“Lemma the Librarian – Possession With Intent”


Published: March 17, 2018


Another paywalled one skipped, “the Di-Lemma Dilemma”, in which the party returns to Iason and Iola’s hometown and discovers that strange things are afoot*! It’s pretty good, although it suffers from a kinda fuzzy villain and a complete lack of embarrassing childhood stories. Like Lemma, I demand to hear about 6-year-old Iason defending the village from frogs and trees and a particularly scary-looking rock! 😉

Our actual story today is Possession With Intent, and it has one of the absolute highpoints of the series: specifically, Lemma and Peri’s conversation about the invention of the pyramid, which is one of the most Terry Pratchett things I’ve read that wasn’t actually Pratchett: and not in a crude copy sort of way, but legitimately hitting the same vein of lightly absurdist humour**. If you’ve read Terry Pratchett, you know that’s high praise; if you haven’t, stop wasting your time reading “porn reviews” on “the internet” and read the best damn humourist since Wodehouse died. Do it! Now!

Right, sorry, the actual story. This one suffers even worse than “Di-Lemma” from the fuzziness of its villain – it was never clear to me at all if Peri was accidentally responsible, deliberately doing this, or just a victim like everyone else. But the conflict is pretty great despite all that – Lemma, Iason, and Iola all fighting being possessed by restless dead*** in different ways: Iason with his usual heavy-duty Will Save, Iola the same but failing more and also with an edge of trauma from the whole Brinksmoor business, Lemma, inevitably, by folding completely (although she’s getting better at justifying it to herself****). The character relations – both the “real” party and the ghosts – are complicated but explicated very clearly, and it makes things a lot more interesting than the usual “Lemma & co vs cartoon villain.” The resolution is also great – the story helps you forget that Lemma is a pretty damn powerful sorceress, and when she gets a moment of clarity to remember that she wraps the whole thing up right away. With less fire than might have been expected! Less fire immediately, at any rate. She casts at least one spell before opening up with the fireballs, what more do you want from her?

There’s a couple of bits tied into the main arc: as I said, we get Lemma being a sub but also becoming better at justifying it against her dawning realization that she should recover the books and Do Good in general – and, push come to shove, she decides to go for helping free the people at the Project rather than sink into self-gratifying submission. We’re reminded of Iola’s trauma, and she also notices that Lemma has the hots for Iason something bad (Lemma’s response is, as always, blanket denial of everything). 

And, Lemma uses the ghosts to pass along a message to someone she doesn’t identify to the reader in preparation the ominous spectre of the last two books. From here on out, no more episodic adventures, it’s all tying plots off and blowing things up… 

*Turns out to be sexy mind control. I know, I was shocked and surprised too.

**The name of Lemma’s book this time is a more direct Pratchett shoutout. Ironically, this story doesn’t remind of of Pyramids at all, since Pratchett makes fun of ancient Egypt from an extremely different direction in that one.

***We’re in ancient Egypt. Everything is about death.

****Slight snark aside, the bit where Lemma and the courtesan are aligning are definitely pretty excellent. It’s the first time that I recall that Lemma really explains what she gets out of being a sub besides “plot-relevant magical orgasms” and it is just exactly correct. How @midorikonton wrote that and din’t realize she was a sub is beyond me. ;P (Well, ok, as she says, it’s because it was welded to other sex-and-gender stuff she didn’t have an epiphany about until later. It’s still a great description.)

When The Fuck Are We? 🤷

“The Di-Lemma Dilemma” is set in Iason and Iola’s hometown of Iardanos, and if you try to argue that this is the actual Greek village of Iardanos, and not Iolcus, the mythological Jason’s hometown, I will fight you to the death.

