Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
We’re back with our regular transmission following last week’s guest post from Highlord Damien Walter. Damien covered a large chunk of Raistlin’s character arc, but this week our favorite wizard continues to save everyone’s backsides…
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!
“Suspicions Grow. The Sla-Mori” and “The Royal Guard. The Chain Room”
Right then. Where were we? Oh yes, being followed as we move towards the Sla-Mori, accompanied by a random, dodgy, far too cheerful Eben, who now appears to be attempting to sow seeds of dissent amongst the gang. He tells Tanis that Gilthanas isn’t necessarily to be trusted with a ‘just thought you should know’ and oh look! Gilthanas is acting a bit fishy, slipping in and out of the trees. Everyone’s a bit tired—especially Raistlin, though he’s not so tired that he can’t watch closely as Gilthanas conducts some elf gemstone action magic to get into the burial chamber of Kith-Kanan. It’s all very spooky and there’s still that little issue of someone very slick following them and Raistlin is certain great evil this way lies but hey, in we go.
Fizban, who is still very much around, senses great goodness where Raistlin senses evil. Eben does a lot of shouting about how crazy ‘you people’ are. They decide to leave the sliding rock door open a smidge as a trap for their pursuer, because that makes sense to Tanis. They also decide to camp for the night. Tika is ogled at some more. She thinks of Caramon and shivers with ‘delightful fear’ and is glad she’s not alone with him. It’s a bit weird so Goldmoon decides to play big sister and takes Caramon aside to explain to him that Tika is a virgin and that Caramon shouldn’t put pressure on her in anyway. Caramon is surprised but understands. In this exchange we find out that Goldmoon and Riverwind are waiting until they are man and wife too. It’s all rather awkward and I’m not sure what it’s doing for the plot.
The night passes. They move on, arriving at a crossroads where they find tracks, including those of rats and those that are ‘human but… not human’. Raistlin cryptically says evil comes from the right so they head left, finding a massive carved granite throne upon which sits a crowned skeleton with an enchanted sword and some fancy robes that have not yet decayed. It is Kith-Kanan, the greatest of the elven kings. Tanis falls to his feet because feelings. But there’s not much time to bask in the glow of the enchanted sword, because a pair of huge bronze doors reveal a new monster… a slug! A gigantic creature that spits paralyzing saliva and eats whatever comes into it’s path. It’s skin is so thick that the gang’s swords barely scratch it, its saliva a deadly liquid now being sprayed everywhere. Tanis charges, always the hero but he’s halted in his track by a piercing scream.
Laurana. Laurana has entered this slug-infested fray and distracted Tanis, who gets hit by a spray of saliva that disintegrated his sword and renders his sword arm useless. Which is what Laurana is right now—useless. Goldmoon though—she runs to Tanis’ side and heals his hand, super-quick and useful-like. This allows Tanis to grab whatever weapon comes to hand, which is of course, the enchanted sword. The monster slug is still battling away. Fizban can’t recall the fireball spell. Raistlin can’t manage that level of magic yet but he does conjure up some fire darts that hurt the slug, though not enough. Nothing seems to be working until Tanis drives the enchanted sword into the slug’s mouth. Sad, hurt and with no appetite, it slithers away.
When things are a bit calmer, we find out that Laurana was the person following the gang (and squeezed through 8 inches of open door). She refuses to leave, insisting that she can take care of herself since she has been trained as a warrior. This sounds promising until Tanis the killjoy points out that it is not ‘serious training’. Regardless, they can’t send her back and so Tanis tells her she is on her own because he can not protect her while she acts like a spoilt brat. Laurana insists she will make Tanis proud of her. Everyone thinks they’re amusing, until Tanis reveals that Kith-Kanan himself gave the sword to him. Creepy.
They head down the possibly greater evil-infested right fork and find themselves at a hole in the wall through which a sense of malevolence is flowing out. They go in to find a narrow chamber with carved doors. Gilthanas says these are the crypts of the Royal Guard, who will continue their duties even in death. Raistlin and Tanis freak out and are about to run when Goldmoon and Fizban explain that her glowing medallion will allow them to pass through the crypts without disturbing the Royal Guard. And so it seems until they reach the next level, I mean chamber, where they find a secret door which Raistlin asks them not to open. Sturm, of course, sees this as a chance to once again suspect Raistlin of disloyalty, though Raistlin is certain that he has not felt power so strong since his test at the Towers of High Sorcery. But because the way to Pax Tharkas is through a secret door, according to Gilthanas, they do open the door. At first, it appears to be the treasure room, filled with gold… and the spirit of a dark elf.
