Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Adventures in Agapeland: The Music Machine - chapters five through nine

Last time in the only Agapeland chapter book ever, in a story-within-a-story, Stevie and Nancy found themselves in Agapeland, met Mr. Conductor and went to bed in a giant tree, all while something was being plotted in the land of Aire.

Chapter V - An Evil Deed

As the title promises, this chapter details Mr. Pimms' evil plan. Which starts at twilight, with Mr. Pimms and the Pudgians heading toward the river, although the narrator acts like he's never seen them before. The Pudgians wonder how they're planning to get across the river into Agapeland, since the only way is the King's Ferry, and obviously, there's no disguising themselves. This isn't really built on, but evidently Aireians are not allowed in Agapeland. But Mr. Pimms happens to know a guy named Boodle who runs a barge across the river, although this guy is not too pleased to see Pimms. Seems the last time they crossed paths, things didn't go well for Boodle, so he charges Mr. Pimms three times the usual fee. Also, Boodle talks with lots of 'ye' and 'thee' phrasings for no good reason. Seriously, nobody else talks like this in the entire book.
Boodle gets them across the river in an old, grody barge and Mr. Pimms is all "I'll be the most respected person in Aire when this is done!" as he sends the Pudgians off to get supplies for the task at hand. And so the Pudgians take to the trees, since they're adept swingers as it were, and find a small farm where they steal a tarse (a kind of pack animal) and a cart. With the cart, they make their way to a village and steal a bunch of supplies (ropes and the like), then continue on their way. Before they make it to the arranged meeting place, they hear two of the Royal Guards (dressed in blue and silver) talking about the recent robbery, and so they set up a trap, which the guards fall into rather readily. They tie up the guards and question them, but the guards aren't talking, so they hide the two men in the bushes and move on. The Pudgians finally get to the meadow and see "it" (I'm sure you know what it is), and start getting cold feet, but Mr. Pimms shows up and ends the chapter.

Chapter VI - The Riddle
The majority of this chapter is really a dream that Stevie and Nancy share, a dream full of foreshadowing! Basically, they dream that Agapeland is dying, Nancy almost falls down a deep pit, and a bird shows up and sings them a song about faith. And they hear the voice of Majesty tell them, "When the problems seem bigger/Than mountains so high/Remember the song/Of the sparrow and fly!" This will be important later.
And then they wake up, all "Phew, it was only a dream!" But then Stevie opens the door of the tree and Agapeland really is dying, although not as extremely as in their dream.

Chapter VII - Two on the Trail
Stevie and Nancy are still in shock at dying Agapeland, especially since it's the first day of the festival! How shocking! *cough cough* So they go to look for Mr. Conductor, hoping for some answers. As they reach the meadow, they find the Conductor in despair, and notice a hole where the Music Machine should be. The kids naturally ask the obvious questions, and Mr. Conductor explains that the Music Machine has been stolen! Obviously someone from Aire is behind it, and I'd say that's stereotyping if we didn't know he was right. And so he goes to get instructions from Majesty, leaving the kids behind.
Not the type to just be left behind, Stevie suggests they try to solve the crime themselves, and they start looking for clues, easily finding the wagon tracks (the machine has to be seriously heavy). They follow the tracks, hoping to catch up with the culprits, but they get tired and take a break. That's when they hear something in the bushes and uncover the Royal Guardsmen. Stevie ungags them and they introduce themselves as Majesty's Attendants. The kids untie the attendants, introduce themselves, and fill the attendants in on the Music Machine's disappearance. The attendants instantly realize that the ruffians who tied them up must have been after the machine, and tell the kids all they know. Like Mr. Conductor, they plan to go and get instructions from Majesty, but don't plan on taking the kids with them. Stevie tells them that's quite all right, since they're on the trail and all. So one of the attendants tells them the best way to get into Aire, and sends them in the direction of his friend Jakar, who can give them more information. They prepare to part ways, but the attendant also warns them of Prince Nakel, the evil ruler of Aire. Judging from his warning, you might expect the prince to show up in the story sooner than he does, but no, he doesn't show up for another six chapters. With that, the attendants take off with such speed that Stevie decides he wants to be one when he grows up.
It takes them all day to get to Jakar's house, traveling through a rapidly deteriorating Agapeland. Jakar is apparently a half-giant, like Hagrid from the Harry Potter series, at least that's how the description sounded to me. The kids introduce themselves as friends of the attendants, and fill Jaker in on the sordid details of the stolen Music Machine. He invites them in and introduces them to his wife, Blessing, a woman way too beautiful to be a farmwife. She feeds them, and when the meal is almost done, something starts crawling up Nancy's leg. It's a Huggit, according to Jakar, named Bundle, basically fur with legs that dies if it cannot lavish affection on something. It attaches itself to Nancy, and the two kids go to bed, while the narrator ominously tells us this is the last good night's sleep they'll get for a while.

