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Friday, August 5, 2011

Guildpact - Chapter 1

Ravnica: City of Guilds is complete, so now begins my fourth chapter by chapter review with the second book in the Ravnica trilogy, Guildpact by Cory J. Herndon. Time to get acquainted with The Orzhov Syndicate, The Izzet League, and the Gruul Clans.

Guildpact - Chapter 1

Die trying.
             -Motto of the Izzet Observation Corps

15 MOKOSH 9965 Z.C.

(That's 35 Years before the end of Book One.)

The goblin Kaluzax steps inside the mizzium-plated observation sphere for this ninth Observation Expedition. This was an important mission, and the fact that he survived eight tests was likely the reason he was chosen for such an honor, hand-picked by mage Zomaj Hauc.

He launches from the floating base that sat atop an especially large zepplid bred for this purpose, on his way to the Utvara Valley. People didn't often appreciate it when the Izzet experimented with mana bombs. They didn't understand that explosions were a necessity to uncover great breakthroughs. Well this time they actually secured a site where they actually had permission to test the bomb, thanks to the Orzhov. The mana bomb would vaporize all life within the blast radius, but leave everything else intact. If the bomb didn't work, then they would just try again. If it worked... well... the Utvara Valley could do with less Gruul around.

Kaluzax was sure it would work though, and if he survived, he would become the richest goblin on the plane. He had bet every cent of his life's savings on his survival, and he was lucky. The first eight experiments had proved that.

And so the flight was on. Watching the central Ravnica from so high up was a beautiful thing. The ten districts were readily apparent, as well as the Izzet design with just a touch of goblin ingenuity. It was intended to be a city sized power sigil designed for their parun and Guildmaster, the dragon Niv-Mizzet, to rule over all of Ravnica. The goblins of old deliberately altered his design to put their stamp on it, and thus prevented the sigil from ever working. Thanks to their efforts the goblin tribe that had be used for the construction were purchased by the Izzet League and forever used as honored assistants of the great Izzet researchers in all manner of life threatening ways.

With the signal from control, Kaluzax turns on the flame-pods, and speeds past the city. As he neared the valley, he spotted Gruul of the Utvar clan perusing him atop leathery winged pterros. Surprisingly they were armed with bam-sticks and he felt the shock waves as the bolts of energy struck the near indestructible mizzium hull.

The problem is, the flame-pods aren't indestructible, and after one of the flame-pods is damaged, he gets permission to fire back. Through a series of levers and pulleys, the arsenal of the observosphere is unleashed. When all is said and done, the Gruul are no longer a problem, however Vazozav is sad to report that his instruments are showing that the damage to the flame-pod is not minimal.

This is going to be a one-way trip.

Lord Zomaj Hauc's voice sounds through the Ravnican version of a radio:

"This experiment must go forward, brave Observer," the voice of Zomaj Hauc boomed, somehow drowning out the cacophony in the observosphere with ease. It was as if he heard the voice in his bones as well as his ears. "I will not lie to you. Your vessel will be destroyed. This was, as you know, likely in any event, but now it is certain. Your records will survive and will bring greater glory to the colloquy and, indeed, to all the Izzet."

Kaluzax replies that he never expected it to go any other way, and he is prepared to do his duty.

"I will not fail you. 'Power is knowledge, and knowledge is costly.' Your words, my lord, and I hope to honor them. And you."

"Die trying, Observer," his lord replied. "And farewell."

The inside of the sphere heats up beyond tolerable levels. He can feel his skin of his hands melting onto the levers, and the skin atop his head blistering and all his nerves screaming, yet manages to launch the witness orbs. He laughs uncontrollably as all the flame-pods burst from the head, and he witnesses the mana bomb transition from a tiny point of a light to an explosion that tears the sky in half. His last thought after witnessing the event is to wonder why he was still in the observosphere. Why hadn't he been vaporized.

* * *


This chapter takes place before the entirety of Ravnica: City of Guilds, but I took a peak at the date on Chapter 2 and it takes place twelve years after the end of that book. Why wasn't this chapter labeled as a prologue? Will we be jumping back to this time period again like we had three chapters from Agrus Kos' past? Not a big deal either way, just something that stood out.

Test Flight

This was a long chapter when compared to the chapters in Ravnica, and that length was filled with all kinds of a detail. Once again Herndon takes a very modern day concept like a space launch or a test flight and paints over it with a fantasy brush. It works wonderfully. Certainly the feel of the Izzet League was very apparent throughout this whole chapter and it's clear that this is likely not going to be the default hero's journey typical of most fantasy. Perhaps even more so than Ravnica? We'll just have to see.


This was a fantastic first chapter to introduce us to the Izzet. It's all very technical and scientific yet the characters express extreme pride and devotion. Herndon captures the spirit of Blue/Red perfectly. Harnessed chaos. It's great.

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