We’re back! Things are accelerating! Last week we had a courtroom drama and exotic dancers and magic (kinda) and lots of POV characters and all sorts of interesting things in Occupied Krynn. This week, well—things don’t slow down much. Has Tanis successfully crowd-funded the rest of the adventure? Will the Knights do something weird and self-defeating? Will Fizban… Fizban?
Yes! All this and MORE.
“The Dragon Orb. Caramon’s Pledge” and “Yuletide Guests.”
The companions have been camped on the outskirts of Kendermore. They’ve made loads of cash with their variety show—well, enough to hire a ship and buy supplies. Even Raistlin, though still melancholic, accepts that, though they cannot compare to actually doing real magic, the last few weeks have been pretty peaceful.
With everyone else out and about, Raistlin decides to check out the Dragon Orb. He puts the marble sized orb on a stand and… it grows. Or perhaps Raistlin is shrinking? It’s a real Alice moment, until Raistlin realises the orb is playing tricks on his mind and it’s close to impossible for him to keep his wild eyes on the road. There is a tense struggle, but once Raistlin and the orb get used to each other, Raistlin is able to touch it and say magic words that he had no idea he even knew.
It’s all very mystical magical… and then two hands emerge from the shining light and try to drag him towards death. Raistlin is able to resist, and he and the orb come to a mutual understanding. The orb tells Raistlin that it is the essence of dragons—captured long ago—and that no dragon can resist its call. Most will even do what the person holding the orb asks of them. The orb promises Raistlin many secrets.
Raistlin falls asleep. Damn those weak lungs.
Meanwhile, Caramon and Tika are debating third base, with Tika being unafraid and Caramon resisting her many charms. His explanation for not letting them be lovers is that he, as Raistlin’s outer, physical strength, must remain committed to him and let Tika find someone else. He tells her how, way back in the Towers of High Sorcery, during Raistlin’s Test, he saw something no one else did—that he was told Raistlin’s strength would save the world. Plus, in a dream Raistlin himself said that he and Caramon were one person, cursed by the gods and divided in two bodies.
No sooner than he’s explained this, Caramon’s called away to attend to Raistlin who has been found lying bleeding from the mouth next to the dragon orb. But when Caramon reaches him, Raistlin mutters something about spells of the ancients being his, and faint away with a smile on his lips.
Elsewhere, Lord Gunthar has been riding for days to reach home in time for Yule, after the departure of the fleet for Palanthas. Once home, he is immediately told he has visitors—an old man and a kender. The old man insists he has news about a dragon orb, and Gunthar heads inside to find out how. The old man and the kender are, of course, Fizban and Tas, bickering over Tas’ petty theft. Fizban instructs Gunthar’s help to bring up the best ale, creepily knowing exactly where the fancy kind is kept. After a little bit of confused back and forth, Gunthar tells him that the orb is with the gnomes of Mount Nevermind.
Things turn a little Terry Pratchett here, with a bit of a funny little history of the gnomes who are a technologically advanced people now living in harmony with the knights. It has not, it seems, occurred to the knights that the orb is magical.
Monster(s) of the Week
Gnomes don’t count, do they? They seem quite sweet! Plus, they have ‘brown skin’—like Laurana!
Disembodied hands that emerge from the orb when it is activated. I suppose the monster here is the orb itself, growing, shrinking, offering secrets and power. It’s creepy—even Raistlin can barely resist its seduction.
Raistlin’s thin hand reached out to touch the robe, the slender fingers, stroking the shining, sequined fabric wistfully, regretting that this period in his life was over.
YOU GUYS! Raistlin’s fashion sense is fabulous! Shiny, red sequins? Who doesn’t want to party with this guy?!
It took Lord Gunthar several days of hard riding to reach his home for Yule…
My first reaction to Yule was, of course, to head to Wikipedia. I know adding Christmas-parallels to fantasy worlds is a time-honoured (and rather silly) tradition, but actually adding in Christmas seemed a little over the top. Yule is, I have since learned, a pre-Christmas Germanic tradition, and there are references to it all the way back to Old Norse and the Edda. So, yes—anachronistic, but no, it doesn’t mix in (yet another) pantheon. Whew.