So: Iolcus. On the coast of Magnesia, about halfway up the eastern side of Peninsular Greece. Conveniently enough, most of Greek mythology is set in a vaguely-defined Mycenaean mishmash, so calling this 1200 BCE is as good as any other date*. When Jason was a child, his father the king was overthrown by his uncle Pelias (although in a feud/coup kinda thing rather than a Hamlet dealie), and Jason was bundled off to hiding. When he reached manhood, he returned to Iolcus to reclaim his throne, which Pelias agreed to… as long as Jason proved his worth by journeying to Colchis, on the far eastern shore of the Black Sea, and returning with the Golden Fleece**. Jason was surprisingly agreeable to this challenge, and assembled a dream team of mythological Greek heroes, including Hercules, Orpheus, and Theseus, and a ship called the Argo, and set off.

Jason and the Argonauts had many adventures getting there and back, including a fight with the most beautiful stop-motion animation skeletons you ever did see, but in Colchis successfully got their hands on the Golden Fleece. In this Jason was helped – ok, basically handheld through it – by Medea, sorceress, interesting female character, and (thanks to Aphrodite) Jason’s mind-controlled love slave***.

Medea is hard-core, man: she kills her own brother to cover their escape from Colchis, and when they get back to Iolcus murders the hell out of Pelias too. Jason, having gotten all he wanted, promptly spurns Medea for some other woman, and so Medea kills her as well, and leaves Greece for good. (She has other adventures afterwards, usually resolved by magical killin’, because ancient fanfiction writers knew this character was solid gold.) Jason, for being an ungrateful little shit, gets a particularly great death: he has a nap under the shade of the beached Argo, and a piece falls off and crushes him.

Iason doesn’t line up all that well with Jason beyond the general outlines of “mythological hero” – he’s way less of a self-centred jerk, to start – but Lemma’s not the worst imaginable match for Medea. They’re both foreigner sorceresses, with a somewhat itchier trigger finger than is probably good for them, and have episodic adventures all over the world. If I were her family, I’d think carefully before eating her Thanksgiving potluck, is all I’m saying.

I’ve totally blasted through all my history space here; we’ll, uh, we’ll get to Egypt Khemeth next time around. :/ 😉

*Not that timelining Greek mythology is a task for the timid, even compared to timelining Lemma. Look at who the bride in the Apple of Discord story is, then try to work out how old Achilles is during the Trojan War. Yeah.

**This is traditionally depicted as what it sounds like, a sheepskin made of solid gold. But there’s a probable origin for it that’s kinda interesting: the Caucasus mountains have gold deposits, which, since everyone likes gold, have been exploited since prehistory. One way to get gold out of rivers, much more efficient than the steryotypical prospector swirling pan business, is to weir the stream with sheepskin: the grease in the wool traps particulate matter, and after a few days or weeks you collect them, toss ‘em all in your smelter, and burn off everything but the gold. Hence, golden fleece.

***I’d usually describe it a little differently than that – since “Aphrodite made ____ fall in love” is usually just the Greek poetic way of saying “____ fell in love” – but in the context of this review series it’s obviously going to be sexy mind control all the way. 😉 The guy who does the litbrick comic had a similar joke, though I can’t find the exact link now:

SAPPHO: Oh Great Aphrodite! I’m in love with Erinna, but she doesn’t love me back!

APHRODITE: Don’t worry, I’ll make her love you, whether she wants to or not.

SAPPHO: Wait, what?

APHRODITE snaps her fingers.

ERINNA (glassy-eyed): Oh Sappho. I love you. So much. Please have sex. With me. Now.

SAPPHO: Augh! This is awful! 

APHRODITE: Spurn my gifts, do you? No matter, I can fix that too.

APHRODITE snaps her fingers.

SAPPHO (glassy-eyed): Oh Erinna. I love you. So much. Please have sex. With me. Now.

APHRODITE looks smug. ATHENA sticks her head in from the edge of the panel.

ATHENA: What the fuck is wrong with you?!


Next time: the party goes east and I go into the deep past. 

Ahahaha your description of Medea was amazing, and you’re right, Lemma isn’t a bad parallel to her at all. Not at all one I intended, but hey, the Author Is Dead.

I once again apologize for yanking the rug out from under you at the last minute by switching which of this and “Di-Lemma Dilemma” was going to be a pay exclusive. I’m very glad I did, though, since it meant we got your write-up of Jason and the Greek Myth Avengers Argonauts.