Well, Flint isn’t. (Too soon?)
And Fizban is off doing Fizban things (SPOILER: GOD-STUFF). And Raistlin is off doing Raistlin things (SPOILER: They’re probably really cool things.) And Laurana’s in a fridge. And Goldmoon and Riverwind are pretty much forgotten. Oh, and Silvara and Gilthanas are off fighting a war in the background.
But the rest of us? We’re back!
“The Temple of the Queen of Darkness” and “The Queen of Darkness.”
Tas is hurt. His head hurts (remember, he got concussed, so, ow), but he’ll live. Everyone recoups in the dungeons below the temple. They seem to be doing alright (given the circumstances), until Berem loses it and goes crashing into the walls, yelling for Jasla, smashing his head agaisnt the door.
Tika manages to calm him down, but it’s too late—his mad screams have called the guards and his haphazard beard-disguise of goats hair has pretty much fallen off. As the guards arrive, our lot consider starting a fight—this could be their (only/slim) chance. But then Gakhan the clever Draconian minion shows up. He rips off Berem’s shirt and sees the gem—Kit’s wily sidekick takes Berem aside and orders the others killed. Gakhan has achieved what no one else in the extended Highlord empire has done: he’s found the Green Gemstone Man.
Tanis stands sweating in dragon-scale armour, Kit by his side. Or, more accurately, he’s by Kit’s side—her hostage/trophy/arm-candy. He’s struggling a bit with his new role as a Minion of Darkness: the new team (Soth, Ariakas) aren’t all that hospitable.
His surroundings, the Hall of Audience, is impressive—albeit in a dark, tortured way. There are four empty thrones, flanked on each side by Highlords. Dragons are in attendance. It’s all very evil and grand. Ariakas, wearing ‘the Crown of Power’, arrives, causing Kit much envy. She sends Soth away to fetch Laurana, explaining to Tanis that she will present the elf woman to the Queen, but will allow Tanis to request her release. However, Tanis has promised to return to Kit. Kit footnotes their bargain with some, seemingly irrelevant, terms and conditions: she let nothing stand in her way to the Crown of Power. She then sends Tanis to marshal her troops, so she can make a grand entrance.
Back in the dungeon…
Caramon has been hit on the head (the party is big on head injuries recently) and is full of self doubt. Before he can take action, Berem reaches manic levels of madness and launches himself at Gakhan. Kitiara’s minion goes from triumph to omelette, as Berem cracks his skull like a basket of eggs. Berem them sprints off down the hall, shrieking wildly all the while. Caramon seizes the opportunity and fights the other draconians. Violence ensues. Tika suggests they split up. She kills the hobgoblin jailor. Then they split up.
Back in the Hall…
Ariakas glowers at Kit. He is informed that Toede was killed in Kenderhome by a kender, and that Kenderhome is lost. He is, rather justifiably, upset. Kit relishes this.
But then there is darkness—both real and metaphoric, as the Queen of Darkness enters the Hall in a shadowy form, incomplete in physical form as if something was still holding her back. (Hmm.) Currently, she’s a sort of evil black hole of cold nothingness, yet everyone bows to her.
The Queen demands Laurana, who is brought in. Laurana sees Tanis and is filled with love, though Tanis assumes that she knows very well what horrible things are about to go down and is unable to do the heart-eyed cat emoji back at her.
The Queen wants Laurana removed to the dungeons. Kit asks for two favours, the first of which is to accept Tanis into her deep dark service service. Tanis has a moment of doubt and then a moment of scorn for his doubt. It’s all very meaningful.
Tanis moves towards the Queen. At first, she appears to be the legendary five headed dragon, then the infamous Temptress, then the Dark Warrior. It doesn’t matter though, because the eyes are constant and they wear him down. Tanis falls to his knees before the Queen. There is an anguished scream. (BUT WHO?!)
Monster(s) of the Week
One hobgoblin, many draconians, miscellaneous dragons and dragon Highlords.
One spectre (Lord Soth).
One magnificent Queen of Darkness.
‘Gakhan was nothing more than a limp, green bloodied mass of shapeless flesh’.
Well that’s just fantastic. That Berem, he’s so hot right now.
Here’s the thing—Tanis is basically Kit’s butler. Caramon really has some severe self esteem issues about his own intellect. Tika can fight. Tas a little bit useless. Berem is crazy and crazy strong. Kit is power hungry to the extreme. Ariakas is foul. Laurana is gorgeous. The Queen is kinda cool, kinda not all there yet, ala Voldemort. There isn’t actually way too much happening in these chapters, other than reestablishing things we already know, and leading us to the Queen. It’s nice to meet her, after all this time. Wish we’d had more time to talk though. I’d really like to know what her plans for world domination are. Also, what’s her relationship with Kit going to be like? I can’t imagine Kit subservient to anyone, though of course it seems that the Queen has what Kit wants—power.
My main concern is, where on earth is Raistlin? We’re heading speedily towards the very end of the book and there’s no news about him! I’m amazed—why would they do this? Why wouldn’t you want your most complex character to be a part of the finale? He better make an appearance and save the day, or I’m done here.
LEAGUE OF EVIL ALL-STARS. The Queen of Darkness! Lord Soth! Ariakas! Kitiara! Gakhan (pours a 40)! Toede (starts pouring a 40, giggles, drinks instead)!
[Does anyone else think Toede is like some sort of pre-internet meme? He’s there in the very, very first scene in the Chronicles, has a bizarre sort of half-cameo in the middle, and… now he gets a throwaway (fatal) mention at the very end. He’s like Dragonlance’s Wedge.]
So, again, and not unlike Star Wars… but we’re reminded that Evil is weirdly inefficient. The firepower in this room alone is spectacular. Just puzzling it out like a, well… tabletop game… we know that Kitiara is at least the equal of any of the Heroes (she beat Sturm fairly handily, even without resorting to her dragon mount). Ariakas is, we think, heartier than she is, and like some sort of Caramon/Raistlin warrior/wizard combo badass. And he is trumped by Lord Soth. Which means there’s a lot of people in the room that are a bit like the Heroes of the Lance except a lot better at it.
But, hey, this isn’t the Great Man Theory of Fantasy History, let’s tally—again—their other advantages. Team Evil had one hell of a head start, including: dragons, trans-continental supply lines (somehow), an espionage network, access to divine magic (!), and a surprisingly sympathetic population. Also zero organised resistance. Even now that they’ve flubbed their lead and let Team Good come back from the handicap, Evil’s still got (a) flying citadels (the air-Craft carriers. See what I did there?) and (b) AN ACTUAL LITERAL GODDESS.
So… what’s going on here? They’re losing to Kender (embarrassing), and they’re in the position of pulling off a Laurana-kidnap Hail Mary to reclaim a lead they never should’ve lost. This is utterly ridiculous.
If there’s one theme that Dragonlance has been hammering home—including three chapters ago—it is that Good redeems its own, Evil consumes itself. Kitiara, Ariakas and Soth have been plotting against, not with, one another. And although their advantage is spectacular, they’ve been divided into fragmented, warring teams. Having an espionage network is great, but not when the spies won’t talk to one another. The whole thing is more than a little ludicrous (especially given the mind-reading, mind-controlling goddess at the center), but it is at least philosophically consistent. (This might be my blurb for Dragonlance as a whole.)
Meanwhile, the build-up to the climax is getting immensely fun. We’ve got everyone in one room—even the immortal infinite Big Bad—Tanis is having an emo crisis, Laurana’s back in the picture, and things. are. about. to. go. DOWN.
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.