Welcome back to the Dragonlance Reread!
Last time, Berem was revealed as the Green Gemstone Man as he and the rest of our imprisoned party were busy trying to escape the dungeons. We also met the Queen of Darkness not-quite in the flesh, and—at Kitiara’s urging—Tannis knelt before her to pledge himself to her service. This week, the pell-mell continues as Kit schemes, trumpets blare, and everyone’s conflicted wizard makes his return…
“Horns of doom.” and “Whoever wears the crown, rules.”
Caramon powers through the dungeons beneath the temple like a dazed juggernaut. He’s searching for Berem—and he knows he’s on the right trail—but the Green Gemstone Man has run off with surprising alacrity. Caramon sprints down to the particularly mucky and slimy end of the dungeon, where he finds Berem fighting.
Berem and Caramon take care of the monsters (but it is close), and then resume Berem’s frantic mission. They’re deep, deep below the temple now, in a tiny, old room. Berem leads them to a small arch—opening into darkness. Caramon lights a torch and they step forward. There’s the sound of trumpets.
Meanwhile, Tika and Tas are leading the remainder of the draconian guards on a wild goose chase. They’re faster than the draconians, but the draconians, being horrible monsters, have incredible endurance. Plus, our heroes are totally lost. The longer they can distract the guards, the better, but they can’t hold out forever…
As they run out of breath, they stumble into a long corridor that leads, blessedly, upwards, out of the dungeons. There’s even a door at the end: they’ve found the exit. Tas scopes out the—surprisingly simple—lock, while Tika, exhausted, catches her breath.
Tas realises—to his chagrin—this is the lock from the Silvanesti dream. He knows how this is going to turn out, and it ain’t pretty. But he steels himself: Fizban told him to be brave, he’s a Kender (and therefore supposedly not afraid of anything) and, moreover, Tika is holding off a horde of draconians single-handedly. He needs to do his bit.
Tas fumbles at the lock, but, almost as he expected, the trap springs. The poison reaches his heart, and he is paralysed… Tas cries softly, with the bleeding-out-and-unconscious Tika besides him. He hears the sound of trumpets…
Back to Tanis (remember him?). He’s just sworn fealty to the Dark Queen, as Laurana cries out in despair behind him. There is, as always, emotional turmoil. Kitiara doesn’t care, and shoves him out the way. His role is done. Kit requests that the Dark Queen give Laurana’s soul to Lord Soth as his reward. Laurana is not happy. Tanis is not happy—this breaks his bargain with Kitiara. He starts to nag at Kit, but she shushes him. This is part of a plan.
The Dark Queen agrees, and requests that Tanis come forward to pledge his fealty to Lord Ariakas as well. This isn’t anything he’s prepared for, but Kit tells him to shut up and do it, and don’t ruin things for her. What follows is a lot of dramatic Tanis-walking, as he makes his way across the room of eeeeeevil. Draconians, Highlords, the terrifying Ariakas, etc.
When he reaches Ariakas, Tanis hears words in his mind—whomever has the Crown of Power rules. So Kill Ariakas, take the Crown. The scheme delights Tanis. Ariakas is alone and undefended, and the Crown can be his leverage to get Laurana back. Tanis approaches, and then realises his fatal flaw: Ariakas is a wizard, and protected by a bubble of dark magical power. (Basically, he’s a badass.) Plus, Ariakas is smarter than he is—Tanis can see the Highlord puzzle things out, and realise that this is some sort of scheme.
Tanis is about to give up when there’s another whisper. Just do it. Glancing around, he sees a figure lurking in the shadows (in a room full of lurking figures, this one is clearly the lurkiest). Screwing up his courage, he goes for it. Tanis fakes setting his sword down and goes for the kill. To his surprise, the magic shield disappears, and he whacks right into the Highlord Ariakas. Ariakas, however, being a badass, takes the blow and punches Tanis right off his feet. However, even his power has its limits… as he prepares to end Tanis’ life, the sword wound takes its toll, and he collapses.
Kit is (as always) first to react, and sends Soth. But Tanis is closer and grabs the Crown from the floor. The room freezes. All eyes, including the Dark Queen’s, turn to him… but then there’s the sound of horns. And her Dark, Queenly attention—shockingly—goes elsewhere. Her draconians sprint from the room, obeying some secret command, and the Queen herself goes elsewhere (as does Mysterious Lurker). What’s happening?
Back to Caramon. The trumpets, he figures, came from the arch—some sort of trap. But he and Berem plow forwards. They squish through dark water, over horrible things—including dragon hatchlings. The torch goes out in the swamp, but Berem still goes on… he spots the gemstone pillar, the site where this all began. He’s so close to finishing his quest. But there’s someone in the way: Raistlin.