Chapter VIII - Mr. Pimms' Plans
Going back in time to earlier that day, Mr. Pimms is having trouble getting the cart with the Music Machine to stay steady on the barge, and the tarse causes so much damage that Boodle charges another 50 silver pieces, wiping Mr. Pimms' money supply clean out.
Back on dry land, Pimms' exults in the first part of his plan going over, granted with a few hitches. But the fact of the matter is, they're going to need money to continue, so Mr. Pimms comes up with another plan, a more short-term one. By the time they reach the nearest town, he's got it down pat. But first, they all rest in a grove outside the town and finally get some sleep (I was starting to wonder. I mean, the Pudgians got some sleep on the cart but Mr. Pimms has been going nonstop since the previous night).
Anyway, the plan is simple. Mr. Pimms sends the Pudgians out after midnight to steal both food and instruments from the Band Master's shop. The first part goes all right, but of course stealing the instruments gets noisy, and the Band Master wakes up, so they tie him up and stuff him in a wardrobe. In a move that's actually fairly clever for a Pudgian, Growdy puts up a sign saying the shop will be closed all day, so no one will come looking.
The Pudgians keep the trouble they had from Mr. Pimms, who is optimistic about the next part of his plan: with the tarse and Pudgians dressed up, they drive into the town of Chartsan on Market Day, put on a show, and get money for showing off the Music Machine. A good plan that almost works, except that a banker recognizes Mr. Pimms's magic tricks (involving his pet rat, who I've been leaving out of the summary). Apparently the last time Mr. Pimms was there, he scammed the villagers with a medicine man routine (something like Dr. Tewilliger from Pete's Dragon, I'm assuming). And then the Band Master shows up, screaming about thieves, and the passengers of the cart beat a hasty retreat with the angry crowd chasing them for quite a ways.
After a good long while, they finally outrun the crowd, but their money situation is still in the dumps. The Pudgians start to get disillussioned with Mr. Pimms' master plan, but he nips any thoughts of rebellion in the bud. Meanwhile, the tarse is so tired out that they have to leave it behind and pull the wagon themselves. Mr. Pimms delegates this to Snard and Boogwart, who complain behind his back, although Snard sagely predicts that the worst is yet to come.

Chapter IX - Journey Into the Mountains
And we're back with the kids, just waking up after their last good night's sleep in a while. Downstairs, Blessing gives them breakfast and Jakar gives them directions through the mountains (he'd go with them, but his job is to watch the foot of the mountains, and it's extra important that he do it now). They also give Bundle to Nancy, since it won't detach itself from her arm, except to eat. With a bag of provisions, they start off on their journey.
Agapeland is just more and more dead by the second, so they get a move on. They follow a stream (which the narrator mentions is fed by "the legendary Crystal Springs, but that is another story") that will take them to a bridge, which will lead them to the Migadawsh Mountains. But when they get to the bridge, they find their way is blocked by a giant snail! It is Herbert the Snail, but not the one of the song, that's his great grandfather. In fact, Herbert sings the entire song to the kids when he finds out they're in a hurry (this takes up a little over a page). It isn't until the song is over that the kids learn that Herbert is actually stuck in the bridge. Stevie and Nancy push him from the front, but he's too slippery (he is a snail, after all), so he lets them climb over him so they can push from behind. Fortunately, that works, and the kids start on their way. But it's only after all that that Herbert thinks to ask why they're in such a hurry, and they explain the whole story. Herbert decides to come with them and gets stuck in the bridge again, even though the kids try to warn him. So they get him unstuck again, and they all get on their way.
Everywhere they go, they're reminded of the death and decay coming to Agapeland. By eveningtide, they spot a campfire, and with further investigation, a whole campground, but no one in it. Only, it turns out to be an ambush! A menacing voice warns them to put their hands up and threatens them vaguely, and the chapter ends.

And so does this post. I'll have the next bit of summaries up sooner, so you won't be in suspense for too long.

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