Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread! Miss us? We took a break last week for one of our guest Highlords to share her Dragonlance gaming experience—but that’s enough of the real world for now.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch, Tanis and the Heroes (like Jem and the Holograms, but with worse hair) have slain a dragon, recovered an artifact and escaped the crumbling city of Xak Tsaroth. So, we’ve won, right?
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!
Part 2: Chapters 1 and 2
“Night of the Dragons” and “The Stranger. Captured!”
…and we’re back at the Inn of the Last Home!
Well, such as it is. Remember Tika, our barmaid, that everyone spoke to like she was a 10 year old? (And then robbed and destroyed her apartment on the way out of town?) Well, things haven’t gotten any better for her. As the chapter begins, she’s trying to clean the bar, but most just “wailing” while Otik pats her on the back (before he patted her on the head, so things are different).
We learn that Tika’s tears are well-justified. After the heroes left town, Solace had some tough times. First, refugees—explaining that there were monsters and armies. Second, Hederick (leader of the theocrats), serving everyone a line of baloney to keep them from panicking. Third, an army of Draconians.
There’s a dramatic moment where Hederick is praising the new age and the decency of Verminaard, when—whammo—dragons attack. Five enormous red dragons take turns dive-bombing Solace, whilst thousands of draconians pour into the town on the ground. Slight overkill for a small town with no standing defense and an already-sympathetic leadership, but hey, maybe Verminaard is making a point?
The night of the dragons isn’t a pleasant one, as the draconians and their winged friends make mincemeat of the town. The only buildings left are the forge, the general store and the Inn – all of which are lowered (by dragon!) from the trees to the ground. The Inn of the Last Home is cast to earth, and less than three days after the invasion, Tika and Otik are stuck drawing pints for their new overlords.
The scene set, the party returns to Solace. Somehow our oblivious heroes have made in all the way into the Inn without realising things are dramatically different (hint: IT ISN’T IN A TREE ANY MORE). As the Inn is packed with draconians, goblins and mercenary scum, Tika covers for Tanis and friends, and manages to explain the whole situation to them (while also stealing a smooch from Caramon).
The party, flush off their victory in Xak Tsaroth, is a little miffed. As Flint says, they don’t even have homes – all they have are “platinum Disks of some ancient goddess and a sick mage with a few new spells.” So now what? Argument ensues, but the Dungeon Master gets tired of it and takes direct action. Another stranger in the Inn (robes, hood, etc) trips and reveals himself… as an elf.
That kicks things off, as the elves aren’t super-popular with Team Evil, and the draconians are keen to gut this one on the spot. Naturally, there’s fighting (Tika, surprisingly useful) and even more naturally, the party is outclassed – they’re in the middle of hostile territory and wildly unnumbered. Much to Sturm’s reluctance, the party surrenders.
There’s an amusing moment when they all surrender their gear—including the Disks they worked so hard to protect. The party is fretting about all this going into enemy hands, but then Raistlin steps forward and casts a powerful curse over their items. It is, hilariously, all complete rubbish—but the goblins don’t know that, and their gear is ‘safe’.
The chapter ends with the party being sent off as prisoners to join a slave caravan, and Tanis feeling justifiably emo about the Inn being a complete ruin.
Monster(s) of the Week
Goblins, draconians, dodgy humans—everyone’s joining Team Verminaard.
We also have five red dragons, atomising Solace from the air, and, just for the hell of it, doing a little heavy lifting as well.
The only new ‘monster’—we have an elf! After many cryptic references to the Qualinesti elves, we’ve finally got one to look at—‘almond-shaped eyes, slanted ears, and delicate, masculine features’. (I’m not sure what ‘delicate, masculine’ means, except as a reassurance that they’re still hardy macho warrior people, grr, chest-bump).
“A mug hit the dwarf in the head, knocking him out.”
Flint and Tas. Always with the slapstick.
