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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Dissension - Chapter 18



This is it. The battle after battle at the close of the Ravnica trilogy.


Dissension - Chapter 18

        Don't say I've got the wings of an angel,
Don't tell me that you want to fly,
Don't tell me 'bout the wings of an angel,
When you've never even seen blue sky.
                                    -Face of an Angel, by Shonya Bayle,
                                                     the Balladrix of Tin Street

31 CIZARM 10012 Z.C.

Senator Frej Ralinu, one of the few human senators, questions Senator Nit Vinloskarga as to why the Senate would be called to session now and why it assembled here in this building whose structural safety is now suspect. All the vedalken can say in response is that Augustin has that right and besides, she's curious to see how many of them are still left. With their arrive the Senate is officially called to order.

Grand Arbiter Augustin IV declares that the Guildpact is close to broken and that Ravnica is on the brink of total war. Images appear before them as he shows them Quietmen back in action despite their official banning, nephilim rampaging through the streets, Rakdos' first appearance on the surface in a millenia, Novijen itself coming to life, and Razia herself being impaled by Szadek with her own sword. The last image he loops over and over again in his magical display.

Senator Borbin stands and and is recognized to speak.

"Your honor," Borbin said, "we must declare the Guildpact a failure and establish martial law, without Boros or wojek assistance. They are a failed institution without a living guildmaster. But we, I can only hope, can fill that void. I move that you, honored judge and wisest of the Azorius, immediately assume the full responsibilities of judicial dictator for the indefinite future. I further move that we immediately issue a compulsory draft of the population, as well as a compulsory draft of the ghosts of Agyrem, to form an army of Azorius taht shall be the enforcers of the law. And finally, I move that we make this vote without delay."

Sentor Illindivossk second's the first part of the motion then Senator Yindervac second's the second part. Before anyone can second the final part a voice calls out from the doorway. Agrus Kos declares a point of order and raises an objection.


...Moments later...

Kos stands before the grand arbiter and calls him out while Obez helplessly rages against him from within. Augustin reminds Kos that it's his power that made him into an avatar and it's his power that can destroy him. Kos counters that if Augstin could destroy him he probably would have done so already.

Then Feather takes off her helmet and walks over to the arbiter to stand by his side. The person he thought was Feather isn't Feather. All angels come from Razia and they all are created in her image, but with a closer look she stand in a way that Feather does not and there are small variations to her features that make it clear he's been mistaken. How can that be? There's only one living angel left.

Kos yells to Fonn to take the others and run, but it's too late. Lupul shapeshifts and blocks their entrance. The former wojek demands to know why the grand arbiter is doing this, why all the tricks and lies, and Augustin explains.

Kos really did have the power to kill Szadek, it's just that Szadek was already dead. He had delivered his most hated enemy into his hands. And with his death Augustin had been able to control his immortal soul and wage a war against the angels, while sending Kos to take care of Momir Vig. And Kos shouldn't expect the Senate to come to his defense, they were hearing exactly what he wanted them to hear. They were being told how his renegade actions have caused all this destruction, and now it's time for true justice to rule. The Guildpact was flawed and pure law would bring peace to the land.

All laws are arbitrary. It is that they exist and are enforced rigorously that is important. There is no abstract, objective justice. There is no nobility in human nature - or vedalken, elf, viashino, or miscellaneous nature, for that matter. There is only punishment - and fear of punishment - for disobeying the laws we lay out to preserve the peace."

But now it's time for them to die. Augustin says that if he wants to see his friends the baroness or the angel one last time he might be able to find them in the Parhelion still alive. If he chooses to brave the castle's halls he just better be wary of the vampire's ghost. They have ten seconds to run before Lupul chases after them.

They run.


...Parhelion...

Obez, loyal and true believer in the Azorius way, doesn't know what to do with this guildmaster-killer controlling his body. Why would Kos ever want to stop Augustin? The Senate is the only hope left for Ravnica regardless of how the city has fallen to the state that it's in now.

Arguing with Obez just won't do, they need to be of one mind from here on out. Kos points a sword acquired from a fallen angel and points the tip at his heart. He reminds Obez that Augustin has declared him expendable and he, himeslf, isn't too concerned about dying. He's already a ghost.

(Not very heroic, but he is White/Red at heart.)

Obez and caves in.

His first task is to send out his consciousness and scout for Teysa. It would be nice to find Feather but she's a creature of pure magic and Obez's ectomancer senses don't work that way. It doesn't take too long before Obez reaches the command floor and by he and Kos see the auras of not just Teysa and Feather, but that of Air Marshall Wenslauv, Szadek, and another Lupul. They turn around a scout the way behind them to check for the shapeshifter that's supposed to be following them but just see an empty hallway. Either it had gone ahead and merged with the other or perhaps had taken on the form of an inanimate object which would make it harder to spot with the ectomancer's senses.

