Dragonlance Reread

The Dragonlance Chronicles Reread: Dragons of Winter Night, Epilogue

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Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!

Last week was a little traumatic—perhaps the series’ most memorable moment, but also it’s most heart-breaking. This week, the book’s final chapter, is about the aftermath. Is this a time for healing? For despair? Let’s see how our heroes are handling their loss…

 

“The Funeral”

Summary

A dark and stormy night greets us, as we begin in classic form. Piercing wind and rain, no guards at the High Clerist’s Tower; no need for the watch. There has been no sign of the dragonarmies, so the knights are burying all those they lost in the earlier battle, in the Chamber of Paladine. There are no coffins though, since the few remaining defenders must use their time to fortify the fortress instead.

Three bodies are brought in with a Guard of Honour and, where there should have been a state funeral, there is only a battle-ravaged elf-maiden, a sad kender and a grief-struck old dwarf. The bodies are Lord Alfred and Lord Derek and, of course, Sturm, who wears his father’s armour and clasps his father’s sword, the Starjewel on his chest.

Laurana found the Starjewel and understood that its magic was how they shared the dream in Silvanesti. She figures that Sturm had probably never been aware of its power, or of the link between himself and Alhana—or even of the love it symbolised.

Laurana, in her mind, is agonising over being left alone. She’s also angry at Sturm’s senseless death. Her speech to the remaining Knights is proud and fierce, and she owns the moment when she lifts the dragonlance over her head and tells the knights that she will leave for Palanthas with the lance and the head of a dragon to dump on the steps of the palace. From Palanthas she will then go to Sancrist and Ergoth and every other place she must, to get people to come together and conquer evil.

Laurana, it seems, has arrived.

(Oh, and her beauty is so great it blesses everyone around her, just in case we forgot that she’s real pretty, too.)

The Knights begin their own prayer, inspired by her speech and her flawless features. It takes the shape of a chant about returning men to Huma’s breast, granting a warrior’s rest beyond wild, impartial skies, something something. They move out to their cold beds but Laurana, Flint and Tas remain at Sturm’s grave. Flint places a carved wooden rose on Sturm’s body, and Tas a white feather. The three leave the sepulchre together, into the icy chill of the night.

Meanwhile, in Silvanesti, Alhana Starborn watches from her room in the Tower of the Stars. She’s hoping for some sign of change in the ruined land around her, where misshapen beasts still roam and the air still smells of death and decay.

The griffons returned with news of war between the human and the elves, and this upsets Alhana, who realises this is all the fault of the forces of evil. She knows she should return and attempt to end this madness, but she cannot face her people if it means she must tell them that their land is destroyed—though she believes she would win if she helped the humans fight the Queen of Darkness. If only she could end her self-imposed deadline! Alhana loves Sturm from afar, and unbeknownst to him, stands besides him in the fight for his honour via the Starjewel—but she still will not leave until she sees a sign.

One evening, as Alhana walks along the battlements, she feels a terrifying sensation, as if the world had stopped turning. Her Starjewel flickers and fades away as Sturm dies in Solamnia, and she knows that this is her sign: that there is no hope, only death and despair. She gives up on everything, locks herself up in the tower and decides to die.

On her final journey out of the tower, she digs into the frozen earth of her father’s grave to bury the Starjewel—but she notices that there is a faint glimmer of light in the jewel. And it is slowly growing stronger. Alhana wonders if she has gone mad, because Sturm is dead, isn’t he? Suddenly, the tortured, cursed tree above Lorac’s grave straightens up and raises its branches to the skies. Its bark smoothens out and it stops dripping blood. Sap starts to run through its leaves and it glistens with life.

Alhana is amazed. She hangs the Starjewel around her neck again and heads back to the Tower. The next morning she flies off to Ergoth on a griffon. The tree above Lorac’s grave remains shiny and new and hopeful, awaiting spring.

Monster(s) of the Week

Mentions of the dragons (including their heads), miscellaneous griffons, a bleeding tree. None, really.

Notable Quotes

‘Winter’s night was dark and starless.’

‘On this winter’s night, as the wind howled among the ruins of the crumbled Tower like the shrieks of the slaughtered dragons, the Knights of Solamnia buried their dead.’

Honestly, I think this whole starting with the weather bit works really, really well for this chapter. I’m cold and I’m sad and it’s great.

Mahvesh’s Take

So, here we are at end of volume two.

