Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
Last week, the party reached Godshome—which turned out to be a barren, empty, rock bowl, surrounded by boulders. Berem revealed that he had inadvertently opened a portal that unleashed the Dark Queen, and the party agrees to help him break into Neraka on his quest to see the portal shut for good. This time, the gang runs into trouble almost immediately, and Tanis catches up with an old flame…
“Neraka” and “Tanis bargains. Gakhan investigates.”
Well, sneaking into Neraka turns out to be pretty easy. The place is mobbed—dragons, flying citadels, draconians of all shapes and sizes. Vast armies of, er, dragonarmies. All congregating on Neraka. Bad news: ALL TEH EVILZ. Good news: super easy to sneak in, with their convenient ‘disguises’.
Indeed, it really is. There’s a POV from the hassled captain who is running Neraka’s gate guard. There’s a system—everyone enters according to rank, and it (should) work. Except Lord Ariakas, who should go in first, is running two days late. So all the armies are camped out around Neraka, going totally stir-crazy. They’re getting drunk, hassling one another; brawls breaking out between the distinct armies. One of the dragons (Cyan Bloodbane—remember him from Winter Night?) even killed another.
Given all that, the captain’s not super-happy to be dealing with random “officers” and their “prisoners”, but they almost match the description of some wanted people (e.g. Silvara, Flint, etc). He leers at them, then let’s them pass… except, they don’t have the right papers. So he has these “deserters” thrown in jail instead.
Tanis panics, but improvises. Kitiara’s armies are moving through the gates, and, just as they’re being hauled off to jail, he spots his old flame. Tanis gets her attention. Bemused, Kitiara goes along with the game and lifts Tanis out of the crowd.
Caramon, Tas, Berem, Tika are all hauled away to the prison, but Tas caught a bit of a warning from Tanis. There’s some genre-obligated pawing of Tika by the draconian guards, but Caramon points out that they’re all under Kitiara’s protection, so claws off. Tas manages to share Tanis’ warning with Caramon, but Caramon doesn’t seem so impressed. A draconian smacks our valiant kender around a bit, and as the chapter ends, Tas is concussed, rapidly fading into unconsciousness and… heading to the dungeons.
Meanwhile, Tanis is ‘suffering’ in a different way. Now in Kitiara’s chambers, he and the Dark Lady are negotiating. Tanis lies a bit—saying he’s there alone, etc.—Kit casually mentions torture. He offers to trade himself for Laurana. Kit finds that hilarious… or does she? He even offers to be her commander in chief, replacing Bakaris.
Kit ponders. She says that Tanis will be presented to the Dark Queen and the other Highlords at an event that evening, and he’ll be given ceremonial armor. He’s got an hour to freshen up, and get ready to serve her.
Tanis thinks over his options and he agrees. He’s distraught to realise Kitiara’s human ambition, but is overwhelmed by her dark (god-fuelled?) charisma. Ultimately though, he has no choice—and he will do this for Laurana.
Kit then wanders off to discuss her evil plans in detail with Lord Soth. Despite what she’s said to Tanis, she has no intention of letting Laurana free. Laurana will be given to the Dark Queen and, once dead, her spirit will be handed over to Lord Soth (who still has a thing for elven ladies, apparently). Tanis will get the pleasure of watching Laurana get tortured to death, because that will break his spirit and make him wholly Kit’s or something. Then she’ll crush him to death. Emotionally and possibly physically. Because she knows he’s been lying—about her brothers and about the Everman—and that really pisses her off.
She sends Gakhan, her draconian agent, to check out Tanis’s story. Then stands around naked (why?) while Soth lectures her about how Tanis will always be her master. Hmm.
Monster(s) of the Week
Like, all of them. Who missed Cyan Bloodbane? (raises hand)
“[Tanis was] thinking about that ‘old man’, adding a few more things together, remember what he himself had seen and what Tas had told him. The more he thought about Fizban, the closer he came to realizing the truth.”
Wait, seriously, Tanis still hasn’t put it together? Come on! Given ‘…the truth’ in there, it sounds like even the omniscient narrator is mocking Tanis at this point.
“You are a woman still. You love and you hurt.”
Lord Soth to Kitiara. Best case scenario, he’s talking about some sort of grand scheme to become a goddess or something (although that seems unlikely). Worst case scenario, enormous exaggerated eye roll. (Doubly ironic, given that Lord Soth has earned eternal damnation for not being able to control his feelz. Him lecturing about fragile lady-feelings seems particularly ironic, given his lack of emotional maturity once literally caused the apocalypse.)
