Last time on The Book of Shane, Shane learned about the Bile and bonded with a badass saltwater crocodile. What happened after he revealed that little secret to our Protagonists? Find out after the cut.
Shane closed his eyes and smiled into the wind. He allowed himself to enjoy one perfect moment of total victory.
Great job, Shane! You obtained 11 out of 15 McGuffins with barely any effort! Unfortunately, the Greencloaks are firing cannonballs at you and Halawir. Shane decides to summon Grahv, his saltwater crocodile, to distract the whales pulling the Greencloak ship. It’s not enough to escape from the Greencloaks, though. In the end, Shane and Halawir decide to split up. Shane jumps off Halawir as soon as they’re flying above land.
Shane dreamed of spiders.
Shane’s Trippy Dream Sequences have taken a turn for the worse during the war. Tonight he dreams of spiders infesting his castle and a familiar spider biting his servant Magda’s arm.
Shane wakes up and discovers that the Coral Octopus and Granite Ram aren’t among the talismans he stole from the Greencloaks. After a little screaming fit, he goes over his inventory. Hopefully his sword, the talismans, and a vial of Bile are enough to get him to the nearest Conqueror camp.
Shane then tests out the Copper Falcon, which grants the power of Enhanced Sight. He learns that Halawir successfully distracted the Greencloaks, and that the Conqueror camp is quite a ways away.
To avoid getting lost, Shane kept the coastline in view. To avoid being seen, he walked just within the tree line, where the forest gave way to Nilo’s beaches. That meant weaving among the trees — there was no natural path. It was slow going, but it was prudent. And Shane had no great desire to plunge deeper into the forest, where the trees grew so thick they blocked out the sky.
But the terrain changes, so Shane is forced to trek through the forest. This little detour gives Shane the perfect opportunity to test out all the talismans! Let’s see what they do:
- Gold Lion: Sound Burst
- Slate Elephant: Enlarge Spirit Animal
- Bamboo Panda: Heal
- Bronze Eagle: Gust of Wind
- Silver Wolf: Scent, Enhanced Hearing
- Obsidian Ape: Locate Weakness (Shane thinks it’s a variation of Enhanced Sight)
- Amber Leopard: Enhanced Agility
Shane opts to use the Amber Leopard’s abilities to navigate through the jungle.
Night was falling when Shane at last came upon a village.
Unfortunately, the village has been razed and abandoned. Shane goes to bed hungry, wondering what it would be like if he bonded with a koala.
Shane dreamed of a wolverine.
He also dreams of global destruction, but mostly he dreams of fighting a wolverine. The wolverine, which speaks in Gar’s voice, throws itself on Shane’s sword. It then reveals that Shane always hated Gar, and that destruction was always in his nature.
The night was still and silent, but Shane jolted awake, certain that something was wrong.
And by “something wrong,” I mean “the smell of death,” which Shane is only able to detect when wearing the Silver Wolf. He decides to leave the abandoned village, but is waylaid by a pack of hyenas! Shane tries to use the Gold Lion during the fight, but accidentally equips the Copper Falcon instead. Luckily, he’s saved when a young boy shows up and attacks the hyenas.
The boy led Shane out of the village as the first hint of dawn lightened the sky.
Shane’s new traveling companion — Achi, a young boy half his age — reveals that the Conquerors razed the village and killed everyone there. Achi, the only survivor, buried the dead villagers, but the hyenas dug up the bodies and ate them. Goddamn, that is dark for a children’s book.
After some traveling through the jungle, Achi starts interrogating Shane. Shane claims he’s an Amayan bonded to an alligator who is trying to stop the global war. This gives him a chance to explain his stance on the war: The Conquerors want freedom from the Greencloaks, and the Greencloaks want to protect the world on their own terms.
Eventually the party reaches Achi’s campsite, where he keeps watch over the abandoned village. Shane convinces Achi to help guide him to Zhong. Achi agrees to lead him as far as the Mumbi.
They walked throughout the morning, stopping only briefly to stretch and share a drink from Achi’s waterskin. Shane was sweating again, and he knew the heat would get worse as the day went on.
At some point during their travels, Achi patches up a nasty scratch Shane got when he fell into the jungle. Further conversation reveals that Achi learned his first aid skills from Callie, an obvious foreigner who served as the village healer. Shane tells Achi that he’s honoring Callie’s memory by using the skills he taught him.
Hours passed, and miles, and for Shane there was no sign that they were making any progress, just the endless indistinguishable greenery. He only knew for certain that midday had passed when Achi handed him a stick of dried meat and called it lunch.
After even more travel, conversation drifts toward spirit animals. Shane is surprised that everyone else in Erdas wants to summon a spirit animal and become their friend. It’s completely different from his bond with Grahv: the saltwater crocodile is a tool, not a buddy.
Suddenly, Shane is possessed by Gerathon! Nothing really happens, though; she’s just checking up on him.
Immediately afterwards, Achi reveals that they’ve been followed by a large cat! Shane assumes that it’s Abeke and Uraza and calls out for them, but quickly learns that he was mistaken: It’s a large black cat following them, not a former Godlike Leopard. Achi decides to lead the party towards civilization to scare off the cat; Shane equips the Gold Lion and gives Achi the Amber Leopard so they have a fighting chance if the cat attacks.
Shane was exhausted by the day’s efforts. It was difficult enough to navigate the winding jungle pathways. Doubly so when keeping his guard up, never allowing his mind to wander, bracing against an attack that never came.
The party sets up camp outside a village that night. Achi refuses to enter the village because there are Conquerors there.
Achi wants a bedtime story, but Shane doesn’t have anything on deck other than one about Stetriolian monitor lizards. Shane ends up listening to Achi tell a story about Uraza, Cabaro, and Kovo…
Long ago, when Erdas was young, the Great Beasts had not yet grown into their greatness. Uraza was little more than a kitten, and Cabaro had no mane. Yet they both had claws, and they bared them over Nilo.
