Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread! Last week: gully dwarves and draconians. This week: one more gully dwarf! And other more exciting stuff.
As always, we’re going to keep the reread post spoiler-free, but the comments are open to any and all discussion, so proceed with caution!
The Broken City. Highbulp Phudge I, the Great. The Highbulp’s Map. A Spellbook of Fistandantilus.
The party have followed Bupu, Raistlin’s Gully Dwarf buddy, through the slimy tunnels underneath Xak Tsaroth, nimbly avoiding conflict with the army of draconians that hold the city. That is to say, the party is doing what it does best: wandering about.
During the Cataclysm, the glorious city of Xak Tsaroth fell off a cliff. The lifts (which we learn were invented by a particularly clever Gully Dwarf) are one way of getting from ‘the bits on top’ to ‘the bits down below’. But Bupu has other ways, and much to the party’s horror, it involves climbing down really big vines.
This gives us an excuse for some character development (although, sadly, no one starts flinging weaponry around, like they did in Solace). Goldmoon is apparently afraid of heights (again, not something that came up in Solace?) and struggles until Riverwind shames her into giving the vines a go. Tanis also manages to climb down this time without failing his skill check… until he slips near the bottom. (WORST RANGER EVER.)
And Raistlin, being Raistlin, just hops off and floats down.
Although the draconians are all still hanging out on the surface, the undercity isn’t completely devoid of monsters. The dragon, for instance. We get a bit of monstercam, as Onyx complains to her draconian minions that there’s a goddamn adventuring party sullying her otherwise lovely ruined city. Oh, and by the way she kind of hates it here. She name drops “Lord Verminaard,” which is the second time we’ve had him referenced, and he’s sounding increasingly like the Big Bad.
Back to the heroes… there’s a bit of discussion about the likelihood of fighting a dragon (Caramon and Sturm want to, because Caramon is dumb and Sturm is insane). Bupu takes the party to meet the Highbulp, which cues a half dozen pages of slapstick comedy. Gully Dwarves are a) dumb, b) smelly, c) eat strange stuff, d) can’t count. Hilarity ensues.
There’s a bit of history inserted here, explaining how the Gully Dwarves came to Xak Tsaroth (accidentally, because they are dumb).
The Highbulp has a weirdly lop-sided conversation with the party, in which everyone decides that they don’t trust one another. This becomes a self-fulfilling prophesy as they then betray one another and the Highbulp sends a message to the dragon…
The party schemes for a while—basically, half the party are going to distract the dragon while the other half burst into the treasury and steal the Disks. Easy peasy. That sorted, there’s some down-time—an excuse for Riverwind and Goldmoon to remind one another (and the readers) of how they met and how much they love one another and that Goldmoon is still hot. While they make kissy-faces, Raistlin bullies Caramon into a secret side-quest. Apparently our totally trustworthy and in no way sinister wizard is after a spellbook—a book of ‘night blue leather’, ‘runes of silver’ and ‘deathly cold to the touch’. NOTHING COULD POSSIBLY BE WRONG WITH THIS. Raistlin assures Caramon that this is just a, you know, wizard thing, and whatever, stop questioning him, and shut up, Caramon.
And then it is go time—the party split up and go off on their dragon hunt. There’s some more wandering about, and then, after a couple doors (everyone forgets that half of D&D is about opening doors), they peek up into the dragon’s lair… and it is all dark. Magic dark. Whatever’s happened, Onyx is waiting.
How’s that for a cliffhanger?
Monster(s) of the Week
Gully Dwarves. Did we mention that were dumb, smelly and can’t count? They can’t! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA…I am so tired of Gully Dwarves. There’s a random aside about Gully Dwarf style that’s pretty cute, I guess—apparently they decorated a lot of nude statues in an anatomically correct way? I guess? Eh.
We also get monstercam again for Onyx. She’s grumpy.
“[Sturm] wants to fight the dragon, too, Tanis realized. He is thinking of Huma, the perfect knight, called Dragonbane.”
Yup. Sturm’s crazy. But at least he’s crazy in a really interesting way—his fixation on glory is actually rather compelling, at least as far as character development goes.
“To magic-users, this book is Xak Tsaroth’s greatest treasure. You may be certain that if the dragon found it, she is using it!”
Raistlin, describing the spellbook of Fistandantilus. I’m sure there are magical ways and means, but I like the idea of the massive honking dragon gingerly turning the pages of a teeny, tiny book with her claws. And wouldn’t human handwriting be the equivalent of trying to read something in size 1 font? Poor dragon.
“Strangers who attacked her forces with skill and daring.”
Khisanth is describing the party. Generously. They’ve got daring a-plenty, but the battle in the lifts wasn’t exactly… skillful. Maybe she’s already preparing her excuses to Verminaard.
