Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread! Last week: Tanis’ LiveJournal updates! This week: The city falls! The Twins save the day! Raistlin is fantastic!
We’re up to Chapters 21 and 22 of Dragons of Autumn Twilight: “The Sacrifice. The Twice-Dead City.” and “Bupu’s Gift. An Ominous Sight.” 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!
It seems like we’re always starting with the Raistlin blaming—did he betray them or didn’t He? Tanis is sure he is loyal to them…sorta sure. Sure-ish. The gang head out to try and negotiate with the dragon for the Disks. Because that seems like a worthy plan at this point (that’s how bad things are). Tas waxes lyrical about fatalism and death and how the kender are all cool with dying. Flint is sad at the thought of dead kender but he’s a manly dwarf so he mans up, manly man dwarf style and deflects with sarcasm.
They enter the chamber with the dragon loot in it. The dragon lights up the room, saying ‘Yes, let us have light’ in a voice ‘as cold and dark as winter midnight’. (What a great description!)
Onyx sits atop her hoard of jewels and gold and is the only thing lit up, ‘on top of the pedestal like some huge beast of prey’. Which is basically what she is. Of course, Sturm starts up the Raistlin-blaming again, until they see that he is, in fact, trapped beneath the dragon’s claw.
Onyx points out that her fight is with none of them. Damn right. Who are they, anyway?
Raistlin seems to be prepping a suicide-spell while Onyx tells Goldmoon to hand over the staff if any of them are to live. Goldmoon seems to be hearing voices in her head and is following their alternate plan instead. she asks Tanis to hold Riverwind back so she can do what she must. As she approaches the dragon with the staff, Raistlin lays trapped, bitterly contemplating the likely eventuality that he may actually have to die for these bumbling fools. ‘I am wasting myself—and for what?’ I ask myself that daily, brother Raistlin.
Goldmoon and Raistlin seem to have a mind to mind connect, sharing the imaginary voices they are hearing. There is a suggestion of immortality. It is confusing. The spell comes to Raistlin’s mind as he sees Goldmoon come up and freeze with dragonfear (that’s totally a thing!), but she gets over herself and tries one last attempt at negotiating with Onyx, who points out that the Dragon Highmaster Lord Verminaard may act favourably to Goldmoon surrendering the staff without any further drama. Unfortunately no deal is struck, but Sturm has located the Disks. Goldmoon gives in to the voices in her head and swings her staff to hit the dragon’s clawed foot poised above Raistliin (his spell seems to be on pause, I don’t know why, don’t’ distract from the main action!)
Now here’s where stuff gets all serious and another major action sequence starts. The staff shatters and from within it emerges a radiant blue lightsaber! No, really – it breaks and shines a light so strong that it consumes both the dragon and Goldmoon. Sturm does as he he vowed to, and finds the Disks. In doing this he also manages to rescue Raistlin who of course is unconcerned with his injuries and wants to find a certain spellbook instead. Things fall apart right then, and it appears that the entire city is collapsing.
Goldmoon is dead. Riverwind won’t leave her behind. Tanis won’t leave him behind & manages to get crushed. Sturm gets the others the hell outta the apocalypse zone. Things change. Stuff falls. Riverwind carries Tanis out. There is total chaos, a lot of fighting off of draconians, some sleepysand spells, a sweet little rescue of Bupu by Raistlin, a bromance moment between Sturm and Tanis who appears to be alive, a combo shield and spell attack from the Twins that saves them all, thanks to Raistlin’s magic.
Not yet, though, not quite. The city is still collapsing. There seems to be a lot of city to collapse. Where do you go when the city is collapsing? To the temple, of course! Dwarven stonework, sure to withstand the very worst apocalypse, kind of Giles’ library in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Riverwind attempts to remain behind and die, but Tanis is having none of that and shames him into getting up and getting out. Once again, they leave total destruction behind. This lot are really bad at doing things quietly.
The temple is safe. Though there is peace and tranquility here, Tanis lashes out in anger and hates on the gods for Goldmoon’s death. But no! Goldmoon is alive! Her staff is now part of the marble statue of the goddess Mishakal but the necklace that had been around the statue is now around Goldmoon’s neck. Accessories swap with the goddess.
Well, then. Goldmoon seems to have crossed over into true cleric territory. I don’t know what that is yet, but I think I’d have kept the lightsaber. Regardless, she can heal Tanis with a touch and a prayer and explains that she does not have the power to unite the people of their world but rather to find the one who can (and that’s going to be a man, right? sigh).
Of course, Goldmoon does not offer to help heal Raistlin, as usual, cleric superpowers be damned. It seems war has begun, and the companions must flee Xak Tsaroth with the Disks of Mishakal.
Before we leave the companions though, we witness an emotional scene between Raistlin and Bupu, who is miserable to be away from her kind. He convinces her that he will be fine without her, and she gives him the spell book of Fistandantilus. He prays for her to have happiness and safety. It is crushingly sweet. No one sees it, though Flint makes a snarky remark that reminds us that no one knows Raistlin like we do.