Kovo had enough of Uraza and Cabaro fighting over Nilo, so he teaches them how to hunt. Cabaro and lions now hunt in groups, while Uraza and the leopards hunt alone in the jungle. However, Cabaro and Uraza realized that Kovo tricked them, so they chase him into the mountains and bite off his tail.
Shane chuckled softly. “And to this day, I’d bet Kovo holds a grudge,” he added. He tried to imagine what the great gorilla would think of such a legend. He doubted he’d be flattered — but then, at least his cunning had been immortalized.
Once Achi falls asleep, Shane tests out the Obsidian Ape and realizes that it bestows Locate Weakness, not Enhanced Sight. The discovery disgusts him.
Later, a monkey visits the boys’ camp. Shane considers using the Bile to bond Achi to the monkey, but pours out his supply of Bile because he doesn’t want to bribe his companion.
Achi wakes up from a nightmare immediately afterwards and reveals what really happened to the abandoned village: His father, the village elder, turned Callie the healer in to the Conquerors. Callie wasn’t a Greencloak, but betraying her was the only way to protect the village. Obviously, the other villagers took offense and attacked the Conquerors. Now Achi’s father is staying with the Conquerors at the nearby camp.
Achi breaks down, and Shane does his best to comfort him.
Shane dreamed of a jackal.
A jackal that obviously took over the world, that is. Obvious symbolism is obvious: the jackal sits on a throne and is carrying Gar’s badass ouroboros crown.
Shane awoke with surprise at the first hint of dawn. He was wedged into the hammock. Achi was crouched on a branch above him.
Shane decides to visit the Conqueror encampment, and he wants Achi to come with him so he can forgive his father. He tries to argue that, like Kovo in the story, Achi’s father lied so he could protect his people. The lesson he took from the story is that good people sometimes do bad things. Achi, however, thinks that Kovo wasn’t the hero of the story, and that only bad people do bad things.
Suddenly, someone fires arrows at the party, and the black cat from earlier attacks! Shane uses the Gold Lion‘s abilities to fend off the enemy, but he hits Achi with a blast when he tries to tell him to escape.
All that mattered now was speed.
Shane takes the Amber Leopard from an unconscious Achi and runs away with him. However, a Greencloak blocks his escape: Lishay! (Bet you didn’t think we’d see her again, huh?) Shane tells Lishay not to attack because Achi needs medical attention, but she tells Shane that he’s selfish because he didn’t think to give Achi the Bamboo Panda to heal him.
Lishay blames Shane for the deaths of thousands during the global war — namely Tarik, her brother, and Meilin’s father. Shane is quick to blame Lishay and the Greencloaks for abandoning Stetriol after the first global war.
Of course, things devolve into a fight. Shane quickly learns that he and Lishay are evenly matched, so he backs off and equips the Obsidian Ape. Thanks to the McGuffin’s Locate Weakness ability, he learns that Lishay cares about her black tiger spirit animal, and that she doesn’t want to hurt Achi. So he orders Grahv to take Achi in his mouth, and orders Lishay to recall her tiger and stand down. Shane then knocks out Lishay for good measure.
And that’s when Achi comes to.
Shane staggered into the village as the dawn sky flared amber and violet, as if Uraza’s colors still flew over Nilo.
Wait … Uraza has official colors? Who knew?
Anyway, Shane makes it to the Conqueror camp, reveals that he’s Stetriolian royalty, berates the captain of the local troop for killing innocents, and orders him to properly bury the dead villagers. Achi — mostly recovered thanks to the Bamboo Panda — is reunited with his father, but won’t thank Shane for saving him. Just because a Designated Villain saved his life doesn’t make him a good person.
And Shane, who actually did a noble deed for once, is left feeling defeated instead.
Stuff I Forgot to Mention Above:
Shane had all sorts of awesome adventures during the war, including a hike through the Amayan mountains and scaling the Wall of Zhong. I wish we got to see these in the series, instead of a throwaway mention in a companion book.
Shane’s original plan to obtain the talismans involved a lot more sneaking and hanging out at Greenhaven. He didn’t plan on the Protagonists exposing him immediately.
At least Shane’s Trippy Dream Sequences prove that he’s been terribly affected by Drina’s death.
Shane made a deal with Gerathon: He will free Kovo in exchange for Total World Domination / revenge on the Greencloaks.
At last, an explanation for why nobody equips more than one talisman! Using more than one talisman at once supposedly damages the Evertree.
The bonding sickness was caused by damage done to the Evertree during the first global war. Collecting all the talismans will cure it.
I still hate how all this information on the Evertree has been revealed in the short stories, and not in the series proper. You would think, having the final book being called The Evertree, there would be some lead-up to what it is in the main series. Hiding it in the side stories seems like poor planning to me.
Shane thinks that the Greencloaks murdered Renneg, Gar’s spirit animal.
The Conquerors apparently faced little resistance in Nilo.
How Shane justifies the destruction of the abandoned village: the people were probably allied with the Greencloaks.
Achi is the elder of his village, now that almost everyone there has been killed and his father allied with the Conquerors.
Mumbi is a Kenyan mythological figure.
Shane’s story is about how the goanna and perentie got their markings. In “Venom,” the Stetriolian palace has a tapestry depicting two lizards painting each other. It’s possible that the tapestry depicts this legend.
Lishay almost reveals that she loved Tarik. I think there were hints of them having a relationship in Blood Ties. I don’t really remember.
Shane seems to be a little obsessed with Abeke and Uraza in this short story. Let me guess — they’re going to be an official pairing by the end of the second series?
Next time: First impressions on The Evertree.