow the young people to continue their education and be useful agriculturally.

Qin-shi then professes of a positive occurrence in the near future which could make them all spend in celebration and to be way of the excess extravagance. Qin-shi reveals a riddle before the hour of death is heard by chiming. When Xi-feng awakes, a servant announces Qin-shi had died, Xi-feng then getting ready to go to Lady Wang’s, and family and servants alike mourning her. Meanwhile, during Dai-yu’s absence, Bao-yu kept to himself and began retiring early in the evening, his reaction to Qin-shi’s death worrying his servants, since he’d thrown up blood, but he refused having a doctor called, believing it had been caused by the surprising news. He prepares to see Grandmother Jia and insists being allowed to go to Qin-shi, she setting up transport and entourage for him, and after seeing her body and grieving, looks in on You-shi, whom was ill with a stomach issue, then goes in search of Cousin Zhen, whom was speaking to other family members who had arrived and were mourning. He lost hope for the family name ending because of Qin-shi’s death, then speaks of plans for the funeral. Arrangements are made for her body before the ceremony and moved to a shrine.

Meanwhile, Cousin Zhen gets a deal for the making of the coffin from Xue Pan, they soon hearing of Qin-shi’s young servant committing suicide upon hearing of her passing, they burying the girl next to her. Cousin Zhen then has the good luck of speaking with a well-respected servant whom would be able to help him get his son, Jia Rong considered for a better position so he’d be able to add it to the needed banner for for Qin-shi’s funeral. The servant makes the arrangements with his secretary, and after he’d left, Cousin Zhen plays host to new arrivals to mourn Qin-shi. The next day, Jia Rong’s rank was promoted and the coffin stated as such. So, whilst most everything was progressing easily, Cousin Zhen still stressed over You-shi still being ill and this reflecting the family badly if it damaged some sort of rule regarding the “female head of household”, his answer coming from Bao-yu, Cousin Zhen completely agreeing with him and setting about the temporary head being Cousin Feng (Xi-feng), so brings Bao-yu to his room where only Xi-feng remained, since the other ladies disappeared for embarrassment, and Xi-feng notes how Cousin Zhen had been over-extending himself, he ignoring this and asking for her assistance on receiving her aid, she instructing him to ask Lady Wang, whom enters, but also puts her opinion of herself being too young, Cousin Zhen maintaining she was the only option and becoming upset, Lady Wang and she eventually consenting, so she accepts (I’m getting annoyed by the formalities basically referring to the same person to different ways, it’s confusing). After Cousin Zhen leaves, Xi-feng puts in order the tasks which she need focus on most once Lady Wang also leaves, she narrowing down how best to deal with the servants, especially.

Chief Steward of the Ning-guo mansions, Lai Sheng gives directions to his men to do as Xi-feng asks, their work hours guaranteed to be a bit longer now. So, as long as they put up with her bitchy, stubborn ways for the month, they could kick back after, she being known to go after anyone who disobeyed. Sunshine, Xi-feng’s servant then turns up for the household list of names, everyone snapping to work accordingly. After recieving said list, Xi-feng goes home. Xi-feng arrives back at Cousin Zhen’s early next morning to discuss Lai Sheng’s wife of almost the same topic of discussion Lai Sheng was going over, and then saw all servants before giving out their duties, she then making plain how everything would now be run. Her hold was immediately felt and order returned after many years of nonsense. After seven times seven days before the funeral, the monks had made it to a serious part of their prayers, as were the Taoists and other holy people all doing their parts to prepare Qin-shi’s journey through the afterlife.

Xi-feng had a late start next morning, and upon arriving, has the servants begin the procedures for their mourning. Xi-feng leads by example, Cousin Zhen and You-shi ending the display and Xi-feng starting the task of meeting with the servants, one woman later today, found and begging forgiveness whilst Xi-feng handled an order for silk-cord, which soon turned into other diverted attention for servants and wives of “important” men. Xi-feng continued her tracking of funds and deciding what would be handled according to her logic. Then, she returns her attention to the lady, informing her how she would normally have her conduct qualify dismissal, but instead would make an example of her, and ordered her whipped by bamboo, the servants taking her look of anger seriously and following orders. Xi-feng afterward, notes the new rules for how tardiness would be handled would be double the whipping number the woman endured, along with some other dissuasive fines, she then allows all to get to work. Xi-feng makes her leadership clear, and no one dared slack off. Bao-yu is then followed, using Xi-feng’s office to speak with Qin Zhong, she greeting them and finishing lunch as she took care of restocking orders and chatting to the boys about their school work, Bao-yu realizing Xi-feng hadn’t put through the request for materials necessary to finish his homework space, she revealing the materials had already been supplied and was only teasing him.

A servant traveling with Dai-yu then comes in to report the news of her father’s death and how long they’d be away for the burial. Later in the evening, she gathers requested coats and gives the servant more tasks whilst he looked after Jia Lian. As the funeral day drew nearer, Cousin Zhen picked out Qin-shi’s plot and the number of monks wanted for the ceremony. Cousin Zhen also stayed over at the head monk’s room overnight so he could finish the readying of the plot and whatnot before the funeral, Xi-feng also finalizing her reservations before and after the funeral, she also dealing with other family-related matters throughout, everyone becoming impressed with her multi-tasking and superb handling of all situations. Then, the night no one was to sleep was upon them, Xi-feng surrounded by shy family members, but she not perturbed and giving assignments to all as people came and left throughout the night, morning bringing the funeral. It beginning with the tradition breaking of the bowl by honorary daughter/servant, Jewel, showing her sadness appropriately. One official, the Prince of Beijing had also attended, asking about wanting to meet Bao-yu to Jia Zheng, his father. He retrieves the boy, Bao-y excited to have been asked for, he admiring the Prince, and their conversation forthcoming.

Bao-yu admired Shui Rong, the Prince of Beijing’s mourning accessories and outfit before attempting to greet him formally, but was prevented by the man, he instead asking about Bao-yu’s jade, and being handed the corded stone immediately for inspection. After, the Prince inquires about Bao-yu’s studies, etc and then states how Bao-yu was sure to surpass his elders, Jia Zheng replying how lucky they’d be if Bao-yu lived up to the affirmation. The Prince then offers Bao-yu an invitation to his home to speak with the cultured writers the Prince had been known to host, this allowing Bao-yu another way to be taught different sorts of intellect. He then gives Bao-yu a bracelet he wore, Bao-yu and his father both thanking him traditionally before Jia She and Cousin Zhen offer he go before the coffin’s procession, but the Prince decides the hearse’s presence to importance, so the funeral party was temporarily separated whilst the Prince left. Bao-yu was preparing to join the other men to go by horseback, when Xi-feng invites him to accompany her by carriage, he accepting and then taking a moment to stop at the midway of their travels.

They get out at a farm, one of Bao-yu’s pages describing the farm tools whilst Xi-feng changed her outfit, they eating and taking tea before continuing their ride and catching up at the Temple, and after staying the day, is offered to return home in the evening, but decides to stay, Xi-feng taking responsibility for him. The two, along with Qin Zhong, since his father was unable to remain, retire at her arranged rooms, she speaking with the lady of the house, Euergesia, whilst Bao-yu and Qin Zhong are met by one of Euergesia’s “disciples”, Sapientia, Bao-yu giving Qin Zhong a hard time for supposedly hugging her privately, he denying knowing anything about it. Sapientia couldn’t deny Bao-yu’s claims though, the two having fallen for each other, but their affections innocent, so far. They had tea, then leave Sapientia for other pastimes.

Meanwhile, back with Xi-feng, Euergesia relates a story where a family wished for her assistance, but she not interested in getting involved, Euergesia warning it would give the wrong impression, so Xi-feng decides to quote a price she’d agree to help, if paid, Euergesia immediately assuming they would and whether she’d be prepared to begin the next day, she not saying yet, but the two chatting on. Qin Zhong soon locates Sapientia, he vowing his love, she wanting him to prove it through getting her out of her servant status, and his agreement, but forcing his unbridled passion upon her, Bao-yu cock-blocking him in a odd way, and he deciding what Qin Zhong would do to keep his secret for him, but the details unknown. Now, Qin Zhong is attempting to figure a reason for them to remain longer, Xi-feng weighing the reasonability, deciding it’d suit her for the task she agreed to do. Xi-feng has a servant send a message to a general Yun Guang, and when they were set to leave the next day, Xi-feng makes sure Euergesia will contact her with Yun Guang’s answer. Qin Zhong and Sapientia’s parting was full of sadness and the details of the departure are to follow.

Everyone’s return home is uneventful, Bao-yu had every intention of using his finished work space, but Qin Zhong became sick, and woe he is made to wait longer before he could study with him. Xi-feng received Guang’s response in affirming his readiness to help her which had him receiving his gifts back and a young lady and man committing suicide in the process, Xi-feng looking like she was content with money made and Lady Wang remaining in the dark, this seemingly the start to her new hobby. Soon, Jia Zheng’s birthday has come, a message from the Emperor coming by Head Eunuch of the Bedchamber, they learning Jia Zheng had been summoned to see the Emperor right then, this having the rest of the family wondering what reason there could be as Zheng readies to leave. A few hours later, Grandmother Jia receives message of she and her female family members were now also being asked to go meet Zheng so they could show gratitude, Grandmother Jia learning privately one of the ladies had been chosen as Imperial Concubine.

When the women found out, they were quite pleased and dressed according to title of power. Bao-yu was the only one whom wasn’t bothered by this good news, Sapientia having followed Qin Zhong and he getting punished when Qin Bang-ye found her, he getting so incensed, an illness which he periodically fought, finally claimed him a few days later, so due to the physical stresses and mental anguish from losing his father, he struggled to get better. This is why Bao-yu’s sister, Yuan chun’s “promotion” didn’t brighten his mood, the family putting it off to being one of his crazy ways. Although, the knowledge of Dai-yu finally returning helped him defrost a bit, and when she arrived, she became swept up with locating space for the new books she’d brought back (I feel that). Meanwhile, Xi-feng and Jia Lian were jokingly speaking formally with each other, and as they had tea, spoke of Xi-feng’s duties and she down-playing her competence at managing households. As she’s inquiring Jia Lian to have Cousin Zhen forgive her terrible management of his home, Jia Lian is reminded of hearing news about Xue getting Caltrop as he’d been wanting. Jia Lian notes how Xue wasn’t suitable for her, so Xi-feng offers to exchange her maid for Caltrop.

When Jia Lian goes to see Zhen, whom had dropped by, Patience admits the reason Caltrop was mentioned was because Brightie’s wife had come to deliver money. Later on, as Xi-feng and Jia Lian have wine, his old nurse comes by to ask about possible work for her sons, Xi-feng willing to take the matter into her own hands. The conversation then moves on to the Emperor’s project of having a place for the concubines to visit with their parents, Jia Lian helping with this. Nannie Zhao speaks of the old Emperor’s ways and is soon interrupted by Jia Rong and Jia Qiang who were delivering the message of where the Visitation spot would be placed and to give comment the next day. Jia Qiang then relays a message about his own task of hiring entertainers and was to accept advice, Jia Lian wonders whether he was experienced enough to choose appropriately, Xi-feng defending Zhen’s choice to have Jia Qiang handle it.

After Jia Lian learns how the money for this task would be handled, he approves of Jia Qiang’s plan so far, and Xi-feng offers a couple helpers to aid him, which he’d been hoping to request. Jia Qiang offers to pick up anything Jia Lian needed in appreciation for his help, and after this, heard a few general household matters before retiring for the night, Xi-feng joining him by midnight. Jia Lian plays a large role in choosing the builders to undertake the project which began the next day, after which they started purchasing supplies and moving a garden to attend to the landscape before building. Due to the family focused on this, Bao-yu wasn’t hassled about his school work, but soon discovers Tealeaf, Qin Zhong’s state turning into a deathly illness. Bao-yu relays this to Grandmother Jia, whom allows he go to him until he passed, but must return directly after. Bao-yu leaves and quickly takes a carriage to Qin Zhong’s where he was being looked after by female relatives.

When Bao-yu sees his friend lying on a bed instead of his kang, he becomes upset, Li Gui reminding Bao-yu the reason behind this could be due to Qin Zhong’s sensitivity to certain levels of hardness of cushion rather than it being about the custom of not being allowed to expire on a kang, hoping this possibility would calm Bao-yu so as not to upset Qin Zhong, but he needn’t have worried, since Qin Zhong was currently dealing with beings ready to drag him into the afterlife, but upon hearing Bao-yu calling, the “demon” leader and bunch put them atwitter as to how to proceed. The lead demon decides to relent in letting Qin Zhong a few more moments to say goodbye to Bao-yu, since he wore his demon repelling jade. Unfortunately, Qin Zhong was unable to speak and could only awake to look at Bao-yu before descending into blackness.

Bao-yu was terribly distraught from this day until quite some time after the funeral. Later still, Cousin Zhen informed Jia Zheng of the garden being done and he would be last to decide if they needed to add anything else, as well as the opinion for certain points of the space to be named, the two agreeing with an idea from a man of words about putting their ideas on lanterns and have Grandmother Jia decide later which would be best. Bao-yu had been prompted by her Ladyship only moments before to go in the garden, so hadn’t been quick enough to retreat before his father approached, Jia Zheng then deciding he’d see how gifted Bao-yu’s couplet skills truly were, since receiving good notes regarding this from his instructor.

Jia Zheng leads them all to the first spot needing to be named, everyone suggesting something, Jia Zheng not disappointed after Bao-yu makes his suggestion, but the area ultimately going to receive a different name. They move to another area and the group again gives opinions, Bao-yu doing well and this time his father acknowledging this in the usual minimalist way, they moving on. this time, the little enclosed area bringing to mind the idea of studying within to Jia Zheng’s attention and Bao-yu showing a look of guilt. After hearing the other men first, Jia Zheng speaks deprecatingly about Bao-yu to Cousin Zhen, since he’d suggested hearing from Bao-yu once more, he again giving a more suitable idea and stating why the others didn’t seem fitting. Jia Zheng hadn’t been impressed with the couplet Bao-yu offered thought, getting the report of what deliveries had been made for the structure thus far. They move on to the next area as they listened, Jia Zheng happy to have reached this particular rest-spot.

Bao-yu doesn’t wait to be asked this time and his father responds heatedly about they only having been inquiring to test him, so when they moved to another building he had Bao-yu attempt a name, Jia Zheng not pleased and putting down both name and couplet before moving on, this time traveling to another area with a stream, Bao-yu still unable to impress his father, the group then climbing to another area over a hill. Jia Zheng’s first impression of another building turned from negative to calm due to the view from the door, plants all about within, Bao-yu mistakenly offering his opinion on the smell form the plants coming from a particularly named rare plant.

When Bao-yu stays silent at the next building as the literary men suggested couplets, Jia Zheng calls on his son again, goading him for his opinion, and again acting surprised when the other men praise Bao-yu, but inwardly agreeable, at the least to the positive feedback. The next place they went was the entrance hall, this place giving Bao-yu deja-vu, the other men having Jia Zheng allow Bao-yu to give his opinion in a day’s time, since he looked so preoccupied with attempting to remember. Jia Zheng does only allow these terms if Bao-yu gives him a perfect suggestion, they then being interrupted by a servant with information Yu-cun having sent a message. They leave with Jia Zheng leading, he again shooting down a suggestion from Bao-yu when they crossed a dam, after which they walk past many other quaint rest areas, Jia Zheng only stopping when he became tired.

Bao-yu still attempts naming the place they were in after his father had the others speak. The idea wasn’t accepted, though and they continued on until reaching where they’d begun, Jia Zheng allows Bao-yu to depart, the boy being stopped by his father’s pages, who took all of his valuables they could see as payment for supplying him with his poems, they then take him to Grandmother Jia, after which he goes back to his quarters, Aroma and then Dai-yu seeing his missing articles, the latter annoyed he’d given away a gift of hers, she collecting and cutting up a bag Bao-yu had requested she make, he showing her how the gift she’d thought had been re-gifted was actually saved, she upset by his reaction of returning it to her and then calming her down when he saw she was going to destroy this purse, as well. When he didn’t let her alone, though, she attempts arguing why he’d insist keeping the little purse when he’d tried to reattach it, the two eventually making peace enough to go to Jia Qiang’s where they learned of a twelve girl act he’d acquired, also 24 nuns also being employed by Lin Zhi-xiao’s wife, the lady informing how they may get an extra nun, Adamantina, whom would fit well and came from a good family, but the young lady having not been convinced, yet. Lady Wang suggests a formal invite of which the results continue presently.

As Xi-feng became busier, Bao-yu decides to move their group to Ying-chun’s quarters. Meanwhile, Lady Wang would be occupied with work for the garden for the next ten months straight. Finally, after Grandmother Jia had given her okay, Jia Zheng puts in request and receives answer for a “Visitation”, in a month’s time. A eunuch made last minute rules and requests on behalf of the concubine and the night before the visit brought rest to no one. The important members of the family were all ready by five next morning and waiting at the entrance until hearing how the concubine wouldn’t be arriving until early evening. Xi-feng prepares small assignments in the meantime, and when night finally falls, the eunuchs soon get wind of the concubine’s approach, the Jia family also reclaim their spots of welcome, and then two sets of ten eunuchs stand in a line before they hear the concubine reaching their estate. First her servants carry her belongings, she bringing up the rear. Yuan-chun descends only for a moment to “‘changing her clothes'” before being brought to the freshly pimped garden, she overwhelmed by the lengths obviously gone to in order to show the excessive make-over. As Yuan-chun was brought further into the garden, it’s explained why Jia Zheng had chosen to use his son’s suggestions being to do with Yuan-chun having been so close with him when he was a small boy. Yuan-chun, not knowing this it seems, spoke her mind, and one title for the entrance to an area was shortened whilst another changed completely. Yuan-chun then sat to be greeted by the family, her lady-in-waiting dismissing each group as they paid respects.

Yuan-chun’s lady-in-waiting went about excusing each group as they paid respects. After this, she again, “changes her clothes” and is carried to her family’s home. Grandmother Jia and Lady Wang both waiting, and Yuan-chun becoming emotional from seeing them after so long. Six other ladies were standing around and watching the scene with tears in their eyes. After everyone calmed, others were brought forward to greet her, and after learning Aunt Xue, Bao-chai, and Dai-yu weren’t present, she had them called on to attend the reunion. Then, when most of the high-positioned servants were led out, Yuan-chun was comfortable enough to lose diplomatic formality, unfortunately, it making certain trouble when wanting to chat with her father, Jia Zheng, they having to speak with a curtain hiding one from the other. He spoke of advising her, and also stating of his wife and he were honored by her royal position and she shouldn’t feel upset for her good fortune including this stipulation of her visit.

Yuan-chun then wonders aloud where Bao-yu was, after which Jia Zheng shared his son’s contribution for the titles in the garden. She calls for him and is overcome with joy once more, until being led to a feast elsewhere, getting the chance to explore the grounds further, and afterward, she and the family sitting down for their meals and she writing down her choice for titles of the lovely garden and changes to the names of some, but not Bao-yu’s inscriptions. After doing a bit more writing, Yuan-chun requests the ladies of the family to attempt writing some poetry, as well as Bao-yu expanding on his inscriptions of her four top favorites. Everyone immediately begins, the ladies poems being read first. Yuan-chun praises two out of the four young ladies, and then Bao-chai helps Bao-yu with his last requested poem. After this, the twelves little girl performers got their chances to show their talents, one girl, Charmante being noticed considerably more. Then, Yuan-chun makes an inspection of the list of gifts which would be given to the family and servants, she agreeing, the time for her visit ending. Grandmother Jia with Lady Wang were both visibly upset, Yuan-chun attempting to reassure them everything would be fine before steeping back into her carriage.

The emperor hears of Yuan-chun’s visit a day later, and Xue-feng along with the rest of the family, were taxed physically and mentally by all the planning they’d done, she continuing to oversee the cleanup of the garden which lasted for the next few days. Bao-yu though, was among those being completely sedentary with his time, he accepting an invitation to attend some plays at the other house. The productions were so loud, people on the streets could hear the cacophony. Bao-yu becomes tired of it fairly quickly and decides to move along, chatting with You-shi first, but leaves her and the maids and concubines shortly after, his attendants all having let him be for believing he’d only mill about until evening. Bao-yu was on his way to see a portrait of a lady hanging in one of Cousin Zhen’s studies, and upon approaching closer, hears questionable sounds from within. He makes a tear in the paper window and witnesses Tealeaf getting off with another girl. Bao-yu was shocked into a yelp and busted in on the two, allowing the one girl to leave and inquiring of Tealeaf to share the girl’s name, which was Swastika (the story behind this, shared), the two then decide to visit Aroma where they are also greeted by her family and before being escorted back home, sits a little while.

Meanwhile, his maids were also taking advantage of Bao-yu being out, Nannie Li dropping in and not being impressed with their behavior. She helps herself to Bao-yu’s gift to Aroma, though and becomes peeved and feels guilty when hearing why the koumiss had been saved. Another maid attempts to make light of Nannie Li’s egotistic perspective by agreeing with her, but she didn’t believe the maid’s genuineness, and after leaving, Bao-yu returns to notice the maid, Skybright lying down, Ripple relating the events with Nannie Li and how Skybright started losing when the old woman arrived. Aroma then comes in, Bao-yu asking for the koumiss and the maids naming the drinker, Aroma stating how Nannie Li would’ve been welcome to it anyways, since she’d made herself sick of the drink before Bao-yu could react.

When Aroma requests Bao-yu peel some chestnuts for her, this distracts him from thinking anymore of Nannie Li and he drifted to the topic of one of Aroma’s younger relatives, the girl catching his interest and confiding his opinion of liking the girl to reside with them, Aroma taking offense over how her family shouldn’t all have to work for his, Bao-yu claiming the possibility he could’ve meant as a bride rather than a maid, Aroma not buying this due to her family’s lower status. She then shares how the girl was already betrothed, Bao-yu showing disappointment, and then shocked and surprised when hearing her family’s plans of buying her freedom to move back home. Bao-yu’s reaction to state how he could keep her there when she’d confessed her wish to return to them, and explaining how his family couldn’t deny her freedom if purchased, Bao-yu distressed over this, but seeing how possible it was, regardless of his hypothetical scenarios to make her stay, he then sharing how he’d rather have not had her employed for him if she’d told him sooner she’d eventually leave, readying for bed.

Then the conversation between Aroma’s mother, brother, and herself is related, she not wanting  them to buy her out, due to how well she was treated and they not having need of the money to sell her off again, they also agreeing with her after seeing Bao-yu. So, Aroma confessing the opposite to him was part one in a complicated plan (maybe?), she’d successfully gotten Bao-yu off his high horse and discovered his true feelings. She then goes to Bao-yu to see he’d been crying, she confiding her change of heart to stay and Bao-yu asking her to think of a way to prove to her how much he truly wanted her to remain with him. Aroma wants him to perform three tasks for her, one being to not go on and on with long drawn out responses, the second to at least pretend to enjoy studying, especially around his father and associates, Bao-yu claiming to already having stopped doing this, the third was to resist taking lipstick and eating it, he agreeing fully, and Aroma stating if he could keep it up and only be careful how reckless he was, she wouldn’t ever leave. Another maid then walks in to share the hour being late, so Bao-yu again goes through his bedtime rituals.

Next morning, Aroma becomes ill, so had to take most of the day off, Bao-yu going to see Dai-yu, whom was attempting to nap, but he insisting her napping after a meal was unhealthy, so she relented staying up and chatting with him. Bao-yu becomes distracted by Dai-yu’s perfume scent as she advised him to be careful being seen helping to make rouge, since the news could read his father. Dai-yu confesses it wasn’t perfume, but perhaps came from her closet, Bao-yu denying this for the smell being different. After some time sniffer her cuff, he attempts to make idle conversation, Dai-yu not participating until Bao-yu pretends hearing of a story about Yangchow and some magic mice, she then relenting to listen. When Dai-yu finally realizes this story involved a character with connotations to herself entering the story, she punishes Bao-yu with a lip-pinch, Bao-chai coming in and asking what had happened, Dai-yu explaining and happy to know Bao-chai could now whip Bao-yu at his own game, they then hearing an angry outburst from the vicinity of Bao-yu’s room.

So, as they’d been having a grand ole time, Bao-yu feels better now Dai-yu wouldn’t get indigestion, she identifying the yelling coming from Nannie Li arguing at Aroma, Bao-chai keeping Bao-yu from breaking it up for Nannie Li’s outburst being small potatoes. Bao-yu agrees with her words before going off and hearing Nannie Li’s insults to Aroma having to do with her not having at least acknowledged her presence when she’d arrived. Aroma kept her cool, but became upset when Nannie Li began suggesting how better off they’d all be with her getting married and leaving, Bao-yu attempts to support Aroma with the allowance of she having been sick, but Nannie Li continues her rampage by believing Aroma had turned all of them against her, she then becoming upset, Bao-chai and Dai-yu attempting to ease her emotion.

Xi-feng’s attention is caught in the front room, she entering and stating to Nannie Li of needing to be quiet, Grandmother Jia was in good spirits and didn’t need to hear her petty b.s. (seriously; It was said in kinder terminology, though). Xi-feng also states how if Nannie Li was being upset by anyone she should report them to her for punishment, she then insisting the old bag come have some stew and drink in her quarters, Nannie Li begrudgingly following, but quietly bitching about how she didn’t regret her actions. Bao-chai and Dai-yu were properly amused by this, Bao-yu wondering why Nannie Li had truly gone off on everyone, Skybright defending the girls due to the culprit should’ve willingly come forward if circumstances warranted, Aroma then stating how Bao-yu shouldn’t have turned the quarrel into a group affair, since she always received the backlash, stopping herself from becoming further distressed for Bao-yu’s sake, he also staying reserved, since he could see she was truly ill.

As a proper lie-down is set up for her, she suggests he sit with Xi-feng and Grandmother Jia for awhile, she assuring him she’d be alright, Bao-yu agreeing with her idea and so joins his grandmother once Aroma was settled, he returning afterward to find all his maids gone except Musk, whom had decided to keep an eye on Aroma and Bao-yu’s quarters. So, before retiring himself, he brushes her hair when he remembers she’d been talking about it earlier, another maid coming in, teasing Bao-yu, he making light of it, fortunately, and then returning to her game. By the following morning Aroma had recovered, so Bao-yu goes to Aunt Xue’s home. Some of his other closely-aged relatives were also there playing games, Bao-yu’s half-brother, Jia Huan playing against Bao-chai, she treating the two brothers equally, so when Jia Huan starts losing the game and attempts to cheat, Bao-chai has the other girl give up her winnings, she annoyed, but Jia Huan breaking down, which Bao-yu then comes in to inquire the reason, but the other too ashamed to confess.

Besides this, there was an odd relationship between the two due to Jia Huan being a concubine’s son and the younger. Bao-yu didn’t bully him, since people were already speaking about him enough as it was, and he also was ruled by his religion teaching respect of blood being of utmost importance, so Bao-yu dealt with Jia Huan as this and the fact he’d grown up with females coloring his reasoning. He made it clear if the game was upsetting him, he should go find something else he’d enjoy. Jia Huan ends up back in his own quarters where his actual mother, “‘Aunt Zhou'” wondered aloud what had happened (Lady Wang was known as his mother only by title). When Jia Huan shares his story of what had occurred, Aunt Zhou bursts with how he shouldn’t have been mixing with them anyways. Xi-feng hears her as she passes by, telling her off through the window and having the boy come with her. She proceeds to berate him about his choice of bad company and being too weak-minded, she then sending him off with more cash for betting with and would make him regret any similar behavior in the future if she heard about it again. Meanwhile Bao-yu and Bao-chai go to visit with Miss Shi when she comes to call.

When arriving at Grandmother Jia’s room, Dai-yu was there giving Bao-yu a hard time about spending time with Bao-chai. She exits, and Bao-yu goes after her wondering why she was mad, she stubborn and Bao-yu getting pulled away by Bao-chai on behalf of Cousin Shi, the two leaving Dai-yu upset, and when Bao-yu returns later, she is more distressed and so he attempts calming her with how close they were compared to Bao-chai, whom was too new to be considered more of a closer cousin. Cousin Shi then comes to say how perfect it was they deserting her the one time she’s actually available to them, the two laughing at her lisp and she quickly exiting after a joke about Dai-yu marrying a lisper. Bao-yu blocks Dai-yu’s attempts at chasing her and Bao-chai tries to diffuse the situation by waving the white flag, Dai-yu having a Nannie Li moment when she sticks to her pursuit and belief there was collusion against her. Bao-yu makes her realize how this nonsense began due to her own tom-foolery, a servant interrupting with news of Grandmother Jia starting supper, after which Bao-yu hangs around with Dai-yu and Xiang-yun until quite late, Aroma asking for him periodically.

The next morning, Bao-yu is up with the light and fussing at Xiang-yun’s blankie, Dai-yu having him leave temporarily whilst they dressed, and after finishing cleaning their faces, Bao-yu requests Xiang-yun style his hair, Aroma sees this and returns to Bao-yu’s room where Bao-chai comes looking for him, she taking a moment to speak with Aroma about herself, liking the girl. When Bao-yu returns, he notes how quickly Bao-chai leaves, Aroma not in a good humor and Bao-yu stating as much, she confessing she’d like to work for Grandmother Jia once more. This worries Bao-yu, but he doesn’t get anything more from her, and when he receives similar attitude from Musk, he lets it go and lays down for a nap. When Aroma covers him and he takes the blanket off, they begin speaking, he stating how she wouldn’t even let him in on why she was mad, and she maintaining he should know already and when he finishes lunch and returns, she has fallen asleep. He goes to his room and reads for awhile until seeing one of his maids, Citronella, standing in the room awaiting instruction, he changing her nickname given to her by Aroma to Number Four due to the number of girls in her family and she being the baby, he growing tired of the flower and fragrance theme.

Aroma and Musk quietly find this amusing, Bao-yu now bored with his uneventful day, Number Four wanting to make a favorable impression on him, and after dinner, Bao-yu now a bit inebriated, he considered how best to bide his time from Aroma, reading and becoming inspired by a passage and adding his own thoughts in the book regarding Aroma, Musk, Dai-yu, and Bao-chai, then retiring. Aroma is asleep next to him when he wakes in the morning, he rousing her so she could go sleep comfortably on her own kang (which everyone seems to lounge and sleep on, so I presumed). When Bao-yu attempts to get her more comfortable, she resists, still playing her game of having him see his wrongful ways. Instead, it seems to be left alone once Bao-yu breaks a hair-pin, they both washing up. Bao-yu leaves and Dai-yu comes looking for him, seeing his open book, and ads her own lines to his. She then goes to Grandmother Jia’s, and after to Lady Wang’s, the doctor having seen her daughter, she being sick with smallpox. The doctor advises the potential for recovery and how to treat it for the little girl’s comfort. A room was then prepared for the girl, doctors, and parents, since it would be a 12 day process.

Jia Lian was affected by this set up because of the forced abstinence it entailed, which would be satiated by a lady known as “the mattress”, the wife of a cook called “Droopy Duo”. Jia Lian soon had her brought to him, she delighted, they meeting in the evening, and upon getting down, her nickname explained as coming from an affectation her body took, and once finished, the two ‘come’ (wink) to an agreement. When the baby’s illness had passed and everything was normal, Patience discovers a lock of hair under Jia Lian’s pillow, she confronting him about what it could be, and when he makes a lunge for it and fails to retrieve it before Xi-feng was heard heading towards them and requesting an item for Grandmother Jia, asks whether anything was found or missing from Jia Lian’s temporary quarters, she knowing the possibility of her hubby’s naughtiness.

Patience keeps his secret and when they’re alone again, was about to negotiate terms when he tricks her into releasing the hair, and her frustration making him ask for her to let him lay her, she leaving whilst the getting was good. He then vows to make Xi-feng realize whom was actually in power in their relationship, it sounding murderous, he claiming she was using the double-standard on him (rightly), Patience defending Xi-feng for not being a cheat. When she mentions how trustworthy she thought of him, he widens his threat to include anyone who thought his conduct unsavory, Xi-feng then happening to return to see Patience conversing through an open window, she giving Xi-feng some attitude when she mentions why she was outside to speak with Jia Lian inside, then exiting, Jia Lian also trying to excuse himself, but Xi-feng having a topic to discuss.

Xi-feng inquires about their plans for Bao-chai’s birthday, since she’d be turning fifteen and Grandmother Jia wanted a nice party for her, so Jia Lian comes up with a simple solution, Xi-feng only making certain he had final say, he not caring as long as she eased up her surveillance of him. Shi Xiang Yun is then followed, she preparing to end her stay, but Grandmother Jia insisting she wait til after the party, she agreeing and sending word back home. Meanwhile, Xi-feng speaks with Grandmother Jia about what her thoughts were for entertainment, she going off on her in a burst when she was offered a meager sum to obtain said festivities, fortunately everyone taking it lightly. Grandmother Jia had caught on to the situation being for her benefit, she enjoying these set up digs on her.

On the day of the party, a different child acting troupe is scheduled. The party stayed a private affair, and Dai-yu was still acting aloof toward Bao-yu, as he’d come to her room to offer choosing her favorite plays for her, she not impressed, but still allowing him to lead her out. After the family had eaten, Bao-chai chooses the first play to be from a piece of Journey to the West, Grandmother Jia happy with her decision. The others also get a choice and everyone sits to watch the set, Bao-yu asking Bao-chai why she kept requesting similarly themed plays, her answer having to do with the music and lyrics, Bao-yu having her share which part she particularly liked, she obliging by quietly singing the section.

Bao-yu agrees with her assessment, Dai-yu voicing her annoyance at his talking, and after everyone had watched the plays into the evening, Grandmother Jia gave extra gifts to two of the girls who stood out, afterward. As the troupe was packing it in, some noted how one of them looking like one of their party, Xiang-yu naming the person, then becoming angry when receiving a look from Bao-yu, which she mistakenly perceived to be a look of insult, and she not caring for his explanation, he then getting pushed out of a room by Dai-yu when he was looking for her. He waits her out and when she opens the door once more to find him still waiting, she allows him entry, alluding to how he seemed to support her being teased, he declaring the statement hadn’t been made by him, and she concluding with a baffling answer, since she supported everyone’s reaction, whilst wasn’t ideal, she thought his staying straight-faced made it worse, like she couldn’t take the joke. Besides this, how he’d reacted to Xiang-yu confused her into thinking it was due to she being on a lower rung-of-importance to Xiang-yu and shouldn’t have been joining with her, for risking a comeback, and so believed his excuse of she being sensitive was to distract from this, Dai-yu not liking he’d stuck in nose in. Bao-yu realizes how his actions had received negative results from both ends and his book reading reminded him of the philosophies saying how unfulfilling the task he’d put on himself was, making him feel worse, so he ditches her in favor of his quarters.

Dai-yu took this even more insulting and declared he stay away from her and not speak with her again. Bao-yu doesn’t respond, and when Aroma sees him, lets it be and talks of different subjects, her attempts being met with indifference. Bao-yu was determined to keep out of any suggestion referring to the ladies and so stayed aloof with all of Aroma’s ideas regarding good spirits toward the women. After quoting a line describing how he felt, he became upset and began writing some verses. When he was satisfied, he goes to bed, Dai-yu wandering in later and Aroma detaining her before she withdrew, after learning Bao-yu had retired, but was amused by Bao-yu’s writing which Aroma gives her, she showing Xiang-yu and Bao-chai, the latter disposing of it, since believing Bao-yu had written it because of what she’d told him of the play, Dai-yu finding her reaction amusing. She states how destroying the paper was unnecessary and could reverse Bao-yu’s reaction by posing a specific question to him, which when he heard, could not find a reply, all who watched on amused and suggesting alternatives to his torn up thoughts, he then realizing his Enlightened moment was false, taking the three’s ribbing lightly, since they also hadn’t obtained Enlightenment, regardless of knowing more than he.

Meanwhile, Yuan-chun had sent a riddle for the family to decipher and return a riddle of their own to her. Everyone took part in answering the riddle and supplying one of their own and the answers along with the riddles were delivered and returned in kind. So, whilst some of Yuan-chun’s guesses were incorrect, those who’d stumped her pretended she’d succeeded in solving them. Jia Huan was the only one whom had given a riddle Yuan-chun admitted she couldn’t solve, the answer being sent to her, Grandmother Jia so taken with the game, she sets up one of her own for everyone, Jia Zheng also taking part, and after Grandmother Jia had Li Wan join them, also noting Bao-yu staying monosyllabic due to his father’s presence, the other ladies were also lacking in conversation, Bao-chai the least affected by whatever was putting the others off, Grandmother Jia considering the cause to be Jia Zheng, she attempting to convince him to turn in, but he wanting to be a part of the fun, Grandmother Jia relenting by offerring him a riddle, the two soon trading riddles, Jia Zheng giving presents when Grandmother Jia’s answers were correct.

After, she suggest he has a go at the kids riddles, getting them with one guess, but becoming depressed by how dark they were. Grandmother Jia could tell something had darkened his mood and didn’t want him bringing down the party anymore and again brings up of he readying to retire for the night, he agreeing this time and doing so after a couple more drinks and conversation with her before making his exit, his mood not improving. At the table, upon Grandmother Jia stating they loosen up, Bao-yu immediately begins critiquing the riddles, Dai-yu and Xi-feng making fun of how animated he’d become and realizing Jia Zheng should stick close to him more often if they wanted peace, he retaliating against Xi-feng’s comment by play-wrestling with her. After some little time, Grandmother Jia becomes tired and breaks up the party so all could settle for bed.

A bit after Yuan-chun’s visit, she has a copy of the poems made about the garden and has the best ones engraved in the family’s honor. Jia Zheng goes about passing the responsibility to have her wishes met and was considering how to proceed with transplanting the nuns and monks elsewhere (this being mentioned way back…), Zhou-shi turning up thinking a job for her son, Jia Qin could be acquired, since the family needed the money, she getting the opportunity to chat with Xi-feng, whom liked her, and after hearing her idea of how to keep the nuns and monks with no problems of separating them, Xi-feng has Jia Zheng informed because it was so clever, she being reminded by her hubby Jia Lian they had to think of Jia Yun first, she already having plans for him, Jia Lian agreeing and asking about a little romp they had the night before, she giving a small laugh and not answering. Later, when Jia Lian relays all of their plans for the boys to Jia Zheng, he allows this quickly for indifference in these matters, Jia Qin being hired and he stating his gratitude to them, Xi-feng also having Jia Lian supply him with an advance, he immediately starting his work after speaking with his mother.

Meanwhile, Yuan-chun was reminiscing  about the beauty of the garden as she worked on the poems it had inspired and thinking how terrible it was knowing they wouldn’t be using it in her absence, so she decides to have the girls and Bao-yu move in there. She writes her wish of this and has it sent to Jia Zheng and Xi-feng, and when Grandmother Jia is informed, they begin setting up for this to happen, Bao-yu quite ready to move in and chatting to Grandmother Jia of his plans of what he wished put there, he then being called by Jia Zheng, his attitude changing obviously, Grandmother Jia comforting him and telling him how to respond to his father during this visit, and when she sends him off with some nannies as “protection”, he makes his way to his father slowly, the nannies awaiting outside the area his father was enjoying seeing him take his time, one making light of his apprehension and letting him know his father was in a decent mood, so he should take advantage whilst he could.

Jia Zheng states what he expected from Boa-yu once he’d moved and the consequences if he got out of line, his mother then reminding him to have Aroma give him his pill each night, Jia Zheng becoming irritated upon hearing the maids nicknames, the two then dismissing him. When he returns to Grandmother Jia’s and sees Dai-yu, they decide which part of the garden they wanted, the two being neighbors and a date set for them all to move in, Bao-yu’s life becoming a thing of idyllic freedom. He’d composed for poems indicated by season of how he fest and had become popular as a source for knocking them out, pleased with the attention: what with being thirteen and liking having people refer to him for his work. One day, though he’d grown unfulfilled and couldn’t get comfortable. Tealeaf realizes Bao-yu had yet to try one thing, he gifting some books the boy hadn’t seen before, and Tealeaf asking he keep them secret.