Apparently there is such a thing as an actual dark elf—not just Tanis’ usual emo killjoy self, but an ‘elf of ages past, whose punishment for crimes unspeakable had been execution’ and her spirit had been chained to guard the king’s treasure forever. This wraith-like creature attacks the gang, who manage to make it back out of the door but are reliant on Raistlin (as usual) to cast a spell that will stop the dark elf from exiting. She and Raistlin have a bit of a magic tussle, but he manages to source some strength from somewhere, a mysterious power he had only accessed twice before, and stop her. He then collapses, of course. Caramon carries him out and the gang soon come across another secret door that leads them to the cellars of Pax Tharkas.
Monster(s) of the Week
The venomous slug! It slithers, it slides, it scrapes and spits acid saliva! It’s quite revolting and hilarious at the same time. It’s quite sad at the end of the struggle though.
The dark elf spirit. Well, isn’t she something? Horrible when she was alive, worse in death and oh, how she tests our Raistlin! Still, she really, actually tests Raistlin and for that, we love her.
‘Evil. Great evil.’
–Raistlin, ever precise and dramatic, on the burial chamber of Kith-Kanan.
‘She desperately wants approval from you, and she might do anything to win in. But don’t let her use that as a reason to do something she’ll regret later. If you truly love her, time will prove it and enhance the moment’s sweetness.’
–Goldmoon, on the Tika situation. ‘Enhance the moment’s sweetness’?! I can’t even.
So this is all fine and well—loads of action, lots of stuff happening.
Characters seem to vanish into the walls and not be mentioned often, but, okay, I seem to now be seeing this as it may have played out in a game, which is a new perspective for me.
Riverwind is basically barely there, for example. But my biggest (and possibly absurd) peeve with these chapters is when they leave the magic sliding rock door open 8 inches as a ‘trap’ for their pursuer. When this turns out to be Laurana, I really wanted to measure out how wide a door is open at 8 inches and whether someone who isn’t 2-dimensional can get through that gap. It’s really not very wide but perhaps I’m nitpicking.
I think the main problem here is why. Why leave the door open so your pursuer can get in to where you are? Why not seal it so you’re safe? What sort of a trap is this, to invite an unknown pursuer into a confined place, one that you yourself are wary of and don’t know much about?
I understand this is to allow Laurana entry back into the plot but it’s really strange timing to bring her in at this point. Sure, she causes Tanis to lose his sword and get the enchanted one, but hey, that could have just happened by Tanis being clumsy as usual, you know?
And Laurana is just awful. She really is a spoilt brat. All this Be My Baby talk with ‘I’ll make you proud of me’ is horrific. Can’t she just make herself proud? What is all this desperation to prove herself to Tanis, a man who has now repeatedly told her he’s not interested? Her love is starting to smell very much like obsession and it bothers me.
As do Goldmoon and Tanis. Well, well, aren’t we chummy? Where, pray tell, is her great love Riverwind in all this risking life to heal Tanis and smiling at each other while a poison slug monster attacks business?
Also bothering me are Tika and her shivers of delightful fear. Am I the only one finding this a bit icky? I understand that she’s nervous about where this thing with Caramon will lead to physically but the whole delightful fear is just…odd.
Lastly, is Eben meant to be funny? He’s not funny just really dodgy. I trust this one as much as Sturm trusts Raistlin (who just saved their backsides again, because that’s what he DOES).
Raistlin FTW, right? Am I right? I’m right. This is sort of the Tanis/Raistlin duality in a nutshell. Tanis gets beaten up by a slug, but somehow is rewarded by the super-enchanted magical smacksword of the Elven King. Also, he’s being chased around by beautiful elven women. Meanwhile, Raistlin warns everyone not to do something really, really stupid, they do it anyway, he bends space and time to undo their mistake and… hey, everyone thinks the worse of him for it.
(Just saying, shouldn’t Gilthanas get the smacksword? He’s ‘full’ elf, a closer descendent of Kith Kanan and the one who is directly interested in saving the elves. Not that Tanis isn’t, but he has more complex/divided loyalties.)
Except, of course, the reader. Even if the party doesn’t appreciate Raistlin, I think we do—and, at the risk of ascribing authorial intent—I think we’re supposed to. He, as our recent Guest Highlord wrote, is very easy for young fantasy readers (of all shapes, sizes, genders, backgrounds) to relate to—possibly dangerously so. Raistlin is smarter, better and infinitely less appreciated. Whereas Tanis seems to do nothing but ‘take the credit’ for stuff (and the best loot, and the girls). With time, I think, it is easier to appreciate Tanis—even as he is a hot mess of angsty feelz—there’s definitely something admirable in being the leader of this group of talented disasters.
I love the slug combat—another of my favourite moments, and I’m delighted to reread it. I’m also glad the slug lived. Poor thing was just hanging out in its dungeon home, eating… whatever something of that size eats (really large lettuce?).
Eben is so dodgy.
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.