Evil Kit is Evil! Just in case there was any confusion about which side she was on, she’s really a very bad person. And expressly, explicitly bad—not just jealous or ambitious, but now actively evil. My wife and I use the term ‘Zaning’ to describe this sort of scene. Remember Titanic? For the first 2/3rds, Billy Zane is a bit assy, but not actually evil. He’s got a fiance, a life, a deal, etc. And, in fact, he’s being treated pretty shabbily by Rose and Jack. So, at the 4 hour point (Titanic was 6 hours long, right?), he just goes PURE FROTHING EVIL. All of a sudden, this composed businessman (who was ready to give Rose a long and happy life), grabs a gun and starts shooting at nuns and schoolchildren. Like James Cameron suddenly realised that—crap, right now, Jack’s the villain!
So, yes. Whenever someone goes wildly and overtly EEEEEEEVIL, we like to think about that as Zaning. And this is some quality Zaning.
Let’s look at the set-up:
- Kit does Tanis an obvious favour. He’s about to die and she saves his life, committing treason in the process.
- Tanis plays on her feelings for him. “Free the other woman I love and I’ll totally move back in with you.”
- Tanis lies to her—again, about her own family.
- Tanis has weird feelings that Kit is, like, under the thumb of her goddess or something (which is either an excuse for Tanis to go along with her, or another reason that Kit isn’t the bad guy—she’s being mind-controlled?!).
- Tanis goes on a long tear about how Kit is, you know, human. And humans are ambitious and that’s probably a bad thing (but is it? See JK Rowling on Slytherins, via Pottermore—“You’ve been chosen by this house because you’ve got the potential to be great, in the true sense of the word.”)
One could almost think that Tanis is a manipulative little &*%& and Kit’s being a bit dumb. But, wait, THE ZANING. Kit strips down like an old Weird Tales cover and spends six pages telling her Death Knight stooge about how she’s going to betray/torture/kill everyone, everywhere, always. So, you know, whew. Tanis is apparently the hero again after all!
I suppose this is just more ‘end-game’ evidence: we’re getting all the stakes and motivations out in the open so we can build up to the final twists and turns…
Also, very interesting little moment where she says she knows one of her brothers is alive. Oh? Which? How? Exciting!
Kit aside, I do like the callback to Krynn’s philosophical stance—‘evil turns upon itself’. The forces of Evil are clearly wrapped up in their own schemes, not all of which are mutually compatible. The brawling draconians, the beleagured gate guards, the suspicion and plotting—these make opportunities for Team Good. (That said, given Good spent all of Winter Night fighting amongst itself, there’s not too much moral authority here…)
Oh, and finally, did anyone else laugh at Tanis’s offer to become commander of Kit’s legions? She’s a brilliant military genius. He’s… possibly got some skill at small group tactics? (Which we’ve only seen a couple times.) He might be an epic lover, but he’s a strategic liability.
Tanis as epic lover. Gfaw. I’m ROLF-ing at this idea because right now, he’s just so absurd that I can’t take him seriously at anything. Sure, who knows, maybe he is—Kit’s got a thing for him and she suffers no fools in bed either, I’m certain. The problem is that Tanis’ leadership abilities do seem pretty hit or miss, especially now. Does he really think Kit is going to quietly hand Laurana over? What has she done so far that gives any of us, including Tanis, any indication that she is going to make this an easy trade? Sure, Tanis doesn’t know the extent of her evilness (Zaning! Brilliant, Jared), not the way we do, but even so, I’m just not sure why he’s so convinced this is going to go down quietly.
The thing is, I know I”m being hard on Tanis (as usual, I know, I know), but he really seems to me to be a bit of an egomaniac at this point. He’s had his moments of insecurity, I’m pretty certain he knows he’s not the greatest leader, that he’s not the greatest battalion commander, that he’s really not that much of a prize…not compared to Berem, who basically is the very key needed to control all power. So why does he think he’s good enough to be offered as fair trade for Laurana? What’s so special about him, anyway?
Wait…wow, maybe he really is an epic lover. Well, shit.
EVEN SO. Kit is controlled by love/lust for no man, right? Her ambition drives her, her hunger for power is what motivates her—we have been reminded of this a few times now. So why even be slightly swayed by Tanis? And I say this because her plan to destroy Tanis is a bit…strange. I’m really not sure what’s going on with Kit to be honest—she wants him, she wants him crushed under her boot, or are they both the same thing? Still, I’m entertained by Kit, as always, because she defies logic even for her character with all this Zaning and this sudden maybe swayed by Tanis bit and she knows stuff we don’t.
Also, Lord Soth is just weird. What’s up with him? He’s more creepy for his posthumous lust for elven women than he is for …you know, being a spectre and stuff. I’m curious to see if he’s going to have any part to play in what follows, other than standing around why Kit is naked and pointing out to her that she has human feelings. Can he even die again? One can only hope.
Onwards! For the night is dark and the bad guys know about the Everman.
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.