Welcome back! Last week we met a mysteeeeeerious new villain, hung out with some dragons and pondered the shifting geography of Krynn. (Oceans just aren’t as reliable as they used to be, are they?)
This week, our intrepid band of adventurers step into the city of Tarsis, and discover that—ocean or not—they might be a little out of their depth…
“Arrested! The Heroes are Separated. An Ominous Farewell.” and “The Riot. Tas Disappears. Alhana Starbreeze.”
This lot just can’t stay out of trouble, can they?
Just as they think they’ve managed to get into Tarsis quietly, a guard sees the hated symbol of the Knights of Solamnia on Sturm’s breastplate, and reports them as soon as they’ve settled into the Red Dragon Inn. Meanwhile, the crew bicker about landing up at a port with no sea. Tas gets bored and wanders off.
The others decide to spend the night in Tarsis, with the idea of exploring further the next morning—and maybe find a port that comes complete with an ocean. Elistan and Laurana agree to return to Southgate and help the people there. Tanis is displeased by this. Goldmoon and Riverwind will return too. (Hell who doesn’t want to ditch this indecisive lot?) Caramon, Raistlin, Sturm and Flint all agree to press on with Tanis, but they then bicker some more about whether Raistlin is fit for this.
Tanis explains to Laurana that he is not jealous and that he feels nothing for her, but deep down he no longer believes this to be true. He doubts himself and blames his indecisiveness on being ‘typically human’. Before they can fight any more, the prodigal Tas returns and warns everyone that guards are coming in. Half the lot hide upstairs while Tanis, Sturm and Flint face off with the guards. Raistlin leaves with the upstairs lot, whispering some dark stuff about the great Worm Catyrpelius and how some of them are not destined to meet again in this world. As the guards grab who they can, Tanis once again thinks of Kitiara and how different and selfless Laurana is as compared to her. He thinks he’s finally settled on Laurana, but, typically, it’s too late to apologise.
As they are lead away, the gathering crows start to pelt them with rotten vegetables and the like, taunting Sturm and chucking rocks at them. Soon, they are bleeding and filthy but grimly carrying on. Tas can’t help himself of course, so he starts calling out imaginative insults. HE ends up shoved into a burlap sack and carried away by forces unknown—though the others think he has escaped.
Eventually, they are lead to the Hall of Justice where the Lord of Tarsis must decide on their fate. And though the Tarsian lords have held a reputation for being noble and honourable, it now seems that a draconian has the ear of this one, something that does not bode well for the companions.
Meanwhile, back at the Inn, Raistlin confesses. Well, no—it’s not quite a confession but it’s more background. It turns out that the twins’ mother was prescient but entered trances that she couldn’t always control. Her visions were also fairly useless in helping her have a decent life, because the first man she married was a warrior who vanished so often, and on such on long trips, that she finally had him declared dead. She then re-married a woodcutter who was barely able to make ends meet to provide for their family. Kitiara was the daughter of the warrior, trained by him in warfare and earning a living off her sword early in life. She raised Raistlin and Caramon, her step-brothers, because their mother never quite recovered from their birth. When the twins were teenagers, their woodcutter father died in an accident and their mother went into a trance she would never come out of, eventually starving to death.
Raistlin learnt how not to let your power control you. And yet, when it was the time for the Test at the Towers of High Sorcery, Raistlin was certain he could ‘show them all’ how powerful he was, the youngest mage to ever take the test. He doesn’t tell us what we really want to know though, but once again admits that his body and mind were ruined as a result of what he had to go through.
After the test, Raistlin and Caramon met up with the others and decided to travel with them until Tanis suggested it was time for them to all part ways. Laurana asks if Tanis was their leader even back then, recalling how even as a younger elf in Qualinost, Tanis was withdrawn and brooding. Raistlin wonders out loud why everyone follows Tanis, as that completely defies logic and decides it must be because Tanis listens to his feelings and knows that sometimes a leader must lead with his heart and not his head. Laurana points out that Raistlin too, follows Tanis. Raistlin tells her that he does not, but that they are simply headed in the same direction for the time being.
Back in the Hall of Justice, the Lord decides that the crew are not welcome in the city but seems to have a (surprising) soft spot for the Knights of Solamnia. The draconian whispering in his ear does not. While this little power struggle plays out, guards drag a woman draped in veils and into the room and dump her on to the floor. Sturm can not handle this ungentlemanly behaviour and goes to her aid. From her accent alone, Gilthanas and Tanis can tell that she is a Silvanesti elf and Gilthanas deduces that she is Alhana Starbreeze, ‘daughter of the Speaker of the Stars, princess of her people, ruler when her father dies, for she has no brothers’. Of course, she’s meant to be the most beautiful and distant as the moon.
The Lord seems unimpressed, and has her arrested, which further rankles Sturm’s chivalry and forces the others to ready themselves for an unwanted fight. It doesn’t seem like Sturm will think twice about defending a stranger’s honour, should she be a woman. The obvious conclusion is to pack them all off to jail, which is what happens.
