Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread! And this week’s chapter titles have ellipses, so you know they’re exciting.
Last week we detoured to EVIL HQ, where we had a villain-off where everyone took turns billowing their capes and reciting their tragic backstories at one another.
We’re going to leave Evil to it this week, and return to our heroes. Is Laurana really going to walk into this painfully obvious trap? And what happened to #TeamTanis?!
“The trap…” and “A peaceful interlude.”
We open with Bakaris, who is spending his time in jail, plotting revenge, imagining his death, generally being an unpleasant person, having an unpleasant time. Laurana, Flint and Tas break him out. Flint accidentally lets drop that they’re swapping him for Tanis, and Bakaris does his best to use that fact to wind everyone up. (Ironically, he’s not… all wrong?)
The three heroes and their prisoner sneak outside of the city and meet Gakhan, a Draconian minion. Gakhan and Bakaris disarm the companions (Bakaris gets frisky until Tas intervenes), and usher the group into a convenient grove of trees just outside the city walls.
There, they find wyverns—mini-dragons, dumber, less magical, and very poisonous—but no emo half-elves. Gakhan claims that Tanis is very, very sick, and if they want to collect their dying friend, they’ll need to fly to Dargaard Keep and do so in person. As this is now the trappiest trap ever trapped in Trapland, Laurana gets cold feet. Bakaris grabs her and dismisses Gakhan. The draconian has his orders from Kitiara, but, meh, even if it all goes wrong, Bakaris will take the punishment. So he saunters off, leaving the three unarmed heroes with their predatory former-prisoner.
There’s some banter: Bakaris insists that Tanis is dying. Tas chatters. Flint sulks. Laurana emotionally yo-yos between ‘ZOMG TRAP’ and ‘but Tanis!’. Eventually Bakaris cuts through the chat with the threat of wyvern stings. Everyone is forced to board a wyvern; Flint and Tanis on one, Laurana and the two-close-for-comfort Bakaris on the other.
They fly for an hour, but then Bakaris sets them all down a mile away from the keep. Using the threat of the wyvern to keep Tas and Flint in line, he proceeds to assault Laurana. She pretends to faint, and makes a run for it, but Bakaris grabs her and literally drags her into his cave. The metaphors are unsubtle. Bakaris is about to have his wicked way, but Tas stabs him with his hidden knife (way back from Autumn Twilight!). In the ensuing wrestling match, Laurana kills Bakaris by knocking him onto his own dagger. Good riddance.
However, things don’t end well. The three heroes are about to head back to the city when Lord Soth shows up. He snags Laurana, and tells the others to go back to Kalaman and spread the word. They’ll discuss surrender in the morning. Eep.
A good time to jump to #TeamTanis. What have they been up to since their ship got eaten by a whirlpool?
Tanis is trying to interrogate Berem. Where are they? Who is he? What’s going on?! He loses his temper, but Goldmoon and Riverwind pull him away before he strangles Berem (#darkTanis). Berem, to everyone’s surprise, opens up. He’s not quite as mute as he’s been pretending to be.
Berem confesses that he’s over three hundred years old. And that the Dark Queen’s minions have been chasing him forever, without any rest. He’s pretty worn out. He dies and lives and dies again. He doesn’t know why, and all he wants is peace. The emerald seems to be the key, but he can’t remove it from his chest.
Tanis recaps their whereabouts, which is to say, unknown. There was the massive maelstrom, and then, who knows? When he awoke, he was with Goldmoon, Berem and Riverwind, and were in this massive, ancient, ruined room. But where are the others?
Berem didn’t lead them here intentionally, as Tanis initially suspected. In fact, he’s keen to leave. He’s hunting for something, and needs to find it. But he can’t tell Tanis what it is. Or why. He does share where he came from—a small village named Neraka, which no one has ever heard of.
That line of questioning comes to an end when a wizard walks in. Red-robed, like Raistlin, but not, sadly, our friend. The mage snorts and wanders off. The adventurers follow him, and discover that their surroundings aren’t limited to a single room—there’s corridor after corridor of ruined riches. They keep almost losing the wizard, but then catching sight at the last minute.
