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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Agents of Artifice - Chapter 6



Wait, what?


Agents of Artifice - Chapter 6

We open not with our heroes, but with Lieutenant Albin, and we find out why Liliana wanted some of his blood. He's up in his office, deliberately ignoring his paperwork (Who can concentrate when your thigh's been stabbed by a blunt object?), but the pain in his leg isn't enough to distract him from the gust of cold wind coming from beneath his door when there should be no drafts in the first place... nor should they be cold in the summer heat.

He gets up to check out what's going on, when the far side of the room fills with a dark mist. And from within that mist two pairs of eyes appear, with a hint of long limbs and dark wings folded around bodies of shadow soon to follow.

(Ha! A scary image of dark shadow. Sounds like a one-two combination prank by Liliana and Kallist.)

Just as he's about to cry out, the specters speak:

"Do not cry out..." A gleaming, jagged chasm of a mouth had opened beneath one pair of eyes, but Albin heard no speech in his ears. he felt it in his gut, remembered it from long-forgotten dreams. Though a low whisper, it was nigh deafening, for it was the voice of a thousand restless dead. "Do not cry out, or we shall raze the house of flesh from around your soul, and leave your five disembodied senses to linger, forever helpless, unknown, and unseen in this retched room."

(They play the part well.)

The specters advance, and the chill runs through his as they grab onto his arms. The continue to push forward and he can feel the wall move through him as he is pushed through it. Then in an instant they launch into the air, linger high above the Favarial for a brief moment, and land back down half a district away. The specters present him in front of... Liliana and Kallist.

(Ok, I was wrong. Not an illusion.)

They forgo the small talk and Kallist says in none-too-pleasant tone that they have questions, and they want answers, and if he refuses things will become unpleasant for him. The threat actually lifts Lieutentant Albin's heart. They want something from him, so that means he has some leverage. He didn't much like all the trouble working for Semner was causing for him anyway, and was ready to give him up. He asks Kallist if he fully cooperates, will he be allowed to live?

Kallist smiled a sad little smile. "I don't think you understand, Albin. The specters already killed you." Slowly, inexorably, he raised the sword, waved it through Albin's arms, his legs, his torso.

The blade touched nothing, nothing at all.

His options aren't "live" or "die". They're "move on" or "spiritual torture".

(Ok, I was very wrong. That or... worst prank ever.)


...A few days later...

Liliana is fully recovered from the complex spells she'd cast to anchor Albin's soul to reality. Spells that were well worth casting. They discovered that the guards weren't just on the look out for the two of them, but were being paid to search the city for Jace himself. They got the names of all those involved from the spirit of Albin, tracked them down and intimidated them all to work for the two of them instead of Semner, and soon after were told Jace's location.

The couple had been cautiously waiting and watching a decrepit building in the district's poorest section (Not exactly the kind of place Jace would typically live, but it's what they were told.) when a burst of fire and scream fills the air. Our heroes run. Kallist busts through the door and makes it up the stairs first. He makes it to the right floor, and sees one of Semner's mercenaries sprawled on the ground, and he slides his sword into her head as he passes by without missing a beat. Another burst of flame tells him which door is Jace's and he rushes on in.

The decrepit exterior of the building was only a facade for inside the room was one of the most lavish rooms Kallist had ever seen. And from a doorway within, Jace appears. Jace was his former best friend, a friend that looked so much like himself that they'd gone on missions together for the Infinite Consortium under that very guise brotherhood. But their friendship was in past. Jace did not look happy.

It took some quick talking and Jace forcibly reading his mind before he believed that Kallist was there to warn him of Semner's attack rather than being the one actually in charge of this attempt on his life. (A kick in the balls after Kallist had already stolen Liliana away from him.) After some quick talk, they figure that Semner might actually be hired for the same Consortium that they used to work for.

Jace wonders if Liliana is there too when they both hear her scream. A scream with a level of terror that shouldn't be coming from a mage of her caliber. They run to the doorway, and Kallist is first through once again. But this time something knocks the wind out of him and he falls backward. The blow was hard enough that he can't move, and all he can do is witness the battle from right where he lays.

