By Neil Kleid
"No one ever does live happily ever after, but we leave the children to find that out for themselves." — Roland Deschain, "Wolves of the Calla"
War comes to Gilead as John Farson's forces gather at the gates, howling and shouting for the blood of the Affiliation. Men in blue-painted faces, barbarians and peasants, brandish sword, spear, bah and bolt with which they plan to murder all within the city's walls. The gunslingers, meanwhile, ready their horses and load their ammunition. They make plans to hold their land and keep back Farson's bloodthirsty mob; but before they do, each man turns his attention to important matters: that of family, wives and those they'll leave behind should they fall in battle. For though men have long waged war, their children must live with its dire results.
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Gilead's children, like any whose parents defend against the forces of the Outer Dark, bear horrible injuries left by the long-simmering war between Farson and the Affiliation. Some wounds go no farther than the physical, most dig deep into the emotional, and several burrow and lay waste to the mental. In Gilead, perhaps more than any In-World barony, pain molds the youth and opens the gate to their stories. As we Constant Readers witness the FALL OF GILEAD in Marvel's fourth Dark Tower comic book series, we also remember all that has gone —the heartbreak, the harm, the loss and lies inflicted on Gilead's rising generation, in particular. Hear now and suffer the fates of Gilead's children, even as walls and gunslingers fall around them.
Technically an outsider, Susan's fate became inexorably tied to Gilead after falling in love with Roland Deschain, its favored son. Roland's mission to Mejis, Susan's home, dragged the beautiful girl into the Affiliation's war, away from the cruel frying pan of fate and into the fire of mob justice. Tied to a charyou tree and burned at the stake, Susan's death set the bar for Roland's intimates, a horrible end caused by their close relationship.
Another Mejis local, Sheemie's story rivals Susan's in sadness; "touched in the head" and humiliated in his work as tavern boy, Sheemie came afoul of the murderous desperados called the Big Coffin Hunters. Saved by Cuthbert Allgood, Sheemie set off on a confusing road that made him believe he'd caused Susan's death and dragged him to a mysterious Dogan
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whose robotic residents transformed him body and soul. Lost and alone, Sheemie eventually saved a possessed Roland from the clutches of the Crimson King, but his life would forever be changed for the worse, carrying him to the terrible reaches of End-World and the clutches of that which lived there.
Roland's story, documented and central, naturally lent itself to heartbreak and pain. Witness to his mother's betrayal and sent away to escape Marten's reach, Roland's anguish led him from suffering and towards happiness in the arms of ill-fated Susan Delgado. Following Susan's terrible death, Roland's happiness left him forever as the road carried him from torment to torture: possession by the seductive Grapefruit, palaver and conflict with Marten and the Crimson King, and finally, worst of all, matricide. Each step moved Roland away from the light and closer to his quest to find the Dark Tower, but the moments brought with them pain, suffering and the horrible knowledge that he lived while those he loved died, a feeling he will never escape.
Laughing and devil-may-care, Roland's best friend hid sorrow behind dancing eyes and jester's demeanor. Though Cuthbert—with Alain Johns—gained gunslinger status through his relationship with Steven Deschain's son, Bert acquired his pain with his own hands and by tragic means. With Roland and Alain, he went toe-to-toe with the Big Coffin Hunters and a posse of angry citizens in Mejis. He shot his favored horse when the beast fell on the road home, felt the bite of savage wolves and clashed with his best friend, Roland, after the young gunslinger fell prey to the charms of both Susan Delgado and Maerlyn's Grapefruit. Back in Gilead, Cuthbert's anguish only grew worse as he watched his friend retreat into possession, bore the stings and barbs of jealous classmates and then, before
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things really fell apart, learned his father fell prey to the savage poisons of a band of Slow Mutants
CHARLES CHAMPIGNON'S BABY:
Certain images, ugly memories can often be too great to bear, do ya ken? Like the horror-inducing fate of gunslinger Charles Champignon's unborn child. Friend to Steven Deschain and proud member of the Affiliation, Charles fell victim to a grenade's bite after hurling himself in front of his dinh
, Steven, to save his life. Charles returned to Gilead for aid and to be there when his pregnant wife gave birth—but, in a scene so provocative and nearly too disturbing to relate, Charles fell prey to John Farson's men and went mad as Farson tore Charles' unborn child from its mother's womb and slowly licked it, head to toe.
Would you call suffering in silence, forced to forget what you most desire when it's there for the taking, a sort of pain? Then feast your eyes on Aileen Ritter, niece to Cortland Andrus and trainer to Gilead's gunslingers, who hoped to win her guns, same as her peers. No woman has ever been welcomed into the Affiliation's ranks and Aileen ached to be the first, but her uncle Cort vowed to steer her from the armory and into the court by marrying her off to Roland Deschain. Desperate to become a gunslinger, Aileen proved her independence by stealing guns from the armory to practice, a short-lived triumph amid heartbreak and loss; despite being accepted by Bert and Alain, Aileen could not help Roland forget Susan Delgado to win his heart, a prize she secretly lusted for. And though she's found common ground with her uncle Cort, who finally allows her to pursue his dream, a poisonous war journal—created by Marten; left and set by Farson's nephew—laced with dragon blood threatens to tear him from her life and truly make her an orphan.
Don't miss the next exciting chapter in the Dark Tower epic: DARK TOWER: THE FALL OF GILEAD #3 hits stores on July 22! You can read DARK TOWER: TREACHERY #1 for free with Marvel Digital Comics Unlimited. And for more on Dark Tower, visit Marvel.com's hub page and Stephen King's official web site!
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