Bao-yu attempts to, but one day as he’s reading under a tree, Dai-yu walks in on him, explaining what she’d been doing with the fallen tree blossoms, as Bao-yu had been dumping them in the water, she then mentioning the book he’d been reading and disbelieving his reply, so he promises her to secrecy and praises its absorption capacity. Dai-yu soon realizes the truth in his claim she agreeing after reading a bit. When Bao-yu quotes a couplet which Dai-yu takes personally, he quickly apologizes, she brightening and the two burying petals when Aroma announces Uncle She was sick and the two were summoned by Grandmother Jia to attend. After, Dai-yu was walking by herself and heard the girl troupe practicing a song, she concluding how a song could have wonderful pietry and is soon brought to her knees and tears as she listened, someone interrupting.

Caltrop explains why she’d been wandering and then walks Dai-yu back to Naiad’s House. They see a gift sent to Dai-yu, hang out, and after, Caltrop leaves her. Meanwhile, Bao-yu was expected by Grandmother Jia to check on his Uncle She, and as he wait for his change of clothes, essentially wraps himself around Faithful, Grandmother Jia’s servant and wanting to eat her lipstick, Aroma walks in and states how he was becoming a lost cause. Then, before he away’s to She’s, he’s greeted by Jia Lian, the two interrupted by Jia Yun, Bao-yu and Jia Lian’s nephew, a joke being made about Jia Yun not minding if Bao-yu wished to be his father, even though Jia Yun was years older. As they all part ways, Bao-yu invites Jia Yun to visit him the next day, he then riding (by horse) to She’s. After seeing him, and noting he only had a chill, he relates Grandmother Jia’s message, he’s then brought to Lady Xing’s room where they chat, being briefly interrupted by Jia Cong, Jia Huan, and Jia Lan, Lady Xing making an excuse to have them leave, Bao-yu then being invited for dinner with she, Ying-chun, and her nieces before returning to Grandmother Jia, then his quarters.

As this is going on, Jia Yun was after a job from Jia Lian, he conveying an opening when the planting was to be started, then going to his uncle, Bu Shi-ren for a loan of goods, but he hard up not only for the products, but the money from someone else already being owed. Jia Yun puts perspective to his Uncle’s words, noting he could be more trouble, his Uncle mentioning Jia Yun’s other cousin whom had gotten the priests and nuns position (to transport them to different temples), Jia Yun having enough of hearing about why he couldn’t acquire a job like him was ready to leave when his Uncle offered he stay for dinner, but declines. As he’s walking away moodily,he walks into a drunk man, whom turns out being his neighbor, Ni Er, a dirty businessman, he about to knock his clock off until realizing who him was, then telling he’d help him out if need be, Jia Yun accepting if only to keep the man friendly. They part ways after he’s given a message to pass to his wife.

Jia Yun begins his plan the next morning, back to the Rong-guo House and sees Xi-feng, he giving her his purchase of oil scents, pleasing her with his surprise, but not getting anymore information about a job, he remembering his invitation from Bao-yu, and the boy’s pages leaving him to wait, Jia Yun hearing a girl from outside, and Tealeaf returning by then and having her take a message to Bao-yu, Jia Yun fascinated by the maid and taking her advice to return next day. He again speaks with Xi-feng, she having learned his reasoning for his gift, she playing hard to get, but he making clear he’d take whatever she could give, they scheduling a meeting so he could start. After recieving payment, he gives Ni Er his money back, then goes to buy the trees after sharing the news with his mother.

As for Bao-yu, it’s clarified he’d invited Jia Yun flippantly, and so had been away a couple days with the Prince of Beijing, and then returning to note his maids were detained someway or another and when he called, turned away the older maids who answered. A young lady, then comes in to pour his for him, she able to relay Jia Yun having come by, Ripple and Emerald then return and confront Crimson outside, she explaining her presence and Ripple insulting her, they interrupted by an old lady delivering the information about how they conducted themselves when the trees were planted the next day. Crimson soon realizes she had more information then the two bitches. She had been resident in the House of Green Delights before Bao-yu and girls had moved, she retreats to her room, then hears her name being called, discovering it was Jia Yun, and when he attempts to pull her closer, she falls in her attempt to run off. She awakes realizing she’d dreamt it, beginning her chores when dawn comes.

Bao-yu had been thinking of Crimson and wanted to invite her to become a closer attendant, but doesn’t get a chance before his washing. Then, Aroma speaks with Crimson to have her borrow a spittoon from the Naiad’s House, Crimson seeing the tree workers with Jia Yun, but not up to speaking with him, feeling sorry for herself, and instead lies down after she completes her mission. The following day brought Wang Zi-teng’s “lady”‘s birthday, Lady Wang wishing to go, but not since Grandmother Jia wasn’t up for it, but Aunt Xue, Xi-feng, Bao-chai, Bao-yu, and a few other girls accepted the invitation. Jia Huan had returned from school recently and was getting to work on some copying, delegating tasks as he did, Sunset decided to advise him to speak more kindly, since the other maids thought he was a schmuck, he not taking her helpful criticism well, but being interrupted by Bao-yu’s return, his mother suggesting he rest for awhile, since he’d been drinking. So, whilst he lay, Sunset massaged his legs, but not giving her undivided attention, she warning he’d tell on him, since he’d captured her hand, Jia Huan, Sunset’s master, deciding to punish him anyways, dropping a candle brimming with melted wax on his face, Lady Wang and Xi-feng both talking harshly about Jia Huan’s thick-motioned ways, then Lady Wang turning to Jia Huan’s mother, Aunt Zhao (Why must there be a Zhou and Zhao?!), she taking the put-downs and making certain she was seen helping Bao-yu.

Lady Wang knew she’d be hearing about this from Grandmother Jia, and begins applying lotion on her son, Bao-yu. He was prepared to take the blame, but Xi-feng knew there’d be hell, regardless. Bao-yu was returned to his room, Dai-yu visiting once learning of what happened, and he expected to see Grandmother Jia the next day, she blaming his care-takers. Bao-yu’s “Wise Woman”, Mother Ma also visited and did her magic lady words to make certain he healed properly, Grandmother Jia also learning of an incense-related ritual to keep him safe. Mother Ma explains how her other customers would purchase various amounts of oil to keep a light burning of which she herself would upkeep at her home (Bloo), Grandmother Jia considering carefully, so Mother Ma presents a suitable possibility for her in the case of Bao-yu, which she agrees, also making certain his attendants had extra cash for giving to good karmic charitable cases, like monks or various poor they meet on their way with Bao-yu.

After, Mother Ma visits Aunt Zhao for some silk and discusses Jia Huan and her contribution for him, she sharing her frustration about how Bao-yu would always overshadow him, even whilst understanding the reason. Mother Ma then deduces Aunt Zhao’s true problem being with Mrs. Lian, Aunt Zhao checking to be certain there weren’t any prying ears before agreeing and feeling she had to put up with the woman’s will. Mother Ma sees the potential for more money and plays hard-to-get when Aunt Zhao shows interest in the idea of investing in an underhanded way of dealing with the woman whom seemed to be in line to claiming all property and goods leftover in the Jia name, Mother Ma taking her more seriously when Aunt Zhao brings her attention to how she’d be able to name her price if her idea worked.

So, Aunt Zhao bargains with her by giving her a bundle of goods and a little extra cash, as well as an IOU, Mother Ma giving her paper cut-outs of people and demons, she explaining how to use them and placement of them under the targets beds, she then leaving after being summoned by Lady Wang. Meanwhile, Bao-yu had become a homebody since his burn, so Dai-yu would chat with him most of the time in his room, and one day, after getting bored of reading and sewing, walked to Bao-yu’s and found Li Wan, Xi-feng, and Bao-chai having a blast, Xi-feng inquiring about the tea she’d sent her, Bao-yu piping in with his opinion of them being nasty flavored. When Dai-yu states the opposite, Xi-feng gifts her the rest of her supply and would have someone speak of a favor she had in mind for her upon its delivery.

Dai-yu remarks how the gift seemed to be attached to strings and Xi-feng retorts with a phrase which alluded to she being a bride which would attach her to the family, this embarrassing her and she stating how it wasn’t funny, Xi-feng not resisting her jabs and speaks of Bao-yu and she, which had her running out, Bao-chai going after her as Aunts Zhou and Zhao enter, Xi-feng and Dai-yu actively not conversing with them. Then a summons is given for the younger ladies to visit Wang Zi-teng’s wife, so Li Wan and Xi-feng leave, as well as the Z’s, Bao-yu calling for Dai-yu, whom hadn’t gotten very far outside. When she returns, he holds her hand and only smiles at her, making her self-conscious, then he complains of his head before having a fit and scaring the maids and herself, he attempting suicide multiple times before Lady Wang and Grandmother Jia arrive, they soon distraught, many other family members hearing and milling about in bewilderment outside. Xi-feng’s reaction was to start gutting dogs and chickens with a knife and was looking at the crowd with blood-lust until some servants overpowered her and put her in her quarters. Many began suggesting what should be done metaphysically and otherwise, and by sunset Zi-teng’s lady leaves for home and visits again to ask after everyone the following day. Others visited with well-wishing and help from doctors, and the family had resorted to moving “the cousins” into Lady Wang’s room, Jia Yun and pages tasked with watching them at night due to their conditions still on the raving side.

The search for a cure continues and the fourth day Bao-yu requests Grandmother Jia to prepare his belongings and himself to be expelled from the family, Aunt Zhao gleeful, but acting sad, she attempting to convince Grandmother Jia to bide his words so he could die peacefully, her response being to hock a loogie in her face. She berates her and declares she wouldn’t gain anything from his death, along with anyone else, a servant then informing of the coffins having been finished, this putting Grandmother Jia over the edge and ordering the wood-smith to be whipped to death, and then hearing a chanting monk outside. Upon seeing him and his companion, they being a scraggly sight, they are invited in, the monk requesting to pray over Bao-yu’s jade to aid its ability to ward off the evil. When the monk holds it, he speaks familiarly to it of the time they’d met 13 years before on Green-sickness Peak, and once finishing his prayers, instructs Jia Zheng where to place it and the cousins recovery to be expected in 33 days. The two then leave before he could offer sustenance, and his instructions are followed diligently, Bao-yu and cousin regaining sanity and appetite by evening, Dai-yu relieved along with the others.

When Bao-yu’s month of rest is up, his face has healed, as well. This time also allows Jia Yun and Crimson to be around each other more, she noticing, but not remarking on the handkerchief he carried looking like her missing one. Later, a young maid, Melilot comes to her for the favor of looking after some money for her, she advising Crimson to go home and see a doctor, Crimson acting emo and declaring she would be better to die, Melilot warning her to not speak in such a way. They are interrupted by a quite young maid giving Crimson the task of copying patters for Mackerel, but she needing to retrieve a tool from Oriole and meeting Grannie Li, whom had told Jia Yun Bao-yu wished to see him.

Crimson loiters and soon the two eye each other as she speaks with his guide, Trinket. Jia Yun and she continue to Bao-yu’s, he impressed with his uncle’s home. Bao-yu asks after him when he invites him in his bedroom to sit, Bao-yu remarking how long it’d taken for him to remember his long ago invitation, but Jia Yun only glad he’d recovered. Bao-yu makes idle chat and when Jia Yun notes he was growing tired, decides to take his leave, Bao-yu wishing he return sometime. On his way back, Jia Yun asks Trinket a variety of questions about herself and the other maids, soon landing on the handkerchief, she mentioning how Crimson had even offered her a reward if found. Jia Yun had a plan for the item and gives Trinket a different hankie, he having her promise to let him know what she did.

Meanwhile, Bao-yu was being awoken by Aroma to go have a walk, he reluctantly relenting, soon running into Jia Lan, whom was after some deer to shoot with bow, and after allowing the young boy to continue, headed unconsciously to  Naiad’s House. As he approaches closer to the window, he hears a quote from a book he knew, Dai-yu speaking, and when he enters and startles her, she denies having said anything, she dismissing her “guardians of morality”, Bao-yu quoting a line, himself and upsetting her, she walking out and he following in distress, but they being interrupted by Tealeaf with a summons from his father, and so Bao-yu rushes off and is led outside the gate, where he’s met by Xue Pan, he laughing and apologizing, and Bao-yu taking his jest lightly, but readying to return the favor.

Xue Pan then gets to his point, which was in celebration of his birthday next month, some buddies had put together a feast and he wished Bao-yu to join them, the with a singer already in attendance. When they sit, Xue Pan brings up how Bao-yu could draw him something for his birthday present, he seeing some good erotic ones recently. Then another buddy comes in, Feng Zi-ying, Xue Pan asking after his family and how his black eye had come from a hawk’s wing during a hunting trip with his pops. As he finishes with it being good fortune he’d gone rather than stayed home in comfort, he attempts to bow out, but the group refuses him, wanting more deets, he playing at being annoyed, but after agreeing as long as they supplied him with a couple decent-sized drinks, he still keeps his news to himself, but hits it would be shared at a get-together of his own in under two weeks, he then driving his horse away (yes, drive).

The group sticks around for awhile longer and when Bao-yu returns to a worried Aroma and clarifies what had become of him, due to his toasty state, she was a bit perplexed he hadn’t at lease sent word, but Feng Zi-ying was a distracting fellow. Bao-chai joins them, she relating how she’d refused the invitation, taking her tea and speaking of unimportant topics. Before Bao-chai had dropped by, Dai-yu had also planned to visit Bao-yu once learning he’d returned, she even seeing Bao-chai ahead of her, but distracted herself with some beautiful fish, so when she did finally get to his home, she had to knock to be let in the gate. Unfortunately for her, Skybright was in a bad mood and not recognizing her voice, turns her away, Dai-yu debating what to do and feeling bad for herself, she then hearing Bao-yu and Bao-chai inside, her mind going to even further paranoia of what reason could make Bao-yu turn her away, she becoming distraught and sits under a tree, someone eventually exiting from the house, but only to be known upon continuation of the second volume.

I’m hooked, I’ll be quite happy to continue. In the Appendix we learn who Bao-yu had seen the fates for in the fairy’s library, beginning with Skybright’s terrible fate by slanderers. Aroma does marry, Caltrop/Ying-lian is murdered by Xue Pan’s horrible wife, Xin Jin-gui. As for Bao-chai and Dai-yu, they are represented as two halves of a perfect woman and the meaning behind their songs are up for debate as to whether the first or second refer to one or the other, or the first two both, or the first and second about Bao-yu. There are other characters explained, but I’ll only list those I remember, the last being Xi-feng, whom will have an unfulfilled life which may end in divorce.

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower 1)

Image result for gunslinger book cover

 

King’s introduction tells of how prevalent hobbits were when he was nineteen, hippies galore dressed like Lord of the Rings characters at Woodstock and whatnot. He was fond of the novels to the point of certainty he’d be writing his own version when it came to him and then shares how the age of nineteen brought with it a prideful manner of seeing life bending to one’s will, and how one is supposed to think big, so later in life it can be made true. He describes the two types of novelist after this, the “serious” and “popular”, both of which being selfish in nature. He relates of his realization after watching The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, he wanted to marry Tolkien’s quest and magic with this Western sensibility. He couldn’t answer why he wanted to write an epic tome, but believed he mostly succeeded in doing so. Then he alludes to his car accident and how after a fan spoke of if he hadn’t survived, the Tower would forever have remained a mystery, he knowing he had to complete it, and glad he now has.

The Foreword explains why he’d changed The Gunslinger and what he’d added, he comparing this to when he’d expanded The Stand, he then going back to sharing how his accident had spurred him to finish the Tower series, regardless of how many readers had been interested in it (around the halfway mark when it came to those who attended readings). He describes how the start of the series hadn’t matched up with the end, he then sharing his writing process being to get it all out and let it simmer for six months or longer before the first revision, he stating how he’d cleaned up some unnecessary verbosity and attempted to have the story more clearly understood to first time readers.

19, Resumption (which is explained later, I suppose) titles the first two pages before chapter one. The gunslinger is following the running man in black, Walter o’Dim and was currently gauging his fairly full water bag which if he’d been a holy man, may have been able to more closely estimate when drinking was necessary, but didn’t follow Jesus or was a Manni, after which his guns are depicted, and where he’d gotten them. He no longer had his horn or hat, but wished he did, he then noticing a burnt out campfire, which he salvaged the leftover bacon and shared how he had so far only been discovering Walter’s campsites, knowing he’d track the man as long as it took to finally catch up to him, but also sensing he’d gotten a bit closer, regardless of only ever detecting dead camps with no signs of waste. He watches the slowly dimming horizon for a sign of a camp, none being viewed, so sets his own fire atop the old camp and rests for the night.

The gunslinger now had a mule after having passed through a town a few weeks previously, he seeing crazy men and lepers, and acquiring a compass he could make use of until Jesus showed himself; a crazy man’s terms of agreement. The gunslinger is surprised when coming across another hut with a young man attending his corn, the two greeting each other formally, and the young man offering corn to eat, the gunslinger noting the young man sounded like Manni, which he agreed he’d been with, but left, the young man introducing himself as Brown, the gunslinger sharing his own (we not privy, but I’ll be using from here on out).

Brown then shares his raven’s name as Zoltan, noticing Roland as a gunslinger, believing his type were no more, Roland confirming he’d come from In-World some time ago, and then vaguely asking of Walter’s passing by, Brown unable to determine with certainty how long ago it’d been, time being wonky out there. Brown then offers what Walter had spoken of, he having inquired after the weather, his wife, and her origins. Brown asks if he was a wizard, which Roland confirms of and he being more, as well. Brown declares Roland wouldn’t overtake him, but he states otherwise, Brown then going inside to prepare their meal whilst Roland filled his water-skins in the well at the back. When he joins Brown inside and rests whilst the man boils the beans, he thinks of how many hours he’d been traveling without rest, also thinking of how impossible Mid-World’s greenery seemed, Roland not bothered by Walter’s distance since he’d gotten an estimate in the most recent town he’d gone, though he not looking forward to the forthcoming desert.

When Brown wakes him, an hour’s gone by and his mule has died, upside being the food was done. Upon inquiry, Brown estimates the mule had perished due to age, and after setting out the food, prays, Roland learning Brown thought they were already in the hereafter. As the weather became rougher with the dark, Roland hungrily ate the tough corn and beans, he wondering why Brown didn’t eat Zoltan, talking animals being more difficult to decide to consume, apparently. When they’d finished their meal, Roland offers a smoke, he having a moment of paranoia when thinking of Walter having conjured these moments, Roland asking if Brown had been to Tull, he stating the last time he’d been to the town was to sell corn, Roland sharing how Walter had set up a trap for him when he’d passed through, the town now killed by Roland, in his own words. Roland then takes a moment to piss on Brown’s corn, as requested, he deciding whether Brown was Walter, and when he returns back inside, is called out by these thoughts from Brown, Roland debating if he needed to take him out, his morals holding his hand, Brown then offering to listen, if Roland still needed to unload his troubles. Brown makes it easier by plainly asking about Tull, and Roland lets it out.

Roland’s description of where he’d purchased the now dead mule, as well as his cross-country trudge follows, until getting to Tull. As he drew closer, hearing “Hey, Jude” being played, the inhabitants the usual slightly off country-folk, Roland approaches an old man pitching some hay in a barn, getting him to agree to look after his mule once tossing a gold piece in his direction. When Roland then attempts to get one of the boys playing marbles to inform him of whether there was a cafe in town, none answering until the youngest replies, he paying for it after Roland leaves, he views the inside of the bar mentioned before heading in. The people inside stare until he gets to the bar, he then ordering three burgers, attention called back to him as they cooked, he having to dissuade a man with a big knife to end his approach toward him. When he was nearly done eating another man puts a hand on his shoulder, Roland realizing Walter had made the man crazy, he already deceased. Roland, taken aback when he spoke the High Speech to him, gives him a gold piece as requested, from shock, the man returning to his table gladly. The bar quickly empties after this, even the piano player leaving, the bar-maid angry he’d gotten her customers to exit, Roland asking whom the man at the table was, then inquiring of Walter, she agreeing to tell for the price of getting laid. Afterward, she tells of how the man downstairs, Nort had died, then he asking once more about Walter.

Walter had arrived near sundown the same day Nort had passed, a fast wind having risen, people closing down windows, one man whom had seen him enter, not wanting to make his acquaintance. Walter heads for Sheb’s Bar, most within paying him no mind what with the storm and they involved in their own activities, only Alice, the barmaid the only interested eye-witness, he heading for the bar and requesting some good whiskey, Nort’s body lying on tables in the middle of the room. Alice leaves the bar a moment to open a keg, Walter stating of seeing the dead man, and Alice launching into how those in attendance weren’t real mourners, but seemed to mock him, as they had during his life, Walter putting back his shot, showing his money, as requested, she then consenting to pour his second drink. When Alice attempts to ask how long his stay would be, Walter turns the conversation on her, about how she had affection for Nort, she sensing a bad vibe and commanding he leave, but then Walter shows his eyes and she feels drugged, he laughing loudly and the ruckus around them quieting, people watching him.

No one was affected by his laugh to join him, he approaching a lady whom had been singing and whapping her tummy, she forced to laugh a couple times until fleeing and crying, Walter starting his little show with Nort, spitting on him with precision, more people starting to leave, and those still there gathering around, he continuing his resurrection, and as people saw Nort’s first breaths, more heading out, and upon opening his eyes, Alice running upstairs. Walter yells after her of this being for her, it impossible to undo, and its hilarity, she locking her door. Nort goes out for weed, Walter having gone when Alice returns downstairs, Nort taking his table by the door, he greeting her and sharing what Walter had told him, stating of his desire to stop using, but how he was addicted and it giving him tremors, which made him unable to, he saddened by this. She then finishes lighting the bar, only one other patron coming in, Nort then remembering to give her a message from Walter, revealing 19 being the number to say to Nort if she wanted him to reveal the truth of Death and the next world, he certain she wouldn’t be able to resist forever. Alice is sickened by realizing this truth, but by the next day, life already normalized, and by the day after, all the same as usual, Alice still struggling with the word she attempted to keep to herself, she dipping into the whiskey to help her ignore the urge.

This ended her recollection, she believing he’d dozed off, and was doing so herself when he inquires of this being all which had occurred, she agreeing, then he stating he shouldn’t linger there too long, since there was most likely a trap awaiting him, as well. He advises she do her best to forget the number, and if she gets an overwhelming urge, to retreat upstairs and say it as many times as necessary. She is comforted in knowing he wouldn’t leave yet, and next morning when she feeds him, he inquires of whether she had a map of the southeast, she stating of it only being desert, he then going off to see the hostler, Kennerly to see if he knew more, Allie warning him he tended to make up ‘facts’ if he didn’t know, she touched when he thanks her.

When he’d gotten to Kennerly, his daughters were roaming the grounds, his eldest, a horny teen, whom he kept having to threaten to get inside the house. Roland inquires what he knew about the desert and what lay beyond, he uncertain, Roland paying him another coin to continue watching the mule, he deciding he’d remain in town for a little while longer. Four days pass, Roland’s resolve to leave fading, he aware this could be the snare Walter had left him, Sheb busting in with raised knife and sounding nuts, claiming Allie was his, Roland then recognizing him from his past. Allie calms him as he cries and sets his broken wrists. Roland asks if Sheb remembers the time they’d met before, he then commanding him to leave, Sheb then spouting of Roland only having been a kid, but quickly obeying his demand. Allie then attempts to continue where they’d been interrupted, but Roland isn’t interested any longer, she considering the situation Sheb and he must have been in involving a girl he’d cared for, she trying to have him acquiesce to her desire, but failing.

The next evening, the bar is shut, this being a similar day to the Sabbath. Allie cleans shop, Roland walking to the church and watching the congregation sing, the preacher-woman massive and insane. Once the song finishes, the woman begins speaking, Roland getting the feeling he’d been there before, her subject for tonight being “The Interloper”, she describing how she knew most of the characters in the Bible and loved them, the only one she didn’t know, being The Interloper, she afraid because she wasn’t familiar with his inner thoughts, she clearly referring to Satan, warning her followers to be wary, bringing their hysteria to a climax and spouting of the apocalypse, the lady also including a name Roland vaguely had heard of before, realizing Walter had also infected her after witnessing the questions she asked the people, everyone in moaning agony, Roland uneasy. When the preacher-woman singles out a man whom was particularly affected, she gives him solace with Jesus’ forgiveness. She then makes certain they would all attack Satan if they saw him, Roland leaving and noting his time to move on almost arriving.

Allie next states how the preacher-woman wouldn’t entertain his presence, she secluding herself if it wasn’t a Sunday. When Roland asks when she’d come to town, Allie relays it could have been two or twelve year’s, she then being dishonest when he asks which way she’d walked from, she eventually relenting and confessing it was from the desert, where the dwellers made their homes, this news easing Roland a bit, since it was where he was heading, his final question of where she currently resided reluctantly answered. Roland senses his last day had arrived, Allie feeling this moment, as well, she feeding him, and their farewell abrupt. Roland mentions after this, seeing her again one more time before her death. When he’d gotten to the preacher-woman, Sylvia Pittston’s home, everything had become silent, the wind having dissipated, knowing it would come back with force the longer it was away. A strange light was tinting the view, and Roland knocked a few times, busting his way in to see her rocking in a chair, neither of them speaking for a moment, until she declares he wouldn’t get Walter, since Roland was with the dark side, he stating how Walter had gone to her, she admitting she’d slept with him, speaking the High Speech to her.

Roland informs her Walter had fucked her in more ways than one, she continuing to state Roland being on the side of the devil and having seen him lurking in the church. He asks her why Walter had brought back Nort, she stating Walter had informed her he was working with God and how Roland would want to sleep with her, but she wouldn’t allow this since Walter had made her pregnant, telling her it was royalty, Roland sharing what she truly had was a devil and he would be able to get it out of her, she reacting by drawing back. Roland asks what was beyond the desert, her answer being he wouldn’t get Walter, but “burn”, Walter giving her this information. Roland threatens the details out of her by making like he would begin removing her child, she finally relenting and confessing of Walter going to the mountains and stopping on the other end to regain his power, she stating Roland had murdered her child and he’d get his, demanding he leave. He states she didn’t have a baby, demon, or otherwise, then doing as she bid.

When Roland had gotten to Kennerly’s, he could see a dust storm on the way, but hadn’t reached them yet. Kennerly inquires if he was leaving today, Roland agreeing, and Kennerly informing his idea of moving on before the storm not giving him enough of a head start, stating it would be his death if he got caught in it. Kennerly’s eye movement gives away an attack by his daughter, Soobie, Roland missing most of the hit, it barely getting his elbow. Roland again insists for his mule, Kennerly acquiescing, he leaving the two in the barn and walking into the hot air. Roland makes a stop to see Allie, but she wasn’t working, and no one was inside, he getting some provisions and leaving payment, considering whether he’d be able to bypass Walter’s trap, but not holding onto hope. Walter pretended to be divine, spouting of royalty’s spawn, a crimson youth, and it made him wonder if he had been fooling around the whole time, the answer essential.

Then a shriek has townspeople pouring out from behind closed doors, all carrying weapons, Sheb using Allie as a hostage, stepping forward first, she begging to be put out of her misery for having said the number, Roland reacting automatically and putting them both down, all the others being fended off as they came, he locating temporary shelter in the general store/barber’s, reloading and shooting more as they attempted entry, and as he exits through the back, puts down more who meet him there, he backing into the desert, still shooting and yelling, getting them all as they closed in. As they became fewer, he’d only gotten minor scrapes, someone then catching him in the face with the butt of a knife, which puts him on the ground, he now getting stabbed in different spots, the worst one on his leg, Roland catching them all in the end, even those attempting to escape. As he retraces his steps back to where they’d ambushed him, he counts how many were dead, Tull’s fifty-eight residents no more. He saw what had become of Nort, located his mule, and led it back to the stable. After attending to Nort, he goes to Sheb’s bar, eats some burgers with beer, then spends the night in Allie’s bed. By morning, the sky was clear, he finished tending to his cuts, and starts through the desert.

Roland believed Brown had passed out, Zoltan even showing he’d been resting during the story, Roland ready to prepare a place for himself to sleep when Brown inquires if this retelling had helped him get a load off, Roland questioning why he’d feel negatively, and he stating of Roland being human, unless he hadn’t been honest, Roland denying he had misspoken, detecting his favor for Brown, asking whom he actually was, and he responding of being himself, and why Roland thought there was anything hidden. Brown believes Roland is close to catching Walter, he uncertain whether Walter would feel hopeless when Brown asks, and Roland not having reached this point himself, declaring of going and doing what’s necessary, Brown accepting this and rolling over to sleep. In the morning, Brown prepares him a final meal and gets him going, they parting with kind words. When the sun had set, Roland dreamt, the mountains near, but unseen, he having Cort repeatedly returning to his thoughts, the man showing him how to shoot and his morals. When he regains consciousness, he notes of his “romantic” nature only having been known by few, Susan from Mejis being one, and then reminding himself again of Cort and how he now was the last to survive, packing up and continuing his walk.

Roland gets a children’s rhyme stuck in his mind, his mother having sung it to him during nap time. He was now devoid of water and had been walking for a little over two weeks, the mountains not looking any nearer. When he scraped his hands after tripping and had maddened thoughts of the blood as it fell, he became aware of his sanity taking a break. He then notices a couple of buildings which caught his attention earlier upon checking the distance of the mountains, they much closer now. He makes out one as a stable and the other a motel or home, this “a way station” for coaches. There was a person propped against the building Roland recognizing as Walter once walking closer, exhausted he still prompts himself to run as he pulls his gun and declares of having him in his sights, but when the figure gets up, he sees he’s facing a blonde boy, the two staring and Roland not believing his eyes, heading toward the stable, a buzzing persistence in his head. When he reaches the black heat inside, he turns to see the kid had followed, he then falling face-down.

Roland resurfaces with light in his face and straw under his head, the boy having attempted to keep him at ease, the boy also giving him water, then offering food, but Roland taking it slow for knowing he’d gotten sunstroke, the boy then introducing himself as John, preferring to be called Jake Chambers. Roland senses he was ten or eleven, his slight look of intimidation letting Roland know he could rely on him. When Jake returns with more water, Roland admits he’d mistaken Jake for Walter at first, Jake revealing a man in black, a holy man had passed through, Jake not liking him, and when Roland insists he attempt a guess of how long ago he’d left, Jake hesitates between one to two weeks, but certain it was “three poops ago”, then reminded of a film he’d seen in Times Square, Roland not understanding this. When Jake goes off to acquire some meat for him, Roland knows the boy wasn’t from around there, and when he’d returned, Roland inquires into it, Jake no longer knowing, but mentioning someone from his past stating it was due to too much TV.

Roland asks what he’d meant by “Channel 11”, thinking it was a “beam”, Jake then becoming upset with the continued questioning, since he knew his memory was going and he may not remember what his own name was soon, and Roland would be leaving him. Roland essentially tells him to bite the bullet (a phrase I despise), but then requests Jake tell him what he could of his past. Jake only relented when Roland insists so he could decide whether he may be able to puzzle through the leftovers Jake couldn’t put together any longer, the boy describing New York City, the Statue of Liberty, cabs, buses, how he got to, what he brought with him, and what he wore to school, he only using half remembered details. Roland then inquires if Jake would like for him to put him to sleep, to help him regain his memories, he showing Jake what he meant, a similar trick to watching a pendulum swing, Jake quickly lulled, and Roland then thinking of another song his mother had sung to him. Roland disgustedly acknowledges his hands own talents for destruction before inquiring where Jake was. Jake is heading out, detailing what was in his packed lunch the cook had made him and what subjects he had at school, as well as how all the adults treated him cordially, he not experiencing any exceptional warmth from even his parents, and at school, he’s left alone, but has no buddies, girls attracted to him, but his stately manner throwing them off. When he gets to a corner, Walter is there, causing him to get run over by a car, the last he sees is Walter approaching and his own hand.

Roland is troubled by the boy’s story, he not having heard of a place like this before, the closest possibility being Lud, he then giving Jake the option to remember, but he choosing not to, Roland letting him go to sleep. He decides how fond of Jake he was, as he sipped water and looked through the stable, seeing the machine Jake had gotten the water from, Roland then sitting near him and debating whether Walter was allowing him to catch up on purpose. Next, when thinking of the children’s rhyme, Cort comes to mind, as well as others which circle back to Susan, he then entertaining himself with an old tune as he’s comforted in knowing Walter was drawing nearer, Roland then beginning to drowse. He regains consciousness near nightfall, Jake no longer there, Roland locating him outside on the porch of the house, he having made a fire. Roland sits nearby and discusses how he’d be continuing his chase of Walter, uncertain whether he’d end his life or would need him to lead him somewhere, when Jake asks his plan. Roland confides it was whether Walter could lead him to a tower, and then states Jake would need to accompany him, asking about how much food they had, and Jake sharing of a smelly cellar, but not going down, since it seemed unstable. After Jake shares how he was glad he hadn’t murdered Roland in his sleep, he asks if he could share the stable with him when they go to sleep, Roland gives permission, and thinks of his past before calling it a night.

Roland looks in the cellar the next morning, Jake correct in stating the stench being strong from rotten vegetables, he detecting some canned food, but upon the third round, the foundation beginning to creak loudly, Roland calling for Jake to exit, he then hearing Allie’s voice caution him about “the Drawers” and Walter, he then going to the wall he’d heard the voice at and punching through it, grabbing a jaw bone before returning upstairs and out. Jake is hysterical, and hugs him when he sees him exit. Roland realizes Walter may have counted on his affection for Jake, Roland then suggesting they leave, giving a water-bag for him to carry, and Roland taking the last two along with his possessions and the food. After walking a little ways, Jake waves goodbye to the way station, stating how he felt they were being watched and glad to be reassured they wouldn’t return, soon the way station no longer in sight, and they heading for the mountains.

The mountains became more distinct a few days later, Roland able to make out the colors and type of terrain was ahead, Jake watching the lightning ‘show’ which would occur nightly, lulling him to sleep. Roland considers the possibilities of what could be in store for him by Walter, since the boy was an exceptional travel companion, staying out of his way and not slowing him down, no questions being raised on Roland’s actions, he knowing Walter had some reason for putting Jake in his path, and it most likely a doozy if everything was going as well as it was. Walter’s nightly burned campsites were also becoming more recently abandoned, Roland wary upon soon confronting him. At noon on the fourth day, Jake was commanded to stop after he’d stumbled, Roland insisting he drink some water, he then stating from this point forward, they’d be taking breaks daily at this hour, Roland distracting Jake from his guilt by pulling his bullet trick and speaking of where he grew up, as well as Merlin, the boy then going to sleep.

Roland prepares a smoke for himself as he realizes he was no longer urgently desiring to catch up with Walter, thinking of how he may attempt to trick Roland. He imagines men from his past and the varying humors, as well as natures they had, concluding his thoughts of a bird he related to because of its unrelenting nature to kill, Roland affected negatively for a moment before letting the thought go. Another place and time is shown, spring being the season, Cort, David, the falcon, and Cuthbert or Bert were in a spot where a game would soon be started. Roland then makes certain all were prepared, none of them yet allowed to speak the High Speech, Cort letting a dove out of it’s cage, David following soon after, Bert then getting punished for not releasing the dove on time, Roland distracting them by yelling of seeing the dove and David’s progress, the falcon dropping the dove, Roland running at the fallen bird, as David tore into it, he distracting the falcon with a piece of rabbit, and when he tried putting David’s leash back on, was rewarded with a cut to his arm, David resumes consuming the dove until Roland succeeded with getting the falcon leashed, giving him another slice of meat, and hooding him so he’d set upon his arm, Cort regards how Roland had been cut because the falcon didn’t respect him, and wouldn’t ever do so.

Cort releases them for the evening and reminds Bert of his punishment for later and the next morning, but whacking Bert once more for seeing his insolence in the reflection of Roland’s eyes. When they are returning, Roland offers they both eat in a different kitchen which would possibly allow more safety for Bert to get away with eating dinner, Roland regarding how it shouldn’t matter if Cort learned of this or not. The kitchen cook was called Hax, he of mixed origins and a pleasant acquaintance to all of the children he encountered, even the wild ones becoming gunslingers, he giving the two meat scraps as work was quickly done around them. Hax is then approached by a scullery boy leading someone from the Guards to announce the Guard wanted to speak with him. Hax instructs the two to go get some pie and leave after so he didn’t receive backlash, the two eating under the stairs. When they were ready to go, Hax and the Guard make their way near the stairs, making it impossible for the boys to exit undetected, the two hearing something about a get-together for a job in a few weeks and poisoned meat. The men then agree how loyal they were to someone, Hax then inquiring about whether kids would be poisoned in the town and if it’d be painful, the Guard assuring it was mild.

The two speak more of how the Guard planned to make his leaving look normal as Roland notes how he’d had the chance to end the two where they’d stood, Bert and he digesting all they’d heard, Roland seeing Hax’s death in Bert’s eyes. When Roland’s father had returned home, he didn’t waste any time to inform him, the man surprised, wondering about Roland’s reasons for coming forward, he stating it was because they had tricked him, then declaring wanting to be present when he was hanged, his father deciding to allow it. As Roland inquires whether his father knew whom Hax and the Guard had referred to as a “good man”, and why, if caught, it wouldn’t satisfy the public, Roland’s father dismisses him instead of answering. Roland remembers how his mother, father, and Marten, the good man, had been found in the end, and debated how it could technically include himself among them, as well (mysterious).

Roland notes how Bert would’ve found where the gallows were, being quite a suitable relation to the information they’d overheard, the notes from each of their fathers letting them out of Cort’s lessons early, and he instructing the two to set half a loaf of bread under each of Hax’s feet once dead, which he supplied and threatened them to complete correctly. When the boys had arrived a couple hours before everyone else and realized what the bread was for, Bert was chickening out, but Roland saw the value of why they’d been given permission, although not forcing Bert and himself to climb the gallows as Roland had suggested, knowing Cort would’ve forced them both, he discovering how dissatisfied he was with the state of his childhood by this point, then retrieving a splinter of wood from the platform and replying it would be a reminder. They then sit down across the way and view the people as they arrived, Roland hoping there was a good reason behind betraying Hax, he apprehensive and Bert showing no emotion.

Roland was reassured by how the hanging had gone, Hax’s arrival not eliciting too much response from the gathered group, a gunslinger leading Hax to his rope and inquiring if he’d care to make confession, Hax denying the need, Roland planning on speaking with his father about what look he’d seen pass over the crowd as Hax spoke. Right before the deed was done, the gunslinger states his charges and pulls the trap door open as Hax is readying to deny it was true. Roland had stayed impressed with how Hax had continued to attempt speaking after he was hanging, after this everyone made their way off, the two boys approaching the body and Bert discussing how Hax didn’t look himself anymore, Roland disagreeing. The two then spread the bread under Hax’s hanging body, Bert declaring he’d enjoyed the show, Roland not denying this, but replying it was definitely an event. A few years after this, Roland had become a gunslinger, his father was already dead, and he’d killed his mother, his travels then starting.

Jake then brings Roland’s attention to the barely visible figure of Walter climbing high above them supernaturally jumping large areas, it seemed, this being a couple days at the bottom of the mountains for the two. Jake questions Roland of whether this was whom he was searching, whether they’d catch up, and what was beyond the mountains, Roland confirming it was the man he was chasing, believed perhaps they’d reach him on the other side, and couldn’t determine what they’d discover there, he hastening they continue. When they make camp later on, Roland wonders if Jake felt the gravity of their chase and eventual conclusion, however it may involve the Tower, as well, Jake then referred to as a “sacrifice” as Roland covers him as he slept.

