We’re back! Before Sam Sykes’s minotaur-laden interlude, our Heroes of the Lance were sliding down ropes and making a hasty escape from Solace. In this week’s chapters, they’re doing… pretty much the same.
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“Farewell to Flint. Arrows Fly. Message in the Stars.” and “Night in a Cave, Dissension. Tanis Decides.”
Our motley crew sucks at making a quick getaway. They’ve already accidentally killed some goblins and destroyed Tika’s house, and now they’ve got nowhere to go. So they make for the lake—Tas is sure to score a boat from somewhere, isn’t he? Best not to ask how but yeah, a boat and across the crystal lake to some caves—it’s a sound plan. A little basic, but it’s not like they have an extremely powerful mage with them to help them get elsewhere fast, is it? Wait…
Flint doesn’t like boats. Too bad—the goblins are attacking! Everyone gets in the ‘borrowed’ boat, there is some goblin bow & arrow action, some Flint comic relief action that ends with him being dragged half-drowned into the boat (it’s a big boat, okay?), some Raistlin magic action that finally saves the day. He uses some sleepy sand to knock the attacking goblins out and gets winded right away. Wow, this Raistlin, huh? He sure does get tired easily.
But not tired enough to not notice something that shocks Goldmoon as well. The constellations known as the Queen of Darkness and the Valiant Warrior have vanished from the sky. They are just… gone. ’She has come to Krynn’, explains Raistlin, ’and he has come to fight her’. Surely the constellations are not real people, surely they portents of something else? Who or what are the Queen and Warrior? We shall have to wait and see.
For now, it is enough to know that the cosmos has changed, the balance has somehow shifted. Raistlin tells everyone that they must now expect ‘war, death, destruction’ (weren’t they anyway?), as storm clouds ‘obliterate’ the ‘gaping back holes left by the fallen stars’.
It’s all quite dramatic but even through the thunderstorm and lightning, goblin attacks very very frightening, everyone makes it to the cave on the other side of the lake, where they try to work out what to do. Sturm offers to take first watch. Riverwind doesn’t quite trust him and wants to help. Sturm’s honour (ego?) is hurt. There is tension. Goldmoon calls off her man. Everyone finally gets some rest.
In the morning there is rubbish for breakfast and no one is happy. But they are alive and now must decide where to head next. They lay out the land for us—I mean, each other—and though Raistlin suggests the terrible path of the Darken Woods, they choose to not fight the dead (zombies?!) and instead, Tanis decides they should head through Solace Vale to help Goldmoon and Riverwind (and the magic staff) reach Haven. Goldmoon having accepts their help, even though Riverwind does not trust those who are not human (that’s about half of our lot). They move ahead, with Riverwind erasing their tracks as they go.
Monster of the Week
Nothing special this time. Same old easy to defeat goblins and their pesky possibly poisoned arrows. I maintain that Raistlin is a hidden monster. He’s coughing blood, fastidiously cleaning out the cup he drinks his strange leafy brew in. He’s got something going on, he does. I’m quite perturbed at how weak he is physically, given the great magical prowess he has meant to have achieved. He keeps reminding us that he gave up his body for his powers but… if he can’t stand upright after a sleepy-time spell, how is he going to fight wars? Very worrying indeed.
‘I am a Knight of Solamnia. My word is my honour and my honour is my life. I gave my word, back in the Inn, that I would protect you and your lady. If you choose to dispute my word, you dispute my honour and therefore you insult me. I cannot allow that insult to remain between us.’—Sturm
These two chapters may not cover much ground in terms of action (or even literal ground), but they do start to set up the power dynamics that will presumably grow and challenge the group’s internal balance.
Sturm’s overreaction (quoted above) when Riverwind wants to stand guard with him is just absurd.
So because a stranger doesn’t quite trust him, he considers it a personal insult to his honour and wants to fight him? Hey Sturm, your order is dead, there are no knights any more and while it’s all very earnest and admirable that you stick to some ancient code no one but you remembers, it’s a bit ridiculous that you expect everyone else to buy into it too. So, dude, chill the hell out. This is not personal.
