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Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Alara Unbroken - Section 2



Introducing Rafiq of the Many as well as some major developments for what's to come.


Alara Unbroken - Section 2

Bant

Rafiq of the Many shaves his face as the new page girl polishes his armor. Unlike some others who abuse the caste system and look down upon others, he does his best to treat others as best he can and so he tries make polite small talk with Tholka by letting her know the sigil she's polishing at the moment is the Sigil of the Salted sea. One he earned in a duel to resolve a dispute between the ship patrols and the island aven. The rhox he fought against was only a scholar and monk but he fought with such ferocity and skill and he invited Mubin to his knightly order. The day ended in a compromise that all were happy with. Tholka is sufficiently impressed.


Naya

Ajani falls toward the gargantuan's mouth and before he knows what's happening, the broken axe shaft sinks between the creature's eyes all the way down to the axe head. The gargantuan falls to the ground and falls with it. Still winded from the battle, he hears the footsteps of other nactl and he isn't too happy to see Tenoch and his gang with him. He's the son of the most respected elder of the pride that goes out of his way to bully him, but he's also the little punk that Ajani still wants to earn respect from.

Tenoch's lackeys look back and forth at the gargantuan and Ajani with awe. That's something Tenoch can't stand and quickly rewrites what happened out loud, and his lackeys soon realize how much better it would be if they are the one to have killed it, and if they are the ones to return to the pride with gargantuan meat for the Festival of Marisi. They all know that Ajani won't tell on them. Doing so would bring shame upon his brother for being a snitch. No. This is their kill and Ajani will just keep his mouth shut.

Ajani strikes out at Tenoch but there are too many of them and he's overwhelmed. As he's beaten, a strange feeling runs through him. He sees past Tenoch's physical self and really understands what a pathetic creature he is. How his envy of those more capable than he and how the crushing guilt and expectations of his mother direct everything he does.

Ajani couldn't help but smile a little smile. "Tenoch, I see you," he said.

That comment is too strange for Tenoch and the beating resumes more violent than before. When Ajani wakes he finds his axe handle shattered even more and the choice cuts of meat taken from his kill. There is nothing to do but begin the walk home.


Bant

Giltspire Castle rests above the ground, lifted into the air by four towers. It's design is a symbol of the elevated nature of the higher castes. Gwafa Hazid looks upon it and knows that soon his spell will be completed and he will rule a country.

Knights approach he commands his wagons which contain his hidden chanters to begin circling the castle which he handles the knights. They ask him to halt and to present his papers and he tells them a story about how Ghedi attacked the knight Hadadir, who had signed his papers, because he believed the knight to be the very same knight that cheated on him with his wife. The story is too unbelievable for them and the knight in command orders her knight-sergeant to halt all his wagons of the caravan and kill any who resist, but by this time the wagons have already nearly completed encircling the castle.

(How fast were those wagons traveling and/or how small is this castle? And why weren't they all halted in the first place as a matter of protocol?)

It's now or never so Hazid jumps upon his leotau, and signals all the wagons to be uncovered. The knights find themselves frozen in place thanks to a spell from his chanters. Hazid knows that soon he will be a part of history. And then the castle begins to crack and the whole thing falls to the ground. All that's left is a pointed spire that must have been encased by one of the towers.

"What have I done?" he said aloud.

He dropped the reins and looked at his hands, turning them over and over, looking for an answer he would never find.

(Oh. He didn't know.)


Jund

It's dawn and Rakka , Kresh , and his warriors are deep into Palehide Thrash territory. As they make their way between two boiling tar pits, viashino surprise them them from within the pits themselves. The battle is fierce and Rakka gets separated from the others.

"No time to do this fancy. Let's just bring the pain."

She raises her obsidian staff and with two words it shatters into five pieces that grows into obsidian elementals. With her elementals surrounding her and with her scimitar in hand she fights back. She keeps herself from getting killed but the satchel containing her herbs is cut loose and dragged into one of the tar pits. The herbs are important but her foot's already felt the scalding pits once during the battle and she can't get herself to jump in after.

Kresh orders one of his men in. She can hear the crackling of his skin as he dives in, but he manages to get the satchel. The satchel may be worthless now but the leaves are safe and she tucks them into her shirt.

With the battle over, Kresh says they've lost eight of thirty warriors and need return for more men. Rakka begins stumbling with her words trying to say she needs to perform the ritual to summon elementals powerful enough to defeat the dragon today and they cannot wait. Kresh's warriors seem to almost be convinced by her words, but Kresh calls for silence and he stares at the shaman with suspicion.

* * *


The Good

Let's start with the good. Rafiq seems like a likable fellow and Hazid actually has more depth than I gave him credit for. Ignoring the logistics of the scene, the shock on his face is quite telling that while he's greedy and self-centered, there may be enough honor and/or respect for something other than himself to justify the White symbol is his casting cost. I was ready to accept a straight up villain, but it looks like I won't have to.


The Bad

Ajani. His scenes are still so spot on about lessons in bullying that it takes away from the scene. If feels too much like some high school bullies picking on their favorite punching bag. It's hard to feel the Naya in it. It's hard to see the warrior so clearly depicted in Ajani's art. The dialogue doesn't help:

"This is my kill," snarled Ajani, standing up to his full height. The fur stood on end along his neck and arms. "This is my offering. You're not taking credit for it at the festival."

"You think they'll believe you killed this thing?" Tenoch shouted into Ajani's face. Then, more calmly, he said, "We'll see. I think you won't even tell them we took it from you. I think the honor of the kha means too much to you - nobody wants to be the brother of a snitch. You want to be part of our pride, don't' you? So you won't squeal to the other, either. This will be our little secret. but don't worry - I'll invite you to have a taste of our generous feast after Jazal's speech. Take him."

Like I said, it's too on the nose.


The Interesting

These short chapters very strongly affect the tone of the book. We're touch down in one world and are throw to the next with a whole different cast before moving on again. It has its pros and cons, but it's too early to decide if that's a good or bad choice for this book. You can bet it's something I'll be keeping an eye on.


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