Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
Last time, Laurana was named commander of the Knights of Solamnia just in time to welcome a flight of friendly dragons led by Gilthanas and Silvara—having recently escaped from the Highlord at Sanction, they had some bad news for Laurana regarding Tannis and Kitiara… This week, Tas and Flint ride into battle, and the citizens of Kalaman celebrate the ‘Spring Dawning Festival’ (convenient!).
“Victory” and “Spring Dawning”
ALL THE DRAGONS.
Also, ALL THE LANCES.
Gilthanas and Silvara’s shiny new friends are put to immediate use. We start the chapter with Tas and Flint doing their Laurel and Hardy thing, trying to climb on top of bronze dragon. Apparently the tide of the war is turning, and Tas is quite keen to get in on the action before it all ends. But Laurana (wisely) won’t let the kender saddle up a dragon and flap off on his own, so Flint has to go with him. The two bicker while Khirsah, the dragon, looks on, bemused.
Khirsah—or Fireflash—is a young bronze dragon (the good dragons are all disco—gold, silver, bronze, brass), and just about as keen as Tas is to get into the action. With a little diplomacy, he gets Flint moving. By referring to Flint as ‘Sire’ and Tas as his ‘squire’ (ha!), Fireflash flatters the old dwarf into action. The dragon explains that there’s a big ol’ mounted dragonlance on one side, and big ol’ metal shield. The lance slots through the shield, letting the rider sort of… wiggle it menacingly. There are reins as well, but they slip from Flint’s grasp during take-off, and Fireflash doesn’t bother to correct that little problem. (Wisely so!)
From the air, ‘it was a sight that took the breath away’. Shiny disco dragons in every direction, gleaming knights, glittering lances… The mood is positive as well. Under Laurana’s leadership, the Palanthians and Knights of Solamnia had united to drive back the Dragon Highlord. The Golden General was thumping the Dark Lady.
But, as Laurana knew, they couldn’t get cocky. The evil dragons had yet to take the field—until today. Tas and Flint admire the battlefield from a distance (Tas even tries to draw a map), but Fireflash has other ideas. As soon as the enemy blues and reds are sighted, the impulsive bronze dragon (and many of his friends) dives. Flint, Tas and the other riders are ignored—this is dragon-on-dragon conflict, and the human help isn’t required.
What follows is a lot of swooping and falling and diving and skewering and magnificent views, as the dragons hack and slash at one another from all angles. With Fireflash’s help, Flint manages to ready the dragonlance for one pass, and the bronze dragon goes smashing into a blue rival (and gets stuck!). While the dragons fight, the enemy dragon-rider leaps over, and begins to hack away at Tas and Flint’s harness. Flint slowly, mechanically, fumbles the lance free—separating the two dragons and stunning the enemy officer. It was all very tense, and both the kender and the dwarf are relieved when it is over… plus, as Tas notes, ‘We fought a dragon and I captured a prisoner!’.
The chapter ends on an odd note, with Flint clutching his chest. He blames the dragonlance, but Tas notes that the lance was on his opposite side… uh oh.
The next chapter, and indeed, the next book, flows on smoothly. Remember back in Dragons of Winter Night, when we cut to the oppressed town of Flotsam, dealing with the Dragonarmy invaders? Or in Autumn Twilight, when Solace fell?
This is similar, but… not. The citizens of Kalaman are waking up to the sound of bells. It is the ‘Spring Dawning Festival’ (convenient!) and, more importantly, the Knights of Solamnia are making their triumphant entry into the liberated city. Children are playing, dancing bears caper in the streets, candy flows like water, there’s ever… bacon and coffee (I’m in!).
The parade begins with, of course, Laurana, who stuns the crowd into silence with her beauty. (Naturally.) She’s lovely and golden-haired and all those things we expect. Behind her, the citizens see a kender and dwarf, more elves (Gilthanas and Silvara) and, of course, a column of Knights. The Knights are quick to note the irony—they’ve been a persecuted sect for quite some time, but now they’re hailed as heroes.
And, of course, dragons! The disco dragons do a flyby, and the crowd cheers. There are speeches, which flummox Laurana (she’s credited with eeeeeverything, which makes her uncomfortable). But Gunthar mansplains that she’s really important, and since she’s started leading the armies, they’ve had an easier time recruiting (also, winning). She sighs and does her speechifying without complaint.
Meanwhile, Tas is doing his kender thing—wandering through the crowd, haphazardly pickpocketing everyone. He’s just about to break into a map-maker’s store, when he’s stopped by a robed and bandaged cleric (remember those guys?!). The ‘cleric’ hisses at Tas and gives him a message to deliver to Laurana. Then he skulks off. There’s some light comedy with someone ‘mistaking’ Tas for a thief (GASP) and—scene.
That evening, Laurana is trying to get some rest when Tas and Flint interrupt. They have the cleric’s message, and Tas admits to having read it already. Laurana slightly appreciates this, as she’s been bothered by at least twenty marriage proposals (and others of a more ‘unique’ nature). But upon reading the scroll herself, she finds bad news.