Cryptically, Jake discovers “the oracle”, and it had nearly killed him, the days torturous, and Jake’s steadfastness making Roland look on him with pride, despite the crazed look in his eyes, but as they hiked further up, Roland was able to shoot a rabbit, he then ordering Jake to sit whilst he gathered wood, the boy asleep by the time he’d returned. When he’d gone to top off their water-skins, he’s reminded of Allie (King talks like she’d been completely forgotten by now, but possibly putting it like this because of how long it seemed for Roland walking through the desert), he returning to make the rabbit stew with the remainder of their veggies, and after waking Jake, informs him they were staying put the next day, sensing it wouldn’t hurt, but also not having a good feeling about it. As Roland nods off, Jake already back to sleep, he is reminded of Bert again as he throws his cigarette in the campfire, the night pleasant, he dreaming. Next, Susan is about to die, Roland’s love, he being held by a couple of townspeople, but in reality not having witnessed her death. People were chucking corn at her, the husks aflame before even hitting her, the witch, Rhea definitely amused, wherever she was, Roland’s attention then brought to Susan’s window when she’d shrieked about a boy, Roland viewing Jake with a sharp object in his head. Roland wakes when he begins feeling coals from the fire burning his hand, he still hearing a sound he thought had come from his dream, then seeing Jake wasn’t there, he up and after him. Jake had gone further up a ways, Roland smelling his scent, and when entering between some stones, understood what the boy was going through mentally, and physically, the oracle, or succubus emanating a feeling hard to ignore, Roland whipping out the jawbone in his pocket and putting it in front of his face, doing the same for Jake, he having more trouble coming around, but passes out, which allowed Roland to get them both back to the camp, the energy seeming upset, Roland aware now how deeply he cared for Jake, certain he could sense Walter laughing at him.

Roland wakes by Jake yelling at him, he having bound Jake before going back to sleep, he now hungry and angry, Roland explaining he had wandered off, showing him the jawbone, which reminded him, Roland then informing him he was to stay at the camp whilst he took care of something, stating if Jake believed for any reason he had to desert the camp, to look at the jawbone, Jake resisting his ability to do this, due to his revulsion to it. Roland instructs how he should use it when necessary, he relating Jake to another childhood buddy of his, Alain, Jake then relenting with sad resignation, Roland considering how dangerous his task was, but he needing to learn more about the oracle, and attempt to defeat it. Roland then takes out a pill of mescaline, explaining to Jake of what it did, Jake describing its similarity to LSD, which he couldn’t remember the reason for it being similar, Roland then taking the pill and cleaning his weapons whilst he waited. After, he sewed a tear in Jake’s shirt, he then noticing the physical affects of the drug kicking in. Roland announces it was time he go, Jake wishing him luck and safety, Roland rumpling his hair as he walked past him.

Roland heads for the rocks, he taking a moment to sip some water from the stream he would be crossing, looking at his reflection curiously. Roland realized his thoughts were becoming heavier and felt like it was slowing his actions, but  he moved himself onward, fortunately still peaceful in mind, the drug usually irritating him, and as he entered the circle, not feeling the way he had before, he lying on the altar and thinking of a line of Manni poetry, seeing faces in the trees, finally feeling a presence and requesting it to share what needed to be passed on to him. He now was forced to envision Susan, as the oracle mourned and pled for Roland to be warm toward her, since it was already frigid there, the oracle denying of hearing about Jake when Roland brought him up, and continued to go after Roland’s lust with desperation, he negotiating to give what the oracle desired after he received honest information, he withholding and realizing the oracle was moving off sadly, he insisting being told, the oracle then stating he sleep, but when being denied, suggests half sleep, Roland debating this due to the serious nature of what was being asked of him, he also considering its necessity, and then succumbing to half sleep.

The first item he learns is the number three being his fate, another number to show up later, Roland then asking for this to be elaborated, he told of a “young, dark-haired…demon” called, Heroin, the oracle then warning of unfound “doorways”. The second piece of knowledge is brief, a female arriving on “wheels”, and the third about someone else’s end, Roland then inquiring of Walter and learning they’d be chatting of the Tower soon, he afterward insisting to hear about Jake, whom was his ticket to Walter, and in turn he leading him to the three, and this getting him to the Dark Tower, the oracle unable to explain, to Roland’s aggravation. He learns Jake could be saved though, which would have him turn back, he unable for Marten deceiving his father, the oracle stating Walter had consumed Marten’s essence and wasn’t accessible any longer, as Roland was aware, but he not able to give up, the oracle replying of he being cursed in this case, and Roland allowing the oracle then to do as she willed.

The oracle does her ‘bidness’, Roland having to stop her when he’d finished, she persisting, so he being more aggressive to leaving, then considering how long her next wait could last, time being an overpowering hindrance. Jake goes toward him when he approaches the camp, looking worried, Roland clarifying he wasn’t ill, and Jake could leave the jawbone he carried with him, Jake tossing it with loathing, Roland so exhausted he had been ready to share his problems (dan-dinh, also a gamer, apparently), and update him of what he’d experienced, but immediately turns away from the idea, and wondered if he was losing his mind by even having thought to attempt it. He instead shares of their plans for later and right then he would sleep. Jake uses an idiom which confuses Roland until rephrased, and when he’d resurfaced, he designated the task of rekindling the fire to the boy, he shocked to hear a rhyme he hadn’t remembered saying in front of him. Jake is proud of himself when succeeding with using the tools required to restart the fire, Roland walking off to hunt, he returning with three rabbits ready for boiling, and praising Jake on having prepared the water for them, the boy blushing. As the stew boiled, Roland gathers vines as possible rope for later, but sensing “ka” was with them. They break camp at sunrise, their food supply quite light, and as they hiked, Jake and Roland discuss the boy’s views on their upcoming hike up the mountain being strenuous or not, Jake believing the latter.

Jake guesses correctly about the start of their hike up, it not terribly taxing, and when they viewed their progress, Roland was struck by how non-threatening the desert looked from this height, and how it had almost been the end of him. As they continue forward, their path getting steeper, Roland hears the sounds of a storm, but they being safe for now, since it was on the other side of the mountain currently. At sunset, the two set up camp, Roland supplying them a blanket tied up to cover them from wind, Jake being reminded of his mother when remembering a descriptive phrase she used in reference to how deeply he slept, he fighting the urge to get upset. Roland is reminded of a phrase Cort would use when he’d ask useless questions, then Jake wonders how he’d gotten there and the reason for his memory loss, Roland stating it was caused by Walter and the Tower. When Jake confesses confusion, Roland agrees with the sentiment, Jake then asking where he was from, Roland sharing the place was called New Canaan and wasn’t there anymore.

Roland then reminisces to himself of a time when his parents had set him up with a suitable girl for a party, and how the surroundings had begun to lose its luster when he had been about to leave to follow Walter, he saddened by the state of its decline compared to his earlier memories. After he and Jake speak of how the place had turned to ruins, Jake shares how he’d want to have lived there, he then lying down to sleep. Roland considers the unfortunate situation to come for Jake, but this only asserting itself temporarily before he came back to himself and slept. The further on they arose, the more treacherous it became, but Jake stayed useful with his agility in small rock faces, he able to help Roland with a few narrow spots with the ropes they’d brought. The next day, they were trudging through an icy spot of the mountain caused by a cloud, they detecting a footprint in the ice, making camp later upon sunset, and Roland believing Jake may start asking questions, but instead goes to sleep quite quickly. Roland follows suit, but wakes with a similar nightmare as before with Jake and the object in his head, he waking and seeing Jake wasn’t soundly sleeping either, Roland then attempting again to sleep.

One week after the footprint, they were in Walter’s presence for a short moment. Before this happens, they reach a point where they begin going downhill, and when they stop at a stream, they smell Walter on the air and continue on until approaching a bend, Jake wanting to stop and looking terrified, he pleading they turn around, and when Roland refuses, Jake is dazed with the knowledge of he going to be murdered, and this time by Roland, the latter attempting to not straight up lie and only saying he’ll be wary, Jake resigning and holding Roland’s hand as he leads him forward. The two see Walter and the wall of granite he was already climbing, he greeting Roland magnanimously, but with sarcastic quality. Roland fires three shots before controlling himself, Walter amused and inquiring if Roland would deny himself the answers he was chasing. Roland suggests he return to eye level to discuss it, but Walter thinking a good chat on the other side of the mountain a better plan, he regarding Jake and adding he wouldn’t be present, this making him emit a noise of fear. Walter then leaves them through a crack in the face of the granite. Roland watches Jake and thinks how with training he could’ve become a gunslinger, he now able to separate any emotion he’d had for Jake, he bluntly stating of he having the option to join him or not, Jake knowing he’d starve if he stayed, so continued forward, they reaching the point Walter had been and following his route.

Roland next confides to Jake, speaking as if dreaming, of he, Alain, and Bert going somewhere they weren’t supposed to, he having been speaking nonstop since leaving the outside. When night fell, they walk a bit longer before making camp, no longer hearing Walter. Roland had continued his recollection of a particular Ball and how the three had snuck in by balcony, seeing gunslingers with their ladies and elders being entertained, at one point Roland’s mother dancing with Marten until his father motioned for her, everyone by this time knowing his father would become Dinh of Gilead, at the least, but only one person, Gabrielle Veriss not being aware, Jake asking of her being his mother, and Roland confirming. He then tells of Marten having been the gunslingers’ counselor, but soon started repeating himself, so Jake lies down as Roland makes a cigarette, and notes how the memory pained him because of his father’s betrayal. Roland then sleeps, this time Jake looking at him with affection before also sleeping.

Roland’s ability to understand time had been partially effected by the desert’s sameness and completely wiped by the mountain consistently dark. The days which could have been weeks or hours passed, at one point Jake wandering off a ways and Roland hearing him state of having found what felt like a railroad track, Roland following to investigate, and upon seeing for himself by striking a light, couldn’t imagine what the metal conduits could’ve been meant for, but deciding they’d see where they led when waking again, the two bedding down. When Roland woke, Jake was already up and waiting by a rail, they following this for three sleeps, and after the fourth, bump into a car, Jake recognizing it for what it was because of cartoons, he demonstrating how it worked, a strange electronic voice encouraging the continuation of pushing it, Roland then helping.  He locates the button to end the electronic voice, thankfully since it would speak every time it was pushed and they move on in silence.

The river they traveled by was sometimes close and at others almost inaudible, the workout for Roland of mostly pumping the car by himself helped his ability to pass out when they stopped, Jake eventually asking about his fight with his teacher after a long period of no conversation, and this not long before the ambush by the Slow Mutants. Roland explains how an unseen man had been hung for rape, Jake supplying he’d been “invisible”, Roland deciding not to share how the man had been captured right then. He continues with how a couple years later he had ditched a girl which he wished he hadn’t, but Jake knowing his sentiment wasn’t true, Roland fessing up to start his story of how he truly grew up. It took place in Gilead, the seriousness of war beginning, this is a few years after Hax’s death, Roland now fourteen and feeling like a horny teen, passes by his mother’s quarters on his way to the roof for some self-love, Marten calling to him of his mother wishing to speak with him. When he comes in to see she sitting there impassively, asking of his schoolwork and training, he notes Marten next to her seeming to have some control of her, the man stating he could leave, but Roland replying of his mother being the one to give this permission, Marten again excusing him and mentioning knowing where he’d been headed and the reason, Roland leaving and shockingly hearing Marten smack his mother and addressing her inappropriately.

Roland’s other buddy, Jamie was passing by and was deciding whether to update him on the most recent news of war, but upon seeing the look on Roland’s face, instead goes off to grab the other kids, Roland continuing on to Cort’s cabin where he rested and ended his schooling when awaking him, the man giving him a chance to change his mind, speaking of how bright a possibility he’d had if he had patience, but Roland’s mind was set, he being sent away to prepare for his probable expulsion. Roland gets David from the barn, the bird quite old now, but also allowing Roland to take him outside to the area the fight to adulthood would ceremoniously be won or lost, normally the spectators surrounding the spot being with friends and family, but today was only filled with Roland’s fellows, looking on with fear. When Bert mentions where Roland’s weapon was, he confirms he had it with him, Cort then entering and asking the traditional questions. Roland thought of his mother and father, the former somewhere currently inside the castle and the latter away on a hunt. When Roland announces his weapon was David, it only pauses Cort for a moment before they begin. When Roland uncovers David’s eyes, Cort speaks with contempt of Roland’s choice, fortunately David flying true, right at Cort’s face, he doing the first thing which could save the battle, the result leaving David on the ground, Roland attacking whilst the timing was right, but Cort still quick and grabbing at him, which tripped him, his possibility for success dwindling, until he felt David pecking at him, not able to see, so as Cort comes at him, Roland throws the broken bird at Cort, commanding David to “kill”, Cort landing on Roland.

Cort was still fighting him when he landed, Roland fending him off, David still inflicting damage, but he finally freeing himself of the bird, Roland breaking his nose and moving away before Cort could retaliate, grabbing the man’s weapon and standing over him. Cort makes a final play and Roland squarely hits him, Cort then gladly giving in, naming Roland a gunslinger, his recovery including a week in a coma. Before allowing Cort to fully pass out, he requests the key to where his guns would be, Cort leaving him with one final piece of advice, Roland acknowledging his words, stating he’d speak to the whores in town to not expect him for awhile, then designates his buddies to build a stretcher and instruct two nurses to attend to Cort. Roland comes to terms with now being the youngest gunslinger and the first of his group to ‘graduate’. This was also to be the night he lost his virginity, and whilst Roland hadn’t confided every detail, he believed Jake could deduce most of it, the boy’s reaction defensive and arrogant which was making Roland mad, especially when he mentions how the “game” he’d played may have been his foray into adulthood, but wondered if men ever truly matured, stating how he knew Roland was planning on using him as a bargaining “chip”, Roland then telling him to sleep.

When they’d moved on again, Jake saw the Slow Mutant first, they passing unharmed, but the three more ahead of them, standing in the way, Roland not expecting to be attacked, but shoots the first which heads for them. When they’re again lunged at, Jake is being pulled off the car, even after Roland shoots the creature, but after a bit more struggle, gets Jake loose, having him hang on by his belt (this calling back to the day I learned what this meant in prison, ha ha), they moving forward until again halted, this time by rocks on the track, Roland informing Jake he’d have to move them whilst he held them off with his guns, Jake not wanting to, but making a quick job of it, every “mutie” which made for him, Roland shooting. As more headed for them, Roland calls to Jake to return, they barreling over the rest, he keeping their fast pace well after he didn’t need to, they moving on for a few more days without any surprises. On their fourth waking, they approach a light source, Jake thinking the end was close, but Roland sensing otherwise.

As the light gets brighter, they see more stopped train cars of varying sorts, as well as more rail lines, many entrance ways ahead of them, and one of the signs in a language Roland could read, the two eventually getting off the car to walk, Jake reminded of this place looking like a “subway” station, but unable to define it, Roland seeing and taking a bow with arrows from a “weapon shop”. Jake points out a mummified body, the two supposing what had occurred and began seeing a few more as they proceeded. Roland instructs they return to the push car, but Jake deciding to stay, Roland feigning this was fine as Jake shouts after him of he believing Roland had made an agreement about him with someone, Roland then thinking how if he could wait until Jake matured a bit more, they both would be able to deal with Walter more easily, but turned from this idea, knowing they’d both be killed if they turned back, so Roland began moving the car, but Jake comes after him anyways, Roland sensing now the end was near.

Jake pumps the car for awhile so Roland could test the bow and arrows, which weren’t in good shape and couldn’t be repaired. The river becomes louder as they traveled, and after a few sleeps a new light begins to grow, it heading to an eventual crossing over the river. As well as this, natural sunshine was ahead, barely a pinprick, Jake halting them for a moment to inquire whether Roland thought Walter wanted them to cross the river to fall in the middle, Roland knowing this wasn’t probable, but stating ignorance, Roland then after inspecting the drop, suggests they walk across, Jake leading and Roland ready to help him should he stumble, the beams settling audibly as Roland walked across them, Jake almost taking a tumble when losing his balance for a moment before recovering, warning of a pot-hole and speaking of it like the game Simon Says, Roland knowing it as “Mother Says”. Roland feels like the walk was taking much more time than it truly was, also imagining how he’d react if he fell, he attempting to keep his thoughts from wandering to the boy’s future and how close the agreement was to completing.

Jake announces of planning to jump across the remaining distance, he stating Roland’s weight wouldn’t hold where he’d been standing and should head back without him, Roland noticing the underlying terror in his voice despite the attempt to sound calm. Roland takes a large step forward, Jake repeating for Roland to return the way he’d come and not wishing to die by Roland’s hand, the gunslinger demanding Jake continue on so both wouldn’t plummet into the river, and upon walking on, they inclined toward the sunshine, it then blocked by Walter, he greeting them mockingly. Roland reaches for the jawbone, but he no longer had it, and as Walter laughed, Jake lost his footing and hung to the side, Walter stating Roland approach, or not see him again, as Jake requested aid. Walter threatens to go as Roland debated, but he jumps forward with his goal of the Tower in his mind. Jake relents to his fate and speaks of accepting Roland ditching him as he grasped the ledge, the whole railing giving way and falling as he clung to it, Jake not making a sound. Roland knows he would be thinking of Jake and this moment long into the future, and as he approached Walter, the man in black envies his moving to the next step, Roland taking some shots at him, as Walter leads him to where they’d speak.

Walter takes him to an ages old murder circle with different animal skulls surrounding them, Roland noting how Mid-World must be near, if he hadn’t already arrived. Walter suggests Roland gather wood, since the cold would still bite, afterward he building and lighting a fire, he then designating Roland to make their food, he giving him a dead rabbit. Roland cooks it and hands the whole body back to him when done, he taking out the leftover jerky he had, Walter seeming annoyed Roland would think he’d hex the food. Roland states of Walter’s looks being younger than he’d thought, Walter confessing he’d wanted to show his real one, he then bringing Roland’s attention to the sunset which he believed Roland should view for the idea he may feel like he won’t again see it for quite some time, Roland stating his indifference by this point.

Walter prepares to read Roland’s future with his extended Tarot deck, the first card drawn being told of signifying “strength”, and by the second card turned, Walter having mentioned Jake both times, then by the fourth, Roland wanting to know why Walter was having him view the cards at all, he answering by commanding he only sit through it like one would at a religious service, and upon continuing, pulls the reaper and the Tower (it reminding me of the oracle’s prophecy), then upon getting to his seventh card, Walter states of it meaning life, but not in regards to Roland, he sharing how he wasn’t the man he was searching for, he only working for him. Walter then commands Roland sleep, he lunging for Walter, but not connecting, and when next conscious, Walter has light come on when announcing wanting some, and expanding the scenery as he spoke of it.

Roland sees earth made and animals crawling on it, also seeing moons revolve, and other planets. Walter continues to demand “light”, Roland now requesting him to stop, and Walter telling him he’d have to end his quest for the Tower, but when Roland refuses, Walter continues his command for light, and before protecting himself from it, Roland views something highly significant before returning to a safety within. When Roland gets up, Walter isn’t in sight, but speaks from behind him, confessing of being impressed with how he’d handled what he’d shown him, sharing of what he’d seen, and Roland not understanding, then bluntly stating how the Tower would remain beyond his reach. Roland defends himself by stating of Walter not understanding him enough to make such an assumption, Walter becoming serious and relating how he had been Marten, which he knew Roland believed and he’s the farthest traveled servant of the red ruler of the Dark Tower, Roland inquiring about Walter’s words of why he’d mentioned “red”, but he not delving further, only stating how Roland wouldn’t learn anything new and wouldn’t ever do so, then asking him to describe the last thing he’d seen, Roland detailing of it being a single purple “blade of grass”, Walter then requesting Roland listen.

Walter begins with the universe being “the Great All”, going further to explain how a mind couldn’t “grasp the infinite”, and one company “or cabal” had gotten closest, “the North Central Positronics”. When Walter goes on to confess how many accomplishments had been made, regarding disease, space travel, and the closeness of curing old age, Roland interrupts by declaring disbelief, Walter allowing he didn’t need to believe it, but even with all of this headway, no one seeming impressed with the knowledge, nor understood it, the reason he mentioned this was how the universe didn’t offer “life”, but the vastness of everything, claiming there was an “end” to anything would be presumptuous. After giving many examples of what he meant about universes being right out of reach or stacked on, or beside each other, he brings in the idea of the Tower being connected to another place, and rhetorically asks if he’d go to the top and see what was in the “Room”, he believing he wouldn’t do so.

Roland suggests God would go, or Walter’s king, then inquires if the room contained anything, Walter uncertain and wary of what would happen should he look, Roland then napping after stoking the fire. When he notices Walter looking at him, he demands he stop, checking for the dawn, which Walter sees and states of they having more to discuss, as his king had informed him, before the sun was meant to rise again. Walter makes certain, after Roland asks about the king again, whether he truly saw him as an equal, this being the only way honesty could be had, Roland beginning with what Walter had meant when mentioning a “glammer” (which I don’t remember reading…), Walter defining this in how it stayed dark, the king responsible for this. Walter then states their discussion would take quite some time and the specific amount unknown. Roland then is given his chance to ask whatever he wished, Walter stating how he’d not met his king before and Roland would locate “the Ageless Stranger”, and kill him first before he did.

Walter describes how his king visited him through his dreams, he working for him since he was a child, Roland being the end of his tasks. Upon being asked the name of the Stranger, Walter shares it was Legion, Roland inquiring whom was the one which was worse, when Walter mentions this, but he denying to answer, mentioning anything of End-World being the killer of souls. Roland approaches the subject differently, asking whether after Legion was the Tower, Walter confirming, but again knowing this wasn’t what Roland wanted to know. When he asks, Walter states how if he gave him the answer, he’d surely shoot him, Roland agreeing, so instead inquires where he would next need to go, Walter going off tangent about how Marten had not left, and Roland coming to terms with how the man had only changed form, Walter then stating how he’d share stories of Roland so he could learn more, he stating how he knew his mission was to locate the Tower, Walter informing him it was more about his mind, he being an original kind, he then offering Roland tobacco, making sure he was satisfied with it, since it could be the final smoke he had for quite awhile, he then going into the Tower being sought after, since it had come to be, and it had been standing an infinite amount of time.

Roland didn’t absorb much of their long conversation, the important bit being his heading for the ocean, which was twenty miles away and would gain “the power of drawing”. Walter clarifies Roland already had this power and would draw three, Walter readying to leave and before doing so, again brings light, this time Roland glad to see it. He wakes ten years older, Walter now a skeleton, which Roland is suspicious to believe was truly Walter, he taking the jawbone, and making it to the coast. He then waits for the moment of the drawing, imagining the day he’d reach the Tower and the fight which would come.

And immediately I want to know more, but I’ll be continuing with The Eyes of the Dragon before I do. This was a quick and interesting official start into the series, and I’m exhilarated in my foray into King reading. I also wonder if this will be covered in the movie, or if it truly is a continuation after the 7th book… We shall see!

The Little Sisters of Eluria (The Dark Tower 0.5)

Image result for little sisters of eluria book cover

A scorching day has Roland of Gilead approaching a town’s gate in the Desatoya Mountains. His horse was on his last legs and Roland noted decayed flowers attached to the gate, which signified a festival of some kind, and the quiet within erroneous. The few sounds heard coming from a bug which made a deep buzz, a rap on wood, and little bells. Roland dismounts the slowly dying horse, and respectfully grooms him a bit as he notes the sounds and enters through the gate, the only other defining mark being an odd looking cross, he having seen the typical style of this in other towns he’d seen in the ten months he’d been travelling, the norm being a large cross at the entrance, a smaller one upon exiting. He views the usual businesses within, two bars, a motel, a trade shop, town hall, and a metal-smith, he also viewing a church the further into town he got, the god of choice being Jesus, which wan’t a common deity in Mid-World, but still having a following. He then is pulled back into the only sounds described, he wary of the meaning of this involving death. As Roland led his horse through the gates, he saw a forgotten cob pipe in front of the trade shop, and the swinging doors of The Bustling Pig bar were in disrepair, one hanging open, the other leaning on the building, and what looked like blood on the door still attached. A fire had taken out a barn behind a stable, and as he gets ever closer to the church, he estimates the town’s current condition would’ve occurred possibly two weeks ago due to the flowers not being completely dead in front of the church.

Roland learns where the bells he heard came from, the cross on the church door having bells strung up, he then shouting out a greeting to the town, no reply being heard. He sensed he was being monitored though, he continuing his trek to the front of the Sheriff’s office, a billow of trapped heat consuming him upon opening the door. Roland sees a blood stain in the cell, flies getting a snack from the spatter, he discovering a notebook revealing the town’s name of Eluria. He then reads some of the entries, the last leaving him to suppose the criminal may have escaped. Roland continues toward the center of town, he identifying the wooden tapping to a lame dog chewing at the boot upon a dead body in a trough. When the dog notices him and doesn’t move along after Roland shoos him, he fires a warning shot which gets the dog limping away, and mournfully howling as he headed toward the back exit of the town. When he takes a look at the body, it’s of a teenager, he noticing a trinket around the boy’s neck, which he retrieves, the engraving including the name, James. Roland was pleased he’d gotten the necklace since he now could save it on the chance he met anyone knowing the boy, realizing ka could make the possibility more certain. He debated whether to bury the lad when his horse finally drops, he catching a glimpse of eight green-tinged people walking in his direction, their gender uncertain and approaching like zombies. The group carried wooden sticks off of furniture, one of them falling as they got closer.

Roland finally fires a warning shot after another pitches a stick at him, but not far enough, and his verbal warnings go unnoticed; the shot has the desired effect of pausing their progress. As he begins instructing them to keep still as he backs away, another of the green men shoots forward, making odd noises as he came (Roland beginning to identify their sexes as they got closer). Roland shoots him squarely, the man’s reaction being to step backwards at his same quick momentum, scratching at the bullet wound, he finally tripping and staying down. The dead(-er?) bodies reaction to the sun, bullet, or both, has Roland believing there wouldn’t be a corpse to think of an excuse for soon enough. The others stay put, until “Bowler Hat” takes another step after Roland had gotten behind the trough, he blasting a final warning shot, and sharing his plans of leaving unhindered, when another greenie is heard from behind him, this one hidden by a toppled wagon, the man-thing whacking Roland on the shoulder, and he missing his aim at the greenie, the gang he’d kept still, now speeding closer. The greenie whom hit him was a whopper of a fella with two heads, Roland putting him down with a head shot as he was readying to club him again, he now having to deal with the gang finally upon him, more club hits to contend with. Roland is able to send a few back, and hopes he’s able to get the buffer of the wagon so he could finish them off, he wanting to believe ka wouldn’t have his search end so early before locating the Dark Tower. Roland gets whacked hard enough to hit the wagon, he still working on escape, now aware of more greenies coming, perhaps thirty strong. As he’s losing consciousness, he still plans to shoot, but the gun is knocked away from him, he being consumed by darkness as the previously mentioned sounds, plus the dog’s barks, lull him into unconsciousness.

When Roland ascends to wakefulness, which he hadn’t experienced before, he believes he was no longer living, but as his sight came back slowly, he no longer thought he was dead, the singing he heard changing his mind, similar buzzing bugs being heard, he opening his eyes again and being tested whether he was actually living, noting he was hovering in a white, majestic place, thinking he was inside a cloud at first, hearing the buzzing and bells. Then, upon an attempt to turn, he felt straps holding him in place, feeling a hurt sensation climb up his back, another more terrible one in one of his legs. He realizes these pains came from the club with the nails in it, his head feeling terrible, as well. When he tries to call out, he’s having trouble convincing himself he was hearing his own voice, which sounded crow-like. He believed he imagined hearing the dog bark again, and then felt a hand on his face, comforting him at first, before thinking it could be a greenie, but then she spoke, attempting to keep him quiet so he could rest longer, he thinking of how he must be hanging above a bed, too wounded to be lain prostrate.

Roland, soon after this thought, falls into unconsciousness, only this time not as deeply as before. Some time later, he hears the girl angrily protesting to someone seeming to want to acquire something he had. When he awakes again, the “white beauty” place still charmed him, he recognizing it was a long, high, narrow space, he estimating it was about two hundred yards in length, he feeling it was a bit like being inside a large tent, silk above him giving the impression of being inside a cloud, from each section of silk having a rope with little bells attached, wind making them sound pleasantly. Roland saw two rows of forty beds, and two more were in use next to him, one Roland was suspicious in believing was truly the boy in the trough, now alive and sleeping, the necklace Roland had taken from him, on the neck of this one, supporting his disbelieved notion. The other man he saw was further away from the two, and much older, hanging above his bed, and Roland thinking his eyes were tricking him when he viewed the unconscious man’s multiple fractured legs in motion, dark impressions surrounding them, as well as one on his cheek; his back feeling the same, he attempting to ignore his curiosity to learn why. He then notices a cotton cloth on his chest, he recognizing he was wearing the same gown as the old man, and when grabbing and inspecting a chain he wore, realized he had the dead boy’s chain still. When he took a last look at the old man, the black line on the man’s cheek was gone, a wound still healing there, Roland confused by this, but able to fall asleep with the bells chiming and the bugs buzzing.

Roland next wakes and believes he must be having a night terror, seeing the first witch he’d ever met as more than a single woman, but five, and they were dressed in uniform, their faces heavily lined, small bells on the silk upon their heads. When Roland saw the sign of the Dark Tower on the front of their habits, he realized he was actually awake, then they noticing he is conscious, and when they approach, the age of their faces become a bit younger. When he inquires who they are, the one whom had spoken to him first introduces them as the Little Sisters of Eluria, and she was called Sister Mary, she revealing the others as Sister Louise, Sister Michela, and Sister Coquina, the final one sharing her name was Sister Tamra, her face changing quickly into quite an old crone’s, the group moving closer to him, and he bringing pain when cringing away, they curious by his pain, and as Michela readies to touch him, Mary warns of not doing so, Roland thinking it had to do with the medallion which had fallen out. A sixth, Jenna also bids them to go away, the Sisters teasing her of having fallen for him, she ignoring them and insisting they move along so Roland could rest, Jenna easing her tone with Mary’s sober reply of they not ever kidding around, after stating this, she deciding they’d visit the other needy souls.

Jenna attempts to soothe him with the fact of they not wanting to hurt him, but Roland knows this wasn’t the case. He then asks whether they followed Jesus, she amusedly denying this, which prompts him to inquire where the doctors were, Jenna debating sharing and finally warning him not to yell in panic with the boy right next to him, to which he agrees. So, she moves to where the old man hung, Jenna ringing the bells on her head as she leaned over him, the bugs he heard buzzing, going down his legs, Roland realizing this was what he was feeling on his back, securing his wounds. Roland definitely felt the urge to shriek as the bugs jumped off the man on to the floor. When Jenna rejoins him, she informs him how he was discovered, he grateful to her and sharing his name as requested, he sensing she wasn’t being truthful when she shares of not knowing where his weapons were, but didn’t hold this against her, believing she could be declaring this dishonesty for being scared. When she’s called by Sister Mary, she has him promise not to make known she’d shown him the doctors, and before going, has him stick to the story of he being James, the young man next to him his brother, otherwise she’d be in great danger. Roland considers the reason Jenna had moved the medallion to encircle his neck, thinking the Little Sisters may murder Jenna if they learned of this, Roland then drifting to sleep.

Roland is sleepily imagining a bug which could be one of the doctors, irritatingly bumping his face and chuckling whilst he uncoordinatedly attempted to swat it away. When the nightmare turns to a large greenie sneaking up on him, he jolts to consciousness to see Coquina had been happily tapping his face with a wooden spoon, and made her drop the bowl she had been holding with his sudden movement. Roland snatches the bowl before it drops out of reach, which impresses Coquina, he then gesturing for the spoon which she gives him, but he soon realizes isn’t necessary, drinking from the bowl directly, whilst warning Coquina to remember his agility. The two then get into discussing the pull each had on the other: if Roland mentioned Coquina’s teasing to Mary, and she making Jenna’s life difficult if he did. The two agree to stay silent about their exchange, Coquina confiding Jenna was currently on a ‘time out’, she then inquiring if he knew the no-longer-sleeping boy, he watching them, Roland not missing a beat to claim him as his brother, the boy supplying his own name to Coquina and Tamra, whom walked up, John also referring to Roland as Jimmy.

After the two Sisters leave, they speak of James’ fate, Jenna’s uniqueness, the non-mortal state of the nurses, and how John had gotten there, he deducing why James hadn’t been saved. As they spoke, Roland isn’t aware the soup he’d drank had been spiked, he becoming tired, John describing how many beds had been occupied before he’d gotten there, and how they didn’t return when healed, and as Roland became more deeply affected by the drug, John confesses what had happened to Roland to make him feel sluggish, the boy also questioning Roland’s thoughts on his presence when he was pretty much healed now, and his belief neither of them would see daylight again. When Roland wakes up in the night to laughter, he struggles to turn his head to see all of the Sisters except Jenna surrounding the old man, Mary speaking words he didn’t understand. When the room is thrown into pitch black, Roland hears the sounds of slurping, and when they’re done, he moves his head the other way. As they get closer to him and speak of their wanting to kiss him, but the medallion keeping them away, this doesn’t stop one of them from grabbing his boner until he quickly finds release, he seeing two faces bewhiskered with blood, and Roland’s assurance of not ever sleeping again. (Liar.)

When next Roland woke, it is brightly day, John asleep, and the old man removed, Sister Mary soon arrives with Louise, she speaking of not being grateful to him and revealing his ways had brought about Jenna’s revolt, she demanding he show his hand, the bowl of soup they’d brought with them making his stomach growl, Mary annoyed with how well he stuck to his story of being Jim, even after threatening Jenna, Roland stating of ending her if Jenna was harmed. Then, after refusing the soup unless given to him by Jenna, Mary informs whilst she had been released from time-out, she was bound to extra meditation, Roland having no choice, but to acquiesce, Mary’s threat of whipping Jenna keeping him trapped. When he sleeps once more, he believes he’s visited by Jenna, whom advises him to check beneath his pillow later, and when he’s finally able to, sees six stems of reed heads with instructions, and once finishing reading, realizes the importance of following the words carefully. The last time Roland speaks with John, they regret the circumstances they’d met, John unable to move well, and next heard from him, being a shriek. Michela comes with his soup next, along with bread, her words of his leaving soon giving him the impression of this being otherwise, what with her wolfish looks of hunger.

Roland eats another reed upon waking after his dose of soup, believing he’d overdone it with feeling ill, and having to stay still as all the Sisters, except Jenna had another person with them to obtain his and John’s necklaces. When Roland sees Mary with one of his guns, he vows she’ll regret having been so bold. The Sisters bribed Bowler Hat to relieve the two of their protection, he giving the impression he was about to obey their orders with John first, but then taunting them with leaving it on, he knowing their threats didn’t hold much water, other than the firearm, which after another threat from Mary, gives him pause. When he does finally go through with his task, he does a bit extra by killing John quickly after. The Sisters properly preoccupied, Bowler Hat escapes, the Sisters feeding, and when they’d gone, Roland taken over by the soup drug again, a nightmare hitting for the first time since his arrival, it foreboding the spread of the Sisters to surrounding towns, Bowler Hat’s presence in his dream waking him, he seeing John’s bed now empty, Roland being the last man swinging. He had some of the reed before Mary came with porridge, her youthful image strong due to her feast. Roland mentions his idea they’d been drugging him, but Mary denies this gleefully, she then turning to his lie about John being his brother when he asks after him, he then attempting to bribe the truth he kept by seeing Jenna, Mary angered and threatening his willingness to confess would come regardless.

 It ended up being quite a drawn out day, he fitfully napping and maintaining optimism of being able to survive this due to Jenna’s aid. He then bides his time with reminiscences of the past, he periodically chewing some reed, and noting they seemed to be overpowering the Sisters’ drug, and when evening came, Sister Tamra delivers his supper of soup, as well as a desert lily from Jenna, which Tamra asks of the topic being promised to Roland, he making up she’d told him they’d speak again, Tamra getting a kick out of this and sharing how Mary had chosen to deny this possibility already, she then asking why he didn’t take his necklace off, pointing out how John had, and when her words to convince him to do the same fail, she leaves, indifferent. Roland then plans on getting both necklaces to the Norman brothers’ family, as he chews another reed and feels actual endurance in him, he then drowsing easily, he awaking at true nightfall, and hearing the loud bugs, he chewing a reed. He hears a voice which turns out to be Coquina, she revealing herself, then Jenna walks toward them to confess she’d supplied the reeds to Roland, he thrusting the medallion toward Coquina to keep her away from him, Jenna having brought Roland’s firearms as he thought she would, but he still caught in the slings after attempting to break loose.

Jenna then uses the bells around her head to call the bugs, they swarming, and Jenna getting Roland loose, the two walking out of the tent, which is when Roland realizes he’d forgotten John’s necklace with regret, but Jenna revealing she’d picked it up, requesting he take it quickly because it was burning her. Then, three of the four Sisters approach, teasing Jenna as they get closer, she responding by speaking of leaving with Roland, the three surprised into silence, they warning her of what would occur if she tried, but Jenna stating how none of them truly knew whether there were consequences, she then threatening the bugs on them if they didn’t let she and Roland pass, but they standing aside willingly, Jenna leading Roland up a road, away from Eluria, not liking how Mary hadn’t shown herself, yet. They discuss how they were both in agreement in keeping each other company when Mary interrupts, she looking properly death-like. Jenna attempting and failing to summon the bugs, and Mary coming closer, Roland deciding he’d try choking her out, her flesh disgusting to the touch, and she thrusting him away with her power. Jenna then tries her bells again, this time getting a dog to answer the call, it going after Mary with gusto, as Roland pulls Jenna along.

When they stop to catch their breath, Roland considers why the dog had been immune to the Sisters’ powers when Jenna senses he must know something about it, which he responds by relating his theory, and then suggests they cover some ground before daylight. They cover a few miles, but not too many because of Roland still flushing out the Sisters’ drug, they locating a decent spot to spend the day, the two sharing a kiss before he passes out, dreaming of the dog discovering the Dark Tower, he then hearing bells and a scream which doesn’t fade with his dream, he waking to see he was alone, detecting Jenna’s clothes and then hearing the bugs, he ringing the dropped bells and the bugs making a sign which seemed to confirm his thoughts, Roland then tracking Walter once more, he troubled with the imagined ringing bells as he traveled on by himself. I liked this story, but I’m also annoyed I won’t be getting my hands on the comics any time soon, alas. At least I’ll be on to the next soon enough though, which isn’t actually soon enough.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Year Three)

 

Harry is revealed to loathe the summer holiday, he studying undercover, to attempt writing an essay about witch burning in the 14th century. He listens for any movement would definitely be punished if caught. Harry smuggles some of his locked up school books from the closet to his room, he being extra careful to stay out of his Aunt and Uncle’s way for Ron having called one day and Vernon answering. After the trouble made from Ron’s loud call, Harry didn’t receive anymore correspondence over the phone. After ending his studying for the night, he realizes it was his birthday (he claiming he’d never gotten a birthday card before, which I forget whether is accurate), Hedwig having been gone a couple nights since Vernon had given in to Harry letting her out at night due to the noise she’d make if sequestered for too long. A recap of Harry’s history with Voldemort is mentioned, then he sees three owls heading for his window, the one being carried belonging to Ron. Harry read the article accompanying the letter, Ron and family visiting his eldest brother, Bill in Egypt. The present with this was a Pocket Sneakoscope, he then opening the letter and present from Hermione, her gift a Broomstick Servicing Kit, Harry impressed. Hagrid’s gift was a snapping monster book (he expecting a book from Hermione, the monster-related part definitely making sense from Hagrid, though), which he had to bind, then opening the letter from Hogwarts which included a permission slip to go to the wizard-town, Hogsmeade on certain weekends, he contemplating how he’d get it signed, but going to bed, to worry about it in the morning.

When Harry goes down to the kitchen next morning, the Dursleys were watching their new TV as they ate, the news detailing an escaped prisoner, Black, Vernon then sharing he’d have to leave soon after having shared his opinion about what should be done to prisoners, he off to pick up Aunt Marge at the airport, Harry reacting with horrified discomfort. As Vernon readied to leave in the hall, Harry attempts to bribe him to sign his permission slip, Vernon agreeing (but it falling through, quite conceivably), Harry then sending a note with Hedwig for Ron to allow her to stay for the week of Aunt Marge’s stay. During the time he endured with her, he had a slight accident whilst she spoke of Harry’s mother in comparison to dogs, but the last day arrived, and Harry took all he could bear before ballooning Marge, and making a hasty exit after gathering his belongings.