“The half-elf found the climb easy, though he slipped the last few feet, landing in an inch of water.”
Never change, Tanis.
There’s a fair amount of name-dropping going on here, isn’t there? I’m going to assume that everything related to Gully Dwarf history is meaningless, but even setting that aside, we get two big names:
Verminaard. The first instance of Verminaard was as a signature in the (destroyed) village of Que-Shu. Thanks to the monstercam, we now know Verminaard’s gender (“Lord Verminaard”) and that he is in command of the dragon—which means he’s a pretty impressive fellow. Is he human? Draconian? Dragon? We’ll see. Also another great example of Dragonlance nomenclature. No one named “Verminaard” is going to be a good guy, are they?
Fistandantilus. Nothing good comes of long-dead wizards, “one of the greatest of the order.” Especially when, as Caramon presses, it becomes fairly clear that he wore the Black Robes. But, hey, I’m sure this will be fine.
Riverwind and Goldmoon have a very strange relationship. I suppose they are a timeless and tormented love—and they’ve certainly overcome their share of problems—but Riverwind clearly has real (and unresolved) struggles regarding their different social backgrounds. In these chapters alone, we have:
- Riverwind mocking Goldmoon’s pride, and pointing out that she’s the princess of a one-person tribe
- Goldmoon recalling how they first met—when he refused to bow to her and her father
- Riverwind recalled how they first met—and how her anger turned him on (also, she’s hot. Goldmoon’s hot, y’all.)
- Goldmoon agreeing that his disobedience was pretty sexy
- The two of them deciding that when the adventure is over, Goldmoon can stop being “Chieftain’s Daughter” and then “Goldmoon will be yours forever.”
That last bit is particularly creepy. First, for all practical purposes, Goldmoon is actually Chieftain (unless the Que-Shu don’t allow women to take command, I suppose?). Second, the fact that their future relationship hopes are predicated on her surrendering her birthright, her ‘profession’ and her ‘superiority’ over Riverwind (as they both see it)—that’s all a little odd.
Nor is there any sort of assumption that he could possibly rise to her level. Could he not be Chieftain’s Consort? The Prince Phillip of Que-Shu? Or is this a combination where his class and her gender just make the situation impossible, and the only way to resolve it is for her to give up everything she’s worked for and all her responsibilities and throw herself into outcast status?
It is all very dramatic, but you’ve got to think that these two aren’t being particularly fair to Goldmoon. Or maybe they just prefer the drama? I look forward to Tanis’s LiveJournal updates about.
Tanis’ LiveJournal updates! Wouldn’t those be just riveting? He could totally teach us how not to climb or jump or, for that matter, come up with plans that involve a bit of wandering around, some suspecting of friends and a lot of ‘oh shit I can’t see I think I just got us all killed’ moments. But they don’t die, do they? Oh no, they’re the chosen ones! Seriously—why are they chosen again? I’m starting to ask this as much as this lot do.
I’m made very uncomfortable by the Goldmoon and Riverwind situation here. Whose pimping who, as Prince would ask. No, really—what’s going on? Jared has laid down the details above and knowing them doesn’t help explain this relationship. They love each other, we get it but Riverwind clearly has some insecurities about being consort to the Chieftain (I agree, let’s drop this ‘daughter of’ business, what is this, Saudi Arabia?) and this seems to have rubbed off on Goldmoon who seems to genuinely believe that she can’t both lead her people and be a good partner/lover/wife/whatever he wants to Riverwind. I found his comment that she currently has a single subject really cruel, in particular, given her trauma at the terrible destruction of her homeland. Too soon, Riverwind, too soon.
Also—this whole gold/silver hair hence beauty business mixed in with the whole plainsmen as lightly disguised Native Americans is still bothering me. I want to know what the other plainswomen look like.
These two chapters had a lot of info-dumping that made me wonder why on earth we need a concise history of Gully Dwarves at all. They also had a nice bit of dragon-conversation though, which was fun even though yeah, Onyx is hella grumpy. What’s interesting is that she doesn’t really believe that Verminaard is her master—‘if you insist on the charade’, she tells her draconian minion sarcastically, knowing as we all do that she’s basically at the top of the food chain here. No matter how scary this Verminaard may be, who has anything against a dragon? Perhaps old Fisty of the Black Robes may have had something up his sleeve, but he’s dead and Onyx has his spell book now. Bet a dragon doesn’t have to re-learn spells every day.
Speaking of…where’s Raistlin?! Tanis immediately suspects him of betraying them because that is what Tanis does—hate on poor, spluttering floaty Raistlin. Tanis, I guarantee you, is jealous because the mage is the one with all the cool. Plus a Gully Dwarf has a crush on him.
Next week—Did Raistlin really betray them for a spellbook?!
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 onTwitter.