They split up to cover more ground, and Tanis finds a map, a model of where they are. The city, for that’s what it is, is (was) beautiful, absolutely gorgeous, in fact, with a stunning tower at the center. Whilst Tanis tries to remember his history, Berem finds the answer in an inscription over the door—they’re in the ruins of the ‘City of Damnation’: Istar.
[Tanis] remembered thinking that death would be easy and welcome, even as he fought to grab hold of a piece of wood.
I know this is about drowning, but there’s an ungracious bit of me that points out that emo Tanis would rather die than face his problems (some of which are self-created). I’m afraid he’s in my bad books.
Monster(s) of the Week
Wyverns! Poor wyverns; they aren’t really all that bright, are they? For some reason, I think of them as particularly dense housecats. Dim, snappish, grumpy, but less evil than, you know, irritable. I blame the internet for reducing everything to housecat status.
Unnamed Red Wizard? Maybe? His only line of dialogue was a grunty-howl thing.
Lord Soth, again.
For a species of non-human that’s supposedly immune to fear, Tas is afraid a lot:
- Tower of Palanthas
- Silvanesti dream(?)
- Lord Soth
Am I missing any others? I feel there have been more. I understand the mechanic—kender aren’t entirely immune to magical fear. But in a literary sense, this ‘it is so scary that even the kender is scared!’ shtick has been played out.
On the other hand, I feel a bit that the Istar reveal was a bit of a damp squib. The Cataclysm has been referred to in vague, hushed terms, but with the exception of Lord Soth’s story (and a bit of Astinus’), we’ve never really brushed up against it. And it doesn’t feel particularly relevant to the struggle at hand: instead, this comes across as an interesting, but not vital, side-quest (a bit like the one in Baldur’s Gate 2 where you hang out with the sea creatures).
As we’ve discussed earlier, the relationship between modern Krynn and the Cataclysm is also a little woolly. It has been three hundred years. But in some places, it feels much more recent—Tarsis, where they still haven’t tidied up the mess, for example. Or where trade routes haven’t been re-established. In others, it feels like it has been thousands of years. They refer to it with varying degrees of distance as well, leaving me slightly confused about how much people know, or care, about this apocalyptic event.
Again, as mentioned back in Autumn Twilight, it is bizarre how the various regions of Krynn are so ignorant of one another—while at the same time, groups like the Knights and the Elves and (of course) the Dragonarmies, are moving freely around the continent. Either traveling to the next region over is a really, really big deal. Or… it isn’t. And our party are caught in a strange, in-between place. For some, like Goldmoon and Riverwind, it makes sense that they’ve never previously left their small patch of turf. For others, like the well-traveled and experienced heroes, it is odd how confused they are. Again, this may stem from how the world functions as a game and how it works as a book. For the purposes of bringing the readers along, we need some charitable ignorance from the characters. But as to understanding the average level of geographic, religious or historical knowledge held by the people of Krynn? I’m no more clear.
And, of course, the trap. Bakaris is one-dimensional, despite his POV moments, but still threatening. He manages to dominate our three heroes quite effectively, and his attacks on Laurana—emotional, physical and sexual—are textbook cases of trying to take power over her. It is fitting that it is by faking weakness that Laurana manages to break his hold over her. And that, by ignoring/discounting Tas, he creates another instrument of his downfall.
Still, what a ridiculous series of events. The fact that this kind of heist was even possible speaks volumes about how, in the words of Spaceballs, “Good is dumb”. No wonder Kitiara was so confident in the previous chapters. Fortunately, Evil is even dumber. Except Evil also has Lord Soth…
In the absence of Mahvesh, I’ll leave the final word on Good’s strategic ability to Prince, who notes that “you say you want a leader, but you can’t seem to make up your mind”.
Jared Shurin is an editor for Pornokitsch and the non-profit publisher Jurassic London.