Harry contemplated on how screwed he was, with nowhere to go, no means of contacting Ron and Hermione, and most certainly expelled from Hogwarts. Then when Harry felt as if he was being watched, he raises his wand to illumine the area, he inadvertently stopping the Knight Bus, whatever Harry had attempted to see, no longer there. He then gives the young conductor-like man Neville’s name due to the suspicious look he threw at Harry, and as they traveled Harry recognizes Black on the front of Stan, the young man’s newspaper, he letting Harry read the story. Sirius Black is mentioned being crazy, armed, and Fudge informing the Muggle Prime Minister for precaution, Black’s history of having killed over a baker’s dozen of people with a curse. Stan mentions Black’s support of Voldemort, the details of how he’d killed the people, and his capture. When the previous riders all left the bus, Harry asks to be dropped at Diagon Alley, and when he exits the bus, he’s met by Minister Fudge, he giving away Harry’s identity to an excited Stan. When the two are seated in a private room, Fudge shares how they’d handled his blown up Aunt, and happy Harry wasn’t hurt. He then suggests Harry stay in a room at the Leaky Cauldron for the remainder of his vacation, Harry sensing this suggestion odd, Fudge not normally involving himself in underage magic rule-breakers. When Fudge returns with the news of which room he’d be staying in and his curfew, as well as not to wander in Muggle London, he leaves. Harry then is led to his room by the owner, he surprised by Hedwig waiting inside for him, then going to sleep.

Harry made good use of his free time, also enjoying the ability to sleep-in and choose his own menu. He would spend time people-watching in the Leaky Cauldron, and studied at an ice cream parlour with the help of the proprietor whom also supplied free sundaes for him. One item which tested Harry’s spending skills was the latest broom at the Quidditch store, instead he buying replenishments for his potions supply, a better fitting robe, and school books. When entering the shop, he realized Hagrid had taken care of one of his required books, the next one he needed being pointed out by the book keeper, but Harry becoming entranced by a death omens book which depicted a large black dog which seemed familiar, but continues with his requested reading selections, afterward dropping everything off in his room. Soon enough, it’s his last day of vacation, he being spotted by Ron with Hermione at the ice cream parlour. Soon Hermione talks of getting her own owl, whilst Ron dealt with his rat Scabbers’ pallid state at the pet shop. As Ron was getting his rat tonic, a cat jumped on his head, scaring Scabbers out the door, Hermione coming out of the shop with the orange fatty, completely content with her buy of Crookshanks. They go back to the Leaky Cauldron where Harry is greeted first by Mr. Weasley, then Mrs. Weasley as she returned with Fred, George, Percy, and Ginny. Everyone had their dinner together, and when returning to their rooms to finalize packing, Harry hears Percy and Ron arguing about missing items, Harry helping Ron out by retrieving Scabbers’ tonic, down in the bar, he overhearing an argument between Mr. and Mrs. Weasley over Black coming after Harry. He hears them settle the argument and return upstairs, Harry locating Scabbers’ rat tonic, giving Ron the remedy and learning from Fred and George what had become of Percy’s badge. Harry then also realizing he would have no chance visiting Hogsmeade with Black on the loose.

Harry is in the process of getting ready the next morning when Ron enters, sharing the new accusation he’s now suffering from Percy, Harry about to share his news when interrupted by the twins who were giving Ron their kudos for his irritating Percy. The boys go down where everyone else is waiting, their rides arriving soon after. Mr. Weasley sticks close to Harry, even walking him through the barrier when they arrived early for a change. As everyone was being given a sandwich by Mrs. Weasley, Mr. Weasley was about to inform Harry privately of the danger he was in, Harry making it easy on him by confessing he’d heard the two talking and not to worry, since he wasn’t. Mr. Weasley then attempts to have Harry promise him, no matter what he heard about Black, not to go looking for him, the train by this time about to leave, so Harry having to rush on board. Harry then insisted on speaking with Ron and Hermione alone, the three going to the last compartment, which had an adult passenger dozing, it uncommon to see anyone but students on the train. Hermione was first to mention the man’s name on his luggage, Professor Lupin, Harry then confiding the information of Black after him, the two taking the news gravely. Ron then notices a noise which they soon connect to the Sneakoscope, Harry having to deaden the sound by smothering it with socks from his luggage. As the group switched subjects to Hogsmeade, Harry informs them of he not allowed to go, the two considering whom Harry could ask for permission. When no ideas stuck, they passed the time idly until the food cart came, Malfoy showing up later with Crabbe and Goyle, but the three backing off when seeing the professor. Soon they notice the train was slowing, but they weren’t yet at Hogwarts.

The lights go out once the train fully stops, Hermione leaving the compartment after Neville joined them, planning to ask the conductor what was happening when she runs into Ginny, Ron seeing people entering the train and Lupin finally waking. He lights the compartment with small flames when a figure wearing a hooded cloak walks in, Harry noticing the hand protruding from the covered figure not looking plump with life. As the figure breathed in, Harry could no longer take in a breath and felt cold. When he comes to, the train is moving, Harry asking whom had screamed, no one else having heard, Lupin giving everyone a piece of chocolate and sharing what they’d seen being a dementor. After again insisting Harry eat the chocolate to make him feel better, he exits to speak with the driver. Ron and Hermione then relate to Harry what had happened to him and how Lupin had made the dementor leave. When they reach Hogsmeade station, they go to the awaiting carriages, when they reach Hogwarts, Malfoy accosts them once more to ask if Harry had actually blacked out, he being turned away once more when Lupin gets out of his carriage. When they enter, McGonagall calls for Harry and Hermione to follow her to her office, Harry then learning it was related to his reaction to the dementor on the train, he irritated by the attention and insisting he was alright. He was then sent outside to wait so McGonagall could speak with Hermione about her schedule. After, they all return to the dining hall, Harry in the process of updating Ron, but Dumbledore standing to make a speech, Harry shutting up to listen. After noting the dementors presence, he introduces the new professors, Lupin getting a look of hate from Snape, the next professor mentioned being Hagrid, whom would be teaching Care of Magical Creatures to the trios shocked delight. After the feast they give their congratulations to Hagrid, then go to their dorms, Harry quite pleased to be back.

The trio enter the dining hall to Malfoy reliving his own version of what happened to Harry on the train with a group of Slytherin youth. Fred and George cheer him up with schooling Malfoy at Quidditch this year as a consolation for his big mouth, and Malfoy’s reaction to the dementors being quite embarrassing, as well. Ron then notices Hermione’s full schedule, a few starting at the same time. The three then quickly finish breakfast so they could locate their first class, Divination, getting help from a knight in a picture. When the class begins, Professor Trelawney appears slowly, speaking how this class would be difficult to pass without the Sight. She proceeds to freak the class out with upcoming events, one foreboding statement of someone leaving forever near Easter, she then giving the first assignment of reading tea leaves. Ron and Harry get a kick out of attempting to read the other’s cup when Trelawney comes to look at Harry’s and what she sees eventually makes her swoon. Harry’s cup had the Grim omen of death, which is a large ghostly dog which haunts churchyards, Harry recalling the book he’d seen at the bookshop and seeing a similar dog on a cover. After the ill-fortune being told, the class ends early and they’re off to Transfiguration where McGonagall soon notices how distracted the class was to be unphased by her turning into a cat, Hermione explaining why, and McGonagall calming them with Trelawney’s penchant to choosing someone to die on every new term, it not having happened yet.

Ron is still spooked by lunch, Harry sharing how he’d seen a Grim already when he caught the Knight bus, but it soon falling to Ron and Hermione bickering over psychic reliability. They were then off to Hagrid’s for their Magical Creature’s lesson, Harry soon spotting Malfoy and goons, but no time wasted on them, Hagrid anxious to have the class see what he had in store for them. After leading the group to an empty paddock, Hagrid learns his students hadn’t figured out how to open their books yet, showing them how easy it was to coax the buggers to be complacent. Then he goes to lead their study subjects to the group: Hippogriffs. The animals looked, and were quite intimidating, but Harry offered to be first to approach one, he going through the formalities Hagrid coached him through, and the Hippogriff allowing Harry to touch him, then ride him, the rest of the class following suit, but Malfoy ruining it by insulting the Hippogriff, and getting hurt. The class disbanded to their common rooms as Hagrid took Malfoy to the nurse, Harry and friends still not seeing Hagrid at dinner, but noticing his light on after, they off for a visit. Hagrid was drowning his sorrows and the group attempts to convince him it was Malfoy’s stupidity and was acting more hurt than he was. Hagrid overcome with their positive reinforcement, and after calming down, realizes Harry was outside at night, he switching to getting mad and escorting them all back.

Malfoy returns to classes late on Thursday, during Potions class, Harry and Ron soon to be put upon by Malfoy needing all chopping and busy-work to be done for him, and since he’d decided to set up right by them, they are the slaves. Malfoy also lets on he was milking his injury for the pleasure of getting Hagrid fired, and of course to be waited on. Then they learn through another classmate of how Sirius Black was spotted nearby, Malfoy partially letting on to some knowledge of why Harry should look for him, but leaving them wondering. Another confusing moment happens with Hermione disappears and reappears, she making an excuse, but Ron still wondering what she was hiding from them. They then have Defense Against the Dark Arts, Lupin taking the class out of the classroom for their first subject, Peeves and how Lupin deals with his insubordination by not removing gum from a key hole, they then moving on after viewing the useful spell, to the teacher’s lounge where a boggart awaited them in a closet, Lupin instructing them to picture their worst fears in a ridiculous way so as to complete the spell he teaches them, they doing this with no problem, and Harry not having needed worry since he didn’t get a turn with the boggart. Harry and group left, he wondering why he hadn’t gotten a turn, but also learning Lupin had a fear of crystal balls, mysteriously (at least, according to a student).

Defense Against the Dark Arts was soon many students favorite class, whilst Potions with Snape was fast becoming the worst since he’d found out about the boggart and Neville’s dress choice, he receiving the brunt of abuse, but Harry not enjoying it either.  As for Divination, Harry was losing patience with the classwork and Trelawney, Care of Magical Creatures taking a dive, as well since Hagrid had seemed to become timid, and so the class now were learning of a kind of worm. Harry was then saved by the Quidditch season nearing, their first team meeting being scheduled. After returning to the common room after first practice, Harry learned the first visit to Hogsmeade had been determined for the end of October, so Harry was convinced by Ron to ask McGonagall for mercy, he then settling to do his Astronomy assignment. Ron then gets a scare when Crookshanks attacks his bag for a resting Scabbers, he retrieving the rat physically unharmed, but this fueling him to insist Hermione get a handle on the cat. The next day, Harry was set on asking McGonagall after Transfiguration class about his fate on going to Hogsmeade, but his request didn’t work in his favor.

The day for Hogsmeade quickly arrives, Hermione and Ron having made up over their pets not getting along what with feeling bad for Harry, promising him souvenirs, Harry attempting neutrality on his stay. He walks the two to where everyone was readying to go, then goes to the common room where Colin spots him quickly. So as not to get stuck with him, Harry excuses himself with going to the library to get some assignments done, leaving, but as he’s on his way, changes his mind to go elsewhere, and runs into Filch, he commanding Harry return to his common area, he deciding he’d visit Hedwig instead, when Lupin calls to him, wondering why he was wandering alone, then showing him what creature the class would study next. When the two sat having a cup of tea, Harry asks about why Lupin hadn’t allowed him to take a turn with the boggart, Lupin confessing it was because he thought Harry would conjure Voldemort. Harry confides he’d actually been thinking of the dementors, to Lupin’s surprise, but impressed with Harry’s logical fear. Snape drops by with a requested potion for Lupin, then exits, Harry divulging Snape’s history with the Dark Arts and ambition about teaching Lupin’s subject, he paying no mind, and then dismissing Harry so as to get back to work. Later, Ron and Hermione return with sweets for Harry as they promised. After hearing about all the interesting places they’d visited, Harry told them of Snape, the group walking to the Great Hall as they discussed this. The feast was magnificent and couldn’t even be spoiled for Harry by a comment from Malfoy. As they walk back to the common room, there was a holdup at the portrait, Percy calling for Dumbledore, and the trio seeing someone had slashed the painting. When Dumbledore had ordered Filch to go locate the Fat Lady, Peeves comes by joyfully and spills where he’d seen her last, and of Sirius Black being the one whom had attempted to enter.

Dumbledore has the Gryffindors wait in the Great Hall, soon being met by the confused other houses, everyone soon learning they’d be spending the night there whilst the castle was searched, Head Boy and Girl designated as guards and Dumbledore magicking everyone a sleeping bag before exiting. The students talk with fervor over how Black could’ve gotten in, Hermione rolling her eyes to most suggestions since knowing the grounds were charmed, and the dementors having all entrances guarded. At three in the morning the chatter quieted, Dumbledore returning and speaking with Percy near Harry and duo, they listening about how no one was found and Gryffindor would be allowed to return to the dorms the next night, Snape also approaching to inform all other areas had turned up nothing, then speaking cryptically since Percy was still present, but letting on how he thought Black could’ve gotten help from within the castle, Dumbledore not believing the validity and dismissing the idea, off to relay to the dementors of the search being done, Percy then asks if the dementors had wanted to help, and Dumbledore stating how of course they had, but having vowed not to ever let one inside. The three separate, leaving Harry and crew wondering the finer details. Over the next days, Black was main chat topic, Gryffindors not happy with their replacement portrait of Sir Cadogan, whom when not challenging people to duels, changed the password too often, complaints to Percy being met with the information of Sir Cadogan being the only taker brave enough to accept the duty. Harry was more affected by the reaction of teachers and Percy, the latter Harry sensed was caused by Mrs. Weasley, all keeping a close watch of him, McGonagall summoning Harry to her office to discuss the issues with his late practices of Quidditch, she deciding a chaperone would be given.

As the match got closer, Oliver breaks the news of Gryffindor now playing Hufflepuff since Slytherin had backed out with the excuse of Malfoy’s arm having not healed, but more likely due to the damp weather, Harry pissed since knowing it was a fallacy, but Oliver relating they couldn’t prove it. The couple days before the match had Harry dealing with Oliver giving him pointers between classes since Hufflepuff had a new captain, and he was a seeker, but the chats making Harry late for Defense Against the Dark Arts one day, and instead of seeing Lupin, Snape waiting and deciding Gryffindor would lose ten points, in the end losing fifteen in total for not complying with commands to sit and asking after Lupin, Snape making remarks to Lupin’s disorganization and the class defending him. Snape disregards this, deciding they’d learn of werewolves, giving them a hard time when no one, but Hermione knew how to spot one from an actual wolf. When she interrupts twice to answer, Snape takes away more points and announces the cause being for her “know-it-all”-style, upsetting her, and Ron defending her, getting a detention. The rest of the lesson silent with note-taking and Snape’s criticisms on past test scores given. Ron had to stay after class for his detention details, Snape giving homework on the subject gone over. When Harry and Hermione go outside to wait for Ron in the hall, they complain of Snape and hoped Lupin returned soon, Ron coming out to meet them with his task being bedpan cleaning in the hospital wing without the aid of magic.

The next morning Harry is woken by Peeves so early it’s still dark, but unable to return to sleep with Quidditch in a few hours, Harry dresses and takes his gear, on his way out, having to stop Crookshanks from going in the boys dorm, making Harry suspicious, knowing how many mice were up for pouncing in the building. Harry waits in the common room until he thinks it’s breakfast time, Crookshanks making a few more tries to get into the boys’ dorm. Harry was finishing his meal as the rest of the team came in, Oliver obviously nervous, the team discovering how much when he didn’t even give them a pep talk, the game readying to begin in the windy storm. Harry was soon drenched and stiff with cold, he almost getting hit by a Bludger twice with the scene difficult to view, Oliver calling a time-out, and Harry explaining the trouble he’s having spotting the Snitch, Hermione helping him with a spell to repel rain, he now able to see, and the game starting back up, Harry prowling for the Snitch and being distracted with the vision of a large black dog in the stands, disappearing with another lightning flash. Oliver warns Harry to watch out, Cedric, the other captain, heading at him with his eyes on the Snitch. Harry goes after it, as well, until noticing a swarm of dementors below him, he again hearing screaming, and the impression of seeing his mother protecting him, he blacking out and next hearing voices speak, he coming to with his team, Ron, and Hermione around him in the infirmary, they speaking of how Harry had plummeted to the ground. He then learns he’d outrightly lost the game this time, Fred and George attempting to make him feel better with their odds of still being in the tourney. When the team is told to leave, Ron and Hermione share of Dumbledore helping Harry to fall slower, shooing the dementors out, and having a floating stretcher take him off-field, Harry’s broomstick being destroyed by the Whomping Willow.

Harry had to stay in the infirmary over the weekend, but he not minding, only insisting on keeping his Nimbus remnants despite Pomfrey wanting to dispose of it, Harry affected by losing his loyal broom. Many visitors came and went, but none truly helping Harry for not knowing his true trouble, the Grim seeming to follow him, he unable to speak to Ron and Hermione about it, and the dementors also worrying him. He slept fitfully, but content with returning to normal class procedures on Monday, despite Malfoy making impressions of his fall, Malfoy’s arm fully healed…now. When he didn’t let up in Potions, Ron loses Gryffindor fifty points for chucking a crocodile heart at Malfoy’s face. Lupin returns after this and is greeted by everyone breaking out into complaints of Snape and their homework, Lupin deciding they could disregard it, but Hermione already having it finished. The lesson was a good one, Harry being asked to stay after class because Lupin asked after the damage of his broomstick, Harry taking the moment to ask why he was affected by dementors so strongly, Lupin supplying it was because most kids Harry’s age hadn’t experienced anything close to trauma like his, Harry confessing what he hears, then Lupin discussing with Harry why the dementors had trespassed onto the field, he believing it was caused by their hunger, Harry then stating of how the prison must be, Lupin agreeing it’s depravity, most prisoners losing their minds shortly after entering. Harry then remembers how Lupin had fended the one dementor off, hoping he could teach him, Lupin agreeing, but needing to wait due to his illness hitting at an inopportune time.

During winter, Harry’s mood took a turn for the better when the next Quidditch match had determined Gryffindor still having hope to win, Oliver grinding the team down for practices with renewed vigor. Harry was also grateful Ron and Hermione were staying at Hogwarts over vacation, but wasn’t so happy to hear of another trip to Hogsmeade being set before term ended. When the day came, Harry borrowed a book on models of brooms from Oliver and planned on spending his day learning of what style of broom would suit to replace his Nimbus, he waylaid on his walk back to the common room by Fred and George giving him his Christmas present early, to Harry, only looking like a blank piece of parchment. Fred and George explaining how they’d come by it, then showing how to use it, they having met Harry at the last unknown entrance into Hogsmeade, the two going off with plans of seeing him in Honeydukes. Harry weighed his options on whether to go for a moment, then taking the passage to Hogsmeade. The trek took what seemed a long time, ending in a couple hundred steps, but making it to the basement of Honeydukes, where he edged past one of the owners, backing out from behind the counter, and blending in with the swarm of Hogwarts students, Harry imagining how Dudley would automatically get Diabetes looking at the place. Harry spots Ron and Hermione in the unusual taste department and surprise them as Ron searches for a good choice for Harry, he then sharing of the Marauder’s Map, Ron annoyed why it hadn’t been bequeathed to him, Hermione believing Harry would turn it in to McGonagall, and then Harry stating how useful it could be, also reasoning how Sirius Black couldn’t know of the open passage, plus dementors crawling all over town being a big deflector. Hermione still worries for Harry, but Ron and he have moved on to other sweet wonders after getting begrudging approval.

The trio head out into a blizzard, Ron suggesting the Three Broomsticks for butterbeer, Harry fully agreeing for not having dressed for the weather. Then, as they’re enjoying the refreshment, McGonagall, Hagrid, Flitwick, and Fudge walk in, Harry getting dunked under the table, Hermione moving the Christmas tree in front of them, and the teacher’s sitting down right next to their table. Soon, Fudge is discussing the possibility of Sirius Black’s whereabouts still expected to being close by with the group and the proprietress, Rosmerta. He continues to share Black’s worst deed not being the one most known, he explaining how Black and James Potter had been besties way back and troublemakers which Hagrid believed were only barely topped by Fred and George, everyone going on about Black being Harry’s Godfather and how the friendship had lasted for years, he being chosen to keep the location of the Potters secret since Voldemort was after them, Black suspected of playing mole for him. Rosmerta, surprised since knowing Black from his youth and didn’t believe he’d have been a Voldemort supporter. Hagrid then gets quite angry over how he’d been fooled by Black right after he’d saved Harry, going on to describe how Black had given him his flying bike (and there begins Book 1). Then it’s told of another friend of Lily and James Potter, Peter Pettigrew having died attempting to capture Black, discussing how it had ended and Fudge’s encounter with him being in quite sound mind despite the constant dementor guard. The group soon taking their leave after this, Ron and Hermione uncertain how to break the silence after all they’d heard.

Harry’s shell-shocked by the conversation, he not remembering how he made it back to Hogwarts so easily, Ron and Hermione only looking at him worriedly at dinner, Harry secluding himself to his bed and looking at the photo album from Hagrid to end his night. He finds a picture of his parents with Black on their wedding day, he thinking of how Black was unaffected by dementors despite what he’d supposedly done to betray his parents, he not getting to sleep until dawn, and when getting up, is told how bad he looked, he having forgotten it was the start of their holidays, Ron and Hermione then broaching the subject of Harry hopefully seeing reason and wouldn’t go after Black, Harry confessing the screams he heard when around dementors, he not certain how he wanted to handle Black, but having to do something. Harry then discusses what Black’s role to Voldemort could’ve been, Ron then suggesting they should visit Hagrid, he hoping it’d lighten the mood, Harry agreeing, but only to learn more about why Hagrid had kept so much information about Black from him. When they get there, they hear odd noises from inside, Harry yelling and knocking, Hagrid finally appearing, and looking distraught. When Ron and Hermione help Hagrid to sit, Harry is offered the letter Hagrid received which had caused his pain, it regarding his innocence to the hippogriff incident, but Buckbeak and Hagrid required to go to a hearing concerning what would become of the bird by the Committee for the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures, the odds not in their favor. Hermione attempts to show positivity by the need for building a defense, but Hagrid knew the committee had been strong-armed by Lucius, and upon more talking, Ron making tea, Hagrid calming, and the subject of Azkaban coming up, Hagrid confiding the sorts of memories he’d suffered. By the end of the visit, Ron and Hermione had gotten what they’d wanted out of their chat with Hagrid since Harry now had another focus, the three borrowing books next day from the library which could help Hagrid with his case.

Then Christmas arrives with Ron waking Harry ceremoniously with a pillow hit, the two discovering their Christmas sweaters and hearty foodstuffs from Mrs. Weasley, he locating a slimmer present under them all, the two marveling at the Firebolt broomstick by an anonymous gift-giver, Ron suggesting Dumbledore, then Lupin, and when Hermione comes in and hears about the mysterious gift, is first to sense danger, but all being distracted when Crookshanks jumps on Ron, he hurting his foot when accidentally hitting Harry’s chest. Hermione finally listens to Ron and takes the cat out when Harry’s Sneakoscope falls out of his sock and whirs. Harry then seeing Scabbers for the first time in a while, noting how scrawny and patchy the once fat rat had become. The three move to the common room where Ron and Hermione are now freshly aggravated with each other, Harry also getting on Hermione’s nerves for bringing the Firebolt with him. At lunch, one table was set and shared by the teachers and six students including the trio, Dumbledore wishing them a happy Christmas, giving Snape a cracker where a witches hat pops out, Snape giving it to Dumbledore, whom immediately dons it. As Dumbledore then bids everyone begin, Trelawney (of whom I’ve started to make notes calling her Tre, making me think of Tre Cool) floats in, she having planned to dine alone, but her crystal-gazing telling her otherwise, but after Dumbledore magicked a chair for her, she refuses to sit, for making the table thirteen. McGonagall convinces her to sit, she then noticing Lupin not being present, Dumbledore sharing of his being sick again, McGonagall giving Trelawney a hard time what with supposedly having the ability to see what was happening, Trelawney sharing she acted like she didn’t so it wouldn’t make people feel weird, she then professing of Lupin leaving them soon, Dumbledore dismissing the statement when confirming with Snape of having made the same remedy. Trelawney acts fine throughout, until the end of the meal when Ron and Harry get up first, McGonagall downplaying Trelawney’s shrieking reaction, and Hermione sharing of staying a bit longer to speak with McGonagall.  The boys return to the common room where Harry brings out the Firebolt once more, the two gazing at it in wonderment until Hermione comes in with McGonagall, the former sitting and blocking her face with an upside-down book whilst McGonagall confirmed Hermione’s story of the Firebolt not coming with any personal identification from Harry, then informing him she was going to confiscate it until it was tested for jinxes, Ron exploding at Hermione when McGonagall leaves, she confessing rebelliously of how she suspected the broom was from Sirius Black.

Harry was upset with Hermione despite knowing she had good intentions, he convinced the Firebolt wasn’t sabotaged, and wondering how the tests would affect its riding capabilities, Ron was infuriated by the thought of the Firebolt’s dismantling, Hermione sticking unapologetically to her belief she’d done rightly, but leaving the two to themselves for the rest of vacation. When the other students returned, Oliver came to speak with Harry about his dementor situation, Harry interrupting him before he got kicked off the team, Oliver also then learning how Harry had gotten the Firebolt and lost it, he vowing to speak with McGonagall about the issue, unable to accept the stripping down of it, either. The first day of classes brought the caring of salamanders whom dwelled in flames, palmistry in Divination, and Harry setting up his dementor spell training, Ron wondering what Lupin had been sick with and Hermione baiting him with knowing, but Ron not falling for her attempt at getting them to speak with her and deciding it was the reason since she didn’t go through with sharing. Harry meet up with Lupin at the designated time and place, Lupin having a big case, he having found a second boggart to practice with, Harry attempting to hide his nerves. After learning the spell, Lupin releases the boggart-dementor, but Harry doesn’t succeed and must take a break before trying again with a different happy memory. The second time failing as well, Harry confiding hearing his dad this time, Lupin confessing he’d known and was friends with him, Harry then attempting the spell one last time, he succeeding, then asking if Lupin had known Sirius Black as well, he admitting this and then ending the session, to be continued next week.

Harry soon became bogged down with practices five times per week for Quidditch, he having one day to complete school work, but Hermione was overrun with assignments, she no longer socializing for all her work. Ron wondered aloud how she was doing it, Harry not answering for doing his own essay, but then being interrupted by Oliver, whom had spoken with McGonagall to no good effect, Harry refusing to order a broom like Malfoy’s. Harry had started to take learning about the Firebolt’s condition in his own hands as the Quidditch match neared, McGonagall updating him and making it clear from here on, she’d locate him if his broom was ready, hearing from him every day taking toll on her patience. He also stagnated progress with the Patronus spell, he unable to get the silvery cloud to push the boggart-dementor back. Lupin stays positive about Harry’s progression, even though Harry was giving himself a hard time, Lupin deciding a treat of butterbeer could lighten his mood, Harry asking about what was under a dementor’s hood, Lupin stating how no one with sanity would know, depicting of they only revealing their mouths for a Dementor’s Kiss, Sirius Black in the running for one, now as incentive to the dementors. They end the practice upon finishing their drinks, Harry so overcome with the terrible information, he runs straight into McGonagall with her good tidings, as well as his broom, he immediately brightening and Ron showing up looking gleeful, they returning to the common room where everyone had a chance to pass it around, Hermione staying out of it, but the three talking again, Ron taking Harry’s broom to their room and giving Scabbers his tonic, but returning with a sheet with blood on it, and red cat hairs.

From Harry’s viewpoint, Ron and Hermione’s friendship was taking its last breath, the two not considering the other’s side of why they were mad, Harry not making it any better when attempting to have Hermione see how obvious it looked about Crookshanks’ guilt. Ron was moping over Scabbers, Harry offering a ride on the Firebolt to cheer him up, it succeeding. Harry practices with the team first, it being their best, yet, Harry owning the field and catching the Snitch easily, Oliver so pleased, he didn’t criticize anyone for once. After Ron has his ride, Harry gets a scare when seeing eyes which belonged to Crookshanks staring at him, thinking it was the Grim, again, the two returning to the castle. In the morning, Harry officially brings out his Firebolt, everyone admiring it at breakfast, afterwards the team readying for the game, Harry secreting his wand in case a swarm of dementors reappeared. When they start, Harry gets a bit unnerved by the other Seeker’s beauty, but when seeing the Snitch, is able to go so fast, he ditches her, but loses the Snitch due to a Bludger getting in his path. The opposing Seeker continues to tail Harry rather than go after the Snitch, so Harry attempts to teach her a lesson by feigning a dive and pulling out of it, she going down, he then seeing the Snitch at the Ravenclaw goal-post, but upon noticing a few dementors on the field looking at him, he does his spell effortlessly and catches the Snitch, everyone going wild. Lupin gets a chance to commend Harry on his spell-casting, also revealing the dementors were actually Malfoy, Crabbe, Goyle, and the Slytherin Captain, Harry scaring them with his silvery cloud creature, McGonagall taking points from them, giving them detention, and awaiting to report to Dumbledore. Harry and the team leave to have a victory party in their common room, Harry trying to get Hermione to join in, but she studying and Ron making it clear he hadn’t forgiven her by shouting into the room of Scabbers not being able to eat his favorite treat anymore, Hermione becoming upset and leaving for the dorms. Ron explains how if she’d at least show some sympathy for him, he’d let it go, but she resisting due to not feeling responsible. The party continues past midnight, Harry falling asleep quickly when it was broken up, and having an odd dream, then being woken abruptly when Ron shouts of seeing Sirius Black slashing his curtain. Many return to the common room, Percy attempting to talk him down for it being a nightmare, but Ron insists, McGonagall showing up and he persisting on she asking Sir Cadogan if he had let anyone in, he confirming he did since the man carried a paper with the week’s passwords, Neville upon hearing, is horrified.

Everyone in Gryffindor stay up to hear the update by dawn of Sirius Black again escaping. The staff makes Hogwarts even more secure by boarding up any possibly entrances, training inanimate objects to facially recognize Black, and the Fat Lady coming back with body guards. Harry still battled informing a school official about the Honeydukes passage, Ron easing his mind, by reasoning of they hearing about if the shop were to be strong-armed. Ron was reveling in his newfound celebrity, and wondering why Black had fled instead of taking the boys out. Neville was having a pretty bad time with his punishments from McGonagall, but to top it off, his granny sent him a Howler, and Harry got a letter from Hagrid to meet up later. Ron and Harry go to the meeting spot, and once inside Hagrid’s hut, had forgotten how Buckbeak’s trial was coming up and their agreement to help Hagrid, but he wanting to talk about Hermione and her ever more frequent visits due to the boys freezing her out, and whilst she was upset, had still helped Hagrid with his case, Harry apologizing for not doing so, as well, but Hagrid not holding it against them. He attempting to speak on Hermione’s behalf about her good intentions, Ron explaining his side having to do with Hermione needing to see his side about Crookshanks. The rest of the night dedicated to Quidditch conversation, and upon getting back to the castle, seeing the next Hogsmeade trip. Ron plans to have Harry join again, but Hermione shows up to confide if he goes, she’d out his map, Ron ignoring her, but angrily confronting her when she insisted, Crookshanks popping up, and making her withdraw, Harry agreeing to join, with invisibility cloak. When he was preparing to go, he’s interrupted by Neville, then Snape, ditching them both and going through the passage after a detour. He meets Ron outside and they go to the Post Office first to see all the sorts of owls. They move along to Zonko’s for trick items, then to a haunted shack where no one, not even the twins could enter.

Malfoy and goons then turn up and when seeing Ron, give him a hard time as usual, so Harry takes the opportunity to make them regret it, chucking mud at them, but being found out when getting Crabbe and Goyle, the former being tripped and taking a part of Harry’s cloak with him. Malfoy sees and dashes off, Harry retreating and hoping to get back before Malfoy, then hiding the cloak in the passage, but being met by Snape as soon as he comes from behind the statue. He is led to Snape’s office again where he’s interrogated about what Malfoy had seen, he soon pushing Harry’s buttons about his father, Harry getting out of line and mentioning his father having saved Snape’s life, hearing this from Dumbledore, Snape asking if he was also told the reason behind this, Harry not knowing, Snape figuring he didn’t when he gave no reply, and he sharing how Harry’s father had caused the need for his saving, so wasn’t as valiant as being made out. He then commands Harry to empty his pockets, his Zonko’s buys and Marauder’s Map being shown, Snape looks over the parchment after Harry explains away the Zonko’s items had been a gift from Ron. After Snape attempts a few spells to test the map, a message appears, insulting Snape and telling him to back off, he then calling for Lupin, whom comes through the fireplace, Snape asking about the map, Lupin quickly thinking of the most likely scenario being Harry getting it from Zonko’s, Ron arriving and corroborating breathlessly. Lupin sees this as viable and excuses the two along with him on the reason of speaking of the vampire essay, Lupin then sharing how he knew what the map was and wasn’t interested in knowing where he’d gotten it, he also admitting to knowing the men who made it, he keeping the useful tool and also imparting Harry with the advice to not squander his life away by being so reckless. Lupin’s words successfully worked to make Harry feel terrible about his actions, leaving the invisibility cloak for now, the two seeing Hermione, whom informed them of Hagrid losing the case and Buckbeak’s impending death.

Hermione shows the letter Hagrid sent her with the details of what he was going to do next, Harry in denial the committee could vote in favor of such an inhumane verdict. Hermione reminds them of Lucius Malfoy’s hold on the men and whilst an appeal would happen, she didn’t see much hope coming from it. Ron defends the possibility and volunteers his help, Hermione so overcome, she smothers him in a hug, and after hearing her apology about Scabbers, is so uncomfortable, he automatically gives his forgiveness. The next time they see Hagrid is in class, still numb by all which had occurred at the hearing, but Ron lets him know they still had a chance, Hagrid not relying on the slim hope, but making certain Buckbeak had the best time with what he had left. As Hagrid withdrew to his hut, Malfoy again makes a smart remark, but before either Harry or Ron can make a move, Hermione bitch-slaps him. Everyone is so surprised, Malfoy and goons back down as Ron and Harry stood watching. After Hermione demands Harry win the Quidditch cup against Slytherin, they all hurry to Charms, Hermione disappearing and not turning up at lunch. They discover her fast asleep in the common room and when Harry wakes her, she’s aghast at the news of missing Charms, she promising to meet them at Divinations after speaking with Flitwick. When they meet up, Hermione is disappointed she’d missed the Cheering Charm lesson since it was possible it’d be mentioned in the final, they then taking their seats and noticing they were learning crystal balls earlier than planned. As they stared blankly at their orbs, Hermione was starting to feel her time could be better utilized, she making her thoughts perfectly clear when Trelawney is in mid-reading of Harry’s orb, she interrupting impatiently about having heard enough about the Grim, then stating how she was over learning about Divinations after Trelawney called her mind unremarkable.

After she’d left, a classmate enthralled with the class reminds Trelawney how she’d predicted one of the students would leave, Trelawney feigning she’d known it was Hermione from the start. Easter holiday wouldn’t bring relaxation to the third years due to the workload given, Hermione having it worse even without Divinations, she starting to show signs of exhaustion. Ron had picked up the slack for studying the laws for Buckbeak’s appeal, Harry dividing his time between school work and Quidditch practice, Gryffindor and Slytherin at each other’s throats, and Malfoy still aching to get Harry back for the mudslinging at Hogsmeade, but the Gryffindor class making it quite difficult to get to him since they clustered about him everywhere per Oliver’s orders, in case Harry was injured before the game. The night before the match, most were attempting to distract from the pressure, Hermione and Ron trying to keep positive for him, but Harry glad when Oliver commanded curfew for the team. Harry slept badly with all the nightmares, he grabbing some water and noting the weather looked fair. Harry then sees an animal, quickly grabs his specs and sees Crookshanks, but then also seeing the cat walking with a big black dog. Harry tries to wake Ron, but the two images being out of sight before Ron had woken and fallen back to sleep. Next morning the Gryffindor team enters the Great Hall to applause, Oliver coaxing everyone to eat, but also ushering them out before finishing to survey the conditions of the field. When the school begins to fill the bleachers, the team goes to dress and when back on the field, the most defensive game begins, Oliver saving the team with blocking most of Slytherin’s attempts at scoring. When they reach 60 points ahead, Harry begins his search of the Snitch, it high above him, Malfoy fouling him by grabbing the end of his broom, everyone so agitated, the Gryffindors miss a shot, but they get another when Harry makes a path straight for the goal. Harry then notices Malfoy already in mid-dive, Harry doing the improbable, and catching up, then snatching the Snitch before him, everyone overjoyed. Dumbledore presents the cup to them, and Harry notes how strong his Patronus would be for this wonderful memory.

Harry rode his winning high for about a week, the weather becoming mild, but the students needing to stay focused for exams, Fred and George even getting serious for their O.W.L.s, Percy studying for his N.E.W.T.s (Fink-Nottle), and was severe about keeping the common room quiet. Hermione beat Percy for stress-level though, Ron and Harry unable to stop from commenting about her schedule, Harry then getting a note from Hagrid brought by Hedwig, the news shared about how the appeal was set at Hogwarts and would be attended by the executioner, they all not happy about the presumption it made, Harry and the two unable to even see Hagrid for the security measures, and Harry not able to regain his Invisibility Cloak. When the week of exams start, Hermione had the minor concern of her tortoise looking like a turtle in Transfiguration, and Charms goes a bit rockily for Harry, everyone having dinner after and going straight back to studying for Care of Magical Creatures, Potions, and Astronomy. Fortunately, Hagrid made his exam easily passable and the three took the time to speak with him, since he was obviously overcome with Buckbeak’s appeal date. In Potions, Harry was worried about Snape’s look of happiness in his inability to perform the necessary needs of the potion and thought he saw Snape give him a zero. They then had Astronomy, History of Magic, and Herbology. Finishing up the week, Defense Against the Dark Arts being second to last, and Divinations at the end. The former consisted of an obstacle course made with all the creatures they’d learned to defend themselves from, Harry getting a good grade, whilst Ron and Hermione struggled with certain parts.

As they returned to the castle, Harry sees Fudge, whom shares he was there to witness the execution and also to get an update about Black. Two more wizards come out and were obviously a part of the Disposal of Dangerous Creatures Committee, Hermione ushering Ron inside before he said anything which could get his father in trouble, and she keeping positive to the bright side of Hagrid remembering all information necessary to help Buckbeak, she not too hopeful, though. Ron and Harry go off to their Divination exam whilst, Hermione goes to Muggle Studies. Trelawney was doing one-on-one exams with the class, and when Ron and Harry were next, Ron began to consider Hermione being right about Trelawney’s talent after hearing why Neville wouldn’t share how his exam had gone. Ron goes first, making Harry last to go in the class, Ron supplying how he’d made up what he’d seen and Harry making plans to meet in the common room. He takes a lesson from Ron and makes up a vision, he readying to leave after not impressing Trelawney when she speaks in an odd voice about the Dark Lord rising before midnight to rejoin his servant, she then regains consciousness and denies what he’d heard, he rushing back to the common room to confide what she’d said, but Ron informing him of Hagrid’s note sharing Buckbeak’s doom at sunset, Harry wanting to disobey Hagrid’s request of they staying away, but Hermione deciding she’d get the Invisibility Cloak for them, Ron stating how impressed he was becoming with her rebellion, she pleased by his words. The three get to Hagrid’s, he again saying how he hadn’t wanted them to come, his nerves shot and breaking his milk jug, Hermione taking over tea-duty. As they discuss the futility of saving Buckbeak now, Hermione discovers Scabbers in the second milk jug, still looking worse for wear, Hagrid then seeing the group coming for Buckbeak and escorting them to the back door, they getting back under the cloak. Ron stops as they walked back to the castle due to Scabbers struggling to get loose, Hermione becoming faint when hearing the ax come down, in shock it had actually happened.

