Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
Last time, a raging Raistlin trashed a library while Laurana played diplomat and tried to get Palanthas to take the war seriously. This week, Laurana gets an unexpected promotion, and some old friends join the frey, though not without a little drama and heartbreak.
“Commander of The Knights of Solamnia” and “The Oath of the Dragons”
Lord Amothus reads—in a dithering, annoying way—a letter sent by Lord Gunthar. Gunthar sends his regards, and reiterates the sad news about the many deaths that took place during the attack on the High Clerist’s Tower, pointing out that the Knighthood is now made up of barely graduated knights and few suitable commanders.
To everyone’s shock, Gunthar names Laurana as the new leader of the Knights of Solamnia, for her experience with the dragonlances. The two most experienced knights, Sir Markham and Sir Patrick have been passed over. Sir Patrick, for one, is having none of it, being absolutely certain that a woman has no place in the Knighthood.
Astinus points out that this is untrue, that a young woman was previously accepted into the Knighthood in the Third Dragonwar. Sir Markham appears at ease with this decision and Sir Patrick gives in. They raise a toast to Laurana, but she is bitter and does not want to pick up the ravaged pieces of Solamnia’s chivalry that have been left for her.
Astinus insists that she be in charge not only of the Knighthood. When pressed, by the others if that means he recommends her as the leader also of the armies of the city of Palanthas, he insists that he’s a neutral. He cannot actually make such recommendations, because he can not—or tries very hard not to—shape history.
As Astinus leaves, Laurana follows him and asks him whether there is a Dragon Orb still in existence (“yes, but it’s outside of her ability to find, so she should forget about it”), and where Tanis is (“she should really just forget about it”). Astinus speaks some riddles about love lost in darkness and saunters off, leaving Laurana to deliberate if that means Tanis was lost to Kitiara. Wisely, she puts it out of mind, and concentrates on her career instead. She throws back her shining golden head and declares that she will take over the leadership of the armies as well.
Cut to Flint, on the battlements, appreciating the fine dwarven stonework of the wall and boring Tas. Flint is certain that something Very Serious went down between Kitiara and Laurana, and that he always knew Kitiara was No Good. Tas, however, can’t believe it, because Kit was always ‘fun’.
Laurana approaches with a bleak smile (she’s still gorgeous beyond belief but she’s gone from innocent maiden to ice queen commander), and gives her friends the news. She is now commander of the rubbish, ruined remains of a battalion who must now stand around and await death. Meanwhile, griffons have reported seeing dragons headed towards them—the people of Palanthas have started to panic at the news.
And panic they should, because here come the dragons! Ten! Big ones! Alarm bells sound all over the city. There is panic. Tas sees something, Flint takes a look and… sees silver?
The shiny new dragons land outside Palanthas. They are magnificent, and Laurana and Astinus convince everyone that these dragons are friendly. The people are very uncertain, but Laurana walks over to the gorgeous silver beasts, and gives their riders a hug.
Cut to Astinus’ record -“The Oath of the Dragons”. It tells us that the newcomers are led by Gilthanas and Silvara. Silvara, Astinus’ writes, is herself a silver dragon, sister of the Silver Dragon beloved of Huma. (Where were you a book ago, eh, Astinus?!)
Silvara and Gilthanas also have a smouldering anger between them that is poisoning their souls. Silvara told them that the good dragons had left the land after the Queen of Darkness and the evil dragons were banished, so as to keep the balance. While the good dragons were snoozing, the Queen sent her minions to steal the good dragon eggs and hide them.
When the good dragons awoke and asked the Queen for their unborn children back, she demanded of them an oath: that they would not participate in the war was she about to wage on Krynn.
Here, Astinus notes that Silvara breaks down and Gilthanas continues. He, Laurana and Theros convinced Silvara that the oath was wrong and that they could steal the eggs back. However, whilst on their egg-stealing mission, he and Silvara were captured outside of Sanction and imprisoned by the Highlord Ariakas who made them suffer immensely.
They eventually escaped and made their way to the temple of the Dark Queen, a building of darkness and flame. At the bottom of a nearly bottomless chamber, they found the dragon eggs, including a chamber with nothing in it but broken shells.
They heard magical chants which they found to be dark clerics of Takhisis, wearing Black Robes: who were using magic to change the good dragon’s eggs into draconians. Gilthanas continues after everyone has recovered from their disgust. Since the eggs were being destroyed anyway, the good dragons had decided their oath was no longer legit, and had come to help in the war. End of Astinus’ record.
A day passes, and a night, and Laurana—taking her new gig very seriously—is up late writing up orders. She will soon lead flights of dragons into war, wielding the dragonlances. She has a whole plan chalked out. Gilthanas interrupts, as he is unable to sleep. They talk about Alhana’s possible upcoming marriage of convenience to Porthios.
The small talk over, Gilthanas gets to the point. When escaping Sanction, he overheard a human woman named Kitiara talk about Tanis. Gilthanas breaks it to Laurana: Tanis and Kit are lovers and Kit is having Tanis promoted in the ranks of the dragonarmy because he’s going to lead her to the Green Gemstone man. Laurana is upset, but because she is now a Strong Independent Woman, she sends Gilthanas away, and continues being a badass leader of the Knights and the armies.