They snap back to their body and lay the situation out to everyone. Fonn will take the kids and find a place to hide... or... *ahem*... the kids will have the important task of guarding the rear. Kos/Obez and Pivlic are going to make a pit stop at the engine room.

(Engine room? Are they going to fly the castle or finish the destruction of Prahv to destroy the Senate?)


...Fonn...

Fonn watches Kos and Pivlic dash on toward the engine room, and she commands the recruits to spread out and keep their eyes on everything... and everybody.

They don't have to wait long until they hear a shuffling gait, and... humming. The corpse of Lilyema walks into the view. They all recoil in horror at their fallen comrade, and then My grabs Fonn's silver sword and runs forward and stabs her through the heart before anyone can react. Myc cradles the body and Fonn approaches her son to gently pull him away.

(More on this later.)


...Engine room...

The plan will work. Kos used to ask Feather about this place all the time out of curiosity, and she had revealed to that there is a flaw in the reality engine that keeps it afloat and allows it to travel the universe. With Kos' knowledge Pivlic is sure he can rig it to explode. They'll have anywhere from twenty to forty-five minutes before the whole thing blows.

In the room with them is Razia's body, dead against the wall. Here is her final resting place. When Pivlic finishes Kos points up to an air vent that should be a shortcut back to Fonn and the kids. Kos wants him and Obez to lead everyone safety while he jumps bodies one more time. He has to try to save their friends.


...Moments later...

Pivlic waits until Obez's body goes slack before he picks it up and takes off for the vent. He glances down one last time and notices Razia's body moving... or actually... melting.

(Ooookaaay. That wasn't Razia. Again.)

Augustin must have sent it down here expecting this to be their destination. Did he know what their plan was going to be? Pivlic doesn't bother taking a second glance and just flies as fast as he can. Either it is following him or it wasn't, all he can do is move as fast as he can.


...Command floor...

There is only one body for Kos to take. Feather is a non-choice, and while Teysa is a powerful force in her own right, their styles of fighting are vastly different and might cause problems. That leaves fellow wojek, Wensaluv.

Kos dives on in and immediately senses the body is worse off than he expected. But he's stuck with it and has to make the best with what he has. He opens Wenslauv's eyes.

From his experience, whatever form Lupul takes, it always limits its senses to match that of its imitation body. He's certain the angel body laying there in the room with them isn't watching him using feathers as eyes or anything crazy like that. Lupul shouldn't be able to see his movement but both Teysa and Feather make eye contact with him. He isn't sure if Feather knows it's him or if it's actually Wenslauv, but he way he flashes her some wojek hand signals

The one open question was how fast Feather could move with her wrists bound. If she did what Kos expected, he would launch Wenslauv's body at Teysa, grab her, and Feather would take off, pick them up, and head out the exit. It was a sound plan, and the only real one that made sense, so of course Father would do it.

(I'd like to open some other questions: "How is Feather going to grab them when her hands are bound?", "Why are her hands bound and not her wings?", "Where did these bindings even come from?", "Didn't Lupul show them they had no chance of escape because he was too fast for them and they would die if they moved?", and "While Kos might now know of Lupul's speed, has Feather just decided staying still is no longer agreeable to her?")

Kos gets up and feels something tear in Wenslauv's body and the pain wakes her up from unconsciousness. In a split second he explains to her that he's Kos and she just has to trust him. He runs for Teysa before Lupul finishes dissolving into its mass of worms...

(Because that's more effective than a normal body I guess.)

Kos tells Teysa that Szadek is a ghost and suggest she control him like she did with the taj, but no... she tells him she was specifically trained to control them and this is different. So Kos tells them to go on ahead while he picks up a sword.

(Did plans change? What happened to Feather flying them out of there? Teysa can't fight against Szadek but that was never part of the only plan that made sense right?)

This conversation must have been happening while they ran because Kos looks back and Lupul cautiously rounds the bend behind them while Szadek zooms on past him towards the heroes.

(Is Lupul afraid of them now? Why is he cautious?)

Kos has his sword ready but Wenslauv wonders what a sword is going to do against a ghost. Kos realizes she's right. What Augstin said might be true but what he said applied to fighting a physical being with physical weapons.

He needs something to fight ghosts.

Kos pulls out the standard issue grounder from Wenslauv's belt and tosses it to the ground. Szadek laughs at first, but then a vortex of blue lighting emerges and sucks him in. Kos attaches the grounder to his belt and he runs back to Feather before Lupul can get him.

(How long is this corridor and/or how cautious was Lupul being?)