Harry and Ron were also in shock, the former ready to turn around when hearing Hagrid’s cries, but the two keeping him still, reminding him of the trouble they’d get themselves and Hagrid into if he returned. They continue to the castle when Scabbers makes a getaway after biting Ron, Harry spotting Crookshanks, and Ron running after the pair, Harry and Hermione pausing in dread for a moment before following, then Harry is knocked down by a large black dog, Ron protecting Harry from a second attack, but getting dragged to the Whomping Willow and breaking his leg when resisting, Harry unable to follow. Then Crookshanks stands on a spot making the Whomping Willow freeze, allowing the two to follow, they getting to a tunnel under the tree and when reaching the end, see a room with broken furniture. Hermione realizes they were standing in the Shrieking Shack, and noise could be heard upstairs. The two discover Ron on the floor, in pain and warning of the trap they were running into, Black showing himself once Ron had shared of he being an Animagus, Harry soon livid and trying to attack Black once he’d magicked his and Hermione’s wands away. Hermione and Ron attempt to help, but when Harry gets his wand back and Black was knocked against a wall, Harry states of Black’s transgressions against his parents and Black wanting to share his side, but Harry ignoring him, Crookshanks lying atop Black’s chest. Harry was psyching himself up, when noises downstairs were heard and Hermione shrieks of where they were and whom they were with, Lupin busting in. He disarms Harry and Hermione, whom was holding the other two wands, then asks Black, where “he” was, Black pointing to Ron, and the trio confused. After saying a few more incomplete thoughts aloud, Lupin hugs Black, Hermione shouting her disbelief and how she’d been helping him, Harry yelling about how he’d trusted him, and Hermione confessing how Lupin was a werewolf. She states how Snape’s essay had helped her discover it, Lupin then returning their wands so they’d listen to his side. Lupin also admits to having helped write the Marauder’s Map and saw the three accompanied by a fourth when exiting Hagrid’s, he asking to see Scabbers, and naming him Peter Pettigrew.

Ron calls madness on this statement, Lupin wanting to explain, but Black wishing to take care of Pettigrew whilst he could, Ron deciding he would leave, but Lupin taking initiative in making him listen, Black responding to Harry’s comment of so many people seeing Pettigrew’s demise. Hermione then speaks up about how she would’ve seen Pettigrew’s name on the Animagi list she’d looked up, Lupin confessing there were three not listed. Lupin began the explanation at the behest of Black for impatiently awaiting to kill Scabbers. Lupin admits when he’d been bitten, Snape’s potion allowing him to keep his human mind whilst turning, plus the origin of the Whomping Willow and the Shrieking Shack, he also sharing how Black and James Potter had helped Pettigrew become Animagi with them, he having struggled to confide the truth to Dumbledore, whom had helped him for so long, Lupin letting out how Snape was teaching at Hogwarts when Black asked why Lupin had mentioned him. Lupin was about to go on about how Snape’s life had been endangered by Black when the latter interrupts with how Snape had deserved it, for continually looking for ways to get them expelled. Black shares with Snape of how to get past the Whomping Willow all those years ago, and when James Potter found out, stopped Snape before he was attacked by Lupin, Snape then revealing himself from underneath the Invisibility Cloak.

Everyone reacted defensively, Snape holding Lupin off with pointed wand and explaining how he’d found them, Lupin again going through the process of getting the chance to tell all, but Snape isn’t as open and restrains him with a gag, then focuses on Black. Hermione attempts to reason with Snape to listen to the other side of the story, but he is far too emotionally unstable to consider this and snaps for her to be quiet for once. Snape begins to have everyone start back to the castle, Harry blocking the door to try and reason with him, as well. After Snape insults Harry’s father, he, Hermione, and Ron all attack at the same time without meaning to, and knock Snape out. Harry states he still didn’t know if he believed Lupin’s story, after Lupin had been freed, offering to share the rest of the story, Black first telling how he’d found Scabbers with help from Crookshanks, and then what Pettigrew had done before transforming into a rat on the day so many people had died. Lupin attempts to have Ron hand over Scabbers again to show the proof of his story, Harry declaring how Black was the reason for his parents’ deaths, Black not denying this for having passed off the responsibility as Secret-Keeper to Pettigrew, he getting upset with guilt. Ron finally hands Scabbers over when Lupin admits to planning on having Pettigrew show himself, the spell doing so, Pettigrew looking rat-like and speaking squeakily, all the while eyeing the door.

Lupin informs him of wanting his side of the story, Pettigrew maintaining of Black’s guilt and his imminent death if left with him. Pettigrew tries to keep Black looking like the bad guy, but Black brings up how Pettigrew had made many enemies of the supporters of Voldemort since it seemed he’d doubled-crossed them, Lupin replying how much sense Black was making since Pettigrew had decided to spend so many years as a rat. Black then begins listing the order of events and how perfect it must’ve been when Pettigrew had knowledge of the location of the Potters to pass on to Voldemort, Pettigrew looking more nervous. Hermione then asks a couple questions which made Pettigrew latch on as if she would support his side, Black responding reasonably to both, the first question dealing with Pettigrew not trying to kill or capture Harry for three years, and how he escaped Azkaban having to do with his Animagi power, then speaking to Harry of his innocence, which Harry finally accepts. Pettigrew immediately pleads for mercy to Black, Lupin, Ron, Hermione, and lastly Harry, which Black explodes with rage by his tenacity, then he and Lupin forcing him to confess (bad, editor! “terribly fury…” makes sense to you? Tsk). As the two ready to dispatch him, Harry steps forward (which, I believe he wanted to step “…in front [of] Pettigrew…”, editor getting tiwed?), he believing Pettigrew should be taken to Azkaban and not be the cause of Black and Lupin’s hands getting dirty. Lupin then binds Pettigrew and then splints Ron’s leg, Hermione reminding him of Snape and he making it so he’d float along behind them, Ron and Black then volunteering to be manacled to Pettigrew, Crookshanks leading the way out.

As the procession came through the tunnel, Harry, Hermione, and Black last, the latter brings up how this development of Pettigrew being brought to justice meant he may soon be free, and if Harry wanted, he’d be able to move in with him since he was his godfather, Harry keen on making it happen immediately. When they made it to the outside of the Whomping Willow, Lupin is first to stop, moonlight hitting them, Hermione first to state Lupin having not taken his potion, Black then urging them to run as Lupin changed. Pettigrew moved next as Lupin and Black struggled with each other in canine form, he grabbing Lupin’s wand and striking Ron and Crookshanks. After Harry disarms him, Pettigrew changes, Lupin takes off toward the forest, Harry alerts Black, and he chases after him. Harry and Hermione readying to get Ron and Snape inside, when he hears yelping, running toward the noise and Hermione following, the two seeing Black changing back as he’s swarmed by dementors. Harry attempts to perform the spell, encouraging Hermione to say the words with him, but doesn’t succeed, Harry trying to stay motivated, his useless Patronus keeping one dementor at bay, but it revealing its disturbing-looking head which killed his Patronus for pure fear enveloping him. The dementor was going to suck the life from him when he was saved by an animal giving off a light, at least it seemed this way to a slowly blacking out Harry, the animal returning to someone he recognized, but disbelieved could be present, then falling unconscious.

Snape is then shown in mid-conversation with Fudge whom was praising him for his bravery and listening to his story of what he claimed happened, Black being allowed to escape once more if he hadn’t stopped him. He then shares how he’d found the dementors returning to their posts, binding Black, and magicking stretchers for all, Harry then popping his eyes open to first see Pomfrey aiding Ron, Hermione motioning him to stay quiet as Snape and Fudge spoke in the hall. Pomfrey approached and noted Harry’s consciousness as she broke a block of chocolate. They learned Ron would be fine and they would be staying under observation, but Harry was moving quickly when hearing Black could be getting the Dementor’s Kiss as they were speaking, but he nor Hermione getting far, Fudge and Snape entering, the former’s attempt at soothing Harry only succeeding in angering him, and Pomfrey able to get him back in his bed. Fortunately, Dumbledore walked in and stated of his need to speak with Harry about Black’s story, Snape getting in the way again with stating of its nonsense, but Dumbledore making all three leave due to their interruptions, wanting Harry and Hermione’s versions of events. The two fire him with facts until he stops them to explain how regardless of he believing them, they had no proof, but he making clear to Hermione what they should do with their time and making sure they weren’t viewed, he then stating of locking them inside, giving the hour, and what Hermione should do next, Harry bewildered and asking her about the hinting instructions, but she immediately doing as Dumbledore had bid, they going back three hours and she leading Harry to a cupboard as she listened to the three of them in the hall going to Hagrid’s, she wondering what Dumbledore expected them to change. Harry comes up with the idea of Buckbeak saving Black later, so they head out, running to the forest and wait for the right moment to free the bird whilst Harry suggested ideas about capturing Pettigrew, Hermione explaining the laws they were already breaking.

Harry then offers to untie Buckbeak as Fudge read the court papers to Hagrid inside the hut, getting Buckbeak hidden as they were stepping out, and Hagrid crying for joy when Buckbeak was nowhere to be found, Harry and Hermione attempting to keep Buckbeak there as he tried to return to Hagrid, the two then quietly leading Buckbeak to a spot where they could see the Whomping Willow as everyone exited, he and Hermione settling in until they emerged once more. Hermione ties Buckbeak up and asks about what had happened when the dementors surrounded them, Harry finally confiding whom he thought he’d seen. The two then wait, Hermione first to notice them come back from the tunnel under the Whomping Willow, Harry again wanting to get Pettigrew right then, but remembering Lupin would be heading their way soon, he suggesting they go back to Hagrid’s and when all three were safely inside, Harry nonchalantly suggesting he go out to be certain what was happening, assuring Hermione he wouldn’t meddle, but then noticing the other Harry and Hermione would be chasing after Black about then, he considering getting a view of whom had sent the Patronus, instinctively dashing off, arriving to realize he was the one whom had sent the Patronus, and the animal, a stag. Hermione then comes after him riding Buckbeak, he explaining what he’d done, then the two seeing Snape retrieve their other selves, Ron, and Black. They prepare to time their rescue of Black and upon seeing the executioner coming out of the castle most likely rounding up dementors, Harry and Hermione fly Buckbeak to Black’s window, Hermione getting it open and the three splitting up after they get to the top of a tower, Black attempting to thank him, but he and Hermione desperate for him to escape, he and Buckbeak flying away.

Hermione then warns Harry of they only having ten minutes before Dumbledore would lock them out, they going downstairs, but stopping when hearing Snape and Fudge speaking of Black. When they pass, the two run onward until needing to hide from Peeves, then speeding on in time to see Dumbledore ready to lock the door, he seeing them and glad to hear the plan had gone well, then locking them in the room after they’d left. They return to their beds, Pomfrey coming in to be certain they ate their chocolate, after awhile hearing Snape losing it and bursting in, Fudge and Dumbledore following as he accused Harry of setting Black free, Dumbledore quieting him as he furiously walks out, Fudge not looking forward to dealing with the press when they learned of Black as well as Buckbeak, Dumbledore making certain the dementors would be leaving, as well. The two then leave to continue their tasks elsewhere, Ron then waking to ask questions about what he’d missed, Harry passing off the relaying to Hermione. When they are released the next day, the three decide to stay on the grounds rather than go to Hogsmeade, instead walking to the lake, Hagrid walking up to them, happy as a clam as he told of his celebrating Buckbeak’s escape, and Lupin having given notice, Harry immediately off to see him and informing he’d meet them back at the lake.

Harry confronts Lupin on why he was leaving, Snape having blurted of his werewolfness, Harry attempting to think of a way to get him to stay, but Lupin asking about his Patronus, he proud of Harry’s progress. He then returns Harry’s cloak and the Marauder’s Map since he was a professor no longer, Dumbledore arriving to announce of Lupin’s carriage waiting for him. Lupin exits with a smile and farewell, Dumbledore regarding Harry’s look of disappointment since Pettigrew had escaped, he reminding Harry of the lives he’d saved. Harry then remembers Trelawney’s prediction, Dumbledore pleasantly surprised of her second time succeeding with the Sight, Dumbledore calming Harry with the thought of Voldemort not being glad to have a servant indebted to Harry. Dumbledore then relates to Harry in how easily he could mistake himself for his father (except for the eyes), Dumbledore leaving him to ponder. No one except for the trio and Dumbledore knew the truth of events concerning Black and Buckbeak, Harry looking let down as the school year ended, he knowing he would have to return to the Dursleys.

The three learned they’d all passed their classes, Snape looking even more peeved when Harry was in his presence, but when they sit on the train, Hermione shares of dropping Muggle Studies in order to have a normal schedule, then noting Harry still looking serious, Ron offering to have him stay with him since the Quidditch World Cup was approaching and his dad got tickets through work, this getting Harry out of his funk since thinking how the Dursleys would be glad to be rid of him, Hermione then noticing a small owl outside the window with a letter, Harry letting it in, and happy to read it was from Black, whom confesses a couple of things and gives Harry a nice present of a permission slip to Hogsmeade. Black also gifts the small owl to Ron in replacement of Scabbers, he allowing Crookshanks to sniff him to be certain the little fella was actually an owl, satisfied with the cat’s results. When Harry splits from Ron, whom confirms getting in touch with news of their scheduling a get-together, Harry speaks to Vernon after he’d noticed the letter in his hand, he sharing of it being from his murderer escaped-convict Godfather and how he’d be writing to make certain Harry was happy, he now believing this summer would top the others.

Still enjoying myself, fortunately and the next one I read will be a side-story; Fun!

Black House (The Talisman #2)

I realize this is a sequel, but I’m ignoring my usual way of going in order in preference of the chronology of The Dark Tower, which may not even matter in the long run, since this book contains only the relation to the setting of The Dark Tower series, but I’ve been reading some negative reviews which make it seem this could be “weaker” than The Talisman and I may end up preferring the order I’ve chosen, time will tell.

Wisconsin is our setting on a Friday in mid-July, a few minutes past six a.m., possibly right before the year 2000, this being Coulee County, the freshness of the air bringing to mind a small town near or around the country. Background of the town’s history and how the pleasant environment may have darkened since the town’s conception is described, a motorcycle gang being hinted at, along with their shady appearances. Introduction’s to the Thunder Five, who call themselves the Hegelium Scum (not mentioned again) are lightly touched on, the promise of learning more, later. Suffice it for now they being university undergrads, most majoring in English and Philosophy, and one in residency in the surgery department. An odd sign threatening a fisherman to conclude the town environment. A flood hit the town decades before and is touched on due to the watermarks left on buildings. A map of the town and what surrounds it, fleshes out the location, finally landing on the first person being followed as Bobby Dulac, a police officer whom is fleshed out as being tall, dark, and delicate with his newspaper handling which was delivered moments before (this reading like one is watching a movie).

Following as Bobby walks back into the station, the layout given, Bobby goes to a room with a non-descriptive door, seemingly Bobby’s office space, another door leading to the Chief of Police, Dale Gilbertson’s office, he not in for a half hour or more. Then Tom Lund, Bobby’s partner is shown at the second desk, he noticing how Bobby was holding the paper, then two conversations are followed as Bobby chats with Tom about Wendell, a journalist, and the radio talk show host fielding calls about the game distracting from the first. Then they’re talking about the talk show host, they bagging on each other’s musical taste, Bobby believing Tom was stalling, he acting innocent, and as they listen to the talk radio D.J. calling shots about the game, it’s made known both are procrastinating, then Tom opens the paper and hints at bad news on the headline, Tom bringing up how incremental he was to a case, but Bobby thinking how one piece of information supplied didn’t make him the better cop of the two, he instead voicing his notice of the conversation having been turned to Tom’s heroism.

A flashback of the night before of Tom and Bobby’s confrontation with the Thunder Five given, they asking about a missing child (which isn’t immediately made clear), Irma Freneau. The Thunder Five leave when realizing the police had no new leads, the morning paper article being referred to, by Wendell whom wrote of the police stumped over a serial psychopath, called the Fisherman, at large. Then a portion of the article is quoted about children missing, some found killed and partially consumed, the reporter playing off on the lives the kids could have lived and how play groups around the county on indefinite hiatus. Irma is the latest, and a rash of men taking the law into their own hands, have left two men, so far, needing medical assistance, it being assumed, the next victim may lose his life. Tom shares the conclusion of the article, Bobby flustered since it calls out the police chief about doing his job properly, he vowing to take the Fisherman down. Tom suggests he speak with a man called Hollywood, since Dale didn’t have luck getting any information from him. Hollywood is a retired cop (again, not made clear), Bobby nixing the idea of going to him since he believed he, Tom, and Dale had the case handled, Tom making a joke about how wet behind the ears Bobby was, they sharing a laugh.

Moving on to Queen street and to a “school” where the same D.J. is heard and a lady putting up a flyer regarding a strawberry festival is followed. It is then made clear this place is a nursing home, the big boss being one William “Chipper” Maxton, he having dreamt of making money at the government’s expense, but once learning useful loopholes, noticed it still wasn’t lucrative at his father’s nursing home, he taking over at his father’s behest. (It’s funny, odd how as I’m planning to edit my previous posts to take out as many ‘we’/’us”s as I can manage, I have thrust into my face how the authors use it a-plenty as a writing technique, hm!) Following Rebecca, the secretary back into the office, her position going far beyond the normal duties required, she being thanked with gifts, one being a ring, Chipper is shown withdrawing some cash from a stuffed safe, the two talking about the strawberry festival and how Chipper despised it because of the families visiting the resident “zombies”. Chipper apparently had Rebecca come in earlier to deposit the stolen money in a bank more than a few miles away, and we (I caved) being told of his wife and two kids he must support (the dog). As Chipper attempts to flirt and get handsy, a new scene is shown of the facilities, only expensive rooms having the luxury of (what I hope I’m understanding correctly) more than a sink, the other wings sharing facilities.

Some general knowledge of a few of the sleeping residents are shared to give contrast to the one being the main draw, Charles ‘Burny’ Burnside, whom doesn’t clean up after himself, has no personal family items lying about, dust accumulating over every surface, and stinks like the dickens. Alice, one of the resident’s visited, is then mentioned to entail further of her family and how she came to the Home, but Burny, whom is lying on his metal bed, isn’t all there, he one of the few still awake, having gone to the bathroom in his bed, his aggressive Alzheimer’s aiding his not minding his current state. Whilst this was an off-day for him, he had lucid moments, but wasn’t a pleasant man to encounter, making some employees question whether he truly had the illness due to his uncommon periodic remissions.

In ’96, he’d been taken from the hospital to the Home due to his incoherence, but relaying a story of having walked a changing amount upon repeating of the story, of miles to get to the hospital, his smell determining the probable truth of this, they caring for him and attempting to learn more about him, he sharing of having an Aunt whom he’d lived with, but nothing else much useful. When looking into the relative’s whereabouts, they found no listings in the surrounding towns, the Social Worker assigned to him also unable to uncover more information about Burny, and was sent to Maxton’s until a place opened at the state hospital, but when Chipper receives a check from the ‘Aunt’, decides to keep Burny on. Then the Summer before the serial killings, Burny snapped back into the world, and now he’d fade in and out in the same day, normally, the man looking worse with time, and sinister in demeanor. Burny’s true identity revealed, as well as the dark secret of his early adulthood of pastimes he still got sick delight from. Burny starts muttering nonsense and getting excited, he staring at the woods, and muttering more weirdness, then Burny is left to it and a neighborhood is shown with children’s playthings in the yards, all asleep, the children dreaming peacefully, and the parents, restless, soon to get worse with the article by Wendell.

A sign off the highway to a concealed dirt road is mentioned, a no trespassing sign giving the impression something is being hidden at great expense. A crumbling house is shown, along with a second sign, adding the sense of being a place to detour, the house all black, but faded, it seeming lifeless, most people not noticing the sign, but the possibility of children exploring near their homes giving the suggestion of if they’d seen it, they would high-tail away from it. This house sticks out unnoticeably in the quiet town, leading into explanation of borderlands, an example given where a bad feeling and scenery seem foreign in a place which was normal a moment before, but then goes back to a feeling of ease when the destination is reached. Slippage being the definition, the main one being the black house. More descriptions of people soon to be heard back from later are related, and then an ancient gas pump is looked at more closely, the comparison between what lay here, to the bad vibes of the black house assuring this was for the win. Before showing what was hidden, a secondary definition of slippage is shared where a feeling of everything has gotten, or will soon be much worse. Then a back story of Dale Gilbertson’s uncle is shared, he long dead, and his most definitely F-grade little restaurant being indiscriminately popular amongst the young people in the town. When the man had finally died of a heart attack (he, a big fella), the shack wasn’t torn down like one would suppose, instead still popular with the young folk for teenage couples or drunken experiments. Unfortunately what’s shown isn’t something so easily witnessed, since behind the counter, a dog was attempting to gnaw out a severed foot from its shoe, then showing Irma’s body, Dale discovering her a bit over a day from this point.

A recap of possible events of the Fisherman’s process in removing Irma’s leg, and how he got her to the shack are detailed, another example of slippage. In an attempt to ‘lighten’ the mood, next stop is in Libertyville, to follow Fred Marshall getting ready for his morning run, reading an article by Wendell which only makes him hope he’ll not have to experience what select parents about town are living through with their missing children being found in pieces. Fred read as far as he could until the article mentions how the child victim was found, Fred preparing to instruct his son, Tyler of abiding the Buddy system until further notice, his wife also showing signs of being affected by these developments, Tyler aware of the odd behavior. Fred begins his jog and thinks about how long his wife had been showing these signs of neuroses, which worried him all the more since she wasn’t prone to such sensitivities and they began before the first victim was found, a flashback of Fred and his wife, Judy, when they’d started dating, of they walking back from a Jazz show and hearing a car accident, Judy going off to defend the man at fault since he was about to get a severe beating, Judy not ruled by fear, only wanting to help settle the situation for the better, Fred in reverie over her unshakeable demeanor. So as he runs, he gets optimistic about Judy regaining herself, and more intent on speaking with Tyler about not roaming around without a friend.

Fred is left, and focus goes to Judy, whom hadn’t slept since three in the morning, and was talking to herself about seeing a crimson “Eye of the King”, she repeating some of the ‘nonsense’ seen of Burny. She also envisions a tower in a field of blood, and then writes some of the thoughts down to enforce denying them, but dreads the possibility of they making sense at some point. She then chews and swallows the note, easing back to sleep, before drifting completely, mentioning Burnside. Tyler’s room is viewed, a poster on the wall of a dark castle in a foggy meadow, to Tyler, “the Kingdom of Entirely Else”, it being a comforting picture of a foreign wonderment, the buildup of Tyler being the fourth victim, repeated. When Tyler awakens to George Rathbun, the popular radio D.J.’s show, he’s kicking himself for having forgotten to enter a contest he was hoping his father had remembered to enter him into, since it was the chance to be a bat boy for the Brewer’s for the Cincinnati series, but mostly because of a baseball celebrity’s bat awarded, as well. His father also didn’t get why Tyler woke up so early due to it being Summer vacation, Tyler not making him get he wanting to take advantage of the pleasant weather as much as he could. One piece of talk pauses Tyler’s getting ready, and it’s of the Fisherman, he not sure whether to believe the gossip of the bigger kids, Rathbun calming Tyler’s unease with playing down the Fisherman’s seriousness, Tyler admiring the commentator.

Then going to Rathbun, himself, he near Nailhouse Row where the radio tower stood, a man exiting the station, in khaki, white button-up, thin, verging on pure-white hair, and stylish straw fedora, this being Rathbun (his real name mentioned later, as well as how many other identities he assumed), the man blind, and when an intern, Morris comes out, the station manager, Tom, is mentioned having loved free workers (the reference to Smaug reinforcing my need to read The Lord of the Rings). Morris gives Rathbun a c.d. he hopes he’ll play a certain track of on his show later, his helpful hint to why being of he knowing Rathbun was moonlighting on another popular station with only two people now apparently, knowing. Rathbun scares Morris a bit with the thought of he potentially being the Fisherman, but when Morris insists he won’t say anything, they move on to what the track was Morris wanted to be played so badly, he then going off to leave the c.d. in Rathbun’s locker, as requested, then a list of Rathbun’s other ‘personalities’, the last to be described further on, Rathbun had a long day ahead, one which included the Strawberry Fest!, which is related like torture when it came to coming in contact with Chipper, he hoping he’d have time for a reading of Bleak House with a buddy.

As Rathbun finishes his cigarette before doing his show, the drift to Dale’s home occurs, where he sits in the kitchen, reeled in by the Fisherman article (no pun intended), and how these killings are similar to another, down to letters written to the parents. The first murders in the late 1920s. The comparison between old and new letters are perused through with Dale, he interrupted by his wife calling to him from the stairs, they having general chat until she shares their son’s worry of Dale losing his job, he agreeing her response being the correct one by denying this possibility, at least unless he didn’t catch the culprit. He had an FBI agent and two state police who weren’t much of a comfort to him due to they taking minor roles in helping, Dale truly wanting Jack ‘Hollywood’ to enlist his instinctive expertise. An example of his police work related when questioning a lead, he getting his collar, and had gone back to L.A., until Dale had hooked him up with knowledge of a place being on the market, Jack didn’t want to accept this case though, regardless of whether he owed Dale, he seemed apprehensive to do so. Dale is readying to water the flowers out front and becoming stubborn about getting Jack to agree to help when a change of scenery is shared, focusing in on the Thunder Five’s hangout and why they first came to town, then refocusing on the ‘hero’ of a previous story.

Some detail about the property Dale offered to Jack was it being a farm owned by his father and he feeling proud to let Jack buy it cheap if he wanted it. Jack overcome with emotion on his first visit, a mention to the first introduction of Jack with The Talisman, then moving in on Jack preparing breakfast and listening to Rathbun. A flashback of Jack settling in is given, as well as Dale’s introduction to his uncle, Henry whom had as an eclectic a taste in music as Jack. Next Dale has a look at his childhood home in mid-transformation when he comes to help Jack hang some pictures. The new look surprises him, but suited the place. On further mentioning of his Uncle, it impresses on being one of Rathbun’s many identities. As the night settles in, Dale learns the bare minimum of Jack’s history. Back to real time, Jack is in thought as he’s preparing an omelette, the detail of his character and charm belying his age, but loneliness permeating his attributes. Then another flashback of a case he became involved with about the death of a black man is related. After which a vague reason why Jack refused to get involved with the Fisherman case going through his mind. He then thinks of Rathbun’s other identity whom knew of obscure Jazz musicians. Jack attempts to ignore the Wendell article, but glances at it a couple times, unable to read it all. Then his impression of Wendell’s integrity is measured, the man portrayed as a class act of scum. (A little snafu of working in a flashback conversation between Jack and Wendell, tsk tsk, editor.)

The encounter described, mentions Jack sharing with Wendell of the Fish case in the 1920s, Jack not having any idea he’d decided to give Wendell anything. (Cripes, then another, pluralizing Jack’s name with no punctuation, and apparently no reason. I suppose harder to catch since it was placed among Jack’s overuse of the word opopanax). Jack then gets a bit sideways with word obsession and questioning the amount of eggs he had left due to ruining his omelette, then thinking of a bald man’s face, unwillingly. He believes the only egg left is a robin’s blue egg, he dumping it, then thinking to call his mother, he forgetting he couldn’t. Fortunately the drive, and seeing his good buddy, Henry helped him move past this rocky start to the morning. As Henry walks to his truck, Jack realizes the “luv” he had for the man, albeit more of a platonic bromance sort. (Then a flashback where a short-style conversation where a “-” precedes each man’s dialogue is stunted with a “Jack said” in the middle of one…confusion as to why if we are already following the one, two, of the conversation…grr.)

Back to the present, as Jack drives, Harry dictates the track from the c.d. given by Morris, Henry agreeing it was the “Wisconsin Rat’s” style, he then mentioning another persona, Symphonic Stan being hired for the Strawberry Fest!, Jack confessing he was glad Rathbun had mentioned the Fisherman on his show, which led to Henry confiding his thoughts on Jack stepping in to help his nephew, Dale. After letting the subject drop, Henry brings up a paranoia, Jack having been debating earlier about whether to confide his weird waking dreams to him, Henry confessing a few times having occurred when he’d thought he’d heard his dead wife walking around downstairs. Jack gives him a comforting and reasonable response and the two part ways, but plans of meeting up later to start their book is made. When he gets home, he’d been hearing a clinking in the ashtray, when checking, an “almond M&Ms-sized” robin egg appears, he taking it, and destroying it again before going inside. (Also, when mentioning authors characters read is always fun. To-reads of authors for Henry and Jack are Chester Himes, Charles Willeford, S.J. Perelman, James Thurber, Ford Maddox Ford, Vladimir Nabokov, and Marcel Proust.)

The janitor, Pete is briefly mentioned once more to detail his sadistic attitude toward the residents. He was currently deciding whether he wanted to be the messenger for Burny’s latest mess or let Butch discover it in his own time, when he’s interrupted by Rebecca whom reminded him he was supposed to be in the common room in preparation for Strawberry Fest! As the two leave, Burny regains clarity and swipes Butch’s pet rock before heading to the bathroom, he recovering his old self, as well as a little dark something extra. Then back to Rebecca and Pete setting up the room, Pete getting a moment to view sweet undies when Rebecca must point out the hook he was to hang the lights from, she on the ladder and once noticing where his gaze was aimed, takes his wandering eyes in stride, apparently used to the behavior (when one’s skirt is so short, one would hope so). Then a switch over to Tyler attempting to keep up with his buddies, all on bikes, he deciding it wasn’t worth it, knowing where they’d end up anyways, viewing the sign for Strawberry Fest! outside the old folks home, then readying to ride on. Burny sees Tyler from the bathroom, he having a salivatory reaction, then goes to a stall after commenting to “Gorg”.

Tyler is then distracted from riding off when a crow appears saying his name, he uncertain of what he heard, but happily curious to see if he heard right, getting closer to the bird as it lured him to a bush. Meanwhile, one of his ‘buddies’, Ebbie, Pete’s son, commands one of the other boys to fetch Tyler, since he usually had cash, but the boy didn’t immediately see Tyler, so goes faster. Then we see Burny still sitting in a stall when all of the toilets and urinals flush, he disappearing and slippage being heard. Tyler is still enthralled by the bird as it enters the bush, he getting grabbed and losing a shoe on his forced entry, it’s alluded he’s hit on the head, but his disappearance, a certainty. The boy whom was sent for Tyler, sees his bike, then his shoe, at first giving the benefit of Tyler messing around, but then senses the seriousness, getting spooked and quickly biking away. Tyler’s mother, Judy meanwhile, is groggily waking from a nightmare, and also defines “Gorg”, she then noticing the creel, a wicker box used by fisherman, on the table, she seeing the note atop it addressed to her with a nickname she hated. She finally opens the note and box, neither being good news. Judy has then jumped off the cliff of sanity.

Butch is then shown coming back from his smoke break to see a shit and red-face smeared Burny with his hand over the pet rock, he knowing Burny had his mind for now, they going back to the bathroom. Ebbie is listening to T.J. relay what he’d seen, Ebbie deciding their plan would remain unchanged, and if asked, would doctor the time and place a bit for when Tyler rode off by himself. Ebbie convinces himself Tyler would show up later, the three going to the park. Fred, whilst at work, receives a call from a neighbor about his Judy. He leaves to be sure she was alright as a flashback of the neighbor’s interaction with Judy is shared. When Fred gets home, he at first doesn’t know where she is until he hears her singing, Rock-a-bye, baby from upstairs, he noting the odd aftermath of pictures taken off the walls and the wallpaper torn behind where the frames had been. He locates her in Tyler’s room, her legs covered in blood, sitting on his bed, with most everything from his closet and drawers dumped on the floor, the oddly comforting scenic picture still hanging on the wall. She explains how after stating of Tyler missing, she thought he’d be behind one of the pictures, especially the Ireland one, then describes how he was taken, Gorg luring him and the Abbalah snatching him, Fred not believing it, yet. He carries her to their room, she having left it alone, then passing out whilst he was searching for her sleeping pills. Fred had a moment to consider how he could contact Tyler or learn where he was. Fred decides since it was close to lunchtime, he’d wait, then changing his mind about calling two of the boys’ mothers, he then remembering their hangout at 7/11, calling the store, but only learning three boys had come in earlier, the number bothering him. He decides to clean up the glass, move Tyler’s dresser to block the scratch marks on the wall, then laid down and surprised himself by sleeping, Judy thinking of the Crimson King, the two other usual’s, and the name Sophie.

Bobby Dulac receives a call from an on-solo cop whom had come across Tyler’s bike and shoe, after hearing all the details, he puts him on hold to inform Dale. One of the missing children’s mothers had exited from Dale’s office, the woman not having received a letter, but it potentially being a matter of time, Bobby then walks in to have him take the call from the officer. Henry is sent for and arrives an hour and a half before showtime, Pete designated to generally set up Henry’s equipment and hang his suit. Henry inquires about the police having been there, surprising Pete on how he could know, but gives the supposition on another child missing, the cops not having said much. Meanwhile Fred is dreaming of he and his wife fishing, the creel between them, he getting a bite as he was going to look inside. The fish he pulls up has Tyler’s face and is choking, he unable to unhook him and throw him back, then waking, he realizing Judy was no longer beside him, but he hearing choking still, she in a corner with paper and what looks like a sausage protruding from her mouth, Fred gets the three papers out, then Heimlich’s two more papers loose, he dropping her on the bed, mad at how she’s broken. He looks at one paper with ‘meaningless’ scribbles, notices the hour, and checks Tyler’s room even whilst knowing he wasn’t there. He goes back to his bedroom, calls 9-1-1, and asks for Dale, Bobby unable to put him through since he was meeting with some officials and an FBI agent, Fred mentions his wife going crazy and his son gone, Bobby not thinking and asking if Tyler owned the bike they found, giving the details, Fred snapping and demanding to speak with Dale, when Dale picks up, Fred having broken down.

Where Henry found his one-of-a-kind suit is debated upon, the most being hinted at was it having been tailored by one of four of the era, and unknown how Henry had gotten his hands on it. Then as the trio are walking to the common room, after a brief mention of Henry’s suit by Rebecca, the conversation gets turned to Pete’s information about the cop he saw picking up the bike, Henry supposing Maxton’s wouldn’t be affected as long as no one there was involved, per Rebecca’s worry. They finish their walk to the common room, Henry familiarizing himself with the setup. Meanwhile, Chipper is outside attempting to corral the old folks in and get handouts from their families on their way out. As the elderly are brought in, Henry wows them with his slick Symphony Stan act and starts the music (Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey “How Am I to Know You“, Artie Shaw “Begin the Beguine“, Woody Herman “Wild Root” and “Lady Magowan’s Dream” (which was only mentioned), Benny Goodman “Moonglow“, Bunny Berigan “I Can’t Get Started“). Most everyone is affected by Henry’s performance, and most of the room is dancing, Rebecca also getting caught up in the fray, her dance partner taking them to the front, where Alice, a resident was in mid-request of a song when Burny interrupts loudly, claiming to have been there first.  In the end, Henry puts on a song they both agree on, Burny seeming to withdraw into his particular sort of dementia once more, Rebecca seeing him in the hall on her way out, Burny speaking some unsettling nonsense to her, and she retreating after suggesting he rest in his room before dinner if he wanted to join later. When she makes a note of a name Burny had mentioned and depositing it in her bag, Chipper calls to her from his office, he reminding her of something else Burny had babbled of, which made it seem like he was referring to Chipper, she also reminded of the Fisherman by one of his other statements during his mysterious gibbering.

Jack is pulled from his slowly receding, forced tranquility for multiple reasons: One – Henry had called to insist he stop being stubborn, due to another missing child, then he receives a call from Dale, confirming this, and of the state of Tyler’s parents, his father, Fred, at the station and persistently asking to see Jack. Fred having taken Judy to the hospital where she was immediately admitted to the psychiatric wing. The second other, minor reason – Jack agreed to get out of his house, so he wouldn’t have to deal with the possibility of robin eggs being found in any more enclosed compartments. Jack is shown into Dale’s office as soon as he arrives, where Fred and Dale wait. Fred starts his story of the day’s events, Dale adding a small bit, and Jack realizing he’d seen all four boys riding their bikes earlier, after sharing this, wanting to speak with the three, who were currently being questioned. Jack notices how he’s going to have to instill some apprehension in them since they’d been questioned together, he doing well by striking at Ebbie first, he taken outside the room. The two boys confess more, and when he has the last boy alone, he learns of the black feathers, one in Tyler’s shoe. After releasing the boys, Jack relates the small amount he’d learned. He then scheduling a time the next day to speak with Judy. He discusses his motives for helping with Henry, later on, as he cooked food in Henry’s home. Jack then confides all he learned at the station, and why he was planning on seeing Judy. After, they begin Bleak House, then upon reaching their fill, part ways and end the night.

Next Jack has an old memory of a theme park during a time with his mother, he unsettled, and they running from Sloat, or Uncle Morgan. Then he has a chat with Speedy as a twelve-year-old, the man stating how Jacky had more traveling to do, and all the signs (robin eggs and feathers) he’d sent as confirmation of this. Speedy goes on to mention of Jack needing to find the latest missing boy, for he being a Breaker, and could be the source the Crimson King needed to gain enough power to become free. Jack had been up since four and was watching the sky turn light, when he gets a call from Fred, he then spotting a note he must have written, but in his mother’s hand, meanwhile Fred sounded near the end of sanity, Jack learning the time would need to be pushed to late afternoon for Judy having had a bad night. Jack confirms the new plans, he offering to drive due to Fred’s loss of composure, the two hanging up.

Jack is readying to take a walk to get the bad dream and uncomfortable phone call with Fred out of his mind, when he notices a package outside his door, the only address being the name, “Jacky”, Jack voicing his apprehension of the odd looking box. When he opens the child’s shoe box, he sees it packed with crow feathers and a shoe with a foot still inside. As he slowly gains speed to a run off his porch and failing to convince himself of having a “calm” mind, he goes and gets on his hands and knees, breaking down since he realizes he’s entered the Territories, again. When Jack hears Richard Sloat’s voice, he finally regains composure. Richard’s voice, which was in Jack’s head, logically explains what had occurred, in place of his conscience, even though Jack knows this new reality was actually around him, Richard’s logic helps him maintain true calm. As he looks around, he remembers the first time he’d “flipped” with Richard to the Territories, then hearing a whistle, and realizing his location was near the Mississippi River (at least the name used in the accepted reality, Jack not knowing what they called it in the Territories).

Jack walks toward a dirt road from the Doppelganger version of where his house and garage was, it replaced by a barn and windmill, he soon realizes a terrible vibration coming from a particular direction, along with smoke. When he continues on, the vibration fades and he sees animals which look like a cross between a rabbit and kangaroo pass him, he closer to a village as the sun sets. Jack then views an out of place baseball cap, upon picking it up, seeing Tyler’s name marked on the inside, Jack supposing the Fisherman had done this on purpose. He unknowingly flips back and almost gets hit by a car. Jack calculates the distance walked in the Territories was an extra three miles to where he currently was, then bringing back memories of when he’d first heard about the Territories hinted at when overhearing his father speaking with Richard’s father. Before entertaining any further chat with his imaginary version of his buddy, Henry’s maid sees and pulls over to see if Jack needed a ride, he accepting and deciding during the drive to investigate the shoe box and all other evidence more closely once arriving home. Once he does so, also using plastic baggies for each item, Jack discovers another message at the bottom of the show box, referencing the child Jack had been. He then calls Henry about where Ed’s Eats was, confiding what he’d found, Henry offering to help him get to the place, and Jack relieved to have him. Then back-story of an officer called Arnold Hrabowski, AKA The Mad Hungarian is detailed, learning he’d taken an emergency call from the Fisherman. He plays it back for Dale, whom wants to call Jack, but knowing his plans, instead pairing officers to go to Ed’s Eats, even agreeing to let Arnold come if he can get someone to cover him at the station. Arnold makes the mistake of sharing with his blabby wife about his phone call, to make himself feel better, his wife immediately confiding in her two best buddies, the word getting out even after getting them to promise to keep the news to themselves, French Landing having a Telephone-style game of information about what the police would discover at Ed’s Eats before they even arrived.

Dale, whilst Tom drove, rifled through his wallet, then calling Jack’s cell number only to realize his uncle was answering. Then from Henry’s view, the rest of the chat is shown as Henry hands the cell back to Jack to speak with Dale, he sharing what he and his officers were doing and wanting Jack to meet them, Jack revealing he was already on his way and how he’d gotten on the trail, not pleased to learn Arnold Hrabowski was going to show. The train of events on whom called whom to pass on the news of the location and how many dead bodies would be found is gone over. as well as one of the Thunder Five being notified. Dale and Jack then plan how to go about blocking off the road to Ed’s, Dale sending two officers to check the telephone for prints, Dale then suggesting Jack plant the foot with the rest of the body, to save Jack trouble being questioned by agents or detectives on why it was sent to him, and to save Tyler’s hat for when the boy was found. Jack goes in and sees the body along with another message, he taken by surprise by Dale, whom followed him in. Two officers were on their way back down the road when a truck nearly hits them, another not far behind, with questions about what had been discovered within. The two manage to get them to back off, but don’t remember the back road needing to be blocked, plenty of civilians becoming aware of it, and ready to utilize their knowledge.