Some thugs advance, and Jace backs up giving himself room to handle any attack. He casts some spell causing one of them to fall to the ground screaming in agony and summons a sky-eel to take care of the other. Then Jace backs up once more, not for strategic purposes this time, but out of fear at seeing something beyond Kallist's sight. With that distraction, Semner comes crashing in through Jace's window from behidn, his feet kicking into Jace's back and forcing him to the ground. In a few moments Semner drives a knife into Jace's heart as Liliana Vess enters the room.

(Wait, what? Illusion right?)

A blue light appears between Kallist and the dying Jace, and Kallist screams a scream that shocks Semner and Liliana both. A flood of emotion and experiences enters his mind overwhelming him. Kallist unthinkingly picks himself up off the floor and runs out the door and out the building.

Jace Beleren, who had long ago stolen the mind of a man he called friend, who had lived for half a year as Kallist Rhoka, fell to his knees in the refuse of the alley and wept.

* * *


Albin

That was a crazy ending to the chapter, but we gotta start from the beginning. For a brief moment I thought we were going to have a chapter centered completely on the Lieutenant. (And at first I was surprised Albin was alive at all.) With as good a job Marmell has been doing making me actually like Kallist, I thought it was a possibility. However, instead Marmell continues to show how ruthless these two are by the way they kill first then ask questions later. (Including later on when Kallist casually kills a fallen mercenary later on in the chapter.)


Battle

Once again, I enjoy the way Marmell does action. Having Kallist be knocked to the ground certainly gave the fight a unique perspective. However I still want to know what it was that got Liliana Vess to scream so, and got Jace to back away with a fear and hesitation that Kallist felt was uncharacteristic of him. Will we ever get to find out? I hope so. He just might not have noticed in his madness. I'm sure Liliana and Semner aren't just back in the room with the dead "Jace" saying:

"What the hell was that all about?" asks Semner.

"Yeah, I have no idea. That was kind of crazy. Should we... should we go and see if he's ok?" replies Liliana.

"No, he probably just needs some time, why don't I go through Jace's kitchen and make us some tea while we wait. Maybe you can tell me why you're with that loser."


Although... it might have been Liliana herself that he was afraid of. Don't forget the Prologue . There is some complicated plan going on between herself and Tezzeret that has yet to be fully revealed.


Jace?

I feel like that ending should have had a bigger impact on me than it should have. At first it seemed obvious that Jace wasn't going to die. He's on the cover, that's not going to happen. I was positive that the blue flash that appeared was going to be the revelation that the Jace that was killed was just an illusion, then Jace was going to unleash his wrath.

But no. I was wrong.

Then it seemed as if Jace's memories were flooding into Kallist, and maybe the two were going to share one body, or more ruthlessly, in Jace's last moments he was going to transfer his mind into the body of his former best friend and just steal his body.

But no. Not quite.

The final paragraph said he already stole Kallist's body half a year ago, and had been living as Kallist. Huh? I'm confused. Did they perhaps swap bodies that long ago? And the "Jace" that was killed was actually "Kallist?" And that's why there was so much hate from the man they came to warn?

But that doesn't seem quite right. Seems like Jace in Kallist's body would know that he's Jace. Did Jace split his personality and take over Kallist's body while at the same time living in his own, and this flood of memories was the convergence of the whole Jace? Perhaps that would explain why Kallist was only a mediocre illusionist. Most of his power was in his original body.

Or am I just completely off target here and it's something else entirely. I have no doubts that we will find the answer shortly, but I still wish it was more clear within this chapter. The tension was building high, the constant evaluation on my part of what exactly was going to come next was great, and then it ended with confusion. Any of the possibilities would have been an exciting conclusion, yet I don't know where the story stands. I feel a lack of closure at what seems to be the loss of a great character and feel robbed of fully appreciating the true introduction to Jace Beleren.


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