Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
Last time we suffered through heavy-handed song about Kitiara’s dark and poisonous beauty, and a flashback that showed Berem accidentally killing his sister Jasla in a fit of greed-induced rage. This time we begin the final Dragonlance Chronicles book in earnest, as Tanis slinks out of Kitiara’s bed and back to his friends…
“Flight from darkness into darkness.” and “Pursuit.”
The chapter opens with Tanis doing an epic walk of shame. Dressed in the armor of an officer in the dragonarmies, he’s slinking out of the inn where he’s just spent three days—‘or should I say three nights?’—with Kitiara.
Kit’s been summoned to deal with a problem in the West (spoilers: she deals with it), and Tanis is taking advantage of his ‘freedom’ to sneak off and see his friends. But as he leaves the inn, a ‘drunken’ draconian follows…
The weather in Flotsam is particularly grim, and the streets are totally deserted. Tanis makes a half-hearted attempt to see if anyone is following him, but visibility is poor and the sleet makes it impossible to tell. He struggles across town to ‘The Jetties’, where the others are staying.
Inside, Raistlin wakes and then wakes up his brother. The two hear Tanis coming in, and not recognising him immediately, Caramon wrestles him to the floor. Fortunately, Raistlin is interrupted before he blasts him with a web spell. While Caramon wakes the others, Raistlin asks Tanis where he’s been. Tanis delivers a nervous lie about being ‘captured’ by the Dragon Highlord. Raistlin sees through it, which makes Tanis all the more nervous.
All of the others return (Caramon, Riverwind, Goldmoon, Tika) and they’re relieved to see Tanis. He repeats his lie (Raist never calls him on it), and answers all the questions he can. Eventually, he’s exhausted—and a bit ‘wretched’ from his web of lies. When Tanis snaps at Goldmoon (!), everyone realises it is bedtime, and they leave him be.
In the wee hours of the night, Kitiara returns to her inn. And in a foul mood (spoiler: she just skewered one of her old friends and Laurana killed two of her dragons). She’s pissed off that Tanis has done a runner. Her draconian spy tells her that he’s not gone to see another woman (her first question!), but instead he’s with some old friends—none of which seem to be the Green Gemstone Man. Kit convinces herself that it doesn’t matter, but when she spots a note from the ‘moody half-elf’, she loses her temper again.
The next morning, the storm has blown out. But Tanis is insistent that they all still leave Flotsam. He doesn’t explain the details, but he asks everyone to trust him. Fortunately, they’re all seasoned adventurers, and it only takes a moment to pack (although it is implied that Caramon and Tika take advantage of the situation for some hasty snogging, which is kind of cute). Tanis is reminded again that everyone trusts him a lot, and boy, does he feel poopy.
Tanis et al. pile onto the Perechon and wake Cap’n Maq and her crew (including a minotaur!). Maq is insistent that they aren’t sailing, but Tanis convinces her to hear him out. The Perechon is a sneaky little smuggling-possibly-pirate ship, ‘adept at outrunning the massive ships of the Dragon Highlords’. Maq tries not to piss off the Dragonarmies (there’s not much profit in it), but since they’re now controlling the world, she’s starting to struggle—thus her need for passengers.
Tanis repeats his ‘captured by the Highlord’ lies to Maq, who doesn’t really care—although she notes that Tanis is looking pretty disastrous right now. But when Tanis tells Maq about Berem, she pays attention. Tanis says that the Highlords are all looking for him, and at all costs. Maq can’t avoid them, and she needs to get the hell out of dodge. Even turning him off the boat won’t help, as the Highlords will kill everyone that’s ever seen him.
Maq decides to trust Tanis—at least, she thinks he’s lying about something, but he’s telling the truth about this (Maq is, of course, right). Plus, as she says, she’d rather face her fate on the open seas.
The Perechon struggles on the rough seas, but manages to wriggle away from Flotsam rapidly. Maq’s not sure where they’re headed—possibly Kalaman, possibly even the land of the minotaurs. Tanis’ fate is out of his hands, but still better than being in Kitiara’s.
(Takes a moment to recite the Berem story—remember he was in Pax Tharkas? He’s supposed to be dead! Then seen again at Goldmoon’s wedding! Green gemstone! Whoa!)
