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Friday, January 27, 2012

Test of Metal - Tezzeret: The Home Fires, Burning

It's a trap! Run Tezzeret!

Tezzeret: The Home Fires, Burning

Immanent death by magma scorpions isn't a good enough reason for Tezzeret to abandon the chunk of etherium he clasps in one hand, and the chunk of sangrite he has in the other. Instead he goes and dives all the way into the muck he stands in. While he has no mana currently at his disposal, Tezzeret has learned how to harness the innate power from within etherium over the years. As he finds the sewer grate, Tezzeret wills the etherium to shape itself into something he can use to force it open, all the while short bursts can be heard all around, sounds he assumes are bursts of steam as the scorpions try to skewer him with their stingers.

The grate is forced open, and Tezzeret falls the ten feet it takes to hit the real sewage. When he tells Dr. Jest to trust him, that it's not time to run quite yet, Tezzeret can feel an intense pain in his testicles that drops him to his knees.

"Trust you? Never kid a kidder, chum."

(Kidder eh? That wouldn't be another clue that Doctor Jest is more than he claims to be would it?)

Tezeret tells him that if he passes out, they'll both just die and Dr. Jest relents. Then a device comes into view, one of Tezeret's own. It jumps up and grabs onto his arm, ready to hold onto the sangrite that Tezzeret hands to it. With his arms free now it's time to run, but not before witnessing the ceiling collapse from upabove and feeling the blast of steam as the scorpions hit the sewage.

Two more scorpions come crawling down the hole. Now it's time to run.

...Moments later...

As he runs, Tezzeret finds himself being winded much sooner than he had expected. As if his body had gone through an extended period of time with no form of exercise whatsoever. A point that lays some credence to Nicol Bolas' claim that he had not be raised from the dead.

When Doc asks him what he knows about these things, the answer is that he doesn't know much. They're not local creatures and their shells are unbreakable. Anything they touch bursts into flame because they're as hot as a planetary core.

(*wince* Must not think about that critically. Just pretend that makes sense and move on.)

One other important thing. While most arthropods tire quickly when they overheat because they're cold-blooded, heat from exertion from the magma scorpions makes them stronger.

(I said stop it! Just move on!)

Soon, the sounds of only two the creatures can be heard, which Doc takes as a good thing, but Tezzeret corrects him. The creatures are as smart as a small dragon. If one of them isn't right behind them that only means it is trying to cut them off.

Before that can happen, luck provides them with another opportunity to escape. Hurricane season would be deadly to Tidehollow if not for the strategically placed dump valves. The fact that they keep the inhabitants of the slums from drowning is only a side effect, their reason for existence is to keep the polluted waters from poisoning the fisheries. In either case Tezzeret manipulates the etherium he carries to flip the switch and he dives head first into the dump shaft.

(Diving head first into muck to find a grate is one thing... diving head first down a long shaft... that's just crazy.)

But they're not safely away just yet. With no more witchglobes lighting the way, the presence of light can only mean the scorpions aren't too far behind. As the shock of hitting the slant at the bottom of the vertical slant even shuts up Doc for a few moments, but matters only get worse as the heat from the magma scorpions light the slick oil moss that covers everything ablaze. Tezzeret shoots out the exit before the fire can consume him and his body skips across the semi-coagulated goo of the collection pool like a rock across water. As the scorpion touches down, the blast of steam hurtles Tezzeret to shore.

And after all that, the threat of the scorpions continues.

Tezzeret watches as the other two scorpions come scuttling out shaft and cling to the cavern walls. One exits left and the other goes right, in an attempt to close in on him. The plan now is to head for the Tide Caves and escape to open sea.

The problem is the pain. Tezzeret's body isn't up to this kind of punishment. Tezeret asks Doc is he can do anything to help, and he finds pain come at him from every direction, which, it turns out, did help him ignore the pain in his legs.

“The human pain system,” he said conversationally, “is an interesting place. Ever notice that when you break your toe, you forget all about your headache?”

Then Doc comes up with a better idea and rather than pain, forces Tezeret to feel itchy all over. While not exactly comfortable, since itch, touch, and pain all use the same nerves, it was more tolerable than feeling on fire.

Tezzeret makes his way past the collection pool and into the surrounding neighborhood. They notice the magma scorpions and begin to run, many of them taking Tezzeret's lead and following him. When Doc asks if he's going to warm them, Tezzeret first thinks that the more people that follow him, the better. A larger crowd will only mean there will be more people between him and the scorpions and that will only slow them down. But then something causes him to pause and turn around.

“They’re after me!” I shouted with all of my considerable natural lung power. Amplification would have expended mana that I could not spare. “Stay out of their way and they will not harm you! They’re after me!”

The people seem to understand and soon are out of harms way. Tezzeret then manipulates thin wires of etherium to snake their way into his leg muscles to give him an extra boost of speed, and soon he finds his way to another shore.

The magma scorpions are most likely tracking the etherium he carries, but giving that up is out of the question. Instead, Tezzeret wipes some of the blood of his scalp and applies is to a summoning dish. Jumping into the sluice serpent and kraken inhabited water is also out of the question, so they wait.

The clattering of the scorpions is getting louder, but at the same time the glow of a witchglobe appears out in the darkness. Tezzeret has dealt with the scullers in the past and he immediately stepped aboard his skiff.

The shadowy cloak turned the infinite black of its hood toward me, and one clawlike hand held the skiff pole vertical, motionless in the water. I extended my right hand for the creature’s inspection, but the sculler did not react.