“There was no glory dying in an inn, trampled by stinking, flapping goblin feet.”
Sturm’s having a rough time as well. It seems that there are two sides to our knight: the side of honour and the side of glory. The first is when he does the right thing because he believes it is right, the second is when he’s more obsessed with some sort of legacy—with appearances. Not to spoil, but this tension—between honour and glory—is something we’ll get more of later on, as the rest of the knights become involved.
‘This is not our time to die.’ Tanis says this to Sturm to calm him down from one last charge against the Fewmaster’s draconians and goblins. Sturm, over-thinks this, of course. ‘What odd words. Why had Tanis said them? Did a man every have a time to die? If so, Sturm realized, this wasn’t it—not if he could help it.’
Look Sturm, that’s basically exactly what Tanis said—did we really have to think about it all that much? Just to agree? Apparently we did.
This is the first chapter in the next ‘module’. Tracy Hickman notes in the Annotated Chronicles that the books are still following a ‘close adherence’ to the games, but that will gradually come to an end. I am amused that, although starting at the Inn initially was a deliberate cliche, this time around, it seems to have become second nature.
That said, there’s something pleasantly dystopian about comparing pre- and post-conquest Solace. Sure, we thought the Seekers and their hobgoblins were horrible, but really, things get much, much worse.
These chapters remind me of the “Scouring of the Shire” – that one bit of the Lord of the Rings that Jackson didn’t include. There something more horrible about capital-E-evil when it is at home, as opposed to far away. There are the forces of darkness that lurk in broken cities and across blasted plains and far to ‘the North’, and then there are the forces of darkness that are sitting in your local pub. That juxtaposition of evil and proximity – the invasion of your ‘sacred spaces’ – is what makes this particularly potent. And, I suppose, a bit poignant as well.
However, like the “Scouring”, part of the evil is just the conflict between tradition and modernisation. Just as Tolkien was horrified about his genial bumbling Hobbit gentry ever having to deal with things like ‘industrialisation’, the invasion of Solace could also be seen as the shock of the new. This is a town that literally lives in trees—their heads could not be further in the air; they couldn’t be further removed from the rest of the world. They’ve been hiding in their tree-houses since the Cataclysm, they’ve ignored the reports of war, they were doing their best to avoid, as the authors put it, “the outside world.”
What is it that the dragons do? They remove their heads from the clouds—again, literally. Verminaard’s armies strike Solace’s people from the sky to the ground, break down the isolationism, and force them to confront reality. The Dragon armies are horrible, murdering villains, of course, but, like Tolkien, some of the horror merely comes from the capital-G-good people finally being forced to accept the rest of their world. (Hell, even Tika mentions that the customers are still paying…)
Also, and I know I’ve turned into a broken record, how great is Raistlin… again?
Raistlin is great! So why is Tanis at all surprised that Raistlin can take care of himself? The mage has floated down massive drops, he’s knocked out loads of Draconians with sleepy sands, he’s befriended Bupu to save all their lives more than once—does anyone still really doubt his abilities? It’s confusing—on the one hand they are all always doubting Raistlin’s loyalties, and on the other they seem to assume that he is useless. If he’s useless, how much of a threat can he be? If he’s actually a threat and a traitor, how useless can he be? See? Confusing.
I’m also confused by something Caramon thinks, when Tika hugs and kisses him. He feels ‘pleasant sensations’ at the thought of her but he wonders ‘if the stories he had heard about Tika were true. The thought both saddened him and made him angry’. What stories?! What’s up with Tika that’s so awful? Are we headed into ‘tsk tsk, free with sexual favours village wench/barmaid’ cliche territory? I don’t think I want to know.
Now that the gang have been hoisted off to the slave caravans, I’m expecting a lot of politics at play soon: Sturm all trapped and unable to fight, Caramon cranky at the same, Tanis pensive and Raistlin? Raistlin will stay cool and you know it!
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.