Richie Bumstead is then introduced, speaking with one of the telephone gossipers, he then relating his experience with the Thunder Five (and a better understanding of their work). The men had gone to college (smart), worked at a brewery, one man being a head brew-master of a special division, and drank like they needed beer as much as oxygen. Beezer, one of the Thunder Five, is whom Richie calls about Irma’s body being found. Beezer prepares to go, shouting out to his buddies who lived nearby of the news, all waiting for Beezer’s signal of being off. As they get closer to Ed’s Eats, Beezer notices the unusual traffic the closer they get to their destination, perceiving the cops would be having trouble keeping the rubbernecks at bay by this time. Beezer considers how he’ll keep his cool with all the morons about, but then thinks of the best way to get on Dale’s good side is by helpful cooperation. Wendell is then followed as Beezer and crew close in on him as they both race to Ed’s, Wendell recording what he planned to write as he drove like an asshole.

Once Wendell sees who was behind him, a rush of fear enters him due to the threats he’d received by Beezer when he’d indelicately came to interview him after his daughter had been killed. As he allows the Thunder Five to pass him, and they all get closer to the turn off to Ed’s, Wendell is unbothered by the police turning everyone away since he’d surely be treated differently for being press. Though, his resolve dissolves once seeing who was guarding the entrance, Wendell not having made friends with the two, but then noticing, as Beezer and crew U-turn, sensing they must be going to a back entrance, Wendell trailing them. When they turn off the main road and Wendell reaches Goltz’s driveway, he parks and follows on foot due to the run down road, Wendell dreams of getting a morbid shot of Irma’s body and willing to bribe whoever necessary to get the dirty, ugly mess. When he no longer hears the motorcycles ahead, he catches the noise of an old truck behind him, he deciding he’d stop their attempt of following him there, but as he talks with them, decides a bribe may serve him better, he sharing his idea for them to implement. Wendell’s plan was to join the group in the truck, they catching up to the Thunder Five, Wendell hearing Beezer speaking quietly as he readies his camera, he then noticing as Beezer is talking with Dale, Jack is looking anxious to put a baggie back in his truck, Wendell believing he’s seen Jack tamper with evidence. When the newcomer policemen go into the shack, Wendell takes a shot of Henry, whom he thinks is running the show, but Henry hears him, which makes Wendell give the signal to his truck posse to charge.

The two officers are feeling the pressure as more people come, whilst the last turns around, everyone spoken to as kooky as the last. The two see the Thunder Five coming, and Wendell waits his turn, when Tcheda continues turning people way, those waiting begin honking their horns and pointing, the two seeing nothing and waiting awhile longer after the road had cleared to return to Ed’s. They soon see a new group parking and heading at them with banners. When Dale approaches with the Thunder Five in tow, he informs the two of they now having more backup for crowd control. Two more officers arrive, then the agents Brown and Black, as well as the Arnie, they then hearing a haunting scream. Meanwhile, Jack suggests to Dale to have Henry listen to the emergency call, to see if he hears something they hadn’t. Jack also thinking about the connection with the Territories and the Fisherman, the scream mentioned earlier being heard by those up top. When they chase down the hicks, Beezer’s point of view is given as he follows Wendell, whom was taking pictures, but stops when he sees Beezer coming. Wendell attempts to play like he didn’t know of the hicks making a ruckus, but Beezer deduces the reasoning behind the noise correctly, he then keeping Wendell distracted enough to grab his camera and taking out the film. Jack is then shown partially glad the case would be taken over, but also hoping Dale isn’t too slapped down for the mess the agents had walked into. Jack then realizes Arnie was the loose-lipped reason the town was there, he convincing him to confess to Dale, Jack then joining Beezer and Wendell, the latter threatening, then attempting to bribe Jack, he punching Wendell in the stomach, after he leaves, Beezer and Jack acquaint themselves with each other, Beezer offering his help if Jack ever desired.

Fred and Jack are driving when Fred pulls over to show and tell Jack of the view being a place his wife liked to stop to “smell the roses” before getting back ‘into life”, Jack lets Fred talk since sensing he was working up to confide something deeper. Fred goes on to mention his ability to have some normal conversations with his wife, attempting to confess his theory of how his wife actually was doing, reminding Jack of when she’d foretold of their son’s disappearing, and now she acting much calmer, claiming to know Tyler wasn’t dead and Jack was the only one whom could help, he revealing the names Jack recognized from the Territories, and then suggesting they go see his wife. When inside the hospital, they are escorted part of the way by a large female nurse, Fred leading Jack to the bench where she sat. They speak formally of Judy’s awareness of how she’s changed as a mother and the view Fred showed Jack earlier. She shares of her childhood memory of Faraway and how she had sensed Jack had knowledge of the place, as well. He admits to having his own name for the land, she admitting to feeling her son was being held captive there, and whether Jack believed this were possible, he agreeing he was on the case for this reason, they having to leave her since the warden had arrived. When they go back to Judy’s favorite spot, Jack shows Fred, Tyler’s cap, he revealing where he’d found it, he then promising to do all he could to recover Tyler.

Arnold Hrabowski has been suspended and not looking forward to the obvious truth his wife played in his getting in trouble, and Dale had gone home with the plan of spending the evening with his family, but Agent Black had called, and left Dale with a vibe he needed to go there. He then has a scare his son had disappeared from coloring to swing in the thickening fog. Jack and Fred part ways, the latter keeping Tyler’s cap, eating a microwaveable, and turning off the news for feeling sympathy for the reporters stalking Irma’s grieving mother. He thinks of how impossible Jack’s view was, and feeling ridiculous for hoping it was true. Beezer is struggling with whether to score crank, as he’s had since his daughter’s death, but eventually vengeance on the Fisherman wins preference. Henry’s listening to Warren Vaché, John Bunch, and Phil Flanagan sing, “I Remember April“, whilst smelling the fog and wondering how Jack’s visit had gone, then thinking of his wife. Whilst most of “our friends” are available to check up on, Burny has disappeared for the moment, a yellow bee-style slipper in the bathroom being the only sign he’d been there. Then it’s shown he’s appeared on the third floor of the Nelson Hotel, where he’s been spotted testing doorknobs by a resident, away from the old man’s view. He’s wary of him, sensing possible danger, but then Burny turns the corner and is out of the man’s view, he debating his options, glancing around the corner since he didn’t have a phone in his room to call the front desk. He supposes Burny could currently be inside a fellow resident’s room, and has the thought cross of he possibly being a lost head-case from Maxton’s, but when he checks the ajar room, no one’s there, he investigating the room’s only hiding places, discovering something in the closet which freezes him, and knows the owner would kill to keep secret.

Meanwhile, Burny has reappeared at the home, spotted by the lady at the front desk, stopping him to claim the slippers which belong to another resident, Burny amusing himself by whipping out his ding-dong to consider showering her, but decides against it, put himself away, all before she looked back up from taking the slippers from his feet, he having one more errand to run. When Burny returns to his room, it’s learned he had been searching for the man of the room he’d entered, George Potter, he having messed up a deal for Burny in the 70s. Burny had been exacting his revenge on George, and glad the old fella had followed him, since he was tired of doing all of his mischievous work, knowing a terrified call would be made about what had been seen. Then, before Burny drifts off, a translation of his “nonsense” talk is shown, regarding Irma’s mother. The old man at the Nelson bursting into the manager’s office and convincing him to call the police for seeing horrible pictures of children in Potter’s closet, believing he’s discovered the Fisherman. Tansy, Irma’s mother is currently quite high, staving off her grief and reminiscing of her daughter through scrapbook. She then remembers “The Raven”, quoting the beginning, hearing a tapping at her door after saying it, and when opening the door, seeing a ‘raven’ on her doormat, she thinking she’s imagining it, Gorg entering the trailer and unnerving her, she eventually asking why he’d come, Gorg repeating two key words, then upon her further questioning says her name, and to come. When Tansy falls, Gorg whispers in her ear, it then known Tansy will not be returning to sanity (quite quickly, anyways).

At six in the evening, Chipper is doing overtime by allowing Rebecca to “work” on his boner with her face. The residents are watching The Sound of Music, all except for Burny, whom is quite asleep, the demon which controls him having worked him extra hard this week, but he being a willing host. Meanwhile, Jack has driven to Henry’s for more reading of Bleak House, but will first listen to the track Henry had chosen for the Wisconsin Rat. Fred is distraught and cleaning whilst wearing Tyler’s cap, Tansy’s still listening to Gorg, and Dale is readying to leave when getting another call, this one from the station, and it having to do with the pictures in George Potter’s room, Ernie, a retired cop helping, has Doc, from the Thunder Five with him, and the two are about to enter the station, it switching back to Dale, whom had been connected by the station to the old man at the Nelson, Andy Railsback’s call, Dale reassuring him backup was coming and to wait outside for Potter’s return and report back to him. Dale then requests to speak with Doc, he and Ernie then walking in, Dale instructing him to ask for a cell in evidence and to walk to Lucky’s Tavern to see if he can spot Potter, and if he does, to call back. Dale then starts moving, planning on calling Jack from the car. Doc has made it inside the bar, seeing the man depicted, leaves to make the call, and is told to come back to the station, before doing so, making a final call to Beezer, he relaying the particulars of whom he may have seen, instructing him to get the boys and meet him at the station since going straight to the bar may not be the best decision in Beezer’s case, plus Doc not being certain of the man’s role concerning the Fisherman, yet.

Dale is then shown trying Jack’s number and getting voicemail, then Henry’s, whom answers, Dale making it clear it was urgent he get Jack on the line, upon doing so, Dale feeling Jack’s appreciation is a bit understated, he more interested in whom Andy had followed prowling around his floor (someone forgot a ‘whom’ in their sentence, tsk tsk, bad editor! Only a couple minor missing words so far.), the two hanging up after Jack agreed to meet them there, Dale reaching the station, and upon walking to the door, hears bikes approaching, accusing Doc of letting his crew know, he not denying this, and Dale not blaming him. Henry and Jack are on their way as they discuss the likelihood of Potter being the right man, the two agreeing it was most likely the man Railsback had seen in the hall, the two then sharing favorite record and song, Jack sharing his and getting emotional after Henry confides his own. Everything begins to converge as Dale and two officers set up at Nelson’s Hotel, Jack and Henry arriving to see the Thunder Five and the rest of the force in the parking lot of the station, and Tansy trying to organize the high drunks at the bar to do something drastic since knowing the police were about to make a Fisherman-related arrest. Meanwhile Wendell is also drowning his sorrows in his Inn’s bar when getting a call, it being one of the cops whom picked up the evidence cell Doc had returned, the caller informing Wendell of their collar, letting him know the possibility of he getting first picture before hanging up.

Dale and the two are then shown taking Potter into custody, Jack and Henry hearing the car on its way back from its pick up, Andy and Morty, the manager also being brought, as well as Wendell showing his ugly mug, the Mad Hungarian bringing up the rear. Jack is then shown making conversation with Beezer whom isn’t regarding him other than to state how everyone will see if Potter’s processing goes without a hitch, he showing what he preferred, by blocking Potter’s entrance into the building. He asks a simple question of Potter though, whether he’d killed his daughter, Potter giving the simple, “quiet” answer in return of not having killed anyone, Jack then urging Beezer to move, he doing so, for now being uncertain of the man’s guilt. Wendell is whom gets everyone moving indoors when he shouts for a good shot of Potter, after which, Henry is escorted from the truck and into Dale’s office with Jack. Dale has sobered from his detainment high after Potter had been booked, asking Jack his opinion of whether Potter was the right guy, Jack confessing his thoughts, wanting to speak with Railsback about what he’d seen, and probably needing to question Potter closely after deducing the Fisherman may have set him up in revenge, an officer coming in after Henry reports of the sounds they were hearing being many engines, and a bartender having called with the news of dozens of people heading for the station, at the head being Tansy.

Dale leaves to begin dealing with the approaching situation, whilst Jack handles a call he recognizes as Speedy, he suggesting Jack get to Dale’s private lavatory, Jack about to decline for the urgency of asking Potter about the details he was curious about, what with Brown and Black coming, but Speedy brings clarity about the importance of being able to use what’s there twice, he having to take the first opportunity or Potter being fucked, the call ending. Tansy is then shown leading the bar’s customers out, she having shared Gorg’s poison with them, half a dozen immune, but those who had gone, connected to Tansy like she was a queen bee, one woman fashioning a noose on the ride and giving it to Tansy, whom holds it up in the air and leads the crowd to the station. The Thunder Five are outside, Beezer announcing he wouldn’t move, and wasn’t going to fight for seeing the pointlessness, but Tansy stopping short and instead, yelling for Potter to be brought out in an unnatural volume, the swarm taking up the chant, Beezer advising his crew to stay complacent if approached.

Jack comes out carrying a bouquet of flowers he’d discovered from the Territories, walking toward Tansy and when she smells them, she and the group slowly come around, she mentioning what Gorg had told her, Jack noting the feather in her belt and getting it away from her, sharing of Gorg’s untrustworthiness. Jack then confessing of Potter not being the one they wanted, vowing he’d catch him, this calming her, but still seeing the madness hadn’t left, hoping it would with the Fisherman’s defeat. Jack had gotten someone to volunteer to give Tansy a ride home when another chant starts at the back. Meanwhile inside, the cops are looking on with interest, Bobby relating to Henry what was happening, as requested, Henry then hearing Wendell take up the cry after Jack had diffused the situation and the news trucks coming in. Wendell gets pumped with leading the new charge, when Arnold clocks him and he passes out. This receives a big cheer from the officers, Henry happy, but also apprehensive for them all. Dale meets Jack outside the door and brings him back in, the two discussing how Brown and Black had arrived and Jack hoping Dale could stall them for awhile, Dale sure he could. Jack remembering the flowers he’d given Tansy were still good for a second time after he’d given them to her, but realizing they could still be available to him for whiffing them inside the station.

When Jack sees Potter, he can immediately sense his innocence, he believing the Territories affecting his senses having to do with it, then starting his questioning, Potter speaks of being ill, then of his career and how he ended up in French Landing, Jack building rapport until a phrase hits Potter in the right way, Jack asking about the murder, and once Potter hears how Railsback had instigated the events, Potter rants about him and a couple others before Jack has him refocus on Railsback having followed someone to his room. At first Potter can’t imagine, but as Jack keeps him talking, he gets on the subject of a man sounding like Burny, Potter realizing later this could be whom Jack meant, he speaking of their last encounter in town and how he’d been building his own house, men getting hurt during the construction. After Potter admits to remembering no more, Jack thrusts his hands in his face for a whiff of the flowers, it doing enough to get Potter to remember Burny’s name and what the house was called. Brown and Black then walk in, ending the chat, but Potter asking for Jack to give Burny his hello if he locates him.

When Black handles Potter too roughly, Jack threatens the two men’s careers, it affecting them, and they leaving with Potter. Jack then inquiring of Dale about the two names, Burny ringing a bell, slightly, but Black House not familiar at all. Jack seeing a flutter in his eyes which proved Dale was holding something back, also sensing he didn’t know he knew, Jack planning on extracting the information delicately. He doesn’t succeed in getting more details in this meeting, though, since Dale was unconsciously acting squirrelly and Jack didn’t want Dale going over the edge, the two going back to where everyone was waiting, they giving Jack a round of applause. Jack and Henry leave about an hour later, Beezer and crew still outside, Jack hooking up a time next day for them to meet up and look for Black House. On the ride, Henry is quiet, and when informing Jack of no reading for being beat, Jack agrees for feeling the same, deciding to ask him about Black House tomorrow, giving him time to get back to himself. Jack goes home, attempts to sleep and fails, going outside with a pillow and lying down in his field, flipping to the Territories where his pillow was now filled with goose-down and his undies changing fabric, as well, he going to sleep and waking in his own field, noting his undies were mostly dry for not being on him for most of the night whilst the rest of him was wet from dew, he returning inside for a few more hours unconsciousness time and when waking again, the flipping seeming like a dream, but knowing its reality.

The next day, the news was fairly completely covered with Arnold’s clocking of Wendell, Jack watching the footage and reflecting how this act of Arnold’s will most assuredly frame his grovelling to end his suspension, Dale being too kind to deny him, and Wendell most likely getting leniency for his unprofessional behavior through pure fabrication. He then muses over Railsback’s story of the Fisherman and his outfit, Jack believing the man’s idea of he being at Maxton’s a good spot for hiding in plain sight. Wendell also watches the news, angered and embarrassed by what Arnold had done to him, boosting himself with how he’d had a hand in the naming of the Fisherman and getting the most information, at the earliest point, he already organizing how he’d win his editor over again, and then go see Fred. Arnold’s wife is convinced she’s right in thinking Arnold should call about canceling his suspension after watching the news, even Dale thinks so since it made him happy to watch. Wanda Kinderling is listening to the news, thinking of how Jack had ruined her life caused by his accusations of illegal activity by her husband whom was now in jail, she not believing he could kill hookers for not having a sex drive, and a winky which didn’t grow up (wah-wah-wah). Burny was dreaming, compliments of Mr. Munshun, whom had him see children working on wheels and demon lizards whipping them on. Then Chipper is brainstorming on how he’s going to pay his bookie with six thousand short of paying in full, he knowing it’ll have to be one hell of an explainable skim.

Jack is then shown debating his reasoning for wanting to visit Tansy, he convincing himself, and when she opens the door and ushers him in quickly, he realizing she’s definitely not all there still, she making sure the door is locked before sitting down, Jack asking about whom she was keeping out, his guess of Gorg being correct, she pointing out the flowers he’d given her and he considering how once they died, she would be overcome by madness. Jack asks her about Gorg which she doesn’t wish to get into, but shares of what it looks like, speaking of Poe, the similarities of conversation between she and Judy making him want to see her, knowing she’s special, but Jack also sympathizing with Tansy’s state. She then shares of how Gorg described his world to her and the letter the Fisherman sent her, after deciding it was time for Jack to leave, he still feeling an urge to see Judy. Once on the road though, he remembers the Sand Bar, upon entering, deciding he’d order lunch, the bartender, Tansy’s boyfriend, Stinky Cheese, making Jack feel foolish when not noticing the menu on the wall and when lunch started, he taking his order anyways to be made when his mother was ready. Stinky then switches the TV over to a movie with Jack’s mother, he flashing back to when his mother explained a funny scene involving a fly. As he watches, his food soon arrives and he’s then distracted by tasty burger and figuring where Tansy had meant Gorg’s world was and the location he’d shown her, Jack not knowing the area, but considering how she could’ve been talking about a tower, the description unfamiliar to him, he thinking it had to do with the smoke he’d seen in the Territories.

Jack’s train of thought is interrupted by the Thunder Five’s bikes approaching, Stinky warning Jack about them, but he easing his mind, sort of, by knowing and expecting them, Beezer commanding Stinky to the kitchen, Jack asking them if they’d heard of George Potter before yesterday. Jack goes over the information with them and Burny’s name, Beezer inquiring of Jack’s certainty this is the guy, Jack 99% definite. The boys didn’t know of Black House though, making Jack wonder how people could forget a weird house. As they talk out its history and where it could be, Mouse begins to remember having seen it, talking himself through his day with a girl the couple years back he’d viewed it on acid, he mentioning the no trespassing sign and getting the feeling he shouldn’t go in, seeing things in the darkness and believing he saw another girl the Thunder Five used to hang with before she died, standing in front of him. He rides on though, only stopping when seeing the house and his girl telling him to stop so she can vomit, he hearing what sounds like many dogs growling around them. The house looks intimidating and after seeing the second sign, he heads back with his girl, whom is ill for three days, not quite getting better, and dying a month or so later. After the recounting Beezer is ready for Mouse to try and find it, Jack letting them know his plans of going to see Judy, and if locating the house, not to go in without him, Beezer reluctantly agreeing, calling Stinky to allow him back in the front.

As Jack goes, the Thunder Five is followed, it being told of how they reacted to fear being out of the ordinary, but they also knowing someone always had their backs. Mouse fairly easily senses the road again, he thinking about how proud he had been to have the details resurface, but now heading toward the spot, overcome with more realization of Black House being responsible for his girl’s death, and the repulsion to stay away at the surface, but then the feeling fading. Sonny motions the crew to the side of the road since believing Mouse missed the turnoff, they close to riding back into town, Mouse confirming it may be back the way they came somewhere and hadn’t seen it, the place not keen on being rediscovered. Beezer makes the executive decision on they giving it one more ride through before checking another highway.

This time Mouse leads then at a much slower pace to allow a more thorough view, Sonny then flashing back to a moment he had felt unsettled over a certain environment, the experience leaving one of his buddies dead and the other dazed and losing his mind for not knowing what had occurred overnight, Sonny having slept outside. He comes back to reality, then gets a shine to the face, helping him spot the sign, Doc and Kaiser Bill pulling up, not seeing it, but also not going after Beezer and Mouse to inform them, instead getting caught up attempting to see the sign for themselves, and then where the road led. Kaiser Bill then decides he’ll go get the two, and they all return to Sonny and Doc. Beezer game planning by having all the boys make their weapons readily available and riding in fast, he stating of capturing the Fisherman regardless of his promise to Jack, if he sensed he was in the house. As they ready to take off, Sonny locks eyes with a crow, which hops backward into the forest (as if making the hand sign meaning, “I’m watching you”), he convincing himself the crow must’ve been looking at them all, Beezer then shouting for them to ride.

Mouse is again plagued with his girl’s rotting corpse hanging on his back, making him physically attempt to shake her off, the sensation only getting worse, he not only now feeling like he was going slower, but also seeing his girl as if she were flesh and bone. When he takes the curve into the woods, he overturns his bike, it skidding over his leg, and the girl covering his eyes after seeing the house, Mouse letting out a shriek, hearing the growling dog get closer. Beezer gets affected as well, he having a blossoming headache and also hearing the big dog. As he sees Mouse approach the curve, his headache gets worse, bursting blood vessels in his eyes, his vision darkening and hearing terrible things about his daughter, seeing a figure for a flash then falling, his bike landing on top of him. When he looks over at Mouse, seeing everything in red, he views the large dog coming at him as he screams. Beezer runs at Doc, whom keeps going, he not feeling well either, his head feeling heavy to the point of him wanting to drop it down to his chest, seeing Beezer whipping out his gun, knowing he should follow suit, but overcome with a memory which stops him, it involving the end of his medical career. He then pukes on his shoulder, his pain worsening, seeing Beezer’s crash, but making the curve himself, and deciding what he should shoot, he then hearing and seeing the dog running at Mouse, aiming for it, only making it turn to him for a moment, the shape fuzzy, before it going forward again at Mouse.

Doc shoots a second time which he knows connects, his arms heavy. Doc then hears Sonny before a loud noise, then silence. Sonny’s perspective shows he’d been hit with pain and darkness simultaneously, but does see the Kaiser grab his head and start to faint, blood bursting from his nose, Sonny grabbing hold of his handlebars, the man falling off and getting dragged a little ways. Sonny stops for a second before continuing on after another good vomit, he hearing the dog and ready to defend his friends. Sonny sees the aftermath of Beezer and Doc, he getting off his bike to see what Doc was shooting at, then running ahead, shooting at the same target. The bullet connects as it bites Mouse’s leg, but again, only knocking it off-course for a moment, it giving him a look suggesting if he didn’t back off, it would come for him next. This doesn’t put Sonny off though, shooting again at its head, nothing happens other than a clearer view of the thing, he shooting again, the first sign of blood from the creature bursting forth, another shot coming from behind him, he seeing Beezer, whom commands he keep shooting. Finally, whilst all three shot at it, the thing runs into the woods, the three conferring a moment, discussing how many hits the creature took before hearing Mouse yelling for them, they helping him up, and everyone estimating the damage they’d endured. They all return to their bikes before checking on Kaiser Bill. Beezer determines to hear all about this weird shit from Jack when he returned. None of the others admitted to the psychological side of their experiences when asked by Beezer, which was answer enough. They waking Kaiser Bill, and heading out of the forest, Doc noting Mouse’s injury not being a normal dog bite, but he refusing to go to the hospital, allowing Doc to needle him with antibiotics at Beezer’s.

Meanwhile, Jack is driving and contemplating getting off the call of anyone, but Henry’s until speaking with Fred. He relays of Judy having a meltdown over a tape given to her and wanted Jack to go with him to see her, he letting Fred know he was already en-route, having to lie about why, but Fred too distraught to get further into it, and instead sharing of what the doctor said the tape had on it being of the Fisherman and Tyler’s voices, Jack willing to give him any information learned once getting to the hospital, Fred then confessing he’d spoken to Wendell. After getting off the line, Jack speaks with Henry about the new tape, he not having listened to the first, yet and would wait for the second until doing so, he getting prepared for a George Rathbun show, Jack making plans with him for after. When he arrives at the hospital he has a few epiphanies about Judy’s twinner, the Fisherman, and Gorg, after which he gets as far as the proper ward, but is stopped by the attendant whom didn’t know Jack and due to Nurse Bond not being in, was hard-pressed to allow a non-family member or doctor to see Judy. Jack runs into more resistance until insisting the young man call to see if the doctor was in, he getting a shock when learning whom Jack was, and once off the phone, the two speaking of the Kinderling case and how the man’s wife was this schmo’s Sunday school teacher, he sharing how “townspeople” couldn’t believe Kinderling’s guilt and how confessions can be bullied from people, the doctor then coming in, and Wendell tailing him.

Jack and Wendell soon begin debating the circumstances and reasoning behind his being physically abused as of late, the doctor then speaking with Jack about how he wanted to conduct his interview, Wendell being told to wait with the disgruntled attendant. As Jack and the doctor walk away, Wendell makes a deal with the attendant to hook him up with a spot to listen to Jack and Judy’s conversation. The doctor is then explaining to Jack how Judy had heard the Fisherman’s tape, they also discussing the accent of the man on the tape, as well as Jack’s stance on the other world Judy spoke of being a clever interpretation of the truth, the doctor giving in and showing Jack to his office whilst he prepared Judy to meet him. Wendell is currently nestled in the closet, Jack getting an urgent call from Beezer about Mouse, Jack relaying how long his interview would last, having them hang in there, and hanging up. Judy then brought in, Wendell certain they were about to get sordid for how they spoke to each other, the two speaking of what Jack had to do and Judy hearing her twinner, they readying themselves so Jack could flip to where Sophie, her twinner was waiting, Jack unaware of Wendell being sucked in, too.

Jack is breathless as he attempts to say Sophie’s name in a normal tone after flipping. He repeats it a few times, she confirming each utterance, he feeling off and asking whether he was still speaking English, she affirming he wasn’t. He’s totally taken with her beauty, she asking if he was aware of how he arrived and he actually being in the Territories, he confirming this and also notes some of the doctor’s belongings having been brought with him, she then confessing how she needed a minute herself to catch her breath, the two properly overcome by the other. He gauges her features more thoroughly, the same and slightly different from Judy. Sophie shares of how she and Judy used to talk and now it occurring in dreams, she becoming upset with the thought she’d driven Judy crazy because of their more recent conversations, Jack denying this. Sophie relates how Tyler must be returned to her twinner, Sophie unable to have children because of Morgan Sloat’s twinner (a character I’ll obviously run into in The Talisman), Morgan of Orris, this happening when she was twelve and Jacky preoccupied with saving his mother, he visibly furious with her confession, and she allowing him a few more questions involving their past, the two possibly having met when they were younger, Jack then deducing how Judy and she communicated with each other through the picture in Tyler’s room, Sophie confiding how important it was to return Judy’s son, but also other matters riding on this. Sophie wouldn’t divulge much since Jack would be hearing from someone more suited with the information. He then asks where they were, it being an old tent, which apparently was a traveling hospital, it run by the Little Sisters, vampires, Sophie showing him around as they waited for the man whom would inform Jack. Jeez, King and Straub even allude to themselves when mentioning not glossing over Jack’s love story due to this being bad story-telling etiquette. 

The view goes outside the tent where more Earth-debris is found from the office, then settling on Wendell, in robe, and unable to allow himself to move on from the reality of his recorder now being paper. Wendell speaks to himself with effort, attempting to shove batteries into the paper, a man approaches him, and he refuses to acknowledge the presence. The man, Parkus, stops and coaxes Wendell to speak with him though, due to his position of law enforcement, his parrot with two heads intimidating Wendell with their talk, he resuming his thrusting batteries into the paper, Jack and Sophie interrupting Parkus’ conversation, Jack revealing this was Speedy. The three make their way to the top of a hill, inviting Wendell to join them if he wished, Speedy preparing food, Sophie and he making certain to move him before dark (aww, I was looking forward to Wendell getting drained!), they continuing to the spot which was unsettling for both Jack and Sophie, but the place harmless and good for sharing stories, according to Speedy. Upon entering, Jack hears the weird voice of the Fisherman speak of Munshun, he also confirming the Black House being close by, as well by Speedy. The group then begin speaking of Burny and how he wasn’t the main threat, the creature, Mr Munshun/Mr. Monday, by Albert Fish, Speedy confiding how all of this concerned the Dark Tower and Ram Abbalah wishing to stop its work as in-between to the worlds. Abbalah, the Crimson King, having another entity of himself trapped within the tower and if set free, able to wreak havoc everywhere.

The Crimson King has been using precognates, teleports, and telekinetics to aid him in his plan, they called Breakers, and the Beams, holding the Tower in place, crumbling, the gunslingers the ones to protect the Beams, only one left, but Roland having made other gunslingers. Jack then learns how the gunslingers were supposed to be coming to defend the Tower, Jack deducing Tyler must be a Breaker. Speedy continues to explain the sorts who found Breakers and they being rewarded well according to the talent they had. As for Burny’s deal, he’s allowed as many children as he can eat as long as they have no talent, otherwise they are to be turned over. Tyler being similar to a guided missile, Jack then thinking over how he could help, he going over the scenarios and which was best. Jack then figures the two must’ve realized what was coming since Judy knew months before, he then considering Sophie must be his mother’s successor and Sophie knowing of Tyler’s importance, he being the closest to a son she’d ever get. Jack then asks if the Talisman he’d touched would take out the Crimson King, Speedy relaying it wouldn’t, but would be enough for Munshun and to retrieve Tyler. (This also being where the editor didn’t catch ‘Transy’ Freneau.) Speedy then allows of Black House being the key to locating Munshun and Tyler, discovering Burny depending on Jack using his sources, including Henry. Their meeting ends, Jack and Sophie heading back toward the tent, the two departing with hopes of meeting again, he professing his love before flipping with Wendell.

Jack has a flashback and then is slowly brought back to reality after having lost Wendell in the return trip. Once he realizes he’s with Judy and how close to his face she was, he steals a kiss which she returns. The two are getting hot and heavy when they’re interrupted by the attendant, alarms having been ringing during all of this, another door thrust open to reveal Wendell in a worse unkempt state than Jack, his clothing only hanging off of him whilst Wendell’s was ripped. Upon seeing the close proximity and state of Jack and Judy, Wendell still takes the opportunity to shout, “RAPE!”, he not seeming to register the panic already occurring outside the room in the common area, and as he takes preemptive steps to distance himself from Jack, he steps on some glass and his hanging pants trip him up, falling into a chair and giving Jack the chance to approach as he starts his rape claim again, then Jack popping him in the face only hard enough to knock him out. A worker comes in and informs them they needed to leave for what was believed to have been an earthquake. The girl leaves, Jack and Judy catching up on how much time had passed and Tyler’s living status, Jack then noticing the wrapping paper of the note from Burny in the doctor’s desk, as well as a cassette tape, which he takes, telling Judy to stay strong and leaving the hospital. He then sees the attendant shaking an old woman and yelling in her face, Jack knocking him on the side of the head, putting the young man in a daze. Jack vows he’d get worse if ever seen doing anything similar to someone again.

Ten minutes after, a doctor announces of the emergency concluding and all staff required to escort the patients to their floor’s common room, Wendell and the attendant bonding over their bruises and Wendell declaring of needing to out Jack as a rapist, the attendant indifferently agreeing. Meanwhile, Jack is speeding down the highway and passing firetrucks heading in the opposite direction, he then picking up his cell when hearing a call coming in, Beezer desperately conveying Jack needed to get to his place quickly, Mouse asking for him between raving, he stepping on the gas and informing Beezer where he was and an E.T.A., Beezer then giving Mouse the cell, he sharing with Jack how he was the last one to remember what the gang had gone through, but the poison getting at him, Jack going faster still. Soon he’s close to home and Henry, debating whether to drop off the cassette, he then thinking of Abbalah and where his outside self currently was, thinking of how he, Mr. Munshun, or the Fisherman could try to mess with his buddies since they must now know his involvement, which made him want to check on Henry, he deciding to employ the buddy system until things settled. When he arrives though, Elvena, the maid reminds him how Henry had gone to the studio, Jack feeling a fool for having wasted time, but leaves the tape for him and returns to his truck. When he gets to Nailhouse Row, he goes up the walkway, Beezer opening the door and stating of Mouse’s deterioration, Jack not ever planning on sharing how Mouse’s injury could’ve been pointless, Beezer ushering him in.

Henry’s had a drink with the schmuck offering him the deal with ESPN, but he’s had enough and had the bartender call him a cab, the representative attempting to bully him to stay for another drink, Henry giving him his decisive parting words, and leaving, he believing he felt oddly due to not listening to the tape yet, and planned his night around it. Jack is then shown walking into Beezer’s living room, the place darkened with heavy blankets covering the windows. Beezer shares how Mouse couldn’t abide any light, his skin dissolving when hit by it, Jack attempts to ignore the offending smell and steps into the adjoining room Mouse is lying in, he at first not recognizing him, but when hearing Jack’s nickname, grabs his hand, he trying to focus, Mouse still talking nonsense, and Beezer encouraging him to wait for Mouse to resurface, he starting to speak of the King, Jack urging him to say more, but Mouse drifting off the subject, and after vomiting black squigglies in yellow ooze, which eats through the couch like acid, he passes out.

Doc shows Jack what there was to see under Mouse’s blanket, the view making him shriek. Henry, meanwhile has gotten home and feels proud of himself, until smelling his wife’s perfume again, the imagined sigh rattling him. He ignores the feeling and listens to the message left by Elvena informing him of the second tape as he gets a beer, he calling Jack back as requested, but Jack having left his cell in his truck. Henry then decides to wait to hear the tapes until Jack returns his call, he going to the living room and hoping he didn’t feel his wife’s dead face with his outstretched arm as he walked. Jack is currently eyeing the mess of Mouse’s leg, the likes of which he hasn’t seen before. The fact Mouse’s foot was unharmed making the thought of how easy it could come away from his leg sickening Jack. Doc explains how the infection had spread, he hoping Mouse’s sacrifice for the house’s location worth it, Jack then deciding he needed a moment to quench his thirst or he’d “die” (great choice to go by in this situation, eh?), and after doing so, he reminds himself of the reason he’s come, and still bothered by Mouse’s delirious talk of the perfume not being “his dead wife”, not understanding his intuition of dread. Beezer comes in to have him see Mouse, he waking up.

Henry is relating a dream he was having of a man following him with a single eye, he sensing the man was veering him toward his home and Henry’s death. When he realizes it’s a dream, having been worrying how he could get away from the house, he notes how both book and beer weren’t where he’d left them, and the smell of perfume was receding, Henry now wishing it’d return for preferring it over being alone with the tapes and his spooky dream. He begins to wonder about the details of his dream and how it was the first where he could see, but ignores his curiosity to get started on the tapes. Jack is now getting impatient to go since Mouse hadn’t spoken since since waking, Doc trying the last resort of speed, which does the trick, he first noting how he was in trouble and whilst it had worked, the dog’s poison was more powerful, so requested paper to draw a map, his skin becoming more easy to come off, and when he starts speaking of Goltz’s, his body revolts and his face blisters burst, pausing him for pain, Jack realizing the black stuff coming out of Mouse was stopping him and he should try and dispose of it.

Jack gets the stuff off of his face, the bit he throws down trying to slither away, but is caught partially by Doc and some by Beezer, Mouse clear-minded still and no longer in pain for now, finally gets out the specifics and the No Trespassing sign, making certain Jack was listening before switching back to Henry, whom was readying to play the tape when getting the overwhelming feeling he wasn’t alone, (the bee slippers being seen by the readers, as well as hedge clippers from Henry’s garage) he again attempting to get the intruder doused in his wife’s perfume, to speak, but Burny staying quiet, Henry finally listening to the police tape and recognizing the voice, but not remembering from where, he also noting the Fisherman’s dialect origins. When Henry listens to the tape for Judy, Henry figures out where he’d heard the voice, then deduces the old woman’s name whom had requested a song, Burny then knocking on the glass part of the door. Mouse is currently making his last requests regarding how he wanted to go, what they should do when he did, his funeral, and for Jack to postpone looking for the house until noon tomorrow, Speedy relaying information about Munshun to him, as well. He then gives Jack a word to go with whatever was left of the Talisman in him, Doc noting the request for drugs not being necessary, and Jack leaving them.

The magic word’s power effects some of the main players, besides Mouse, Henry, and Tansy, she seeing what her daughter would’ve looked like when she was older, Judy, seeing her son safe, Dale, Mr. Munshun, and Henry, his forming as lucidity, he knowing Burny was waiting for him and deciding to feign pleasant surprise, hoping he was ready, he fortunately having a couple options of weapons for defense. Burny then opens the door and walks toward Henry, the latter waiting for a specific rustle before attacking, his plan working at first, but whilst Henry gives a few wounds, he takes some, as well. Finally, he gets the chance to escape through the door, Burny announcing the damage Henry had done to him, and following him out, whom now has doubts about his survival. Burny walks around looking for Henry for the light of sunset finally leaving enough to shroud him in darkness, Burny chatting of what he was going to do to him and then Munshun calling it off for wasting time. Munshun reminds him of Burny’s desire to go after Chipper and Rebecca, Henry overhearing his madness and trying to stay conscious long enough to leave a message for Jack. Burny finally going after leaving a message of his own,

Henry decides to go to his studio, motivating himself with pain. When he arrives, he records his revealing message for Jack. Meanwhile, Jack was currently being enmeshed in bees, but in a comforting way, he not getting stung. He feels like he could be borne off, the bees leaving him at sunset, and he feeling like he needed to go to sleep with what he’d gone through this day, but decides he could make it long enough to visit Henry, which makes him think how grand it would be if Henry were nationally recognized, and realizing where his fashion sense must have come from, he then deciding from then on, he’d be completely open with Henry about the more unbelievable bits of his life, and ready to share as soon as he saw him as well as making plans after he came out of Black House. He then thinks about the possible terrible fate of Tyler if he failed, he reminiscing about the bees and their message of love for a couple of the people around him, he vowing to confess his story to Henry, looking forward to not being the only one to know.

When he sees Henry’s lights were off, he thinks he’d fallen asleep, but after going inside and still not getting a response, he goes over other possibilities until smelling blood, then decides Henry was either wounded and abducted, or worse. When he turns the living room light on, he sees the Fisherman’s message and returns outside for a moment to consider calling the police, his need to see what the Fisherman had done, more pressing. He follows the blood to Henry’s studio, the door of which was open, and Jack indignant toward the Fisherman for causing the change of order to Henry’s home. Upon hearing the tape continue to run at the end of the reel and viewing Henry made his death real to him. He listens to the last message Henry leaves him, also discovering why the bees must have hugged him, then returns outside, calls the station where Arnie picks up, relays the two pieces of news, and then walks off into a cornfield. He walks along until locating a good spot to stop and lays down, he finding sleep easier than he thought and then flipping.

Burny is then followed to the bathroom stall in Maxton’s and goes down the list of wounds he sustained, hedge clippers still in hand. He walks out to where the sinks are, removes his shirt, and leaves a trail of blood to the bandages cabinet. He cleans himself up to a reasonable degree, but when seeing his mirrored self, is unsatisfied with the state of his face, which hadn’t bothered him before, but Munshun reminding him of the time, he wanting to get to Black House, Burny also desiring to go for a few reasons, one of them, Tyler. Burny then notes Butch on duty, asleep, he glad he had the hedge clippers, Henry’s fingers getting cut, purely by happenstance. Burny hides the clippers under his shirt as he passes the nurses’ station, he feeling like he was getting rightful retribution for Chipper stealing from him. The nurse at the station was given a chance to be left unscathed until she mentioned him tracking something on the floor, Burny taking her out. He goes to Chipper’s office and sneaks in without Chipper noticing, he kicking the door shut to get his attention from fixing the books, Chippy being pleasant and stating how he’d been wanting to speak with him, then realizing his shirt was wet and going around to find a fresh one, but when none of the workers are to be found, he confides how he wasn’t fooled by Burny’s Alzheimer’s act when Burny had insulted him like he does.