Tezzeret begins pointing to different injuries around his body, including his eye and his right arm, while the sculler watches in silence. He then lifts up one, then two, then four fingers and points to his temple, and yet the sculler remains still. When Doc asks what's going on, Tezzeret explains that the scullers never speak, but they have to agree on a price before set off into the sea. But even when Tezzeret offers the sculler four of his memories, it's not enough.

Then Doc finally comes up with a good idea. While Tezzert will not give up any etherium... what about some of the sangrite? Tezzeret pulls the solidified dragon's blood from his contraption, and with thin wires of etherium diving into a flaw in the stone, a piece as large as one of his fingers breaks off.

The sculler snatches it from the air as Tezzeret tosses it to him and seems to be entranced. The scorpions are ever closer so Tezzeret snatches the pole from the sculler's hand and pushes the skiff out into the water himself.

And still Tezzeret is not safe. One of the scorpions had maneuvered its way to the cavern ceiling, ready to drop down upon the boat as soon as it gets into place so Tezzert does the best he can. When almost falls over when the pole just barely touches the sea floor, he realizes they're adrift, and he takes a seat ready for the magma scorpion to pounce upon him and end his life.

That's when the sculler finally moves once again.  But rather than take control of the skiff, he takes the sangrite and pierces both of its palms in a way that makes it looks like its hands are clasped in prayer. It let's out a wail of death, that Tezzeret realizes is actually singing. The blood from its hands catch on fire, and soon so does its robes. The creature lifts up into the air

Even in the face of imminent death I could not restrain my awe. I found myself quite overcome with an inexplicable sense of sanctity, a distinct intuition that what we were witnessing here was something holy, beyond what mortals are meant to see—a sensation with which I was, to the surprise of no one who has ever known me, largely unfamiliar.

But now, here, I found myself flooded with awe … and gratitude.
Perhaps this is one more way in which I am not like other men: to be granted a glimpse of some deeper truth—a hint of mysteries beyond the mundane puzzles of day and night and health and work—meant more to me than my own life.

And that makes it all the more bitter as Tezzeret reflects on the fact that he knows there is no god. There are only creatures like Bolas, and he has no one to thank for witnessing such an event.

There were other scullers all around, joining in on the song, and then the burning sculler exploded in a spectacular burst of flame that lit the whole upper reaches of the cavern. The magma scorpion loses its grip and falls to the sea below, and Tezzeret is thankful that he had been sitting, otherwise the following wave that rocked the boat would have knocked him overboard.

For a reason beyond him, Tezzeret watches as the other scullers come to his aid. They put out the fire that caught onto his skiff and then through an unseen binding, they flank him him with their own skiffs and he finds himself being tugged along.

I knew all too well that this moment of safety would not last. Jace would know his trap had been triggered. And he knew of my sentimental flaw, which made it all too obvious where his next trap would be set.

And if I didn’t get there fast, my father would be dead before I could spring it.

* * *

Science and Magic

Sometimes when you're reading a book, there are just some things you need to ignore. Some things won't make sense and you just have to go with the flow. Other times that's just something that's hard to do.

Tezzeret thinks of himself as an unusually intelligent individual, and that makes it all the more harder to ignore things that just don't make sense, such as the magma scorpions being as hot as a planetary core. Maybe eveything they touched wouldn't literally burst into flames like he said, but certainly plenty of things would melt at their touch... so how can they cling to walls? The walls would melt away at their touch and they'd have nothing to grasp on to!

And how sturdy is that chute that led to the collection pool? Tezzeret hit the slant and was blinded by pain from the impact, I'd imagine that white hot scorpions would have melted through it as they hit and destroyed the whole thing.

Or if somehow it was strong enough so that it would send the scorpions shooting out into the collection pool like it did to Tezzeret... how come that only happened to one of them and not all three? Did it happen that the chute was just sturdy enough to send one flying out, while at the same time ruining the coefficient of friction so that the remaining two were moving slow enough that they were able to crawl out to cling to the walls, but fast enough that they didn't melt all the way through it?

That's quite a coincidence.

I'm trying to just enjoy what's going on, but I can't help it if some things bug me.

(Zing! Pun intended.)

(FYI: I know scorpions aren't technically bugs.)

The Obvious

Doctor Jest talks a lot. So much that it really pulls me out of the action. But Tezzeret has his flaws. The following is one of his responses to one of Doc's nearly useless comments as they're fleeing for their lives.

I declined to comment on his penchant for stating the obvious, because to do so would make me guilty of exactly that.

So Tezzert refused to say it out loud, because there would be no point. Yet he still thinks it to himself and we're forced to read it along with the reasoning for why he didn't say it out loud, which only forces us to read even more useless text.

Thanks Tezeret for sparing us from "hearing" that out loud. Thanks a lot.

Tezzeret vs Jace

This is also hard to swallow. Jace has yet to make an appearance in the book. Supposedly this is Jace's trap, so this is the closest we've seen of his presence, but the last time we really got to see a good look at him was when he was the hero in Agents of Artifice. It's hard to imagine Jace being as evil as Tezzeret claims he is.

The biggest problem here is that this book seems to have changed the ending to that previous book. In here Jace has become the leader of the Infinite Consortium, while it was made clear in the other book that he decided to take another path. So with that contradiction it's hard to sort out where some of this portrayal of Jace is being colored by Tezzeret's point of view and where some of it is because some of what we read before is now obsolete.

Is Jace just perfectly fine with out right killing Tezzeret's father if he deems Tezzeret to once again be a threat? Or is that just something Tezzeret thinks Jace is capable of because that is maybe something he would do.

I have no idea.

All we do know is that Matthew Stover is trying his best to show us that there is some good inside Tezzeret as well, as demonstrated by his warning the innocent bystanders to safety when he could otherwise have used them to prolong his own life.

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