Feather's feet hardly touched the floor. She already clutched Teysa Karlov in one arm when she reached out to take hold of Kos's borrowed body in a smooth motion. The angel spread her wings at last and immediately soared down the corridor the way they had come.

(I guess her arms aren't bound anymore. Let's say Teysa helped. She needs something to do.)

They gain ground until Lupul decides to change back into Razia and fly after them. He catches up and grabs Feather by the ankle and knocks them out of the air. After they're through tumbling, Kos smiles. He knows this corridor.

On Fonn's signal several bampops fly at the creature and explode. It would no doubt reassemble itself, but they had enough time to escape.

"Hello?" Pivlic's voice said from a vent grate directly overhead. "Hello?" Could you give me direction to the front door? This fat man is getting heavy."


...Prahv...

Things haven't been going so well for Augustin . Most of the Senate is dead. The quietmen had attacked and the Azorius and Lupul were fighting against them as best they can.

Kos pulls the grounder from his belt and tosses it at Augstin. Szadek emerges and tells the grand arbiter that they have unfinished business. Kos and company run and just barely get safely away when the whole place blows.

* * *


Overall

Let's get this out of the way. This chapter had issues, but I enjoyed it overall. This was a logistical nightmare but the concept of our heroes breaking into a castle labyrinth with shapeshifting foes around every corner and a countdown timer set to explode gave it a very classic action movie feel to the ending. But let's cover some details.


Declaring Martial Law

That was excellent. What a great way to open what is clearly the real last chapter of the book despite one more chapter to do which is likely an epilogue stealthily labeled Chapter 19. Augustin's speech gave us a much broader glimpse of the Azorius approach to the world. Up until that point our exposure to Azorius beliefs was still lacking. If he wasn't the ultimate villain and really did just bury himself in procedures while everything fell apart it still would have worked, but the speech about pure law as the only true way to live captures the Azorius Senate so perfectly.


Escape Into the Castle

I like that it was explained that the part of Lupul that was chasing them purposefully hid in the engine room because it knew they were going to head there. That's why the group was able to take a breather and make some plans. But why take the form of Razia and not just any other angel? Wouldn't that stand out less? They didn't realize until it was too late so it didn't matter in the end, but still.

And wasn't "too late" actually... too late for Lupul to act? Why did Lupul allow them to set the bomb? If he was there to kill them he fell asleep on the job. I was thinking that maybe even the explosion was part of Augustin's plan. Maybe he wanted his motion passed, then he'd get out of there, and since all spirits of Agryem were now part of the Azorius guard, he'd have a bigger army to take over the world. You don't need a senate anymore if there's martial law.

That actually could still be the case, and let's pretend that the second rampage of the quietmen is the reason that didn't come to pass. At least we saw Lupul out there fighting so we know where that engine room Lupul disappeared to and why it wasn't guarding the escape.


Lilyema, Zombie Teleporter

Yeah that was weird. Really, really weird. How did she get there exactly? She was all the way in Rix Maadi when Lyzolda was torn to pieces. And she's even blind with her eyes sewn shut. The whole scene should have been extracted from the chapter. They still would have had their roles because of their participation in the surprise attack on Lupul.

And did you catch how he killed her? He stabbed her through the heart. Herndon has reminded us during awkward moments in both the previous two books of the trilogy that zombies have to be beheaded. That's how you kill them. Stabbing them in the chest does not work. Neither does silver. Not usually. Silver is for werewolves and sometimes vampires. But zombies? It's not out of the question but if methods on killing zombies are going to be spelled out in a book, beheading and/or head trauma is a given but you need to make sure your audience knows about silver.


Speaking of Roles...

I was hoping Teysa would show off the magic that her mighty Orzhov blood provides her. In the end all she did was get Kos to change plans he never made and played the victim. (And untied Feather's hands.)

And what happened to that speed that kept Feather and Teysa frozen in place? That bugs me after emphasizing it so strongly in the other chapter that they had no chance.


Szadek, Vampire Ghost

Let's pretend the Guildpact was sufficiently weakened that Augustin no longer had control over Szadek. That is the only way that last part makes sense when Agrus Kos threw him at the grand arbiter. At least we have plenty of examples of the magic failing.

But was that a good idea to release him?

Augustin was still in the chamber despite all the chaos around him. If he was going to run because he knew about the bomb wouldn't he have? Or maybe he was waiting until enough quietmen were eliminated before he could safely make a break for it, but Szadek kept him in place.

Again, I enjoyed the general idea behind the chapter and the overall atmosphere, and in fact it was the best ending of the trilogy. There were just a lot of questions that popped into my mind while reading it, and re-reads were required to understand what was going on and/or to confirm that some of it just didn't make sense in places.


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