Back in the hall, Tanis is trying to maintain his negotiating position. Soth can destroy him on a whim. But Kit ‘lets’ him bear the Crown to her himself. Escorted by the Death Knight and some of Kit’s guards, he makes his way to her. Kit is enthusiastic—they can rule together! Rule the world! THE WORLD! He can even keep Laurana as a plaything, if he likes.
Tanis tells her to piss off. He’ll give her the Crown after she escorts him and Laurana out of Neraka. Kit is disappointed, but understands he’s telling the truth: he really just wants Laurana, and none of the rest. But, yay, he’s saved the princess, right?
The princess disagrees. As Tanis starts to take Laurana out, she knocks him down, grabs Kit’s sword and holds the Highlord hostage. She, she says, can damn well take care of herself. Tanis makes a Tanis-style plea, but Laurana’s having none of it. She knocks him on his ass, and the Crown goes skittering into the crowd.
As the Dark Queen writhes over the room, delighting in this contest of champions, the combined forces of Evil all scrabble around for the Crown… Craziness ensues.
Monster(s) of the Week
As with last week: all of ‘em.
New ones: dragon hatchlings! They’re icky!
“I am Laurana. I will live or die on my own, without your help.”
Is it true? Is it justified? Is it really, really, terribly timed? Yes, to all three. And also inspiring as all hell. Well done, Laurana—character arc complete.
(screams of joy)
As noted—frequently—by the characters themselves—the trumpets are pretty damn meaningful in our series. They showed up in Tarsis, when the party was split. They blasted in Silvanesti, when the party was chopped into pieces. And they also (although no one else knows this) played when Sturm died. And here they are again. The mechanics of the trumpets are… hazy.
They’re not really the same trumpets, presumably. Although they could be: the Tarsis ones were real trumpets, but the other three occurrences are magical echoes, so sure. Let’s suppose they are the magical equivalent of the Nokia ringtone. Which bodes ill for anyone in an orchestra.
But things are definitely getting hot and heavy. If anything, Tanis vs The Combined Forces of Darkness is the least interesting part. Caramon and Berem are this close to completing the overarching meta-quest. Tika and Tas are… fighting for their lives, if not outright dead. Tanis is… walking across a room. And swinging his sword, once, and—even with magical assistance—almost botching the job. It is hard not to make fun of him sometimes.
What’s fun about the Tanis scenes are that, for once, we’re only in one character’s head. We know Kitiara has a plan, but was this it? We know Ariakas suspects something, but what? We know (now) that Laurana has a scheme of her own… but what did she overhear of Tanis, if anything? Is she reacting like this because she thinks Tanis has gone to the Dark Side? Or not?
(Thinking back to Dragonlance as RPG—Laurana whacking Tanis on the chest and then doing her own thing is exactly what players would do. You can imagine the DM being like “GODDAMMIT, YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO BE IN LOVE. URGH, Tanis—roll a Dexterity check. Oh look. You failed. Again. Aren’t you half-elven ffs?!”)
Oddly, the only other character whose motivation is made clear is the Dark Queen: the text explains that she doesn’t intervene because she likes this sort of Darwinian promotion process. Terrible for HR, but, hey, as discussed previously—that’s what Evil do.
Let’s see how it all comes together in the next two chapters—we’re chock full o’ cliffhangers right now. But, you know… Raistlin’s back.
Raistlin’s back and you’re gonna be in trou-ble, hey la, day la! Lord Soth for one better take a permanent vacation, right? Oh how I’ve missed that Shirak. The next couple of chapters better feature a whole of Raistlin. Let’s face it—who else is going to clean up this mess?
And wow, what a mess it is! I honestly don’t know what’s going on in the Dark Queen’s court—she doesn’t seem to run a very tight ship, does she? Sure, she’s curious about letting things evolve (or in this case, disintrigrate) naturally, but really, shouldn’t a tyrant queen of evil be more…tyranical? Evil? Be sorting this stuff out instead of watching it like some sort of fantasy version of Friends, with Tanis and Kitiara as sword weilding Chandler and Janis? Not sure where Laurana fits into that analogy but her situation is pretty strange too—what does she knows? How is she suddenly so certain of herself, given she’s been tied up and kept in captivity for a while now? Has it only made her stronger? I can’t not be happy she chucks Tanis off the stage though (both literally and metaphorically), given how long she spent being defined only by her pining for him. It’s about time Laurana, about time indeed. Now I’m just hoping she’s got a better plan than ‘ditch Tanis and run’. Though frankly, given what a pain Tanis has been, that’s a pretty decent start.
I’m really, really, uncertain about where we’re headed with the Queen. If she’s okay with her military leaders running amuck like this, will she be just as lax when it comes to Berem? In fact…he’s running around helter skleter while she watches the Tanis-Kit-Laurana saga unfold, so why hasn’t she sensed him, or made some effort to take from him what she needs? Is Berem more special than we know? Or is the Queen just not as powerful? Raistlin only knows.
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.