Burny thinks Chipper was about to con him and relishing the idea before he set his own plans in motion, but Chipper apparently was focused on Burny’s real name being Carl, Burny unphased, but hoping Butch didn’t wake, knowing he’d be difficult to cut down. Chipper goes on to reveal a detective calling and confiding how Carl Bierstone may be a resident, Burny not replying and Chipper bringing out a letter from his Aunt stopping payments, Chipper attempting to see if he’d remedy the payment situation, Burny now losing momentum (and apparently grammar, what with ‘devise’ seeming to work better with an [-ing] at the end, cripes) and wanting to go to Black House for revitalization, even though two of the rooms didn’t comfort him, his conquests not making him feel proud, nor his childhood, each getting a room of their own, courtesy of Munshun.

Burny then hears the coming sirens and gets to work on Chipper by noting how he was fixing the books before letting him have a taste of clippers, he barely making it back to the toilet stall as cops came through the front door. Meanwhile, Jack is still away and having a dream, a reminder being given about Henry knowing “Darn that Dream” being the last song on an album called Daddy Plays the Horn by Dexter Gordon. Jack then greets Sophie, whom it’s assumed gets opportunity to fool around with Jack (the authors respecting their privacy). When Jack wakes in reality, he sees his truck, noticing the lack of police activity meaning they left, and he deciding to confess to Dale so he would accompany him to Black House. When he gets to his truck and sees the voicemails from Dale, he doesn’t bother listening to them and upon getting home, listens to the one’s left on his landline, he then realizing the early hour, falling back to sleep, and having a disturbing dream about fighting to approach Black House, an unnaturally large face looking like many scary men from his past and present morphing in the face, looking for Jack, he finally screaming the magic word as the face finds him. He then gets ready, calling Dale so they could meet at the Sand Bar where Beezer and Doc would be waiting.

The houses of French Landing are mentioned to be barriers of slippage, Black House being the opposite, the space within much larger than the outside (Hello, Doctor, fancy seeing your time-ship copied.) Going within tells of some of the people becoming trapped inside or lost, and whilst Black House was built in the ’70s, parts of it are older. Burny is currently resting on a sofa, it being revealed his ownership of the home purely in his mind and being supported by Munshun, whom attempts to get Burny up so he could move Tyler, but Burny is insisting on needing to rest, Munshun knowing Jack would locate him if Burny didn’t get him to the great furnace, Din-tah. Munshun continues to prod his wound and bribe Burny into action with dreams of being turned young again, but goes to death threat and more pain when Munshun explains Burny’s options, which get him ready to obey. Tyler currently was having a grand ole time at a baseball game with George Rathbun, he recovering from a concussion.

Before being rudely awakened, Rathbun takes on Henry’s consciousness and placates Tyler’s situation with the news of help coming, Tyler thrown back into reality with Burny. He urges Tyler to stand whilst the latter feels his head where Burny had beaned him with the rock, it still painful. Burny shows the taser he carried to give the gravity of what Tyler would get if he ran off, but after Burny grabs the bit of Tyler he planned on cooking, Tyler is in mid-smart-aleck mode and Burny gives him a taste of the taser to the shoulder, commanding he begin walking and stop talking. They reach a staircase, where Tyler thinks of escape or safety, Burny remarking how futile those options were, and when reaching the bottom, Burny stopping Tyler and having him put on a cap which vibrates in his hand, Tyler soon realizing the cap’s mind-dulling power as they continue to walk, Burny instructing Tyler to drive the golf cart awaiting them, Tyler jerking the cart forward and recieving threats from Burny. Tyler drives them down the curved road, Burny pointing out the Crimson King’s power plant and how he’d soon take his 10% from Tyler for working so diligently. Then when Burny points out the wall of skulls, Tyler can’t wish hard enough for Burny’s forthcoming death, his mother, and help to come quickly.

Jack and Dale enter to see Beezer and Doc drinking soda, Stinky nestled in back near the kitchen, one of Jack’s mother’s movies playing, Jack confiding whom she was to Dale after he’d been speaking her lines from the movie, the four then talking about the weapons they had, Jack deciding they should wait until exactly noon to leave, giving Beezer and Doc a chance to change their minds, but the former staying for his daughter, and the latter due to the possibility they were already infected some way already. Jack also learns Mouse had been correct in assuming what would happen to his body by morning, Beezer not wanting to dwell on the thought, he and Doc then sharing their physical reactions to getting near Black House and Doc deciding he’d go for Mouse. Doc then warns how serious Black House could affect them all, regardless of what Jack may think he knows, Jack debating whether the two remembered the magic word, and whilst realizing he shouldn’t use it frivolously, he needing to be sure they understood the importance of their belief. He requests honey from Stinky and had it placed at the end of the bar, he then using the word to summon the bees and have them deliver the honey to his hand, the wanted reaction given by the three, Jack then instructs how they’d go and the honey to be used under their noses (not like Vicks, but Jack not explaining the difference).

Fred then bursts on to the scene with a long package which makes most of them react oddly, no one deciphering what it was. Meanwhile, Burny is currently ordering Tyler to stay near a wall as the bees are moving the honey bottle to Jack. They are now nearer the Big Combination, Tyler able to hear screams and whips cracking at the working children. As they waited, Burny mentions the place he was to take Tyler, the two others, Patricia and Blaine no longer there due to killing themselves caused by madness, Tyler not understanding how the two could be monorails. Burny then directs Tyler to their next destination being on the way to Station House Road where he was supposed to deliver Tyler, but planning on taking his commission first. Burny is ordering Tyler to put his hands through shackles on a wall, the boy’s cap helping him to manage his rising hysteria, knowing he must choose his moment wisely, but because of his second smart remark, gets tased, he seeming to acquiesce after, but readying to make his move, his hands now through the shackles as he hears Burny going through his pack where Tyler sensed Burny’s plan included handcuffs, correct in his presumption when Burny attaches one to his wrist, Tyler getting his moment to fight back when Burny takes the taser off Tyler, distracted when the other cuff falls slack. Tyler debates his next move as Burny is overcome with pain and denial the little boy could hurt him in such an intimate area. Tyler then goes for the same pressure spot as Munshun, but taking it a step further, and succeeding in his goal (gruesome), but now having to get someone to free him.

Fred is hysterical when he confirms he had heard his son, the package addressed to Tyler and concerning the Brewer’s Bash, Beezer ready to get going since he knew Tyler was stuck in a shed, Jack having seen through Tyler’s eyes, focusing on Fred, he learning whom had given Fred the package and why he’d been sent to show Jack, he then instructing Fred to go home and ready the place for Tyler and Judy’s return. As Dale drives, Jack begins to open the package, also answering Dale’s questions about what they’d felt earlier and how Jack knew the details, he seeing the gift of a baseball bat inside the box, reminded of The Natural by Bernard Malamud. Dale admires the bat as well, when Jack sees Beezer and Doc ride past the sign to Black House, he having Dale pull over, Beezer and Doc insisting they didn’t have the right spot. Jack instructs Dale to apply more honey (which is a placebo in helping with the buzzing in the brain), Jack seeing in his periphery something flying and deciding not to catch it so whatever it was could believe it hadn’t been seen, yet. Jack then offers the honey to Beezer and Doc, once applying, realizing the mistake they’d made, Jack slowly drawing his weapon as the fluttering shadows gathered in the distance. Jack shoots before getting a good view, afterward realizing he’d popped Gorg, he urging everyone into the car before they got Munshun’s attention. As they approach the shape-changing house, Jack advises all to be ready for anything.

The trees were noticed to be changing, Dale hearing discouraging whispers among them, a loud, odd growl getting everyone’s attention as Dale is first to lose his breakfast. Jack gets to the porch, but notices the door looking painted on, and as strange noises continued to distract, it is soon overwhelmed by a swarm of bees. Jack then saying the right words necessary to have the door become movable (similar to Beetlejuice: draw a door in case of an emergency), but before they can enter, Doc lets out a shriek. Tyler is currently being yanked back into consciousness by the buzzing in his head, he then noting sounds of a monorail which must mark the return of Munshun, which also meant he would soon be searching for him, he trying to think of alternatives to get himself loose, his chances dwindling. Meanwhile Jack brings Doc out of his horrified reverie to state of its illusion and everyone should be prepared for similar haunts, but Dale brings their attention to the inside of Black House looking like a maze of stairways and doors which kept multiplying on every blink.

Tyler soon imagines Munshun’s characteristics and is back to figuring a way to get Burny’s bag. Jack then calls again for assistance, a queen bee resting on his finger. He first wonders whom had sent her, but decides it is unimportant, he getting the others to follow the bee as she chose a door. No one could say how long they walked through the house, seeing unsettling sights and forgetting them quickly, but they stayed with the queen bee, and were as protected as possible by the swarm. They end up seeing the cell Burny had left Tyler in, then following their wet footsteps out. Tyler is still working on getting the bag closer as he senses Munshun coming nearer, as well as trying to stay motivated as he repeatedly fails in capturing the bag. Jack and crew are walking quickly on the road when a green-tinted man with a whip gets in their way, but when Jack raises the bat, the man runs off, Jack remembering this place wasn’t the Territories and so they, nor their weapons would morph. They take stock as to where they must go as they hear the machinery, whips, and children, getting distracted by particularly loud screams whilst Tyler is still struggling with the bag, the mind-dulling cap forgotten, and the droning bees believed to be buzzing in his head.

Tyler succeeds to catch the bag by stubborn strength of will, attempting to move carefully as he finally gets hold of the key and releases himself. Now he’s thinking he must be dreaming still in his cell, but upon seeing the sky again, believes the reality he stood in, Munshun then grabbing him. He quiets Tyler with a magic word, informing him of his visit with the King before meeting the Chief Breaker, Brautigan, stowing Tyler under his arm and thinking of the young man in New York whom had potential in replacing Burny. He walks back to the road and meets Jack and crew, Munshun recognizing Jack as the annoying boy he once was, and the bat containing some of the light of the Talisman, then seeing the bees blocking his way back onto Station House Road, he knowing his life’s happiness depended on the boy reaching the King, Munshun acting pleasant toward them until the bat gathered more light, Jack stating of Tyler’s mother wanting her son returned, Munshun getting scared and angry, using his magic word to quiet the normal men, but succeeding in only having the three step closer, Munshun then resorting to threats of killing Tyler. He gets a surprise when Jack fires a shot, Beezer’s ring having the same effect when the dying Munshun still attempts to bite Tyler, Dale stepping forward and grabbing the boy so Jack could finish the job. Tyler then shares how he’d dreamt of the bat, and as they discussed returning, Jack informs them all Tyler had one more task in front of him.

Jack has to be callous to get Tyler back to reality, the trio not approving, and when smacking Tyler, the cap comes off, Tyler pushing him without touching him, everyone surprised, and when Tyler shouts angrily about why Jack had hit him, Jack answers truthfully of it being to wake him, he then requesting again for Tyler to break the Big Combination, able now to do as bid, once seeing the start, they then being led back to the Black House by the queen bee. Evil people fall in worlds affected by the Crimson King, soon he as well feeling the change. The children who had been working were now running to exits back into their own worlds. When they walk out of Black House four hours later, the house now looking normal and unkempt, they are readying to leave when Tyler points out the kids walking out the door, Jack suggesting Dale call the agents to handle them whilst he got the credit, Jack placating Tyler in knowing the kids would be fine, they driving Tyler to his father. Jack and Beezer planning on returning at midnight to close the entrance between worlds after all the children had gotten through. The authors again reference themselves when mentioning how normally minor characters wouldn’t make it through these situations: Doc being named. (but I believe Mouse being a suitable substitute in this case) they giving the option of this being a good place to stop for a happy ending, but beyond would bring the opposite. A report of the missing children is supplied and Dale is preparing to hold a press conference.

Dale inquires if the boys were ready for the press storm they were about to step into, courtesy of Jack’s fine ideas, Dale being reassured by Jack of their simplified story being the right way to handle the attention, they giving most of the credit to Henry when identifying Burny, deservedly. They walk to the platform where the many press and townspeople wait, Kaiser Bill and Sonny among them, Speedy attempting to warn Jack of the danger approaching, but remains unheard because of the cheering crowd. Jack only notices when Dale begins speaking to the group to quiet them, being misunderstood when shouting ‘gun’, but Doc realizing first, no one able to do anything about it. Wendell makes use of his spot in the front, getting the second picture to throw him into celebrity and money. Wanda Kinderling being body-slammed by Doc, Speedy finally reaching the platform, speaking with Dale, then he and Jack disappearing inside the motor home, Dale wanting to speak with Beezer and Doc to share the news which could help with their guilt. When leading them away, he repeats what Speedy told him, it helping the two as hoped (Our Mutual Friend being used in reference to Jack) and the three able to wait to see if Jack would come back recovered. A tale from the past of Jack as a small boy being led by a Captain Farren through the Queen’s Pavilion is described, Jack opening a panel which he first saw his mother’s twinner through, he now lying in the same bed, as Sophie and Speedy gazed at him through the same opening. They spoke of the Talisman saving Jack and the likelihood of he being able to return home, Speedy sensing he’d have to reside in the Territories from now on, Jack having plenty to do there when able, and may even be involved in the business of the Tower. Jack comes back to consciousness ten days later, greeted by Sophie.

Enjoyable, but can understand why people called this dull. Despite the amusing references, if one catches them, this definitely feels like a stepping stone to the future stories, and I don’t regret the ride, even if it did read like one of the half entertaining King movies. Onward!

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Year Two)

 

Harry’s Uncle is woken from sleep by hooting sounds from Harry’s room, his Uncle complaining in the morning and Harry explaining Hedwig wouldn’t do so if he could let her out at night, Vernon knowing what it would mean if he allowed this. Dudley states his indifference to the subject, as well as hunger through belch form, he then requesting bacon by demanding Harry to pass the frying pan and Harry responding for Dudley to say the magic word, everyone reacting with surprise, fear, and anger, Vernon having been treating him like a ticking time bomb whom could activate at any time. Harry missed Hogwarts with an aching passion, Vernon having locked up all of Harry’s magic-related belongings, being unable to practice Quidditch or do his homework. We are then recapped of Harry’s past and physical descriptions of he and the Dursley’s, we also learn of Voldemort mysteriously losing his powers after being unable to kill Harry. Vernon then mentions again of the dinner party to come which was supposed to help him land a deal for his business in drills, Harry realizing no one seemed to remember it was his twelfth birthday. Vernon proceeds to run through the plans for the night, Harry’s job being to stay in his room and pretend to not exist. After, Vernon goes to pick up his and Dudley’s dinner-wear and Harry goes outside, missing his buddies.

We then recap Harry’s last year at Hogwarts and his run-in with Voldemort, Harry realizing he was zoning out and looking at a bush which was staring back, Dudley then appears and taunts Harry with the knowledge of he knowing it was his birthday and asking why he was gazing at a bush, which prompts Harry to make up the reason being to decide what spell was best to set it aflame, startling Dudley to trip back and after egging Harry with the start of another unkind comment, is scared when Harry makes up magic words, his Aunt setting him chores after chucking the half clean frying pan at his head with the extra threat of not being fed until his tasks were complete. Exhausted after finishing, it takes him until early evening, Harry getting a disappointing dinner and is commanded to go upstairs. After one more unfinished threat by Vernon, Harry silently enters his room to fall on his bed, but sees it being occupied by a guest.

Harry is almost startled enough to shout out, but resists, he knowing this was the creature he’d seen in the bushes. The creature formally bows, Harry noting the pillow-case he wore, he greeting the creature, and the elf in return speaking in normal-squeaky pitch, Harry sure it would be heard below, the creature stating it had been wanting to meet him. Harry tries to convey of the inconvenient timing for the visit, he being glad to meet Dobby, but attempting him to cut to the chase for his visit, Dobby unsure where to start and Harry offering Dobby a seat, which brings the elf to a loudly bawling state, Harry attempting to calm Dobby, he making light of how wizards must not have been kind to him often, Dobby almost agreeing and so having to punish himself with a few head butts into the window, Harry grabbing him and setting Dobby back on his bed, the abrupt reaction waking Hedwig, whom screeches. Upon further inquiry, Harry discovers Dobby has come without informing the wizard family he serves and would be punishing himself severely later for this transgression. Harry attempts to offer his assistance in escape for Dobby, but it’s useless, Dobby relating of his visit to Harry being to warn him not to return to Hogwarts, this after gushing over Harry’s kindness in wanting to help him. Harry attempts to learn more about the dangers Dobby hints of, but Dobby obviously has rules to which he can’t overcome in regards to the details.

Dobby hints at whom it could be, but begins beating himself again which brings Vernon to the room with more threats, and afterward Dobby confessing to having stolen Harry’s letters and would only give them back upon his word of not going back to Hogwarts. Harry refuses, so Dobby apologizes regretfully for what he was about to do, he running out of the room, Harry following quietly. Dobby releases the cream pudding in the kitchen, (unlike the movie where it lands atop the guests), Harry getting caught and made to mop up immediately. What gets the guests out of the house is a barn owl delivering a letter to the female guest’s lap, she deathly afraid of birds and fleeing out, the husband not amused. Vernon enters the kitchen with the letter, it being about the non-use of magic by minors and in front of Muggles. Vernon then goes about sequestering Harry in his room, only allowing bathroom breaks twice a day, food to be given through a door flap, and his windows barred. Harry descends into a troubled sleep, awakened by rattling bars, he seeing Ron outside his window.

Harry opens the window, unable to communicate his confusion of how Ron was there and what was happening. Ron takes over with questions of why Harry hadn’t answered his letters and then relating how his father had heard about Harry’s warning letter since he works for the Ministry of Magic, Harry attempts to convey the complexity of his situation when Ron interrupts with how easily they were going to liberate him, Harry having digressed of Ron giving a message to Hogwarts about his incarceration for him. George and Fred then help Harry get his gear, stored under the stairs, with lock picks to aid them after they wrench the bars off the window with the car, the Dursleys undisturbed by the noise, so far. Whilst Harry passed the belongings he needed within his room, Fred and George retrieved his Hogwarts trunks downstairs, all going accordingly, until Hedwig screeches for being left behind and waking Vernon whom crashes through the door and seizes Harry’s ankle, the brothers pull Harry into the car, they shooting off into the night as the Dursleys watched, Harry finally able to release Hedwig so she could fly with them, then Harry explains what he had gone through during the summer break. The boys considered Dobby’s message and honesty, Harry and Ron instantly thinking of their main enemy, Draco when provided with the idea of who could have it out for Harry. George and Fred then speak of their father having brought up Draco’s father, Lucius and his involvement with Voldemort. The twins then profiling the kinds of families who own house-elves, they being rich, and usually manor-owning.

After seeing the likelihood of Malfoy being behind Dobby’s visit, Harry questioned whether he should’ve believed Dobby. Ron then explains his concern and the lengths he’d gone to when Harry didn’t answer his letters, they then discussing Percy’s strange behavior lately and how they’d successfully swiped the car, now hoping they could return it before their mother noticed. Harry also inquired of the Department their father worked, it involving the “misuse of Muggle artifacts”. The twins share of how fascinated their father was of Muggle items, the illegality of his hoarding of non-magical items driving their mother up the wall, they almost home by this time, and it nearing dawn. Harry then lays eyes on Ron’s family home for the first time, it looking like it was held together with magic due to the angle of its standing. Ron was excusing the state of the house, but Harry returned with how great it was, the boys then discussing how they’d explain Harry’s presence when they’d sneak him in and up to the second floor, so they could go down for breakfast when the Weasley boys’ mother is seen marching right at them, she not happy for her worry, the boys not having a chance to explain, since she was still in the process of sharing what she’d witnessed of their being gone, and all which could’ve gone wrong, the threat of she bringing all this to their father’s attention when he returned from work, she then greeting Harry and inviting him in for breakfast, he nervous, but reassured by Ron, he experiencing his first wizard home. As Mrs. Weasley cooked breakfast she still muttered her disbelief and displeasure of the boys’ actions, but lost steam when George mentioned the Dursleys weren’t feeding Harry regularly, Ginny then stepping downstairs and retreating quickly when seeing Harry, Ron introducing her and how she’d been talking about him a lot during break.

After they ate, Fred attempts nonchalance of going to sleep, their mother nixing the wishful plan with chores, she offering Harry welcome to sleep, but he quite awake and curious of Ron’s de-gnoming chore. As the boys walked to the garden, Ron shows Harry a real gnome, the little fella sounding adorable with his demands to “gerroff” him. Ron then shows the simple process of de-gnoming involving a lasso motion as the boys chucked them out of the yard, making them dizzy so they wouldn’t know how to return. When they hear their father enter the house, they return, Mr. Weasley looking worn out. He begins to share what his night had consisted of when his wife accuses him with the enchanted car, he acting guilty. Mrs. Weasley gains momentum especially when he halfheartedly shows disappointment of the boys taking the car, Ron having Harry retreat with him to his room, they passing Ginny’s room on the way, she quickly shutting her door, and Ron remarking how odd her quiet, withdrawing behavior was, they reaching Ron’s room, Harry surveying his belongings and posters of Quidditch players plastered all over his walls, Ron shy about Harry’s opinion being unimpressed, but Harry blurting of his room, and his home being the best he’s experienced, Ron going flush.

We then share the other oddities Harry experiences at the Weasley house, from ghost in the attic to periodic explosions in Fred and George’s room, all of these happenings normal for the household. The main strange occurrence being how everyone treated him well: Ron’s mother overfeeding him, his father wanting him to sit by him so he could relate all kinds of Muggle appliances and government jobs: post workers, specifically. Ginny still had trouble keeping it cool when Harry was around, he kindly ignoring her clumsiness due to her severe embarrassment. One morning the boys receive letters from Hogwarts detailing the place and time they’d be going back, Harry also having the list of required textbooks, most by Gilderoy Lockhart. Harry then learns Ginny will be starting Hogwarts this year, and the group talk about how expensive Lockhart’s books were, Ron then getting a letter from Hermione about meeting up at Diagon Alley. The boys then practiced Quidditch later, Percy still keeping to himself which had Fred wondering what was going on with him. On a Wednesday they get up early, Mrs. Weasley waking them for their shopping day in Diagon Alley. Harry was offered to use the Floo powder first, but didn’t know how to go about it, Mr. Weasley becoming sidetracked upon knowing Harry’s route last year, but interrupted by Mrs. Weasley, and Fred showing him how it’s done.

When Harry does get his turn after tips from Mrs. Weasley and Ron, he still ends up in the wrong place, a strange shop, the view outside not Diagon Alley, and as Harry attempts an exit, he sees Malfoy walking in with his father, he hiding in a cabinet and viewing the two waiting for the clerk. As they stand there, Draco finds a way of complaining about Harry which his father was apparently used to, advising Draco should keep his dislike in check due to Potter’s celebrity. Then the shopkeeper appears, assuming Lucius was there to purchase, he setting him straight about his visiting to attempt to sell due to some possessions he didn’t want to be caught with if the Ministry raided his home. When Draco chimes in about a possible gift for himself, it leads to a conversation about Hermione being the reason he didn’t get good grades: teacher’s pet. As Lucius and the shop owner haggle, Draco gets unnervingly close to opening Harry’s hiding spot, but being called back, Lucius ready to leave. When they do, Harry times his moment to exit, and views his surroundings, all the shops Dark Arts related, he “hoping against hope” he’d make his way to Diagon Alley (I’m disappointed in Rowling for joining the ranks of Dan Brown to make one of her characters hope against hope).

Harry is surprised by an old witch talking to him which he’s glad to be interrupted by Hagrid, and the two easily getting to Diagon Alley whilst Harry related how he’d gotten lost and why he hadn’t responded to Hagrid’s letter, they then being spotted by Hermione. Soon the Weasleys had found him, the boys jealous of Harry having gone to Knockturn Alley, and Hagrid bowing out, having business elsewhere. Harry spills on who he’d seen whilst there, Mr. Weasley wishing to catch Malfoy with contraband and Mrs. Weasley warning him to watch himself, the group going into Gringotts where Hermione’s parents were exchanging some money for the proper currency for Hogwarts, Mr. Weasley delighted with meeting some Muggles and seeing their ten pound notes. As Hermione stayed with her parents, the Weasleys and Harry are taken to their vaults, Mrs. Weasley taking everything inside theirs and Harry embarrassed and attempting to hide the amount inside his own. Percy goes off by himself upon the group leaving the bank, Fred and George off to greet a buddy, Mrs. Weasley taking Ginny to get a secondhand robe, and Mr. Weasley inviting the Grangers for a drink at the Leaky Cauldron. Harry, Hermione, and Ron go off window shopping, Harry buying them all ice cream, seeing Percy with his nose in a book, then going to the bookshop to discover Lockhart would be signing his autobiography, Hermione squealing with excitement.

The line out the door consisted of women Mrs. Weasley’s age, she also further up near the front of the line, Harry, Hermione, and Ron meeting her there. Harry is then spotted by Lockhart, whom saw the celebrity photo-op and jumped at the chance of getting front page coverage, plastering a smile on his face and suggesting Harry do the same, not letting him return to the Weasleys though, upon he attempting this, instead being steered by Lockhart to stay with him as he made a speech to his fans of how he was presenting his autobiography to Harry, as a gift and announcing his post as teacher of Defense of the Dark Arts. Harry then gets all of Lockhart’s collection of books, he walking off and giving them to Ginny, Malfoy then piping up how Harry must’ve enjoyed the attention, Ginny sticking up for Harry and Malfoy embarrassing her by stating how Harry had what looked like a girlfriend, Ron walking up and getting a bit of talk-back from Malfoy, as well, he ready to throw down, but Hermione and Harry stopping him. Mr. Weasley walks up and suggests the group go outside due to the crowd, before being able to, caught by Lucius whom couldn’t resist but take a dig on Weasley’s obvious struggle with financing his children’s school books and the company he kept, the Grangers also present. Mr. Weasley doesn’t take his words lightly, body-checking Lucius and knocking books on top of them both, Hagrid breaking their fight up, they leaving for the street, the Grangers heading for the pub to get to Muggle territory, the Weasleys and Harry off using the Floo powder, Harry knowing now it wasn’t his preferred traveling choice.

Summer ended in a flash to Harry, whom was having the most idyllic vacation, but he had conflicting feelings since he also loved Hogwarts, only tainting this with the thoughts of how the Dursleys would welcome him when the next vacation began. Mrs. Weasley made the children’s final evening home a memorable one with a wonderful dinner menu, the evening topped with indoor fireworks and hot cocoa before sleepy-time. Next morning the family rushed about at dawn, getting ready for the trip to the station. Mr. Weasley having magic-suped the small car to fit all luggage and comfortably seat the clan, Mrs. Weasley none the wiser. The group didn’t make it to the station quickly, since three of the siblings had to run in the house for last minute forgotten items, everyone’s frustration rising. Mr. Weasley attempted to convince his wife to allow him to fly the car with invisibility, but she refused, they making it to the station with five minutes to spare to get to their platform. Harry and Ron were last to go, and didn’t make it, the carts crashing into the wall. They get attention from many Muggles due to the resounding ruckus, but discuss their options, having missed the train. Harry didn’t have any “normal” cash, Ron wondering how his parents would return from the platform. Since the barrier remained closed, Harry suggested they wait at the car for Ron’s parents to return due to still getting stares, Ron now excited since they could use the car to follow the train to Hogwarts, his parents able to teleport themselves home.

Harry now more eager by the idea, they return to the car, shoving luggage and Hedwig quickly in, Ron starting the invisibility device and have them in the air when the cloaking fails, Ron gunning the car into the clouds. He dips them below cloud level to locate the train, Harry detecting its whereabouts and Ron noting the direction as they follow above the clouds. The longer the ride though, coupled with the heat and thirst, begins to wear down the fun, the car even whining which added to their nerves, but when darkness comes, Harry spots Hogwarts, the car crapping out whilst they were over the water, Ron maneuvering the car as well as possible, until letting go of the wheel to attempt using his wand, Harry taking after George of the Jungle when the car was aimed at a tree. Harry grabs the wheel to steer them clear, but they hit hard, Ron’s wand suffering damage along with Harry’s head, the abuse not quite over when blows to the car begin. Ron suggests fleeing, but the tree opposed this, the car starting up, allowing Ron to back the car away from the tree, the car then ejecting them and luggage out on to the lawn, before driving off, Ron shouting after it for its return, knowing his father would be angry with him, but the two walking off with their luggage to the front door, Ron noticing by peering through a window the Sorting Hat was placing new students.

Harry then notices Snape was missing from his seat, the two considering aloud whether he resigned, Snape speaking up of he being curious as to why they hadn’t been on the train. Snape then leads them indoors to his office where he shows them a newspaper stating of the car having been seen in flight. He then declaring he would be summoning those who were responsible for deciding the boys expulsion. First McGonagall arrives, Ron and Harry getting the chance to explain, Dumbledore entering after. Harry explaining to him his side, the boys safe from being expelled for now, but they needing to be aware of how serious they were of receiving it with any other troubles which could arise, both of their families being sent letter of their bad deed. Snape attempts to impress Dumbledore with the fact of the rules being broken which would support expulsion, but Dumbledore reminds Snape of the boys being in McGonagall’s house, making the decision hers, he then relaying of returning to the feast, Snape in tow, whilst McGonagall looked at the boys sternly. In the end, they each receive a detention, and wouldn’t be joining the feast, McGonagall magicking sandwiches and iced pumpkin juice to be dined upon there, before going straight to their dorm. They discuss the good fortune they had, but also needing to be careful what with the odd closing of the barrier at the station. When they arrive at the portrait for their dorm, they realize they hadn’t gotten the new term’s password, but Hermione arrives just in time.

Hermione launched into questioning where they had been and the talk of what had happened, surprised to learn they having flown to Hogwarts not being a rumor, she ending with a tone similar to McGonagall’s, so Ron cuts her off so they could learn the password, but she wouldn’t have been able to continue her questioning anyways, since as soon as the portrait had let them pass, it seemed all of Gryffindor house was waiting in the common room for them, cheering and giving kudos to Harry and Ron, only Percy looking annoyed. Ron was made aware of this by Harry, so they begin to make their way to the dorm rooms, marveling at the greetings they had received, and happy when their other roomies, Neville, Seamus, and Dean came in, still showing disbelief by their one of a kind arrival. The next morning, the boys met Hermione in the Great Hall, she still a little cold due to their bad behavior, Neville showing up to wait for owl deliveries of items he’d forgotten at home, Ron properly dreading opening the letter he’d gotten upon realizing it was a Howler, Neville urging him to get it over with since it’d be worse if he waited, Harry wanting to know what it was, but Ron instead working up courage to open it rather than answer, Harry understanding by witnessing it. After it was over, Ron was quite embarrassed, and Harry ashamed he’d helped in Mr. Weasley now having an inquiry from work for his magicking Muggle items.

Meanwhile Professor McGonagall was passing out schedules, Harry seeing their first class was Herbology, and when the trio had gone out to the Greenhouse to be met by Professor Sprout, she was accompanied by Lockhart, she seeming unusually annoyed as she instructed the students to Greenhouse three, they not having been inside the more interesting and dangerous greenhouse. As the three begin to walk with the rest of the class, Lockhart blocks Harry from joining and gives him a lecture on how he understood why he had flown the car being caused by his front page picture in the paper, Harry was shocked by how off he was, but joined his friends as Sprout spoke of the class preparing to re-pot Mandrakes, Hermione getting Gryffindor ten points for answering what they were for, as well as the next question, they then getting a demonstration of what they’d be doing, Harry surprised to see a green baby attached to the fronds of the plant, the three friends making up a third of their group, being joined by a Hufflepuff boy, Justin, as he shook their hands and offered individual knowledge of each one of them, he then speaking of Lockhart being quite impressive. The class had quite a time attempting to re-earth the little suckers, but Harry wasn’t exactly at ease in his Transfiguration class either, his previous year’s knowledge having seeped out over summer.

Harry didn’t do well, but Ron was worse off with his damaged wand, after class his mood not improving despite it being lunch, since their next class after was Defense Against the Dark Arts. When they’d finished eating and walked to the courtyard, Hermione read whilst Harry and Ron talked Quidditch until being stared down by a small boy, Colin whom finally got the nerve to ask for a signed picture when Malfoy walks up behind him to scoff. He again insults Ron to the point of getting him to draw his broken wand, but Lockhart interrupts with the nose for someone asking for signed pictures. Lockhart offers to jump in with Harry and sign it as well, Malfoy withdrawing, and everyone going off to classes. Harry is leached upon by Lockhart giving more unwelcome and off the mark advice since they were both heading for his class, Harry choosing a seat in the back before Lockhart gave out his lengthy personalized quiz, ridiculous questions relating to himself and spanning three sides of paper. Hermione was the only one to ace the quiz, she also scoring another ten points for her house. Lockhart then reveals the Cornish pixies as their study subjects, he letting them loose and they immediately having Neville in the air by his ears (memorable scene in the movie), other pixies throwing out books through the back window, and everyone taking cover, Lockhart playing it cool by instructing the class to capture them and showing them how, his spell doing nothing, so takes cover like the rest until the bell for next class rings and everyone hastily leaves, Lockhart commanding the three to handle capturing the rest before shooting out the door, himself. Ron was enraged by his ineptitude, Hermione trying to stick up for him, but Ron declaring the great deeds Lockhart spoke of in his books seemed to only be stories.

Harry now spent much time avoiding Lockhart, he not so readily able to do the same about Colin. He was pleased to make it to the weekend, the trio planning on a visit with Hagrid, but Harry was unexpectedly awakened by Oliver, the Gryffindor Captain. He found out they had practice, Oliver explaining this was a new training plan since no other team would be training this early in the season. He writes a note to Ron, then Colin runs after him with a picture he’d taken of Lockhart whom was talking about Harry, this time when asked, is bluntly rebuffed to autograph it. After Harry attempts to leave him, Colin puppy-dog’s his way after Harry, since not having seen a Quidditch game before, and only left him alone from his incessant questioning to locate a good seat whilst Harry changed. Oliver launched into a tactical speech when all were present, but few, if any were truly absorbing his words for sleepiness, George asking a smart-ass question which Oliver responds to by informing how terrible their defeat was last year, Harry feeling responsible for having been unconscious and unable to help their team to victory. The team finally gets to the field, Harry spotting Hermione and Ron in the stands, he informing them of practice only having now gotten started. Fred was first to hear a loud clicking which was coming from Colin’s constant picture-taking. Harry denies knowing him, but admits the boy is in Gryffindor when Oliver gets suspicious of what House he’s from. George then shares how Slytherin didn’t need spies since some were currently walking on to the field, Oliver going off to meet them to learn why they were there, the opposing team captain deciding there was enough space for both. The boy then hands a note written by Snape for the Slytherin team to be allowed to practice so they could train their new seeker, Draco. The team also shows the latest model of Nimbus they’d received as gifts by Draco’s father. Tensions heighten when Ron and Hermione join them and Malfoy calls her a Mudblood, everyone responding with rage, and Ron hitting himself with a wand blast when aiming at Malfoy.

Hermione and Harry decide to guide him to Hagrid’s, for being the closest, Colin getting in the way once more when attempting to get a shot of Ron belching up slugs. They had almost arrived when Lockhart was seen exiting Hagrid’s, Harry deciding to hide until he was gone. When they get inside, Ron is given a bowl since it was about waiting for the slugs to stop being regurgitated, Harry and Hermione learning how terrible a name Malfoy had used, Hagrid also taking it seriously. They discuss Lockhart, as well, his reason for visiting Hagrid being to instruct him on how to remove kelpies from a well, Hagrid then showing them what he’d been growing: humongous pumpkins for Halloween. Hagrid had obviously been helping the growth of his pumpkins illegally, since he’d been expelled from Hogwarts for unknown reasons and wasn’t supposed to use magic. After the trio return inside for lunch, McGonagall approaches Harry and Ron to give them their detention tasks, Ron polishing silverware and Harry getting stuck with Lockhart to answer his fan mail. Lunch is tainted by their news, and soon enough it’s time to do their time, Harry goes to Lockhart’s office, immediately being put to write the addresses for envelopes. Later in the night, as Harry is still writing addresses, he hears an odd voice speaking death threats, Lockhart not hearing, but surprised four hours having passed, dismissing Harry. A half hour after, Ron is back and Harry describes what he heard, Ron confused as to how it could’ve been overlooked by Lockhart.

In October, certain students and teachers visited Madame Pomfrey, the nurse for her immediate remedy for colds which left smoking ears for awhile after, Ginny among them. It would rain days at a time, but practice wasn’t postponed in these instances, so Harry was covered in mud and water, it seeming pointless due to the effortless speed the upgraded Nimbus gave to their opponents. During his walk back, Harry speaks with Nearly Headless Nick, whom was dealing with his own injustices for being denied entry into the Headless Hunt, since his head hadn’t been completely detached. Harry was in the middle of explaining his reason for being down, upon request, when Mrs. Norris makes an appearance, Harry not having time to retreat before Filch saw the mud he’d tracked through the hall, he leading Harry back the way he’d come to Filch’s office where Harry saw Fred and George’s file cabinet of mischief along with other cabinets of various students. As Harry awaited Filch to write his punishment on the official form, Filch is distracted by a loud bang from above them which gets him out of the room before finishing, he believing the poltergeist Peeves was making the ruckus, Harry not fond of the ghost, but relieved by his good timing. Harry does the honest thing though, and waits for Filch to return, he noticing a letter on his desk which seemed to be a beginner’s guide to charms. Harry quickly returns the letter to envelope when he hears Filch returning, but forgets to put it back close enough to where he found it, Filch noticing and putting the letter in his desk, Harry denies having read it, but Filch shows his anger and embarrassment, letting Harry go without reprimand, Harry taking the opportunity and dashing out. Nearly Headless Nick stops him to learn if his plan had worked, he having convinced Peeves to drop the cabinet they’d heard, Harry thanking him and wanting to assist with Nearly Headless Nick’s problem with the Headless Hunt, Nick realizing Harry could by attending his 500th death-day party and relate to the man in charge of the Hunt Admissions, Sir Patrick, of Nick’s scary magnificence, Harry agreeing even though the day coincided with Halloween.

Harry then mentions the trio’s invite, Hermione intrigued with the prospect, Ron not as impressed since he was overloaded with homework and had other unfavorable tasks to deal with. Harry then plans on sharing the letter in Filch’s office, but is distracted by Fred and George’s experiment with a fire lizard and some fireworks. When Halloween arrives, Harry is second-guessing his hasty decision to attend Nick’s death-day after seeing and hearing the festivities for the school feast, but Hermione insists on they keeping their word, walking past the Great Hall, to the dungeons. The path was lined with black candles with blue flame, Nick greeting them at the entrance and the group hearing strange music and then seeing through guests dancing and chatting. Hermione spots Moaning Myrtle, relating to the boys the trouble she’s been making in one of the girls bathrooms, it now being out of order, they instead checking out the buffet, which consisted of rotten or charred food. When they were turning to walk away, Peeves gets in their way, having overheard what Hermione had said about Myrtle, calling her over, and Hermione making nice, but Peeves egging on a disaster, Myrtle not taking Hermione’s hopeful compliment well, especially when the boys halfheartedly agree, Myrtle crying her way out as Peeves antagonizes her. Nick approaches after, the group having to lie about having a good time and he preparing for his speech, when Sir Patrick makes his lively entrance, Harry doing as Nick asked and being called out by Sir Patrick, Nick then attempting to give his speech, but being overshadowed by Patrick’s flash game of Head Hockey, the trio taking this moment to ditch, but as they return upstairs, Harry hearing the death-threatening words again and has Hermione and Ron following him up to the Great Hall, and then to the first floor, where Hermione is first to notice a message written on the wall, and Ron spotting a stiff and unmoving Mrs. Norris, Harry tentatively suggesting they should help, but unable to retreat like Ron wishes when the feast had obviously ended, students heading their way and noticing the message, Malfoy spouting of Mudbloods being next and looking exhilarated by the scene.