A week or so ago Jared was saying how Sturm was the cool one—likeable, easygoing and chill, but now I’m beginning to sense it’s not all mister nice guy with him, not all the time. He’s even got some issues with his own acceptance of Tanis’ leadership, questioning why he listens to this ‘bastard half-elf’ who has no ‘noble blood’. He clearly does not like it when anyone even slightly doubts his intentions, even if it’s someone who doesn’t know him. There may be some rage issues hidden under that hey-ho what’s up bro facade, and I’m waiting for them to come roaring out.
We also get a sense of the power dynamic between Goldmoon and Riverwind—he owns her heart but she owns… him? She’s a princess, she’s a priestess, she’s a goddess, she’s the Chieftain’s daughter, as we have been told repeatedly. In case there is any doubt, she explains again, ‘He rules my heart, but I am his ruler. Once, when we were young, we thought we could forget that. But I have been ‘Chieftain’s Daughter’ too long.’ That’s right. Don’t forget that Chieftain’s daughter bit. She’s important, this passive healer.
These two chapters are kind of (whispers) boring. I mean, “Tanis Decides.” is billed as one of the key moments. We get a second tutorial combat—I mean, goblins, really?—and then a camping trip.
I also think Mahvesh makes a good point in that Sturm is being a bit of a knob here. Riverwind’s got issues (he so far has more issues than lines, honestly), but it isn’t fair that Sturm expects everyone else to recognise and appreciate the Solamnic code of honor. Down with the solamniarchy!
That said, there are a few things I enjoyed. Despite the obvious drive to get the party out of Solace, the authors make time to point out that these otherwise archetypical characters have a bit of a past. Flint is—so far—a bit of a sidekick, but the mentions of boats and swimming and past chaos adds a fraction of depth to the party’s relationships. Ditto, the bit where Caramon steals everyone’s porridge.
Also, and I’m not kidding—one of the great lines in all fantasy fiction—flagged up by Mahvesh above:
‘She has come to Krynn, and he has come to fight her.’
This line is about 10,000 times better when delivered by my mental Raistlin, who sounds suspiciously like Alan Rickman. But over and above the whole #epicquestin12words challenge, this—and the missing constellations—hints that maybe we’re into something a lot bigger than goblins and boat trips. There’s been a lot of railroading so far, but aside from the whole “armies in the north” shtick, there’s been no hint of anything more. And this line—this line is big. Goblins, shmoblins, the universe has been rearranged, and cosmic powers are gearing up for a titanic battle. Yes, please!
Also, I really respect that the party has a terrible breakfast. That’s a nice of note (otherwise absent) realism: they ran off after looting their minimum-wage-waitress friend’s kitchen, so all they’ve got is a small bag of stale food. First, they kind of deserve this—jerks. (Here’s how guilty they all felt about trashing Tika’s place: NOT AT ALL.)
Second, as any fantasy reader or regular RPG player can tell you, no one ever thinks about rations. I’m not going to say that a lousy breakfast is one of the Great Pioneering Moments in Epic Fantasy History, but… it is a nice touch, and certainly something that breaks with your normal high fantasy expectations. Their camp is cold, wet and uncomfortable—fragile Raistlin’s actually in danger from the damp. The lack of food emphasises how unprepared they are for this adventure, but also how awful adventuring really is. There’s something glamorous about raiding tombs and fighting goblins, but there’s nothing ‘heroic’ about sitting in a wet cave, eating expired oatmeal. No wonder Tanis et al are so quasi-reluctant. Remember—they each just returned from five years of this sort of treatment, and were expecting a much more pleasant evening. Hell, in Tanis’s mind, he’s supposed to be having a hot and heavy reunion with Kitiara, not cold and stodgy porridge.
That’s possibly more than anyone should ever write about the importance of bad porridge, but, hey, welcome to our reread…
Next week: We crawl another few feet from Solace! Raistlin is creepy! The further dudebro adventures of Sturm!
Mahvesh loves dystopian fiction & appropriately lives in Karachi, Pakistan. She writes about stories & interviews writers the Tor.com podcast Midnight in Karachi when not wasting much too much time on Twitter.