After two chapters of relative inactivity—scheming, feelings and suspicion—you knew things were about to kick off. And this week, they do. Are you ready for draconians, dragonfire, rockfalls, character death(s), aerial battles and… Sturm in a dress?
Last we saw, Tas was going to attempt to rescue a gully dwarf with the help of a possibly senile mage. What could go wrong?
As always, we’re spoiler-free as to events that happen after this chapter (especially as regards to the character deaths), but go wild in the comments.
“Questions. No Answers. Fizban’s Hat” and “Matafleur. The Magic Sword. White Feathers.”
Eben the Dodgy appears to have a plausible explanation for where he went. Tika the Gullible insists he has saved their lives and suggests they all be grateful to him. Eben creepily flirts with her, kissing her fingertips as she wipes a cut on his cheek. Gilthanas, on the other hand, is sullen but when pressed admits that he left to check on Raistlin who was also missing. All suspicions are once again directed at Raistlin, who refuses to explain where he has been, given they all mistrust him and so will not believe him anyway. Raistlin offers himself up for slaughter. Caramon says over his dead body. Tanis feels sick.
No one is killed and they double up for the night’s watch, convinced they have been betrayed by someone amongst them. Tanis is troubled, but refuses to abandon their plan because ‘the people were too excited’. The show must go on, it seems.
Meanwhile Tas awakens to find that he and Fizban both dozed off, but to his relief, Sestun the gully dwarf is still alive. Fizban deftly levitates Sestun up to the ledge they are on, only briefly managing to levitate Pyros the slumbering dragon too. Things appear to be going smoothly, until Fizban’s hat starts to float down to the dragon’s lair. This, of course, alerts Pyros and they are chased through the tunnels, protected by a hasty spell from Fizban that stops the dragonfire from burning them. At reaching the Mechanism Room, they attempt to climb the chain, but Pyros melts it, sending them all falling to the bottom. Fizban attempts a spell, which manages to cause a cascade of feathers that cushion Tas’ fall. The old wizard himself lands with a ‘bone crunching thud’. Pyros assumes them dead and leaves, not noticing that all this action has set another disaster in motion, with huge cogwheel now free of its chain, slowly turning.
While all this is happening, Tanis and the gang carry on with their plan of dressing as the captured women, entering the space where the children are held captive and leading them out. They are all tense, especially Laurana, but no one gives into their fear, soldiering on as planned, at least, until they are faced with unexpected draconian guards. Undeterred, they get rid of them (Tanis notes that his new Kith-Kanan sword slides out of a stone carcass as easily as it does goblin flesh—eew), and make it into the dragon Matafleur’s lair to rescue the children.
Matafleur is an old, half blind dragon, who doesn’t seem to be a threat until Tanis’ magic sword, Wyrmslayer, starts to reverberate with magic. She hears and recognises the sword and is a little unhappy when she realises what is going on. She’s old and confused—and angry that someone is stealing ‘her’ children, rising to protect them. Tanis and Raistlin hold her back until Goldmoon and the others usher the children outside to their mothers. The children, to their credit, are upset at the idea of anyone hurting ‘their’ dragon.
Outdoors, there is chaos as the freed slaves try to find their families. The men of the mines rush out, causing further chaos and making everyone wonder why the plan doesn’t seem to be going smoothly. It is now that they (finally!) realise that Eben is missing and that he’s been the traitor all along.
Eben has run for the mines, certain that he must find the Green Gemstone Man—not because Eben is cruel or vicious, but because he has decided to not be on a losing side. Eventually, after herding all the miners out, he finds Berem. The Green Gemstone Man turns out not to be deaf and dumb but instead a ‘man obsessed, totally absorbed in his own secret quest’. Eben grabs him and makes a run for the outside, hoping to keep him safe in the wilderness until the fighting dies down.
Lord Verminaard is angry. He’s supposed to be torching elven cities right now, and he’s dealing with a pesky slave revolt. Sensibly, he wants to burn everything to the ground. He calls for Ember, and after a solid bit of scenery chewing, the Highlord flies out on Pyros/Ember’s back, ready to kill everyone in his sight. He does wonder what the massive strange sounds coming from the mechanism room are, but he can’t be bothered to check—he’s got murder on his mind.
Outside, Tanis and the gang are trying to organise everyon, and are horrified when Pyros and Verminaard swoop into view, stilling everyone with dragonfear. Sturm and Tanis see that Eben is running out with Berem and in an altercation between them, Berem’s shirt is torn open, revealing a green jewel embedded in the centre of his chest. (Thus the nickname.)
Eben and Berem make another run for it, but a section of the gate cracks open, releasing massive granite boulders from it that bury both Eben and Berem—to the latter’s odd resignation.
Verminaard continues to shout at everyone about how he will kill them all, including the women and children. As he threatens the children, Matafleur flies out of the rubble and attacks Pyros, defending ‘her’ children, as she did once many centuries ago. Thrown off as the aerial fight begins, Verminaard falls to the floor unhurt but left facing four men who have not run (any guesses?).
