Published: 5 May, 2018
Spoilers in effect.
And here we are at the very end (almost). The Chekov’s gun doomspell Lemma’s been toting around since “Sucker For a Good Book” and which has been hanging over her head specifically since “The Choosing One” finally pays off, and it’s pretty great*.
A lot of things are paid off here, actually (they’d better be, it’s the climax of the series). Rhoda gets to be heroic, as usual***; Lemma and Iola have only been on the outs for one story but they resolve that again; Iason, big doofy slab of decency that he is, gets to sacrifice himself for the greater good; Lemma gets to finally admit that she loves Iason and rescue him from his heroic sacrifice. And they kiss, for real, for the first time.
And Iola gets to make up for “Iola Special!” and “The Choosing One”. Which is not the most important part of the plot in this story – you could, and I probably will, argue that the whole arc is about Lemma and Iason hooking up – but it’s the part that makes me the happiest. Lemma and Iason bounce back from some pretty awful shit without blinking; Iola’s been dealing with it in a much worse (put probably more plausible) way, as symbolized by the two times so far she’s refused Iason’s offer of their father’s sword out of guilt****.
Now she’s got another group of innocent, besieged women to defend from evil, soul-eating forces, and she does so. (The destruction of Ardatlili is probably the cleverest single thing in the story; the fact that Iola and Ardatlili got a death-feud going in less than six hours beats out even Rhoda’s goodness and puppies speech for the funniest.*****) Iola is finally able to think of herself as a hero again, she’s rescued hundreds of people******, earned her father’s sword (at least in her own eyes; I’m with Iason that it was always hers for the taking), and can go off and have exciting adventures fighting monsters and saving people again. It’s great.
Iason and Lemma finally have an honest discussion about their feelings (the fact that Iason is a dom, and just has been too decent and self-concious to act on it, is a little over-neat but by this point Lemma has damn well earned it). And that’s it for the publicly available stories! There’s one more story, an epilogue, but @midorikonton has thankfully made this a satisfying jumping-off point. I’ll cover the epilogue (briefly) next time.
*Back then Lemma described the spell as being really, really simple and low-power, which in this sort of thing is usually just puffery. But the description of it in this actually does bear that out, which is a nice touch. Relatedly, Vamp!Brea’s plan is never laid out explicitly, but my suspicion is that it would have been to have Lemma slag the city as soon as possible, unmaking Ardatlili** and Asmodai and Iason and Iola but “protecting” the world from destruction.
**Blink and you miss it, but she survives! Iola kills her, which really just means unsummoning, so she isn’t in Hattush when it gets unmade. So she’s still kicking around, which wouldn’t make a bad sequel hook.
***We also get a hilarious explanation of how Rhoda makes heroic demon-summoning work:
“[…]They’re evil, they can only get you if you do evil, and we’re good guys, so we don’t.“
I stopped dead in the street and stared at her.
“What?” she asked.
“You…” I sputtered. "How are you not already in some demon’s thrall?“
"Because I’m a good guy,” she repeated slowly and with emphasis. “So I don’t do evil, so they can’t get me.”
It’s usually the other way around – “I’m a good guy, so what I’m doing can’t be evil” – and that leads to lots of awful things. Rhoda’s got it the right way around, which is harder; but I suppose in a career where your soul will be eaten within 30s of your first evil deed, you’ve got what we call incentive.
****At the ends of “The Glamour-ous Life of a Slave” and “The Choosing One”, natch.
*****It reminded me of a particularly quotable joke from the always-brilliant Narbonic. “Dave… have you been battling my arch-nemesis behind my back?” “He’s our arch-nemesis now, Helen.” Incidentally, @midorikonton is also a big fan of Narbonic, as all right-thinking people should be. 😉
****** “Oh, by the way, all the kids escaped” is a little funny in its blunt contrivance – right up there with “a monster is attacking the abandoned warehouse district!” from Power Rangers. But, as the DCEU movies have been working very hard to prove, the alternative is much, much worse. Besides, I’ve spent half the review series nursing a grudge against the opening of “The Choosing One”; I can hardly complain that Jenny has since learned better. 🙂
When The Fuck Are We? 🤷
Hattush is Ḫattuša, the Hittite capital, probably, although there’s mostly only circumstantial evidence here. (The goddess whose temple they end up defending is Hittite, at any rate.) In the real world, the Hittites were an empire in Anatolia (modern-day Turkey) that dominated the near east towards the end of the Bronze Age. Part of the reason for this was their early mastery of iron; still rare and expensive, but enough to kick off the Iron Age and give them a crushing strategic advantage. (This gets a minor shout-out in the story; Hattush is where Iason’s father had his sword forged.) Ḫattuša was destroyed along with the Hittite Empire and a lot of other places during the Bronze Age Collapse; so this is at the right time, even if real Ḫattuša left remains and not a giant smouldering crater. Still, at least we can go out on the high note of “we’re actually at the Bronze Age Collapse, huzzah!” Plus, I’ve always had a soft spot for the Hittites, all the way back to when I was first introduced to them in the AoE 1 demo.
This story, being concerned with the much-more-Christian-than-anything-else-in-the-series demons, also imports great piles of Judeo-Christian folklore. Nephilim, in Hebrew mythology* were the descendants of angels sent to watch over humanity, and the human women that they got their rocks on for. (Sometimes the women they bone are descendants of the cursed Cain, specifically.) They were giants and “warriors of renown”. People have periodically explained dinosaur bones as the bones of the Nephilim. So not a lot like the baby demons depicted here.
Lilith, Ardatlili and Asmodai’s boss, was (again according to tradition) Adam’s first wife, also created from dirt, who got kicked out and replaced by rib-critter Eve for not being subservient to him. She is traditionally the mother of all sorts of monsters, especially sexy ones, so that lines up. Her demonic aspect probably also was something of a conflation with neighbouring Mesopotamian fertility goddesses: the Israelites were pretty industrious about making all of their neighbours’ gods into demons. Asmodeus, probably originally a god of a Syrian tribe near Judea – I told you – is the demon prince associated with the Deadly Sin of Lust, which in medieval demonology makes him Lilith’s boss, because gender roles.
Dybbuks are modern** Jewish folklore: malicious ghosts who possess people. They’re not really demonic, just evil, but as they’ve been incorporated into broader popular culture they’ve been conflated with demonic possession pretty generally, so that also matches up. The poor victims of Hattush probably most closely resemble the “gebbeths” of A Wizard of Earthsea, though. 😉
*Which is to say, the word’s used once or twice in the Bible but all the actual details I recount come from apocrypha like 1 Enoch or just oral tradition. Ditto for all the other names, except for the ones that don’t even occur once.
**“Modern” in the historical sense: post-1600 CE or so. The word is Yiddish rather than Hebrew. That’s still enough to make it comfortably the most recent thing in the whole series, give or take a “French maid” joke.
Next time: brief coverage of the epilogue, and look back at the series as a whole.
Actually, there’s nothing in the texts from which the concept originates to suggest that the nephilim were gigantic, only that they were very powerful. I was going more for the sense that they’re half human and half monstrous Other. Also my general approach to demons in this series has been that they’re literally the only thing Christianity got right, and even there it’s a little off (the list of demon houses is NOT the same as the list of deadly sins, for example).
Dybbuks are possessed by malicious spirits of some kind–they can be ghosts, but they can be other things as well, including demons. But yes, these are really more gebbeths.