Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
Last time, Tanis and company hightailed it out of Flotsam aboard the Perechon, which makes it to the Blood Sea of Istar before Maq’s crew notices some quickly moving shapes heading their way… This time we start with dragons! An entire flight of dragons!
“Gathering Darkness” and “My Brother…”
Dragons! An entire flight of dragons! Which apparently means five of them, as per Raistlin’s keen observation. Maquesta orders her crew to sail on, but the dragonfear is starting to set in. Raistlin accuses Tanis of leading the dragons to them. Tanis denies this, but even as he does, he realises that it’s true—the drunken draconian was following him on Kit’s orders, because Kit does not trust any man she shares her bed with. Tanis realises he was not special, that Kit treated him as she would any man and admits that perhaps he was followed indeed. But he swears he did not betray them and is consoled by Goldmoon, who gives evil side eye to Raistlin while doing so. Maquesta notices that one of the dragons has a highlord riding it, and Caramon decides to be the one who will insist that Tanis tell them what is going on, asking why a dragon highlord would have Tanis followed if they thought Tanis was one of them. But before Tanis can speak, a huge, terrible roar of fear and terror comes from the ship’s helm and only Maquesta realises that it is Berem.
Berem stands with a look of complete mad terror on his face, watching the approaching dragons. His roars chill even the minotaur’s blood and even though the ship is sailing fast, the dragons are gaining on them. Berem loses it, and spins the wheel of the ship, bringing it around so fast he almost sinks them all. Masts snap, rigging and sails and sailors fall into the sea. The gang all grab each other to stay on deck. But Berem, in all his evident madness, is still skilled and guides the ship back into the right wind and a new course…right into the storm over the Blood Sea. The crew is horrified, naturally, but Maquesta thinks that Berem is into something here, since the dragons won’t follow them into the storm and since Berem is skilled enough to get them back out. The storm itself is pretty terrible—black clouds, green lighting, the acrid smell of sulphur. The crew work to secure the ship as much as they can, believing they have evaded the dragons but Tanis’ keen elf eyes can see the dragons approach regardless of the storm. A blue dragon appears first, with a Dragon Highlord rider, one who has no weapon. Tanis recognises the Highlord as Kitiara, sick with the knowledge that he is about to responsible for many deaths. As he worried, he sees that Berem’s shirt has blown open in the wind and the green jewel embedded in his chest glows brilliantly. Tanis and the Highlord are the only two to see it, since everyone else is staring aghast at the impending blue dragon of doom. Tanis sees in the Highlord’s eyes this impending doom, just as he saw passion in them a few nights ago. The Highlord raises her hand. Raistlin shouts out her name and makes a dash for her.
Kitiara is shocked at Raistlin’s metallic skin and hourglass eyes. She sees Caramon, too. She is uncertain how to act next, knowing that to get to Berem, she’d have to kill her little brothers. And she orders her dragon to grab Berem, just as Tanis expected her to, but her hesitation causes all sorts of aviation issues for Skie, her dragon, who is buffeted by the storm winds and can not reach Berem. They vanish into the storm.
As yet another massive wave threatens to tip the ship, Maquesta orders our landlubber friends below decks, where they all look to Tanis for an explanation. Caramon spells it out—Tanis was with their sister, the Dragon Highlord for the last four days. Tanis admits that he was but that he did not betray them. He explains that had he done so, they wouldn’t even have made it to the ship. Raistlin accuses him of having considered betraying them, and Tanis can not deny it and launches into an explanation of how Kitiara has been in his dreams for the last five years. He also says that after Kitiara left the bed, he lay there and hated himself for what had happened, thinking about Laurana. They are interrupted by Maquesta calling them back up on deck, and the realisation that the ship is moving forward in an unnaturally straight line. As they troop back up, Riverwind, Goldmoon and Tika show Tanis some compassion, Caramon is silent and Raistlin is possibly just a little bit gleeful. When they get to the deck, Maquesta tells Tanis that he and Berem have destroyed them. The ship is caught in the maelstrom. This is just the worst.
The ship is caught in a watery cyclone, being whipped into a blood-red darkness, almost at the eye of the storm. Even Berem can not turn the ship away. Caramon has a Good Idea, reminding Tanis that perhaps Raistlin can use the dragon orb and magic to help. They rush below decks again and find Raistlin already with the dragon orb, all aglow and scary. Raistlin explains that he can now harness the energy of his corporeal body and that of his spirit into one and become pure light, able to travel through the heavens and returning the physical world when he chooses. He isn’t certain if the orb can help the others this way too, but he doesn’t care if they all die, even Caramon. Tanis asks Caramon to stop him, but Raistlin reminds his brother of what he is capable of, as seen at the Towers of High Sorcery. Raistlin finally spells it out for Tanis (and for us). At the Towers of High Sorcery, his final test was against himself and he failed it when he killed his brother (an illusion in his mind, of course, since Caramon is still here). Caramon watched him do this, and understood the true depths of Raistlin’s hatred and jealousy. Raistlin, too, accepts his selfish desires and uses the orb to get away. There is a bright light, some strange words, and the mage is gone.