The dragons are here, Sturm is dead, the companions are split, Kitiara is in action and the battle’s just begun. This chapter (while slightly overwrought as far as the rather emotional Alhana goes) is pretty great—we’ve seen Sturm laid to rest, we feel the grief and the loss of battle in Solamnia, the decay of Silvanesti and so the rampant destruction of the homes of both the humans and the elves by the Queen of Darkness is clear. We know which side we’re on, and it isn’t hers.

Of course, we’re still unclear about Kitiara, and some of you may have doubts about Raistlin (#teamRaistlin4Eva), but we know we’re with the good guys, even though the good guys have their forces divided currently. Still, right now, everyone knows where they stand. Oh wait, other than Kitiara, but she’s special.

I did say last week that I’d get back to Laurana this week, didn’t I? I do so love her evolution, which of course, has been a long, long time coming. I can only hope for more from her, this battle scarred elf who has loved and lost and finally found herself. Will she grow to be a true revolutionary, a true leader, formidable enough to gather the forces of Good? Will she stand tall in the face of Kitiara and eventually the Queen of Darkness herself? Will she finally move on from pining for Tanis and discovering that there is more to life, more to living and more to herself than just what or who she is to him? Oh, please, please let it be so.

This volume as a whole has been a bit strange for me, a bit awkward in that we’ve spent a fair amount of time moving about and while this has been fantastic in helping us understand the geography (and the psychogeography) of Dragonlance, I do wish we could all hang out again. We’re so much stronger, together right? Wrong. I’m wrong. Since the companions split up, we’ve seen some major changes haven’t we? Yes, I’ve waxed on about Laurana, but the others have come far too. Whether it’s been Raistlin’s connection to the orb, Tanis’ confusion with Kitiara or Sturm’s…um, death, we’ve seen so much happen here that I can barely recall it all. The point remains that ‘The Funeral’ wraps up things well and rather poignantly. We’ve lost one of our own, we’ve been driven to madness and fought dragons, we’ve found orbs and lances and just when it seemed things could get no better, we found a way to fight and stand tall and grow again. All in all, it’s really quite powerful. Sniff. I love Dragonlance.

Jared’s Take

Damn. I was planning on a big sweeping recap of DWN, but, honestly, I can’t add much to what Mahvesh has said. This is a strange volume. We’ve moved about, we’ve spent a lot of time with the ‘B-Team’, and a lot of that time was wasted (the forty years of Silvara’s wilderness). Much of the action has occurred off-screen: the death of the Highlord Feal-Thas, Derek’s charge, the conquest of Silvanesti, the flight of the refugees. In fact, the two ‘defining’ action sequences are arguably a dream sequence (Silvanesti again) and the—very brief—death of Sturm. This is a far cry from the constant, set-piece, ‘big budget’ battle sequences of Autumn Twilight.

And, yet… it works. And really well. As Mahvesh notes, Laurana’s heroic journey is exceptional, and she goes from (fairly loathsome) spoilt brat to the most effective force that Good has. A journey that’s not forced on her, but chosen. Unlike your conventional fantasy hero, dragged from his home by a wizard/druid and forced on a march to the Dark Lord, Laurana’s come from a life of privilege. She is a spoiled brat, and, perhaps most importantly, at any point she could’ve stopped. She chose to follow Tanis out into the wilds and then try to impress him (not the best motivation, but, there it is). But, since then, she’s had multiple opportunities to go back home, to stay with her father, to return to the fold, to retreat from the siege, to retire from the war… and she’s turned them all down. She’s got agency, she’s got motivation, and she’s got so much chutzpah.

Tangentially, the three characters we talk about the most—Raistlin, Kitiara and Laurana—are all interesting in that sense. They’re all constantly making choices. Kit has clearly chosen a darker path, just as Laurana has chosen to champion Good. And Raistlin is always… reviewing his options. And making it very clear that he is doing so. Their agency—the fact that they are active heroes (or villains)—makes them compelling characters, and the ones that give us the most to talk about.

…and… an interesting book. Darker in tone, but, as a book, better written than its predecessor. No less capital-I-Important either. In terms of character development, agency, privilege, the role of the individual versus that of institutions, a philosophy of balance vs one of good ‘triumphing’, discussions of history and religion, the constant scrutiny of alignment and free will, and even the (now-familiar) trope of major character death… there’s so much that Dragonlance, if not invented, at least made familiar and mainstream.

All that, and dragons, too!

 

Next week we’ve got another one of our Guest Highlords, then we’ll be returning in two weeks with the final volume of the Dragonlance Chronicles: Dragons of Spring Dawning. If you’ve not got your copy, there’s plenty of time to pick one up and join along! Thanks for reading, commenting, sharing and being generally awesome. Look forward to taking the final leg of our journey with you!

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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