Monday, October 21, 2013

October 21: A Night in the Lonesome October-fest

Another big day. Then again, I think they all are, late in the month.

Snuff stops to speak with Larry and fill him in. He tells him everything save Linda Enderby's true identity.

(Snuff thinks that he's so clever for sniffing out the Linda Enderby ruse, but that was just the Great Detective throwing him a bone to throw him off the trail of what he's really up to. I think someone should write a comedy version of Lonesome October, where there are no other players, just the Great Detective switching costumes every time Snuff looks away.)

They discuss the progress of the search for the constable, and conversation turns to bolt holes each has established. We get another memorable line from Snuff:

"I wonder what this beating of the bushes might mean to the Count, if they go very far afield?" 
"I'll bet if you check today you'll find he's moved." 
"So you think he has another place, too?" 
"Of course. That's his style. And he has the right idea. Everyone should have a place to run to. You can never be too careful." 
"Do you?" 
He smiled. 
"I hope you do, too," he said. 
When I smile no one can tell.

Snuff goes looking for Gray, can't find her and wanders to Rastov's place, where he finds Rastov with the Icon and a bottle of vodka. Rastov is no condition to talk, so Quicklime discusses things with Snuff instead.

Prior to this exercise, I didn't have much of an opinion on Quicklime, other than generally being kindly disposed towards him because I like snakes. But I like Snuff's almost mentoring relationship with the younger animals. (Also I appreciate that Zelazny didn't use any cheap gimmicks with sibilants when writing Quicklime's dialogue) He corrects a few of the snake's misconceptions about the Game:

"Yes, they will. They always do. That's why it's important to finish any mutual business before then. Once the lines are drawn, your former partners may be your new enemies." 

"I don't like the idea of having you or Nightwind for an enemy." 

"It doesn't follow that we have to kill each other before the big event. In fact, I've always looked on such undertakings as a sign of weakness." 

"But there's always some killing." 

"So I've heard. Seems a waste of energy, though, when such things will be taken care of at the end, anyhow." 

". . . And half of us will die in the backlash from the other half's winning." 

"It's seldom a fifty-fifty split of openers and closers. You never know what the disposition will be, or who will finally show up. I heard there was once an attempt where everyone withdrew on the last day. Nobody showed. Which was wrong, too. Think of it. Any one of them with guts enough could have had it his own way."

That's interesting. We know that Snuff is playing it close to the chest here (When he answers "So I've heard," when we know he's been party to several other Games), and it's possible that he and Jack were already involved in the Game during the session when everyone withdrew, and he's framing his answer in such a way as to obscure that fact.

Quicklime accounts how he got Needle drunk and thereby learned the locations of the Count's other graves. They go to investigate, and Snuff savors the world as it is:

The sun shone brightly, though there were clouds about, and, of course, a goodly cluster off toward the Good Doctor's place, farther south, and there came a bit of chill with a northerly breeze. We made our way cross-country through the colors of autumn, browns, reds, yellows, and the ground was damp, though not spongy. I inhaled the odors of forest and earth. Smoke curled from a single chimney in the distance, and I thought about the Elder Gods and wondered at how they might change things if the way were opened for their return. The world could be a good place or a nasty place without supernatural intervention; we had worked out our own ways of doing things, defined our own goods and evils. Some gods were great for individual ideals to be aimed at, rather than actual ends to be sought, here and now. As for the Elders, I could see no profit in intercourse with those who transcend utterly. I like to keep all such things in abstract, Platonic realms and not have to concern myself with physical presences. . . . I breathed the smells of woodsmoke, loam, and rotting windfall apples, still morning-rimed, perhaps, in orchard's shade, and saw a high, calling flock V-ing its way to the south. I heard a mole, burrowing beneath my feet. . . .

While traveling, the pairs reveals to each other that they are both closers. Quicklime is cheered, until they discover the Count's staked skeleton.

Snuff returns home, and is passed by the Great Detective in his coach. (Our eyes met and held for several long seconds. Then he was gone.)

Graymalk tells Snuff that she has learned that the vicar has one of the Tools for the game, the pentacle bowl. He also has his thirteen year old stepdaughter chained up for use as a sacrifice later on.

Snuff tells Gray that the Count has been killed, and Gray gives her account of an encounter with the Count.

"No matter whose side he was on, I can't say I'm sorry to see him out of the picture," she said. "He was extremely frightening." 
"You met him?" 
"I saw him one night, departing that first crypt. I'd hidden myself on a tree limb, to watch it happen. He seemed to ooze up out of there as if he weren't really moving any muscles, just flowing, the way Quicklime can do. Then he stood there a moment with his cloak flapping about him in the wind, turning his head, looking at the world as if he owned it and was deciding what part of it would amuse him just then. And then he laughed. I'll never forget that sound. He just threw his head back and barked, not the way you do, unless you've a special way of barking just before you eat something that might not want to be eaten, and that this pleases you, adds to the flavor. Then he moved, and it played tricks with my eyes. He was different things, different shapes, flapping cloak all about, even in different places at the same time, and then he was gone, like a piece of the cloak sailing away in the moonlight. I wasn't unhappy to see him go."

I love that passage.

They then spy on the Gipsies, who are entertaining Linda Enderby, who takes up the violin and plays, getting caught up in the music to the extent that her disguise slips a little.

Abruptly, he halted and took a step, as if suddenly moving out of a dream. He bowed then and returned the instrument to its owner, his movements in that moment entirely masculine. I thought of all the controlled thinking, the masterfully developed deductions, which had served to bring him here, and then this, this momentary slipping into the wildness he must keep carefully restrained, and then seeing him come out of it, smiling, becoming the woman again. I saw in this the action of an enormous will, and suddenly I knew him much better than as the pursuing figure of many faces. Suddenly I knew that he had to be learning, as we were learning other aspects, of the scope of our enterprise, that he could well be right behind us at the end, that he was almost, in some way, a player, more a force, really, in the Game, and I respected him as I have few beings of the many I have known. 
Later, as we walked back, Graymalk said, "It was good to get away for a time." 
"Yes," I said, "it was," and I regarded the sky, where the moon was growing.


  1. A few things:

    1. I, too, love Gray's account of a Count. Awesome imagery there.

    2. I also love the fact that Quicklime gets Needle drunk, just because I think it's funny.

    3. I'm becoming increasingly convinced that you're right about Snuff being an elevated dog. In this chapter, Quicklime briefly says something about how he'd be getting ready to nap for the winter if he were still in the woods. That makes three companions (along with Graymalk and Cheeter) who allude to being regular animals first, and I think that's enough to convince me the same is true for Snuff. You've won this round, Josh!

    4. I came across a line on page 143 that stuck out to me: "The flaw appeared slightly larger, though this could have been a trick of memory and imagination." This line has little significance by itself, but the reason I took particular note of it was because the last part sounded very familiar--like I'd recently written something similar. I had a feeling my version of the line had been in either my Lonesome October story for this year or the story I recently submitted to Shadows & Reflections, so I opened up my files and did a quick search.

    Sure enough, I wrote a line in my Shadows & Reflections story that could almost be seen as an allusion to the one quoted above. That was never my intent, but I'm not going to complain about an accidental allusion to my favorite author.

    (Of course, none of this matters unless the story sells. Fingers crossed!)

  2. I can barely complete a sentence without some kind of Zelazny allusion.