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Friday, July 22, 2011

Ravnica: City of Guilds - Chapter 9



Some more hits and misses as we continue with the power struggle of the Golgari.


Ravnica: City of Guilds - Chapter 9

Above all other considerations, you must never create something you cannot destroy.
-Matka Tajini (331-612 Z.C.), from the Matka Scrolls

25 ZUUN 9999 Z.C., EARLY MORNING

(Phew! She didn't fall for "that".)

"You control the head, but I control the body. I command the lungs that pass through your rotten voice box." Her lips thinned into a cold smile. "You will not speak. You will not move. You will not breathe if I do not allow it. Your body, Guildmaster, is not yours. It is mine. If you do not do as I ask, we are through here. I will find another way to save the Golgari."

She proceeds to demonstrate her total control over him by using one of his own arms to break the other while preventing the scream he wants to release from ever leaving his lips. She tells him she could just use him as a weapon, but that would require the killing of too many teratogens.

"I don't want the teratogens dead. I want to lead them. I want them united. This guild has gone all wrong with the Sisters in charge, but not all the chimerical races are like them. I can save this guild from itself. I can save it from the gorgons and make it great again."

(That's actually pretty admirable.)

Svogthir appears to accept his fate, and suggests one thing. She can rule in truth, but if she places him as a figurehead leader, he'll go along with her plan gladly. It's an arrangement she is happy to accept.


...In the Golgari court...

The Sisters of Stone death, Lydya, Lexya, and Ludmilla, along with the rest of the court watch the actions of Savra within their reflecting pool as she reassembled their ancient parun. They defeated him once, they'll just have to do so again. And of course elevate someone new as matka after Savra's death, or perhaps just let the line of matka's end.


...The assault begins...

Svogthir and Savra fight their way through seven levels of the labrynthal pyramid that contains the seat of power of the Golgari. Nothing but mostly mindless beetles and other such creatures had been defeated so far, and so they pretend to lose their way until a true teratogen crosses their path.

Then the harpies descend.

Savra and Svogthir exchange words, loud and clear, claiming they want no death to fall upon their people, as it would mar the return of the true Guildleader of the Golgari. The two are true to their words and soundly defeat the harpies with no casualties, and the harpies are soon proclaim the great Svogthir's return. After a few more similar exchanges and centaurs, and naga, and all manner of Golgari are declaring for their giant god-zombie and leading the way.


...In court...

Confusion and anger fills the Sisters. He's not supposed to have come this far. He's not supposed to be winning them to his side. When they look up from their pool, they realize their court is not as full as it once had been.


...Atop the final level...

Savra and Svogthir stop before the stone doors that separate them and the Sisters. The god-zombie declares the return of their true master and the beginning of their return to true glory. This is, of course, is something the Sisters cannot abide. They doors open and they emerge.

Savra openly declares her allegiance to Svogthos, and then in softer tones confirms with him the plan. Kill two, and allow the last to live to declare fealty. The transition of power will be much smoother.

"I didn't know priestesses were so well-versed in the art of politics."

"The priestesses you knew wouldn't last a day in my sandals," Savra said. "All right, you're on."

(*facepalm*)

Svogthir declares they have one last chance to submit. They refuse. Ludmilla removes her mask, and not all of the teratogens are quick to turn away. Svogthir looks her in the eye and remains unchanged, further putting his followers in awe of his power.

Savra calls forth a hedge to spring forth, both protecting her and the Golgari from the gorgons' gazes, yet low enough for them to still see their god in action. And that action is quick. The gorgons weren't helpless without their gazes. They were skilled in the chain whips that wrapped around their waists, one with a bludgeon on the end, the other with a spiked ball, and the last with a bladed pin-wheel that spun like a saw when used correctly. The problem is their weapons were too flashy and not intended to face off against one of his size. Svogthir simply caught the bludgeon in his hand, and quickly killed one, then another, until only Ludmilla was left.

Svogthir agrees to his terms, Savra lowers the wall, and Ludmilla declares Svogthir as the true Guildmaster.

But it's not over yet.

Svogthir basks in his return to power, but too bad Savra has other plans. She allows him one moment to realize that his return is about to end, then commands his own body to twist off his head. With an incantation she paid dearly for from the Orzhov, she recites a spell more ancient than the Guildpact. She cracks his skull upon the ground and all the his power bursts forth and adds itself to her own. She does, however, fulfill their original deal and secures his skull upon her staff.

Svogthir's body stands between her and the teratogens in their stunned silence as she has one more deal for Ludmilla as the newly animated corpses of her sisters watch on. She can die right there, or lead an army of Golgari into battle.

Battle? What battle she asks? Savra tells her and Lumilla smiles.

Savra is quite content herself. Everything has gone just as Szadek has said it would.

* * *


The Good and the Bad

Well... I loved the beginning of the chapter. I loved Savra's control over Svogthir, and his forced deal with her. They were truly a formidable pair. I enjoyed the overall plan to overthrow the Sisters, and even though I didn't care for Svogthir to be killed as easily as that, using the zombified gorgons as intimidation for Ludmilla to submit to Savra's rule was a nice touch.

I did not like a lot of the dialogue.

It started out great, Savra's declaration of her ultimate goals were excellent. But using terms like, "This is your last chance," and "Hello, ladies," only worked to help solidify the image of a cartoon villain in my mind.

The overthrowing a guild... twice... in as many chapters was such a rush, it's too bad all the excitement has to flavored with a sour taste.


The Fight

There's something else I want to highlight in particular, despite the battle lasting only a few moments.

With a lack of imagination that didn't surprise the priestess at all, the gorgons split apart, Lexya taking Svogthir's left side, Lydya his right, and Ludmilla attacking from the front.

There are times when you want to hang a lantern on something, because you know it's cliche, yet appropriate for the scene to work. This is not one of them. Obviously the Sisters needed to spread apart as soon as the battle began. It is a tried and true tactic. Although it didn't work out, you want to make it as hard as possible for your enemy to keep watch on all of you, so you can attack him while he's of guard, and at the same time with an enemy this large, you also want to make sure he can't eliminate all of you with one strike. Furthermore, considering their weapons are whip-like in nature, they need space to be able to those weapons as they were meant to be used.

Just because splitting apart to surround your enemy is the obvious way to handle this battle despite it having been done the exact same way across numerous books, it doesn't mean Herndon needs to make a big deal about it. Rather than conveying that the Sisters were terrible fighters, the paragraph instead pulled me out of the action and made me think Herndon is talking crazy talk.


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