Everyone around them snaps out of their dragonfear coma and… we’re back to chaos, with draconians attacking everyone, the freed slaves and party members fighting back, and all the sensible people trying to get away. In all this, Laurana manages to slay a draconian, thus freeing her spirit from ‘its prison of fear’.
“I will destroy the men. I will destroy the women! I will destroy the children!”
–Some solid scenery chewing from Lord Verminaard once again. This dude has got to work on his villainous dialogue.
‘No! Don’t fight my children. Please! It is me you want! Fight me! Don’t harm my children!’
–Matafleur’s desperate, desperate plea to Tanis is just heartbreaking, even if it isn’t ‘her’ children.
‘He thought she appeared unusually pale and exceptionally beautiful this morning.’
–Tanis, on an obviously nervous and afraid Laurana. Tanis, you weirdo.
Monster(s) of the Week
Dragons galore! Pyros and Matafleur both, especially potent when they are brawling with each other in midair.
Well, now these are a couple of heavy chapters, aren’t they? A great deal happens and there are some serious emotions involved, both human and not.
I have to admit right away that Matafleur just breaks my heart. An old, mottled half blind dragon who has lost her children in her war, is half mad with grief and is being used by Verminaard to guard human children. He’s straight up exploiting her grief, which is somehow worse to me than exploiting a dragon whose mind is clear (and let’s face it, we know from Pyros that you can’t really exploit a dragon—they just let you think you’ve got the upper hand).
Matafleur is pathetic—she’s sad and lonely and angry and still so, so sad that I can’t help but hate everyone tries to hurt her. The kids are so unafraid of her that they ask Tanis not to hurt her—what bigger sign of her kindness do we want? Of course, I’m sure there’s a point to be made here for Stockholm Syndrome but no—I feel for Matafleur. I’d like to see her rise in glory and school Pyros. Yeah, my crush on Pyros from last week is sort of… so last week.
There’s one thing I don’t understand in this part of the plot. I don’t understand why they need to dress up as women to lead the children out. Why can’t the women just lead the children out as they do every day? Wouldnt that be less risky? What exactly is the point of disguising themselves as women and going through the dragon’s lair? Eben runs out with Berem from the men’s quarters so obviously there is another way out, besides via the children’s quarters. Then why? Seems like a pretty obvious plot hole.
You have to LOL at Green Gemstone Man. He’s literally got a green gemstone in his chest! I feel like there was a Ken doll once with a jewel in his inexplicably smooth chest, but I could be imagining that. I feel that perhaps we haven’t seen the last of him, because Green Gemstone Man is just too good a description to never come up again. Eben on the other hand—yeah, no surprises there, are they?
I’m quite sad about Fizban. I did think he’d turn out to be someone special, someone important to Raistlin and would stick around for a while or at least until he’s taught Raistlin to stop fainting every time he has to do a Level 2 spell. I hope Fizban somehow survives his bone crushing death.
Laurana—well, well, well. She’s really become someone, hasn’t she? Sure, she had to commit a violent act to get here but hey, it was against a draconian so that’s okay. I’m glad she’s letting her flag (sword) fly high, and I really hope she finds something else to focus on, because Tanis’s manpain is just not as good as battling for survival, is it?
Weird bit—when the draconian guard is being skeezy, he eyes up Goldmoon and is all, “I can’t wait to search you, hot mammal.” How’s that work, then? Is pretty-pretty Goldmoon (we hadn’t been reminded she was beautiful for at least a chapter) so beautiful that she transcends the appetites of different species with completely different physical standards? Or are draconians—being chaotic evil—just willing to leer at anything? Especially knowing how draconians are made (spoiler—we’ll get back to that!), would they really have the same sort of sexual urges? I feel this hasn’t been thought through enough.
Also, Tanis shouting “Into the playroom! Hurry!” makes me laugh out loud. Doesn’t have quite the dramatic ring to it. But then, Tanis even has crap artifacts. How annoying is the magic sword? That doesn’t actually feel like a very useful sword, to be honest. “Will annoy any dragons around you” is less of a magical feature and more of a glitch. It isn’t like spotting dragons is particularly difficult otherwise (hint, find the scorch marks and follow them back to the house-sized monster).
But, fiddly bits aside, I’m fully with Mahvesh here—these are heavy chapters. I love Matafleur and her crazed attack on Pyros. I love the total dismantling of the (slightly baffling) plot. I love Laurana’s baptism of blood (ichor?). And I love (sniffle) the way that Fizban meets his feathery fate. The minor heroics of Tas, Fizban and Sestun are a nice counterpoint to the rest of the party’s greater strategy.
I don’t feel sorry for Eben—the world’s most obvious traitor. (Really? Really suspecting Raistlin and Gilthanas over the total stranger?! Really?!) Poor Berem though. Squish.
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.