Back up on deck, Tika tries not to cry. She wants to be brave, but the last few days have been hellish and she really wants Caramon. He wants her too, she knows, but nothing will happen between them for as long as Raistlin is around. When she sees Tanis come up out of the hatch, supporting Caramon, she is shocked—the warrior is pale and barely able to stand, blank eyed and glazed. Goldmoon attempts some healing magic and Caramon starts to weep, as Tanis explains that Raistlin knew how to use the orb and has vanished. Tanis and Riverwind discuss how they saw all this in their dream—the mage leaving his brother to die, Tanis failing everyone. Tanis is filled with self loathing, admitting that he and Raistlin are very similar—both destroyed by their desires. Riverwind tries to console him, but Tanis admits that he didn’t leave Kitiara, he snuck out without confronting her. He insists he has doomed them all, and Riverwind admits that he and Goldmoon are pregnant. Tanis is distraught. Riverwind holds him, tells him that this is what the gods want and to have faith. Tanis considers suicide,which is forbidden to elves. As he prays for his ‘shame’ to be kept from Laurana even after his death, a shadow falls over them and Kitiara and her dragon appear in the sky above the ship. She makes a surge for Berem but Tanis knocks him out of the way. Instead, Kitiara and her dragon decide to swoop Tanis up instead. As Tanis is carried off, Tika is attempting to comfort the still traumatised Caramon, who weeps repeating two words. The ship finally loses its struggle and starts to break apart. Caramon’s words linger. “My brother…”
Monster(s) of the Week
Skie, Kitiara’s blue dragon. A most ferocious, determined beast. The dragon, I mean. Well, Kit too.
Miscellaneous herd of dragons. Flock of dragons? Impending dragon doom, in this case.
Berem and Raistlin. We’ve got to start admitting that these two are some kind of monster. They’re definitely ‘other’, they’re not ‘good’ and they are all sorts of dangerous. That’s enough for me.
“I can’t condemn Raistlin! We’re very much alike, he and I. Both destroyed by an all-consuming passion!”
Tanis, on how his desire for Kitiara is like Raistlin’s desire for power. Tanis has always been Raistlin’s foil—much more so to me than Caramon is—but are he and Raistlin defined by the same sort of destructive desires, albeit for different gains? Tanis certainly seems to think so.
So these are a couple of interesting, tense chapters, aren’t they? Lots of revelations of characters, lots of figuring out who stands where with whom, and of course, lots of straight up action and adventure on the high seas too.
I’ve got to say, good for Caramon here, for asking the tough questions at the start, and bringing Tanis’s time spent with Kitiara the Dragon Highlord to the forefront. Not so great for Caramon to have his brother ‘kill’ him again, when Raistlin leaves him in the maelstrom. He’s already seen Raistlin kill him during the Test, and here, again, he is forced to witness that his brother really has no love for him at all. Poor Caramon. To think of all that he’s given up for Raistlin, including Tika. Raistlin, of course, in true dark mage form, takes his escape route where he can and seems to shed not a sliver of concern or guilt about leaving everyone to their deaths. We’ve always knows he was selfish, but the dragon orb’s offer of greater powers appears to have completely entrapped him. He and his sister Kitiara share a certain cold, naked ambition for power and glory.
Tanis’ take on his tryst with Kitiara the Dragon Highlord is odd. He says he loved her. Then he says he took the first chance to escape that he could, after some post-coital self loathing and guilt. Is this love, or Stockholm Syndrome? In addition, when Raistlin accuses him of considering betraying his friends, Tanis is guilty—Is Tanis now being accused of thoughtcrime? He didn’t betray them, but it crossed his mind. So he is, in effect, pre-guilty of betrayal? Do we hold this against him, judge him for it and decide that he is not the man we all thought would lead us? Frankly, I’m tired of Tanis’ earnestness anyway, so this whole complicated mess of feelings is much more interesting than the straight and narrow with only a slight detour for Laurana Tanis we met in the first book.
But wow, Tanis’s torment is really something else. Dragons may be approaching, but Tanis must have his moment of self-pity, dwelling on how he assumed he was special, how foolish he was to think Kit loved him. She loved no one, he realises bitterly. Then there is so much guilt about sex with Kitiara, so much guilt about Laurana, so much guilt about sleeping with the enemy. It has to be about her being Dragon Highlord, of course, but that seems a little …narrow minded, dare I say, to define Kit by her job. There is so much guilt in Tanis that he’s considering suicide…while faced with imminent death. Heavy.
These have indeed been a couple of heavy chapters. Everything appears lost. Will the ship rise again? Will the companions? Where is Raistlin now? Where is Tanis? Will they return to save the others? Will Tika die with her love unfulfilled? What would Riverwind and Goldmoon have named their baby, the last bastion of the Plainspeople? What’s up with Berem’s chest jewellry? Honestly, this week has quite a delightful soap opera style cliffhanger ending, doesn’t it?
Mahvesh loves dystopian fiction and appropriately lives in Karachi, Pakistan. She writes about stories and interviews writers the Tor.com podcast Midnight in Karachi when not wasting much too much time on Twitter.