“I will take the leadership of the armies,” she said in a voice nearly as cold as the void in her soul.
Well would you look at who is moving the hell on?! And she’s finally moved on from Tanis. Hasn’t she?
Monster(s) of the Week
Dragons! An entire flight of shiny disco silver magnificent beasts on our side! Do the good ones even count as monsters? The only monster I see here is Gilthanas.
Griffons. At least, mentioned.
There’s a lot of telling happening again in these chapters, but wow, lots of big developments for Laurana too. She’s really come into her own and I’m so proud! All those annoying times when I thought her weak and useless and now, just look at her. Honestly, it does my heart proud to see the elven princess all grown and turned mighty war hero and leader of the armies. So what if we still have to be reminded of how gorgeous she is, so what if some men around her insist on being sexist, so what if she may fail? Just look at how far she’s come! She’s amazing. That she’s had to lose loved ones (Sturm, Tanis, one way or another) to get here is …not ideal but hey, it could have been worse. In this case, it’s quite literally also been a matter of what hasn’t killed her (battles with the dragonarmies), has made her stronger. I can’t wait to see what her battle plans are, and whether the Knights will fall into place under her command. And the dragons too.
The dragons! They’re finally here! Our dragons, the good ones, our heroes in shining armour (given the actual Knights have been a bit of a mess so far), have arrived and they are just splendid. Sure, Gilthanas is a bit of a dick and I just don’t understand why Silvara didn’t leave his ass in the Queen’s dark Temple, but it’s still exciting to have the dragons here. I can’t wait to get to know them better. Will we get to know them better? One can only hope.
Also: seriously? The Oath was WRONG?! And it took… three people to convince Silvara of this? The mighty silver dragons meekly accepted this awful bargain and slunk away quietly to wait? For what? Did they really think their eggs would be returned to them after Krynn had been devastated by war? Are all dragons this silly? I’m sorry, but I’m really not finding Silvara to be the brightest of apparently not very bright dragons here either, if it took so long to get her to reconsider the Oath. Maybe that’s why she hasn’t burnt Gilthanas to a crisp yet. Oh yeah, she loves him. I forget. LOVE. Gah.
Rereading this, I was reminded that I’ve always been upset not to read the Gilthana/Silvara ‘heist’ adventure in Sanction. What happened? I know there’s a Dragonlance module, but did this ever get written up in one of the 243 (not an exaggeration) Dragonlance novels? Anyone? Wouldn’t an actual heist be amazing—like Ocean’s 11, except with a band of sketchy elven mercenaries and a transformed dragon as a guide? Maybe they bribe a draconian insider. Maybe… Anyway.
This is, I believe, our second reference to the mysterious lord Ariakas, who seems to be very involved in the hierarchy of evil.
Like Mahvesh, I found these chapters rather tell-y. But Weis & Hickman do their best to soften the infodumping/plot railroading blow with some cute tricks. Having the two previously-unnamed-and-already-forgotten Knights of Solamnia around for Laurana’s promotion, for example. That gave us a wee bit of ‘showing’ when it came to what a big deal it was. Similarly, there’s a sort of double-narrator effect going on. Amothus reading Gunthar. Astinus recounting Silvara/Gilthanas. That doesn’t make the infodumping less infodumpy, but it at least adds a bit of personality and narrative sheen to it. Contrasted with the straight up, direct-to-camera plot-barfing of the first book, this feels very savvy. Again, Dragonlance’s origins as a simultaneous game mean there’s a lot of exposition requirements—but it is neat to see how the authors have gotten more skilled at delivering it.
And—and this is no way a weird backhanded comment about, say, ASOIAF—isn’t it is nice when all the differentiating plot-lines start to converge? The party’s split, of course, but they’re no longer operating in total ignorance of one another’s activities. And certain fringe POV characters are now rejoining the flock. It isn’t like we’re at the end, rather, we’re at a point where we can see the boundaries of the story.
A(nother) question for everyone—Laurana, right choice? Versus, I don’t know—Sir Whathisname or some other figure that presumably has more military experience? Should it be Gilthanas, now that he’s back? To be transparent, I say ‘definitely Laurana’, although not for Gunthar’s reasoning. The ‘can use a Dragonlance’ argument is pretty specious—anyone could, presumably (stick ’em with the pointy end!). But she’s uniquely qualified to deal with the nobles of Palanthas and the (potential?) elven allies, and she has more knowledge of the enemy than anyone else. Making her the commander seems completely savvy. (Also, lest we forget, she’s an elf, and older than anyone else in the Palanthas that’s not Flint or Astinus.)
All that said, the one thing she doesn’t have is tactical experience—unless that’s a part of her upbringing in Qualinesti? Having her review and guide strategy seems perfect. But having her actually pick up the chalk and draw formations? Other people should be doing that instead. Laurana may need to delegate. #DragonlanceManagementTechniques
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.