Monday, May 13, 2013

The Spiritual Emptiness We Seek

Hiero's Journey, Chapter Six:

(For the previous entry in this series, see here.)

Having been knocked unconscious again – I suspect Lanier has trouble knowing how to end a chapter – Our Hiero awakens in the hold of the Evil Unclean Mutants' lightning-gun boat. No good can come of this, we say to ourselves, and our suspicions are confirmed when Per Desteen is taken off-board, none too gently, by an EUM priest and a Hairy Howler heavy, “Chee-Chowk.”* The Evil Mutants have taken Hiero to a small fort on a lifeless black island, Manoon, located somewhere near present-day Mackinac. The EUM priest, “S'duna,” tells Hiero that the isle has “the spiritual emptiness we seek to encourage the growth of pure thought” (133). S'duna would be right at home in one of the Bond rip-off movies of the 1960s, perhaps even in Operation Double 007.

S'duna and Chee-Chowk fling Hiero into a locked cell, where the super-psychic gun-slinging priest-warrior springs into action, psychically speaking. After erecting a shield against the Evil Mutant priests' Psychic Bad Touches, Hiero manages to find a mental “wavelength” that lets him tap into the priests' thoughts and perceptions without compromising his own defenses. He finds that only one of the priests is monitoring him, while S'duna, his handler, is drugged out and dreaming of recreational pleasures “foul beyond belief” (137). This euphemism, incidentally, was already quaint when Lanier wrote Hiero's Journey. Today, saying “foul beyond belief” merely means one has never been on the Internet, nor seen a John Waters movie. It also leads me to wonder whether the Church in Hiero's time still practices the sacrament of absolution, and whether Hiero, as an ordained priest, has ever heard any confessions. Probably not, given his squeamishness about the Evil Mutants' “perversions.”

It does not take Hiero long to effect his escape. He uses his telepathy to find Gorm, who along with Luchare has escaped the mutant attack and is now a safe distance from Manoon, and promises to join him soon. The killah priest then plants a psychic command – go check on the prisoner, stat – in the monitoring priest's mind, and, when the unsuspecting Evil Mutant unlocks his cell, kills him with a Psychic Headbutt (unintentionally, but gladly). On the way out of the fortress Hiero runs into Chee-Chowk, who seems glad to have the opportunity to mash the escapee. Unfortunately for the Howler, Hiero had just found his sword in a nearby storeroom, and after a short fight he buries the blade in his assailant's head. “A pity, Chee-Chowk,” he mused aloud. “Perhaps if decent men had raised you, you'd have been just another kind of man, not a foul, night-haunting ogre” (145). This is as close as Lanier comes to the egalitarianism of Terry Pratchett, and one must give him credit for not casting all evil mutants as irreparably so.

Some evil mutants are apparently less competent than others. The Evil Unclean Mutant priests were apparently too overconfident to guard the harbor, and Hiero manages to steal a sailboat and head out into the lake. Shortly after Hiero's departure the Evil High Priest S'duna wakes up, finds his prize prisoner has escaped, and mentally commands giant lampreys to attack Hiero's boat! Eek! Is this the end for Our Hero? Probably not, because there are still nine chapters to go!

Though let's admit it: we're still mildly curious about what happens next.


Coming next: The reunited adventurers discover some radioactive ruins, like you do.

* Chee-Chowk is Hairy Howler slang for “It's Society's Fault.”

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