Meanwhile, Solace is burning.
Monster(s) of the Week
That wonderful creature, Onyx. Smart, sharp and just full of brilliant ‘wait, who are you fools again?’ conversation. ‘My fight is with none of you’, she says. Damn right it isn’t. ‘How you have escaped my wrath so far, I do not understand.’, she says. Me neither, Onyx, me neither.
Plus, miscellaneous draconians.
‘It was dark. Magically dark.’
You don’t say. Magic, huh? Whoa.
Can we just do a collective awwww for Raistlin here, please? My favourite monster has a heart! I always knew he had it in him. This, of course, makes Raistlin all the more interesting – he isn’t all evil and clearly he does have a soul. In a rare moment of tenderness, we see Raistlin’s vulnerability, ‘a look no one in his world would ever see. He reached out and stroked Bupu’s coarse hair, knowing what it felt like to be weak and miserable, an object of ridicule and pity’.
This leads me to my rant this week—I’m so tired of Raistlin being demonised constantly! Not just do they all (except Caramon, obviously) consistently think he will betray them (for what?! what can he even betray them for—he’s the most powerful mage around! Well, sure if you’ve got a solid cough remedy then yeah, maybe…no, really, what does he even need?), but he’s always seen as a physical monster too. His strange eyes, his shrivelled up body, the blood he coughs up, his strange glowing skin (not in the fancy anti ageing cream way) and here, we have Tanis straight up staring at him in ‘horror and disgust’ as Raistlin scavenges for the spellbook. Now hang on a second—just what is so bad about this? Does no one see that Raistlin increasing his knowledge can only be helpful in their quest? And of course, no one notices that Raistlin has, essentially, a heart of gold. He goes back into the chaos to rescue Bupu (who has been nothing but annoying so please, big round of applause for R!), and that it’s his spells that eventually get them away from the attacking draconians? I’ve had quite enough of the Raistlin-bashing, thank you.
Otherwise these were a couple of action-packed chapters. Loads of fighting, much magic, dragons, draconians, death, reincarnation, the old gods and bromance galore—everything we love Dragonlance for, and everything that throws us further into being emotionally invested in this ragtag team of would be heroes.
PS: What’s up Goldmoon? I call bullshit on her weird mixed signals to Tanis. She stares at Riverwind before she goes off on her kamikaze mission but does not touch him or speak to him (weird that he just stands by, too) yet lets Tanis hold her close in his arms. Acca-scuse me? Something’s up here, and by Mishakal, I don’t like the smell of it.
I completely agree with Mahvesh. Granted, Raistlin is a bit creepy and does have his own agenda, but this is the old ‘what does the player know’ vs ‘what the does the character’ know issue, something that comes up in role-playing games all the time. As far as Tanis & Co. are concerned, Raistlin has been nothing but helpful: knowledgeable, useful, focused and, in most cases, invaluable. Alas, our slightly ableist companions are a little weirded out by his frail body, bad posture and weird skin.
And it isn’t like Raistlin is a stranger—they’ve all grown up together! Compare this to Goldmoon, for example, who is immediately and unwaveringly trusted. Perhaps this is because she’s attractive? (We know that because the book tells us that. A lot.) Even Riverwind, who has been infinitely dodgier and more difficult (as well as being outright racist) gets more leeway than Raistlin does. He’s the underdog in a party of underdogs. No wonder we all like him so much.
I also like Mahvesh’s read of the Tanis/Goldmoon/Riverwind love triangle. Especially since we already know Tanis has some commitment issues. That said, we could broaden this out even further. Perhaps the Tanis/Riverwind “I’ve never known an… elf” conversation is a little more meaningful than we thought. (Leading to the classic scene: “Some half-elves like both oysters and mussels”.) Which would explain Riverwind’s initial discomfort with Tanis as self-denial, which eventually turns to acceptance and, judging by their actions at the fall of the city, deep, romantic love. I’m guessing the fan-fiction already exists…
One more bugbear. I really dislike resurrection mechanics, and the Temple of Saved Game is really annoying me at this point. First Riverwind, now Goldmoon. I think making death impermanent cheapens the drama and the narrative, especially when resurrection is done as cheaply and as inexplicable as it does here. The escape from the collapsing city is fraught and tense and rather astounding: Riverwind’s berserker fury, Tanis’ pain, Sturm’s slightly-tenuous leadership skills, Raistlin’s last-ditch casting, all of which contribute to a real air of desperation and grief. And, yet, as soon as Goldmoon bounces back to life and starts dishing out magical healing, all of that feels infinitely less emotional. Everything they did came from a dark place, a place that, as it turns out, needn’t exist, because the gods are random and all-powerful. (The Gods of Krynn are dicks, y’all.)
Still, Raistlin gets the last word— and what a cracking one is it: “Solace is burning.” Don’t celebrate yet, heroes, you’ve got a while until your adventure is over…
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.