The weather gets windier, and they pick up more speed. The Perechon reaches the Blood Sea of Istar, the ocean that rests on top of the ancient empire that got smashes in the Cataclysm. There’s a bit of drama (‘as red as the blood that flecked [Raistlin’s] lips’), but Maq says the water’s unique colour is because the Blood Sea covers what used to be dry land, and the washed up soil. Supposedly there is a giant maelstrom in the center that keeps everything stirred up, even after hundreds of years.
There’s some idle chat about ‘where next?’ and ‘are we there yet?’ and then Maq’s men spot something on the horizon… clouds, maybe, but moving far, far too quickly.
Monster(s) of the Week
A minotaur! Bas is big and grumpy and speaks broken Common. Apparently the minotaurs are neutrals in the big war—a few fight for the Highlords, but not many. They had offered to trade their services for the entire Eastern portion of the continent, but the Highlords didn’t make the deal. Their loss?
“I’ve never heard you lie before, Half-Elf. I find it… quite… fascinating.” –Raistlin
Ouch. But, as always, wonderful that Raistlin is the smartest person in the room. Does anyone else read him calling Tanis “Half-Elf” as a coded threat? A bit like when your parents call you by your full name…
“A new Dragon Highlord, a hobgoblin named Toede”
Remember him from the early pages of Autumn Twilight? Seriously, how’d that guy rise up the ranks!?
Tanis is really very bad at lying. I think that’s the point of these chapters. First, there’s the painstakingly, drawn-out descriptions of how awful he feels about it. The bags under his eyes, the corpse-like pallor, the physical pain when the dragons show up on the horizon. He feels terrible, y’all!
But he’s also really bad at it. I mean, why would he tell the companions that the Highlord is a man (something he stresses, repeatedly)? That’s just icing on the lie-cake, and something that anyone in Flotsam (or… the world) could correct. And why would he leave Kit a note? Which, presumably, was something very Tanis—maybe the poem from the start of the book?
And, perhaps more than anything else, why wouldn’t he tell the truth? Anyone have any ideas? I mean, it would suck to explain to Raistlin and Caramon that their sister is now The Big Bad. But it is also pretty important for them to know. The only awkward thing is the three day absence, but they know Kit, and will know that she wouldn’t let Tanis go away. So… why lie?!
This has nothing to do with anything, but I think the Blood Sea is really cool, and all the casual references to Istar and the Cataclysm are a lot of fun. We’ve got more travel in these two chapters than we’ve had in a while, and, if that continues, we’ll be exploring a lot more of Krynn in this volume.
I’m shocked—shocked!—at Toede’s rise up the ranks. Shocked, I tell you! No seriously—do you know what this mean? This means it’s horribly, frighteningly easy to rise within the dragonarmies—if an imbecile like Toede can be a Highlord, Kitiara better turn out to be the Dark Goddess herself. Of course, if an imbecile like Toede can be a Highlord, then how on earth are the dragonarmies worth fearing at all?! That guy really was a fool. I’m disappointed in the dragonarmies, I really am.
I’m also just annoyed by Tanis. Or rather, with his creators. This whole lying business makes zero sense. I’ve gladly suspended my disbelief at many occasions for Dragonlance but at least the character’s motives have been clear enough for me to do so. Here, right now, there’s none of that. What motive could Tanis possibly have for hiding the truth about Kitiara? As Jared says, fine, there’s the whole three day roll in the hay business but come on—is Tanis afraid he’ll be shamed for… I don’t know? Sleeping with his ex? Sleeping with the enemy? Sleeping with his ex who is now his enemy? And it’s pretty clear that Raistlin knows he’s lying, which makes it even worse—Tanis is not just stressed about lying but also stressed about Raistlin exposing his lies. He’s stressed about being stressed. He’s just… annoying. To think as a teenager I really kind of liked Tanis and now I find him to be the very worst of the companions—earnest, cloying, desperate to do good and motiveless when it comes to the (very) few ‘bad’ things he tries to hide about himself.
Why does Kitiara like him or want him, for that matter? Oh the mysteries of Dragonlance, some of which will never be revealed, I fear. Let us carry on then, and hope that some of them are explained. Onwards!
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.