But before then, Alhana or Muralasa, as she is known to the elves (is she? why didn’t Tanis and Gilnthanas call her that then? nevermind) reveals her face—‘skin the pale hue of a silver moon, hair as black as night, eyes as purple as the night sky and lips the colour of the red moon’s shadows’. Sturm falls hard. Tanis notices and knows that this lurve is a poisoned arrow because absolutely no one could be more inaccessible than this particular elven beauty. This could be bad. Awks.
Monster(s) of the Week
A pitiful little draconian here. Barely.
Raistlin, to Laurana:
‘They shattered my body and devoured my mind until by the end I was capable of -’ He stopped abruptly, his eyes shifting to Caramon.’
Oh when will you tell us what happened at the Towers Raistlin, when when I swear I won’t tell anyone, please tell me. Of course he doesn’t.
Raistlin again, this time on the topic of Tanis:
‘I do not follow him. For the time being, Tanis and I simply happen to be traveling in the same direction’.
Oh, you dramatic little mage. You’re the bestest, Raistlin.
A Raistlin-heavy chapter here, finally. Sure, there’s lots of Laurana and Tanis emo-action first but who cares? Let’s just get to the Raistlin chapter! Lots of information about past and his childhood. Thank god that Laurana’s eternal beauty makes it easy for him to look at her, because there’s no way he’d talk to anyone else for so long, what with the whole death’s eye view, etc.
Knowing what the twins’ mother went through and how Kitiara raised them did make me want a whole book about them though—that actually sounds like an interesting relationship between the two women.
I enjoyed every last word that hisses out of from Raistlin, though, honestly, half the time I think he whispers dark stuff that sounds like terrible doomsday predictions of death and failure just to scare everyone off. He admits he has no foresight into the future like his mother did, but that never stops him from saying things like ‘we may never meet again!’.
And how about that Tanis? So he was always emo, was he? Not really a shock there. Laurana recalls that, even back when they were young carefree elves hanging out in Qualinost, Tanis was a brooder. It is just me or did brooding conflicted boys become unappealing at some point in early adulthood? Laurana still comes across as strangely childlike to me, in her mannerisms, in her fearful way of talking to Raistlin, in her yearning for Tanis. I’m glad she has something of interest to do around Elistan, though I hope that doesn’t turn creepy.
I’m perturbed by this bit about Alhana being ruler because she has no brothers—so it is established then, that the elves are just as patriarchal a society as humans? I am disappointed. No wonder Kitiara wants none o’ that.
And how come every woman—every woman!—we encounter is meant to be the most beautiful girl in the world? Are there no average lookers in any of these cities? None at all? It’s amazing.
One last thing—so did the Tarsis lot share the Hall of Justice with DC’s Super Friends?
I’ll try and be generous and pretend (very briefly) that I’m objective to Tanis and Raistlin for a moment. There are some interesting similarities: they both had terrible childhoods, absentee parents, brutal lessons about power and responsibility, unconventional upbringings with important peer role-models, etc. And both are, quite clearly, deeply insecure. Or,… are they? Tanis has been thrust into a leadership position, but he doubts himself constantly. Similarly, his relationship(s)—he’s indecisive, waffly and, for someone that supposedly listens to his heart, he’s having a hard time figuring out his patently-obvious feelings for Laurana.
He does get a lot of credit for keeping this feisty group together (mostly) and pointed in the same direction (mostly), so that’s nice.
Meanwhile, Raistlin has walled himself off from other people and is—pretty transparently—on a big ol’ quest for power. Looked at from this perspective, although Tanis is a big bundle of tumblrfeelz, Raistlin’s not exactly the picture of well-adjusted confidence, is he?
And yet, I’m still very much #teamRaistlin—insecurities and all. Possibly because his issues are still far, far more relatable. At least—as many of our guest highlords have noted—for geeks like me (and probably a few of you too, given that you’re reading a Dragonlance reread on Tor.com, and bless you for it). He’s smart but unappreciated. He doesn’t want a leadership position, but he does want to be offered it. And although his brother (who he resents) is eternally loyal, he feels abandoned by many of the people that matter (sister, mother, etc).
And also—Raistlin’s weird vision is constant reminder that everything is fleeting and unreliable, and, frankly, he gets credit for not just rolling over and dying. That’s a seriously grimdark curse. Given that he is constantly surrounded by visions of death and destruction, he’s committed himself to overcoming the inevitable, and not succumbing to it. That’s unbelievably heroic. Meanwhile, Tanis ‘struggles’ figuring out which Most Beautiful Woman in The World he loves most.
I’ve wanged on a bit much already, but just to say, I really like all the other scenes in Tarsis as well. It is a relief to know that Sturm’s weird racism about elves doesn’t stop him from appreciating a beautiful woman. (Sigh.) But also, as annoying as Sturm has been, his walk through the city is pretty hard-core… and Tas’ response is lovely as well. Superego vs Id. With Big Ego Tanis oscillating between the two…
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 on Twitter.