The note is from Kit, who says:
“Hey, you’ve got Bakaris [remember her handsome, mean, slightly ineffectual officer that was her pre-Tanis romp buddy? That’s Tas’ captive!]. Well, I’ve got a wounded-and-dying Tanis. Want to trade? You can bring your two useless friends, but no one else.”
There’s some debate that follows. Laurana is convinced that the note is true, and they need to make the exchange. She cites Kitiara’s knowledge of the dream, her conversation at the Tower and, of course, the fact that Tanis (sob!) loves her. Flint makes the point that, even if this were all true (which he doesn’t think), it is still a terrible idea. She’s got a ton of responsibility, and she’s way too important to risk this. Tas chimes in with the fact that Bakaris is a troll, and Laurana once shot him in the arm. Probably not to be trusted.
The argument gets heated, but Laurana won’t budge. Flint and Tas give in, but only if they can come along—Tanis is their friend too, and if he is dying, they want to be there for him.
Flint tries one more time to convince Laurana that this is a trap, but she’s done with the discussion.
“What would I say? That Kitiara and I want to exchange lovers? No, we’ll tell no one.”
Laurana’s got a point. Although, to be fair, she and Tanis aren’t exactly, um. Well, you know. Cough. It is interesting as it shows how Kitiara’s immediately gotten into her head; her note effectively positioned Tanis and Laurana as a thing, and that got Laurana to snap up the bait.
“The woman whose name is even now being coupled with the great Huma’s as the most valiant warrior on Krynn…”
You can see why Laurana’s getting a little uncomfortable with the intros. But, in fairness… kind of right?
Monster(s) of the Week
Dragons! Disco dragons! Evil dragons! Flying dragons! SO MANY DRAGONS. THIS IS WHAT WE CAME HERE FOR. BRING ON THE DRAGONS!
Draconians (shrouded), 1.
Two fun chapters. I don’t think they’re especially emotionally dense, but they’re a blast. And give us an excuse to unpick some of those things that Dragonlance does so very, very well.
Tas and Flint make for the perfect combination of everymen. People really love explaining things to them. And they really like explaining things to one another—discussing consequences, recapping old events, having vocal, public debates that fill in the reader about the essentials. They are—together—a combination of naive and worldly, and in a way that firmly places the reader on their side, and in their shoes.
This is especially helpful when we get the hop-skip-jump of this week’s first chapter. We’ve gone from ‘the disco dragons are here!’ to ‘one month later, we’re winning!’. Which is a good shout, and a nice tactical fast forward. And rather than a training montage or a tactical breakdown, we get a quick ‘Laurana’s winning!’ and a funny scene where a dragon explains combat in 30 seconds or less. It isn’t quite ‘show, don’t tell’, but it is head and shoulders above your typical infodumping, and done with good characters and fun action. Similarly, the chapter does a good job of explaining what we need to know, and leaving out the dross. (You can understand the temptation to deliver the full ecology of disco dragons, but, thankfully, that is left to the Monster Manual instead.)
And, of course, the action is awesome. I’m a little amazed by this, but I think this is the first proper set-piece combat we’ve had since Autumn Twilight (which had one every other chapter). A giant, whirling aerial combat between both heroes and dragons… that’ll do nicely.
Similarly, the scene in Kalaman moves things forwards as well. We’ve now established the new status quo (good’s back on top!), and seen how it impacts the heroes, the foot soldiers and the common people. But, just like a television episode where everyone says, ‘things are looking great!’, something awful is about to happen.
I don’t have much to add to what Jared has said, but I’m glad the disco dragons are smarter than I had presumed them to be earlier. They may not have got their eggs back, but hey, they can fight. Because we really need them right now, no matter how great a leader Laurana has been. We caught a break like this in…ever? Basically, the dragons change everything, and no one is surprised. Amazing then, that the lovely, golden Laurana is being given all the credit for her strategies—I’m pretty certain she didn’t need to tell the disco dragons how to burn the place down. Still, I’m the last to deny that Laurana has come a long way, so I’m a little disappointed that she’s still sold on Tanis. Though…even if she wasn’t getting him back it’s the right thing to do, isn’t it?
My main point of contention with these chapters is that when we get the full on dragon-action battle sequence we’ve all been waiting for, why oh why does it have to be tempered with Tas and Flin buddy film comedy action too? I’m quite done with them. Of course, the actual action battle scene itself is exciting. I do wonder how the other, actual Knights and Laurana got on with the dragons—successfully, clearly, since we’re winning, but I for one would like to see Laurana’s newly developed battle style. And no, I don’t mean what she’s wearing or how shiny her hair is. It’s not like we can ever forget that!
(So, would anyone watch a buddy film starring Tas and Flint? I wouldn’t, but I can see the appeal.)
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.