So I’m really finding this whole one soul split into two bodies business intriguing—it’s been hinted at before, of course, but here we have Caramon saying it straight up to Tika: he and Raistlin are two halves of one whole, like the original humans in Plato’s Symposium who were so powerful when together than Zeus had to split them apart with thunderbolts to make sure they couldn’t challenge the gods. The Twins, too, seem to be thus cursed—split in two beings, so powerful together that they can save the world, but always tied together, each unable to ever feel complete without the other.
This codependency isn’t a comfortable one, of course—Raistlin is constantly resentful of Caramon’s brute strength and Caramon, for all his generosity and goodwill, is also feeling trapped. He can’t move on with his life (and love). Regardless, this is an element of the Twins’ relationship that I’ve always loved (possibly because I love the ideas behind Plato’s Symposium) and been fascinated by. Sure, it can get a little boring when Caramon is constantly being so self-sacrificing and ‘good’—but here we see him struggle with what it’s like to be tied to someone who resents your existence, someone whose brains outweigh your brawn any day. How awful must this be for Caramon, knowing he’s only needed for his body?
Jokes aside, this short chapter explores the relationship between the Twins well, even as it hints towards further depths. I feel for Tika. She is mostly reduced to pretty young thang anyway, but is now a pining pretty young thang, which is somehow even worse. I keep thinking she and Raistlin are going to develop the sort of relationship and power struggle over their shared man that appears frequently in sub-con daytime dramas about mothers and daughters-in-law. If Caramon’s loyalty to Raistlin wasn’t so absurdly devout, we could have some real fun with extreme close up and bitter spats.
Over at Gunthar’s, there’s a silly amount of Fizban and Tas stuff (kenders steal stuff!). I’m genuinely having to feign interest in the Knights here, especially when we are told they didn’t really think the orb would be magical. What, exactly, did they think it would be then? A ball for an unknown outdoor sport?
Aside: do they have sports in Krynn? If so, what kind? Is there a version of Polo they play while riding dragons and carrying lances and hurtling an orb around? Because there really should be.
I love sports in fantasy novels. Quidditch, the Hunger Games, gladiatorial combat (spoilers—the next Dragonlance trilogy), jousting (who doesn’t love A Knight’s Tale?!), you name it. I have so many canned rants about sports and fantasy, and I’m going to… put them all to the side for now. Darnit.
The Knights’ stupidity about the orbs is… sort of understandable on one level, although it is really dumb. The book notes that ‘the Knights had always feared magic’, which I suppose makes sense (more than ‘the thought that the orb might be magic had never occurred to them’, which is ridiculous)—but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. And most sensible societies study the things they fear, rather than pretend they don’t exist. Like climate change! Oh.
Anyway, taking this all at face value—imagine that science and magic are both valid, known disciplines. And, for lack of access to the latter, the Knights hand it to the former. Which, I suppose, is like digging up a new fossil and handing it to a linguist. Or, judging by Fizban’s reaction: chef. But if you don’t trust your magic-specialists then, well, you do what you can, with what you’ve got.
At the same time—and I get Gunthar’s reluctance to put the orb into the hands a wizard—the unique makeup of Krynn makes trust a lot easier than other fantasy kingdoms. The wizards here are actually color-coded by alignment. Good needs to sort itself out: there’s way too much infighting going on in a universe that’s predicated on the notion of inherent alignment.
(And speaking of color-coded wizards, the twins’ relationship is fascinating, and, although I’m sorry Tika is totally sidelined, I like that Caramon has a bit more added depth.)
The gnomes are rather Pratchett, aren’t they? I’ve always loved them, and think they’re adorable—a bit of comic relief in a very serious universe. Except we also have the Kender. But, you know, they’re cute. Did anyone ever play one in the early RPG days? The rules were INSANE. There were about 85,000 tables, it took two hours to figure out what you were doing, and then it didn’t work. I can see it working a lot better in 5e, but in the table-heavy early editions, it was like using calculus to generate the punchline to jokes.
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.