Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Winter Night Part I, Chapter 12

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Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread! We’re halfway through the second book, and after the nightmarish, er, nightmares of the last two weeks, this week’s chapter is a bit of a rest. Everyone’s waking up to the harsh light of day and discovering that things are really okay after all.

(That’s lie. Things are not okay.)

 

“Visions shared. The death of Lorac.”

Summary

Aaaaand it was all just a dream.

The companions not in Silvanesti wake up and realise they have shared a dream, which weirds them out. Of all the horrors they have dreamt of, Laurana is mostly concerned about the human woman she saw with Tanis. She, Sturm and Flint admit to each other that they all had terrible nightmares but, choosing denial as their defense mechanism, they don’t want to talk about them. Of course, the kender isn’t one to stay quiet and it’s through Tas that we learn that everyone really did have the same nightmare—haunted woods, trees crying blood, dead elves, the whole Raistlin in black shebang, it was all there for all of them. Sturm is certain that, dream or not, the others are alive and well—just as they are. He finds the jewel Alhana gave him, and for the first time it shines with its own light.

Meanwhile, back in Silvanesti, Alhana is is by her father’s side. Lorac is horrified at the stinky green haze over Silvanesti, the rot in the earth and the clear exhaustion on Alhana’s face. He blames himself for all the horrors the land has suffered and recalls the history of Silvanesti, since he is one of the few to remember the Cataclysm. The Silvanesti elves survived it better than most and, though they knew why the ancient gods left Krynn, they did not know why the elven clerics had vanished as well.

After the Cataclysm, the Silvanesti wrote off the other elves and retreated into their forest. More recently, Lorac met with the Dragon Highlord and assumed that they had reached a peaceful agreement to stay out of one anothers’ way. But found soon after that this was not to be. Thinking to protect his people, Lorac attempted to use the dragon orb. He realised much too late that he had no idea how to control it. The orb captured him and trapped him inside his nightmare—all the worse because Lorac knew it was a dream but still could not break free of the visions. Worse, he realised that part of his nightmare was true and that Silvanesti is indeed ruined. He wants to believe Alhana when she insists that their people will rebuild but he is unable to carry on and tells Alhana to bury his body in the earth when he dies, hoping that it will perhaps bless the earth in some way. He dies.

That night, the companions prepare to leave Silvanesti. They don’t have much but Raistlin takes charge of the dragon orb, ordering Caramon to fetch it and put it in a magical Mary Poppins-style bag that appears much too small but of course isn’t. Caramon refuses at first, shuddering at the thought, but Raistlin shames him into it, saying he’s got nothing in the brain. Caramon seems to need Tanis’ approval to obey. This causes some tension. Tanis asks Raistlin if things will ever be the same between them again and Raistlin agrees that they won’t, but that’s the price he’s paid. He does not explain this cryptic remark any further—insisting that even he does not know with whom he made a bargain.

Tanis, ever the good guy, tries to convince Alhana to let them help in her father’s funeral. Goldmoon pulls the priestess card and also offers. Alhana refuses, not wanting them to know that her father has asked her to bury him in the earth (a barbaric tradition, apparently). She insists she will be fine, accepts a hug from Goldmoon, and tells them that she will return to her scattered people to help defeat as much of the evil as possible. She may even go to Sancrist and see the knights, one in particular.

With Sturm in mind, she asks Tanis if he would be happy loving a human who would age and die while he would not, and Tanis replies in his usual sensitive way—that perhaps it would be better to have loved and lost than never to have loved before. Alhana sees this as great proof of Tanis’ leadership qualities. Tanis wonders why his life is such a mess.

Raistlin leads the companions through the previously haunted woods. Tanis looks back, does not turn into a pillar of salt.

Monster(s) of the Week

Sadly, none at all.

Notable Quotes

‘And, though grieved at the tales of rapine and murder, the Silvanesti asked themselves what could one expect, living among humans?’

The Silvanesti, about the massacre of the Qualinesti after the Cataclysm. The Silvanesti elves really do seem to do a bit of victim blaming, don’t they? So superior.

‘I don’t mind having a nightmare, but I object to sharing it with a kender’—Flint

Chuckles. Although—as an aside—isn’t it weird that in fantasy settings you’re ok to refer to people by their race without being, you know, racist? Is it because, in fantasy settings, races are actually separate species? Or is the joke here that Flint is being racist? Basically, old dwarf shouts at clouds.