Filch is next to view Mrs. Norris, he horrified, and spotting Harry, believes he’d caused her death, spouting threats, but being cut off by Dumbledore, whom has Filch, Harry, Hermione, and Ron come with him to Lockhart’s office. Dumbledore starts studying Mrs. Norris along with McGonagall, and Snape, Lockhart not helping with his idle chatter of his ability to help if having been there sooner to apply the counter-curse, Harry hoping Dumbledore didn’t believe Filch’s accusation for knowing his education at Hogwarts would be over. Dumbledore though, seemed to be testing different spells on Mrs. Norris, and interrupts Lockhart sharing another story of his bright, helpful ideas when they learn Mrs. Norris wasn’t dead, only Petrified. Filch was still convinced Harry caused her fate, Harry having to defend himself even after Dumbledore shares it was far too advanced for a student. Snape piping up with asking why he hadn’t attended the Halloween feast and after not at least going in to eat, Harry struggling with a good excuse since he had led Hermione and Ron upstairs because of a voice only he heard not sounding applicable, he deciding to answer with they being sleepy, but Snape seeming dubious to they going to bed without supper. Snape then offers a punishment to Harry which would make him be forthcoming with the truth (I grew up with people of similar model), but Dumbledore, even if believing Harry wasn’t confessing all, wouldn’t punish him unless he were proven the culprit, Snape quite displeased. When Filch was ready to melt down again, Dumbledore reminds him Professor Sprout could get the ingredients necessary to make a potion to revive her, Lockhart offering to make it, but Snape stepping in with he being the Potions master, Dumbledore then allowing Harry and friends to be dismissed, they hurrying out, Harry asking if he should have been truthful and discussing what the message on the wall could mean, Ron supporting Harry’s decision and the message about a chamber sounding familiar, but the group ending it there once Ron explained what a squib was in reference to Filch, they not wanting to run into Snape in the hall, and going off to bed.

The next few days, students were still gossiping about it, Filch not helping by standing vigil at the scene of the Petrifying, the message not succumbing to cleaning. Hermione was acting oddly by reading constantly and not being receptive to conversation anymore, Harry learning why the next week when Justin, from Hufflepuff acts strangely by walking back the way he’d come rather than greeting Harry, the latter going into the library and asking Ron if he’d seen Hermione, she making herself known and seeming ready to speak with them, albeit not looking pleased at the moment. She begins by stating her frustration over the book Hogwarts: A History being unavailable and she having to leave her copy at home because of all the Lockhart books, she needing it for the bit on the Chamber of Secrets. Ron changes the subject when asking Hermione for a look at her homework, the two squabbling over it as the trio walk to their only ghost taught class. Everyone who attended was consistently bored stupid, but Hermione came up with a decent idea by asking their history lecturer about the Chamber. Professor Binns skirts the answering by replying he only entertaining (except not to the students, ha-ha) definite truths, but Hermione again interrupting with how the “legend” could be based on truth, Binns finally giving in once he saw how much interest the class was showing for once. Binns goes over the general history of Hogwarts beginnings before sharing how the legend began with Slytherin supposedly adding a hidden chamber none of the other founders knew about. After the telling, Binns reiterates its nonsense, Hermione asking of the sort of “horror within” mentioned inside the Chamber, Binns responding of it supposedly being a monster only the heir to Slytherin can control and would be the cause of expelling all unworthy students from Hogwarts. Once Binns had enough of the theories on how Slytherin could have hidden the Chamber though, he continues his mind-numbing lecture.

Harry sensed a rumor must be going around of he possibly being the Slytherin heir. When they reach the corridor where Mrs. Norris was found, Harry decides a quick looky-loo couldn’t hurt, he spotting some scorch marks, Hermione noticing a clutter of spiders fighting their way through a crack in the wall, Ron relating a story of why he hated spiders, Harry then remembering the water on the floor before, and the group then entering Moaning Myrtle’s territory after Hermione reminds them of no one likely being inside for the Out-of-Order sign, once within, noting its somber atmosphere. Hermione goes to speak with Myrtle whom doesn’t take the boys’ presence sitting down. Ha,ha. She gets more upset when she thinks they’re talking behind her back when Harry was mouthing for Hermione to ask about if Myrtle knew anything about the Chamber, etc. When Hermione does finally get the question out, Myrtle hadn’t noticed anything out of the ordinary the other night due to being upset over Peeves, she again getting worked up over being reminded she was dead, leaving the three wet with toilet water from her exit. The three are heading out when they’re found by Percy, he not amused at all and taking on his mother’s tone. Ron and Percy argue over how upset all this is making Ginny and they should be currently at dinner, when Percy ends the fight by taking five points from them, thinking it would be a good incentive for not getting a P.I. state of mind. When they were back in the common area, Ron was annoyed over his homework igniting by his wand, and Hermione frustrated over whom could be causing all of the trouble. Ron passive-aggressively mentions Malfoy, Harry supporting the possibility. Hermione then shares an idea which would give them the proof, it being to charm themselves into looking like Slytherin students and get Malfoy to confess without knowing. Hermione then admits getting the recipe could be difficult since the book was most likely in the Restricted Section of the library. The three then discuss how they’d manage obtaining permission, it not ending in agreement.

Lockhart stuck to reading aloud and acting out the more “exciting” scenes since live examples didn’t work out so well for him, Harry normally getting dragged in to play the minor roles. The latest call up would’ve been met with firm refusal if Harry didn’t have an ulterior motive this time, so he played along and when the bell rang to end class, Hermione, Ron, and Harry wait for everyone to leave before approaching Lockhart, Hermione asking for him to consent permission for she to be allowed access to the restricted book, Lockhart readily agreeing when she mentioned it regarding one of his books. Lockhart then offers Harry his vast knowledge on Quidditch if he so chose, essentially making it seem Harry was inept at the game, Harry not responding other than a vague growl. The three spoke of how lucky they were Lockhart hadn’t noticed the book they were after, Ron bad-mouthing Lockhart, and Hermione vehemently defending him again. They head straight to the library, Hermione having trouble letting go of the celebrity professor’s note when the librarian reaches for it, but Ron has her let it go, knowing another autograph would be a dime a dozen for Lockhart. The librarian retrieves the book for them, and they head out, trying to look nonchalant. They set up in Myrtle’s bathroom, knowing no one would bother them, the book’s illustrations and spells immediately made clear why it was only upon request. Hermione discovers the page they needed, Harry attempting optimism the artist was exaggerating the looks of pain during transformation. Hermione began listing off the items they needed, some easy to acquire, others not so much. Harry voiced his doubts on the amount of ingredients needing to be nicked, Hermione stating her views on not ever wanting to break rules, but believing uncovering the culprit threatening the Muggle-born an important issue, and if they wanted to back out she’d return the book. Ron was surprised Hermione was basically giving permission to be bad for once, and would go through with the acquisition as long as the part of the people they took wasn’t toenail related. Hermione, pleased with Ron’s decision, then calculates how long it would take to ready the elixir, it being a month, Ron complaining how terrible acts could occur in such a span, but supports the plan when Hermione gives him a scathing look, he then suggesting Harry could make this easier if he could set up a fall for Malfoy during their game the next day.

On the morning of the match,Harry thought about how Oliver would take another loss which made Harry uneasy, as well as the prospect of facing off with a team on speedster brooms. He gets up and goes to an early breakfast, seeing the other members of his team already there, everyone quiet. the student body and staff beginning to take seats on the field, Harry receiving wishes of luck from Ron and Hermione as he entered the locker room, and everyone getting ready, Oliver making his speech, talking up their team’s talent and relentless practicing, he then ordering Harry to stay on top of getting the Snitch “or die trying”. They go onto the field and the game begins, Harry quickly getting higher than the others, Malfoy mouthing off and humming-birding around on his broom. Harry then quickly maneuvering around a Bludger which barely misses him, and when George whacks it at a Slytherin, it again re-aims at Harry, this continuing to recur, Harry flying off in another direction where Fred gives it a whack, but it still going after Harry. The Slytherins were in the lead now, Fred and George sticking to Harry to swat at the Bludger. The twins finally get Oliver’s attention to call a Time-Out, they sharing why they weren’t able to back up another team mate, they believing someone had tampered with the Bludger, but Oliver knowing the Bludgers had been in a professor’s office locked up, and nothing was amiss with them before. Harry insists Oliver command George and Fred to let him deal with the Bludger himself since he didn’t have a chance getting the Snitch with them hanging about him, Oliver eventually agreeing and the game continuing. Harry shoots off, dodging the Bludger and presumably looking ridiculous whilst doing so, after awhile of this, Malfoy makes a smart remark and laughs so hard he doesn’t notice the Snitch by his ear, but Harry had, he not moving in time to dodge the Bludger, and feeling his arm break, but then lunges at Malfoy, fighting the pain, Malfoy looking scared for the quick confrontation, swerving out of the way, Harry feeling his grasp on the Snitch as he balanced on his broom, no hands, and heading for the earth, close to unconsciousness, but realizing Gryffindor had won before passing out, awaking on the ground with Lockhart above him, he moaning and protesting loudly, Lockhart conveying his conviction on fixing Harry’s arm, Harry firmly stating his not wanting this, and shouting at Colin of not needing “photographic memories”Eduardoof this moment, but after Lockhart did his worst, Harry didn’t feel his arm anymore, and Colin was on a picture-taking rampage. When Harry looks, he slowly understands his bones weren’t there anymore, Lockhart playing it off like this sometimes occurred, Ron and Hermione taking him to Madam Pomfrey’s hospital wing, she enraged by they not having come to her as soon as it happened, the growing back of bones taking more time, and painful, he having to stay the night, and Hermione still sticking up for Lockhart’s mistake. When Pomfrey leaves, Ron brings up the look on Malfoy’s face when Harry had caught the Snitch, Harry saying they’d have to remember to ask him how he set up the Bludger in response to Hermione wondering this out loud. Then the Gryffindor team busted in with refreshments and good times to drown out Harry’s upcoming pain when Pomfrey kicks everyone out so Harry can go through his pain alone. Harry awakens in the night, startled by what he thought was the splintering pain in his arm, until he realized Dobby was sponging his forehead and looking upset. Dobby then not only admits his disappointment in Harry getting to school, but also being the cause for the train station barrier locking them out, Dobby surprised Harry had still been able to get to Hogwarts. Harry angrily threatens Dobby with physical violence unless he left, but Dobby made clear this was a usual occurrence in his day, Harry losing some steam for Dobby’s unfortunate appearance. Harry then asks why he wore a pillowcase, Dobby explaining the terms of his enslavement, and then revealing he being the culprit of the Bludger, Harry’s anger renewed. Dobby attempts to explain the reason for he trying to get Harry sent home being due to the hope Harry brought to Dobby’s kind, but then lets loose with mention of the Chamber of Secrets, Dobby immediately reprimanding himself. Harry attempts to coax Dobby into divulging who had opened the Chamber, Dobby unable to, and only repeating Harry should leave for the extreme danger. Dobby is interrupted by noises outside, Dumbledore and McGonagall carrying a statue to a bed, McGonagall fetches Pomfrey whom was surprised and asking what had happened, Dumbledore announcing it was a second attack, the boy presumably attempting to sneak up to see Harry, and Harry getting a glimpse of Colin, McGonagall having various questions of what could be happening, and whether Colin had captured his attacker with a snapshot, but when Dumbledore checks, the film is destroyed, Dumbledore relating of this being a sign the Chamber was open again and how this could be.

Sunday morning, Harry’s awakened by bright sunlight, his arm not flexible, but all bones accounted for, he noticing Colin’s bed was blocked by curtains, Pomfrey bringing his breakfast and testing his arm’s mobility. He was allowed to leave when he was finished eating, Harry going off to Gryffindor Tower, but his buddies unfound, disappointed they didn’t seem to care about how he was, but also wanting to share what he’d learned about Colin and Dobby. Harry runs into Percy coming out of the library seeming to have a lighter step than recently apprised. Percy mentions the points Harry had gotten for his win, the latter then inquiring if he’d seen the duo, Percy responding to the negative and hoping they weren’t hanging about anymore girls restrooms, Harry making light of this and going straight to Myrtle’s spot, immediately hearing his friends chattering in a stall, and upon announcing himself, still surprising them, and once entering the stall, viewing they had a cauldron set over the toilet, a waterproof fire inside, Hermione’s forté, he also finally able to answer about his arm being in working order. Hermione shares how they’d heard their hiding spot was being uncovered so figured they’d better get a move on with the potion, Harry also sharing his story about Dobby, the group now even more curious about the Chamber and Malfoy’s possible relation to its opening.

By Monday the school had heard of Colin’s state, people more cautious, Ginny shaken since she sat by him in one of her classes, and Neville buying charms to ward away danger. After, during the second week of December, Harry, Ron, and Hermione were signing the sheet to stay at school for the holidays, seeing and suspicious of Malfoy also being on the list, they thinking it’d be an apt time to implement the potion and also swipe the remaining ingredients from Snape’s office, Harry not looking forward to the adventure. Hermione first to suggest a plan where they would supply a diversion so one of them could get into Snape’s office, Harry and Ron looking apprehensive, since Hermione then adds she needed to be the one to pillage since the boys already were so close to severe punishment, Harry thinking about the difficulty this raised when it came to intentional acts of havoc in Snape’s presence, but when the day arrived, Harry awaited Hermione’s signal nervously, when it comes, readying a firework to drop inside Malfoy’s lackey, Goyle’s cauldron, making his target, and the potion covering most of the class, Hermione in and out with no problem, Snape addressing all who had been hit, then vowing to expel the trouble-maker if ever discovered. Harry certain Snape knew he was guilty, Ron attempting to ease his mind with the thought of Snape unable to prove it, and they watched Hermione complete their potion when class let out, it now going to be two weeks before they could test it.

A week goes by when a flyer for a Dueling Club was posted, many students excited to check it out, the trio deciding to go, as well. Hermione wondered whom the instructor would be, they getting double the fun when Lockhart and Snape step forward. Lockhart begins with how Snape would assist him before class began, he allowing Snape knowing “a tiny little bit” about dueling, the demonstration starting. Lockhart gave a play by play until Snape’s first spell left his mouth, leaving Lockhart in a heap at the wall. Lockhart recovers and explains how transparent Snape’s choice had been and allowed him to go through with it so the students would see what it could do (It’s so sad I have family this bumpkin-like *sigh*), Snape not taking kindly to this, so Lockhart and he begin setting up couples of students to practice, Snape reaching Ron, Harry, and Hermione first and pairing Harry, of course with Malfoy, whilst the other two got forgettable students. When everyone began, Lockhart had unleashed mayhem by having all the students start at once, everyone taking down the other, Harry and Malfoy among them, Lockhart stopping all vocally, but Snape allowing this by disarming everyone’s spells, Hermione last since her partner had taken to physical combat, Harry struggling to help Hermione get out of a headlock with a Slytherin girl. Lockhart had picked two students to demonstrate how to block hostile fire, but Snape vetoes by offering the better choice of Malfoy and Harry, Snape instructing Malfoy, but Harry having the moron show him what to do, he gesturing with his wand seemingly in a meaningless way, so when Malfoy fired, Harry did nothing, but watch as a snake exploded from the tip of the wand, Snape offering to get rid of it, but Lockhart stepping in, he only angering it, and it turning to another student, Harry then yelling for it to leave the boy, Justin alone, he upset about it, and storming out. Ron urges Harry to get down and leads him out as students whispered and Snape looked intrigued, Hermione and Ron sharing what the name of a snake-talker was, and Harry sharing his first experience doing it, thinking others must have the gift, as well, Ron explaining the rarity of it, and this being bad news. Once Ron mentions how Harry seemed to be urging the snake to do its worst, Harry explains what he had said and didn’t even know he was speaking Parseltongue, Hermione divulging how it seemed Harry was somehow related to Slytherin and it would be difficult to prove otherwise.

Harry was having difficulty sleeping because of how little he knew of his father’s family. He then decides he’d explain to Justin when he saw him in class the next day, but class was canceled due to a blizzard, and Hermione urged him to go locate him if it was vital, so Harry goes, checking the library, he seeing some Hufflepuffs from the canceled class and was ready to ask them where Justin was when he began overhearing parts of their conversation and stayed out of sight in the Invisibility Section (ha-ha, Rowling), he learning the boy speaking, Ernie had advised Justin to stay in their dormitory if Harry was after him, Ernie hard-pressed to believe Harry was a good snake-talking wizard. Harry heard all he could take after Ernie began supposing what had happened with his run-in with Voldemort, and made his presence known, pretty mad, but asking after Justin, he sort of explaining what happened in the Dueling Club, but getting more angered the longer Ernie made excuses in support of Harry being a dark wizard, Harry leaving and running into Hagrid, whom was on business to ask permission to charm the hen coop so no more chickens could be attacked by an unknown creature, Harry then playing off why he was upset and instead going off to retrieve his books for his next class, a darkened corridor robbed of light because of a windowpane and wind getting through, a torch going out, Harry tripping over Justin, and seeing Nearly Headless Nick with the same shocked, expression, also immobile, Harry now debating whether to get someone to help or flee, knowing what people would think. Peeves then turns up and plays with Harry until he notices the bodies, belting out a wallop of an alarm, classes emptying, McGonagall restoring order, and Ernie again, literally this time, pointing the finger at Harry, McGonagall putting a stop to it, as well as Peeves’ wonderful little song about the trouble, Ernie fanning Nick presumably to the hospital wing and McGonagall escorting Harry to a hidden passage where he soon guesses Dumbledore stays.

When they reach the top, McGonagall knocks at the door, the two entering, then McGonagall advising Harry stay where he was, he viewing the place as quite interesting (Q.I. shout out! Harry…Daniel Radcliffe is a fan, too), and would’ve been happy to take a closer look if he didn’t believe he was about to be kicked out of school. Harry caught sight of the Sorting Hat and learns a bit more of the Hat’s insight on the choice of Gryffindor over Slytherin, he taking it off before he hears anymore due to not wanting to discover the reasons why he would’ve excelled in Slytherin, the puss, but then he hears a noise and discovers a sick looking bird, what startles him is when it goes up in flames. Dumbledore details the bird’s breed, Fawkes rising from the ashes, Harry temporarily side-tracked by this before being brought back to reality by the steady gaze of Dumbledore, before either can proceed though, Hagrid bursts in with his dead rooster, and immediately speaks on Harry’s behalf about the boy found having no connection to Harry since he’d been speaking with him so recently beforehand, he not allowing Dumbledore a word until he rose his voice to state they having the same opinion, Hagrid feeling foolish and returning to wait outside the room. Dumbledore inquires whether Harry had anything to admit, he going over all the troubling thoughts he’d had since the start of school, and declining anything was pressing. Next is the reactions to everyone to Nearly Headless Nick’s condition, most people leaving for the holiday, Harry content with this since being a pariah. Fred and George had fun clearing hallways on Harry’s behalf which didn’t amuse Percy or Ginny, she not liking the dark humor. Ron mentions how Malfoy not being pleased with Fred and George’s jokes was due to his jealousy for Harry getting the credit, which Hermione then changes the subject to the Polyjuice being almost ready for use.

The Weasley’s, Harry, and Hermione were able to mess about with a game called Exploding Snap, only Percy above joining in. Then on Christmas morning, Hermione wakes the boys with presents and the good news of the potion being done, they trying it out when evening came. Harry then gets a visit from Hedwig with a package consisting of a toothpick and note inquiring if he could stay through Summer, as well, by, guess who? Harry also receives fudge from Hagrid, a Quidditch book from Ron, an eagle feather quill from Hermione, and a hand-knit sweater and plum cake from Mrs. Weasley, her card bringing back guilt about the car, which hadn’t returned from the woods. Fortunately, Christmas dinner eased any anxiety they would’ve had in relation to using the Polyjuice. Dumbledore starting the group in singing carols, Percy’s badge being changed to read “Pinhead”, and Harry not bothered by Malfoy attempting to put down his sweater, since boy, did they have plans for him. Hermione started the planning after third-dessert, what with needing Crabbe and Goyle items, plus a way to keep them preoccupied, she seeming to have set them up what with already having sleep potion-laden chocolate cakes ready for the Neanderthal team to discover, she planning on using hair left by the Slytherin girl during her close proximity in Dueling Club. Ron was unsure how much this plan had a chance for success, but first part of acquiring hair had gone well, Harry and Ron booking it to Myrtle’s, Hermione nervously going over the instructions, they each taking their potions to separate stalls for size-changing reasons, then all drinking at the same time.

Harry’s transformation definitely wasn’t a sleigh ride, he and Ron ready to go, but Hermione insisting she couldn’t join, the boys going off and having difficulty locating the Slytherin common room. They go down some dungeon steps, eventually running into Percy, Ron speaking to him familiarly, and Percy responding by demanding they get to their common room, Harry glad to see Malfoy approach them, he also asking why Percy was down there, Percy taking offense, again, the three walking around the corner, and Malfoy gossiping about how Percy had been snooping around a lot, Malfoy thinking he was trying to catch the Slytherin heir by himself, he then saying the password to the Slytherin common room where he motioned for Harry and Ron to sit whilst he got the item his father had sent which he thought was hilarious, he coming back with an article about Ron’s father and how he’d been fined for bewitching the car, and Lucius having asked for Mr. Weasley to resign. After Malfoy gives his own opinion about the Weasley’s, he moves on to Dumbledore and how he’d have to catch the cause of the trouble soon or he’d get fired, he making fun of Colin at his expense, and then leaving no doubt he didn’t know whom was doing these deeds or opened the Chamber, only knowing how long ago it had last been opened, and hoping for a Muggle death like last time, he happily mentioning Hermione being victim. He then also reveals where his father had hid all their Dark Arts memorabilia, Ron making a noise of surprise and Harry noticing how he was changing, the two dashing out with Ron giving the excuse of an upset stomach, they returning to Myrtle’s. Ron was planning on sending word to his father about the one piece of good news, he then rapping on Hermione’s stall to share the details, but she didn’t want to come out, Myrtle sounding way too gleeful, and when she does finally show her furry face, the boys urge her to go to the hospital wing.

Hermione is sequestered in the hospital wing for some weeks, when students return to realize she’s missing, they think she’d been another victim, Pomfrey soon having to put a curtain around her bed since she didn’t need to be embarrassed by her fuzz face every time someone decided to rubberneck, during these days Ron and Harry come to visit each night to drop off homework, she asking if any progress had been made, no reports available, Ron spotting a book under her pillow, and reading the inscription by Lockhart, to Ron’s distaste, Pomfrey then interrupting with medicine, and the boys leave, hearing a loud angry voice sounding like Filch, the boys wait to hear more, and when he’d gone, they view a flood at Myrtle’s bathroom, they investigating, Myrtle sounding more upset than usual, she explaining of a book having been thrown at her, she directing them where it was in the bathroom, Harry ready to retrieve it when Ron discourages him for all the horror stories he’d heard from his father of worst case scenarios. Harry feigns he wouldn’t, but grabs it, learning it was T.M. Riddle’s diary from fifty years ago, Ron recognizing the name for the student having been honored for good deeds, and when looking inside, was disappointed when discovering no entries, but still keeping it. Hermione was released in February, Harry showing her the journal and sharing the same speculation of timing between the Chamber being opened and the age of the journal, Hermione then attempts a spell and using a Revealer as her last resort, neither working. Harry meanwhile, couldn’t place why he felt a connection to Riddle, the three looking at his awards in the trophy room the next break, only learning he’d been a Head boy, Prefect, and had a Magical Merit medal. As the weather became brighter, no more attacks had happened and the Mandrakes would soon be ready for stewing, but Harry was still getting accusing looks from Ernie, and Lockhart explains to McGonagall his imagined role in stopping the attacks as class let out. He also hints of a “moral-booster” to be revealed later, and on the 14th of Feb., as Harry was making his way quickly to breakfast a bit late for not sleeping well due to a late Quidditch practice, was met by the confusing sight of big, pink flowers, and confetti-shaped hearts, Ron looking nauseous and Hermione amused.

Lockhart greets the room with a “Happy Valentine’s”, and promises more surprises, McGonagall and Snape not looking overjoyed by the decorations. The other “gift” Lockhart had planned, walked in with harps and wings, he introducing his Valentine card-giving dwarves making deliveries for the rest of the day, Harry getting trapped by one whilst walking to his next class, to his shame, and as Harry attempts to escape when the dwarf grabs his bag to make him stay, it rips, all of his school items falling out. The dwarf then sang the telegram, Malfoy one of those to hear it, Percy attempting to help get the group of students to keep moving to class, Malfoy spotting Riddle’s diary and believing it was Harry’s, but before he could take a look, Harry disengages the book from Malfoy’s grasp with a spell, Percy now having to report it. When Harry and Ron had gotten to their Charms class, Harry detects how everything but the diary had been ink-soaked, Ron too preoccupied with his wand oozing big, purple bubbles. When evening came, Harry retires early to examine the diary, as well as escape hearing the Valentine tune sung at him by Fred and George. Harry then tests the diary with an inkblot, it getting sucked into it and disappearing, he then writing a greeting with his name, it also being sucked in, and a reply coming from Tom Riddle, asking how he’d gotten his diary.

As Harry continued with this chat, Riddle revealed how his diary held dark memories about Hogwarts, Harry learning more about the first time the Chamber was opened and why Riddle had received his medal, Harry then informing of the Chamber’s reopening and when asking whom had opened it the first time, Riddle offers to show Harry the memory, the book flipping to June 13th, and as a picture formed like watching a movie, Harry is thrust into the scene of Dumbledore’s office, Harry apologizing to the man sitting at the desk for bursting in, but he taking no notice, allowing a knocker at the door to enter, Riddle coming in and sitting, Dippet regarding Riddle’s letter he’d written in hopes of staying at Hogwarts over Summer, since he lived in a children’s home, he sharing some of his origin. Dippet states it may have been possible if not for the attacks, they still not knowing who is causing it. After Riddle was dismissed, Harry follows, he sensing Riddle had made a decision, rushing off, and running into Dumbledore whom advised him to get to his dorm, Riddle continuing on to the dungeons, and going to the room Harry had his Potions class, Riddle waiting for what seemed an hour to Harry, then hearing someone in the corridor. Riddle following quietly, then going around the corner where Harry struggles to identify Hagrid attempting to coax, what they soon learn, is a large spider into a box, Riddle informing Hagrid he’d have to report it, then trying to kill it with a spell, but Hagrid overpowering him, Harry then returned to his room, Ron coming in, asking what was wrong when he saw Harry’s face, and he confiding whom he believed had opened the Chamber the first time.

Due to the three knowing Hagrid’s penchant for unusual and dangerous pets, they didn’t put it past him wanting to reign in the ginormous spider, but Harry also was aware Hagrid wouldn’t want to cause any innocent’s death. After sharing the story of what he’d seen repetitively, he became tired of having the same conversations about it, Hermione attempting to reason of Riddle potentially getting the facts confused, but Harry reminding them they knew Hagrid had been kicked out for some reason. Hermione being the one to suggest they go to Hagrid to see if he corroborates the story. They decide to wait the awkward exchange until another attack was made, but four months down the road, all was quiet, the song Peeves had made up getting old, even Ernie becoming cordial, and in March, Sprout happy some of the Mandrakes were quite close to maturity. Then, during Easter holiday, the second years were given the list of choices for classes during their third year, Hermione checking off everything, Harry getting advice from Percy to choose according to his strengths, but Harry not feeling certain about anything other than Quidditch, so follows Ron’s lead, taking the same classes. Quidditch practice resumed nightly, but Harry was confident with their ability to win against Hufflepuff. As he goes toward the dorms, Neville looks frantic about showing Harry what had happened to his belongings, everything strewn about, Ron noting someone was searching for something, and Harry realizing Riddle’s diary was taken, and when they share the news with Hermione in the common room, they contemplate whom among the Gryffindor’s would want it.

The next morning, Harry sat with his Quidditch team wondering if he was in the room with the thief, he not wanting to report the theft like Hermione suggested due to the delicate details involved. As Harry returned from breakfast to gather his Quidditch equipment with Ron and Hermione, he yelled when hearing the voice speaking death threats again, Hermione coming to a realization and dashing to the library, Ron reminding him of the time, and Harry retrieving his gear, getting ready for the match as everyone was taking seats and warming up on the field, McGonagall with a megaphone, then announces of they cancelling the match, amid boos, and everyone returning to their common rooms where the Heads of Houses would dictate further instructions. McGonagall then had Harry follow her, she not turning Ron away when he tagged along, they being led to the hospital wing to discover Hermione and a Ravenclaw girl, the next victims, a mirror found with them, the boys confessing nothing, and McGonagall escorting them back with plans on speaking with the rest of the Gryffindors. She lists the new rules and earlier hours to be spent in common rooms, hoping anyone with information will come forward, otherwise the school would be closed, she visibly upset. When she exits, everyone was disgruntled by the news, Harry announcing to Ron it was time to go to Hagrid. Harry determines his Invisibility Cloak would need to be utilized, they having to navigate through corridors busier with staff and prefects patrolling in pairs, Harry and Ron making it to Hagrid’s door undetected.

When the door opened with Hagrid aiming a crossbow at them, Harry inquires about it, he dodging an answer and setting up tea, but becoming visibly to be parting at the seams when serving them boiling water with no teabags, a knock interrupting them, Harry and Ron moving to a corner of the room, back under the cloak, Dumbledore entering with Ron’s father’s boss, Cornelius Fudge, the Minister of Magic, Hagrid collapsing in a chair, and Dumbledore backing Hagrid up on his innocence, but Fudge insisting Hagrid had to be detained, if found innocent, released, regardless Fudge needing to show some action being done, Hagrid worriedly asking if he’d be taken to Azkaban, but an answer not given for another knock at the door, Lucius Malfoy entering, Fang and Hagrid bristling at his presence, but Lucius there with a suspension for Dumbledore, Fudge protesting due to the timing, Hagrid making the oath Dumbledore would be the only one capable to stop whatever the monster is if it began taking lives, but Dumbledore acquiescing to the suspension without a fight, only noting those who favored him would make it seem like he hadn’t left, and Dumbledore saying something else which seemed aimed at Harry and Ron, Hagrid doing the same with his advice to follow the spiders, everyone exiting, Hagrid also loudly stating someone would need to feed Fang, Ron mentioning how their dark days would soon be darker without Dumbledore.

Even though Summer was settling in, the school was thrust into a feeling of unease, Ron and Harry now no longer able to visit Hermione since it was banned for the thought of the attacker returning for them. Dumbledore’s presence, as well as Hagrid’s were severely missed, Malfoy again using his fat mouth to talk loudly about his thoughts of Dumbledore and Hermione in Potions. When they’d gone to Herbology, Harry received an apology from Ernie, Ron and Harry noticing the spiders again, the gaggle heading for the Forbidden Forest, the two discussing it on their way to Defense Against the Dark Arts. Ron had reservations, but Harry gave him the positive sides of the forest being the centaurs and unicorns, Lockhart rushing in like he was providing sunshine and rainbows, the usual attitude of the teachers being subdued. Lockhart then states how the grim looks were unnecessary since believing Hagrid was guilty, this annoying the two, Ron consenting to go for Hermione after sitting through his nonsense. The boys had to wait well past midnight before the common room emptied, they retrieving Fang, leaving the cloak at Hagrid’s since it was dark enough in the forest, and Harry soon spotting two spiders leading them into the forest and eventually off the path.

They walk for at least a half hour as the denseness of their trek thickens, until Fang barks, scaring the boys, but something big ahead of them. After a little time passes, lights turn on at them, startling them again until Ron realizes it’s his father’s car gone native. After Ron approaches it, and sees what the car was illuminating behind Harry, his unbridled fear was plain on his face, Harry, Ron, and Fang all picked up and carried deeper into the forest. When they enter a clearing, Harry sees an army of gigantic spiders, they dropping them to await Aragog, and Harry recovering his voice to share they knew Hagrid, as Aragog commands their deaths when learning it wasn’t Hagrid, himself. Aragog thought the trouble with the Chamber had resolved years ago, once Harry related Hagrid’s trouble, Harry also learning how Hagrid had gotten and cared for Aragog. When Harry suggests he and Ron would leave them alone now, since Aragog refused to confide what the monster was, Aragog denies the idea, but the boys saved by the car, it leaving them at the edge of the forest, retreating back to whence it came. Ron is sick, and Fang’s under his doggy covers when Harry gets his cloak, one upside to their trip was in knowing now Hagrid wasn’t responsible for the Chamber opening. Later, Harry realizes whom the girl which had been killed all those years ago could be.

Whilst Harry and Ron waited for the right time to go see Myrtle, a shock of exams still coming up leaves their whole Transfiguration class in irritated grumbles. Good news was coming though, when McGonagall shares of the Mandrakes ready for plucking, so they may soon know more on the monster and or the one who opened the Chamber. Then an encounter with Ginny, whom was searching for the courage to share something which seemed to have frightened her, gets scared off by Percy, asking for her seat, he waving off the news she could’ve been about to share as something he’d hoped she’d keep to herself (the boys alluding to Percy wanking). Then Harry and Ron get their moment to see Myrtle when convincing Lockhart they were fine to walk the rest of the way to their next class, they home free until McGonagall runs into them, Harry making a quick excuse of they wanting to see Hermione, McGonagall surprisingly receptive. So instead of going to Myrtle, they go see Hermione, Harry noticing she was gripping a piece of paper in her hand, when reading it, he understanding why he’d been hearing the voice, also learning what defeated the creature. The two lay out all the missing pieces, they going to the teachers lounge with plans to confess what they’d found, but when hearing a message from McGonagall informing the students to return to their dorms, and teachers to the break room, Harry decides they’d hide in the closet, hear what was going on, and then share their news.

When the teachers arrive, they learn the monster took a student, a new message left, and the one taken, Ginny. Lockhart pops in, missing all this, but Snape mentions how it was his moment to shine, all the teachers having something to say about his boastful and arrogant comments, Lockhart off to his office to ‘ready’ himself, then McGonagall noting the Head of Houses should instruct the students on preparations to go home the next day, in the afternoon. Everyone was silent and solemn, the Weasleys the most, Ron suggesting they go to Lockhart in the evening and share with him what they knew. They catch Lockhart mid-flurry of packing up, the two getting more angry when he finally admits to stealing the credit of all the true stories he wrote about. When he was ready to leave and planning on using a Memory Charm on the boys, Harry disarms him and commands him to join them in their next move. They go to Myrtle’s, she gladly sharing her death story, and where she saw the eyes. Upon closer inspection, Harry sees a snake symbol, he able to speak Parceltongue for the moment necessary to open it, Lockhart unsuccessfully excusing himself, the two allowing him to go first, they all landing deep below the school. As they walked further, Harry sees what ends up being a giant snake skin, Lockhart then lunging at Ron, taking his wand to attempt his memory spell, it backfiring so hard the ceiling collapses and separates Ron and Lockhart from Harry. Ron decides to move rocks whilst Harry attempted to locate Ginny. He gets to another daunting blocked passage with two snakes with emerald eyes adorning it, Harry speaking snake once more to get it open, he nervously entering.

More serpent carvings within the room, plus the dimness of the place made it difficult to see the “monster” or Ginny, the place not giving off any defining sounds other than his footsteps, when he got further into the space, he sees Ginny at the feet of a statue depicting a wizard. When Harry shakes her to see if she’ll wake, it doesn’t work, and Riddle voices the reality, Harry seeing a fuzzy-around-the-edges body. Tom then points to the diary as the reason he was there, Harry upon lifting Ginny talks of they needing to leave before the basilisk came, Riddle replying it wouldn’t until summoned, Harry then looking for his wand, noticing Riddle had it, but still not putting together why Tom wouldn’t hand it to him. Riddle having been waiting to speak with Harry for some time, he sharing of how tolerant he’d been in biding his time with Ginny, how he’d set up Hagrid, Dumbledore not trusting him from the beginning, and wanting to know how Harry defeated Voldemort, Riddle finally revealing his connection. Then once Harry denies Tom being greatest wizard in relation to Dumbledore’s talent, Fawkes appears with the Sorting Hat, Harry’s courage bolstered, whilst Riddle was amused by the seemingly unthreatening additions, he instead allowing Harry to confess how he could have defeated Voldemort. Harry shares what he’d learned the year before about the part his mother played in his survival, as well as the state of Voldemort, Riddle then deciding to see what Harry could do to defend himself only with Fawkes and the Hat, Tom calling for the basilisk. Harry shuts his eyes and attempts to run, but realizes after hearing the snake, but not being harmed by it, Fawkes had distracted it, plucking it’s eyes so Harry had a chance to survive. Riddle commands the snake to focus on Harry, the basilisk swinging the Hat with its tail as it turned for him, Harry puts it on, gets conked on the head with a sword inside the hat, and on the snake’s second thrust forward, Harry stabs it good, but also gets punctured. Riddle is certain Harry will die, but doesn’t “remember” what tears of a phoenix can do, he watching as Fawkes heals Harry, then deciding this way was better. Fawkes drops the diary right into his lap, Harry using the tooth to pierce the book, successfully having Tom disappear, he retrieving the sword, Ginny coming-to soon after, confessing her part and worrying about expulsion, he guiding her out. Ron had made a large enough space for the two to get through, they postponing explanations for when they fully exited the Chamber, Fawkes being their way back up the tunnel. The bird then leading them to McGonagall’s office.

Inside, the four viewed Mr. and Mrs. Weasley with Dumbledore and McGonagall, Mrs. Weasley overcome with emotion and asking how they’d saved Ginny. Harry begins with the voices he’d heard, he attempting to avoid any mention of Ginny’s manipulated part of the Chamber, to spare her any repercussions, but Dumbledore saves him from implicating her, by announcing his knowledge of she being taken over, but not uncovering how until Harry supplies with whom the diary belonged, Ginny admitting how she’d found it in one of her school books. Dumbledore then sends Ginny to the hospital wing, Mr. and Mrs. Weasley accompanying her, he then sending McGonagall to alert the kitchen staff for a feast in celebration of the danger being over, he dealing with the boys on all their rule-breaking, he giving the impression of the severity of the issue, and instead awarding their house points as well as awards for assisting the school, and once learning Lockhart had charmed himself, he has Ron show Lockhart to the infirmary so he could speak with Harry. Dumbledore states his idea of why Harry had similarities with Tom Riddle, but also the reason why he belonged in the House he chose, the sword he’d pulled from the Sorting Hat not appearing if he didn’t belong to Gryffindor House. Harry was on his way out, having been advised to go to the feast when Lucius Malfoy burst in with a bandaged Dobby following. Lucius demanded to know why Dumbledore was back, he being made aware of the members of the board having confessed of being threatened to put Dumbledore out, Dobby meanwhile, was signalling Harry, which he finally understands, and asks Lucius about when he’d slipped the diary to Ginny in the bookshop, they not able to prove it, but Dumbledore warning what would happen if Mr. Weasley discovered one of his family with a Riddle possession again, and being able to connect it to Lucius, the man leaving with Dobby, and Harry figuring a way to help the elf (it being slightly different from the film), he taking his sock off and stuffing the diary into it, and when Lucius disgustedly throws the sock down and commands Dobby to follow, Dobby states of his freedom in disbelief, since catching the sock he’d thrown away, he then protecting Harry when Lucius goes after him, Harry making Dobby promise to not save him again. At the early morning (three am-ish) feast, Hagrid shows up, McGonagall announces the cancellation of exams, to Hermione’s newly awakened horror, and of Lockhart leaving to regain his memory. When the school year ends and Harry, Ron, Hermione, Fred, George, and Ginny are on the Hogwarts express, Harry remembers the secret Percy had made Ginny not speak of, she confiding he’d been snogging with the Hufflepuff girl whom had been Petrified with Hermione, Fred and George promising they wouldn’t make fun of big bro (yeah, yeah, sure, sure) Harry giving Ron and Hermione his phone number, they going through the barrier to begin their vacations once more.

I notice how many offices of professors the boys were taken to in this one, it not being a necessarily interesting fact, only something I noticed upon review of my notes. Definitely read through quickly enough what with cycling four other books in the process, as well as my lengthy blawg entries, still enjoying the story, though so I’ll immediately begin the third!