Mahvesh’s Take

So, lots of infodumpy bits in this chapter. I get that they have to wrap things up here—but does it all have to be quite so heavy and clunky? Regardless, the pace of this chapter totally makes up for the last few action-packed chapters we’ve had.

Lorac’s death is quite sudden and a bit.. .sanctimonious? Why does he assume his body will bless the earth when his mistakes cursed it? This makes no sense at all, other than to perhaps show that Lorac had a very inflated sense of self-importance. I guess that’s what started this nightmare in the first place, given his assumption that he could handle the dragon orb. Pity the fool.

Why does Caramon suddenly need Tanis’ approval to do what his brother asks? What’s this?! Dissent! Raistlin is angry. I am too. When has Raistlin lead you wrong Caramon? What happened at the Test, damnit?! And what’s all this about a bargain, how can Raistlin genuinely not know with whom he’s made a bargain? What’s he not telling us? Well, everything. But he’s all the more intriguing for it.

I would like to know more about Silvanesti burial rites. If burial is for goblins and other evil creatures, then are elves just laid in their tombs? Is that genuinely so less ‘barbaric’ than burials? I was totally expecting something cool like a sky burial until Alhana mentioned a tomb.

Tanis, oh Tanis. I’m genuinely starting to think Tanis knows that he’s not all that, even though everyone else seems to think he’s a great leader. I think our Tanis is having a bit of imposter syndrome, don’t you?

Jared’s Take

I know drawing real-world parallels is a dodgy thing to do, but, man, the Silvanesti elves are kind of dicks, right? For example…

The Cataclysm happens—the elves know:

  1. exactly why it happened
  2. specifically, that it isn’t the ‘fault’ of most people (contrast this to the ‘randomly casting about for blame’ behaviour we see with the rest of the post-apocalyptic world)
  3. the Gods aren’t gone

Yet rather than share this knowledge—a knowledge that won’t just comfort people, but also help civilisation rebuild in a less-Cataclysm-prone way—they retreat and seal the borders. They may be strong, but they’re also wrong, and that’s all they know. And this isn’t even the casual racism of Krynn: the Silvanesti elves are very happy to abandon the other elves as well.

And then the Dragon Highlords happen, and the Silvanesti are very happy to crack out that old ‘appeasement’ chestnut. Because, really, if the dragons sweep over the rest of the world, what’s that to the Silvanesti? I can see no problem there.

Over and above marvelling at this ridiculous behaviour, there’s actually some interesting thematic stuff on display. First, we have our Dragonlance elves vs Tolkien elves comparison—in a sense, the Silvanesti elves are exactly what would’ve happen if Tolkien’s fair folk decided ‘meh, Sauron is a human problem’. A sort of exacerbated arrogance and insularity. Second, we touch on the—rather fascinating—alignment system of Krynn. One of the great explorations (not quite an innovation) of Dragonlance is the way that it extrapolated the AD&D alignment system and used it to create a world-building philosophy. The Silvanesti elves are Neutrality in action—not just ‘staying out of it’, but also operating with an awareness that there needs to be both Good and Evil in the world. Dragonlance, as a world, is fascinating because it doesn’t have an end-game, it is constantly a ruckus between Good and Evil, with neither ever achieving the upper hand for long. For those that are Neutral, there really are only a few options—when the balance gets upset, you either have to pick a side (Lorac doesn’t) or go hide (Lorac does). And third, and finally, there’s the idea of dragon orbs as WMDs. Magic is not particularly trustworthy in this world (or, for that matter, magicians—sorry, Raist). The idea of discipline over chaos, is something we return to over and over again. Whatever is going on with the orders of wizardry is based on this: a deliberate way of focusing (and culling) magical talent, rather than let it run rampant.

Strategically, does anyone have any idea what’s happening with the Dragonarmies? They seem to be attacking on all possible fronts. We’ve seen armies operating in the Solace area (on the way to Qualinost), Tarsis (for the hell of it) and, now, invading Silvanesti (which, given they were sitting it out—why would that be a priority?). The Highlords have a much better grasp of geography and freedom of movement —given that everyone else seems to be trapped in one region or another—but they’re trying to eat the whole pie at once.

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.

Jared Shurin is an editor for Pornokitsch and the non-profit publisher Jurassic London.

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