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Saturday, October 22, 2011

Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum - Chapter 19

So close to the end!

Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum - Chapter 19

Our heroes make it to Affa, the final settlement before the end of the journey. It's a settlement of traders, stonecutters, and peril seekers. Goblins are the dominant race, mostly looking to trade away found artifacts they can't seem to get to work, but there are humans, merfolk, elves, and even vampires as well.

Nissa watches Anowon break off from the group, and knows he's searching for food. She keeps on eye out on Sorin and wonders how he's able to resist doing the same. She realizes she's been such an idiot always wondering how he's been able to keep on with their adventure without ever eating anything. When Nissa gets lost in the sights of the settlement as tents give way to more intricate and sturdy buildings towards the center, she loses track of Sorin and discovers that he's disappeared as well.

With Smara being carried on Mudheel's back, the goblin asks her how much further they'll be walking before they can rest. She tells him the thinks camping on the far side closest to the mountains so they can leave undetected. They're going to need supplies to scale the mountain, and without any money, they're going to need to steal it. Whatever it takes to get to the Eye of Ugin and save Zendikar.

(Wasn't Mudheel referring to the Eldrazi as gods? It seemed like he held them in great reverence. Is it the best idea to be telling him that? He's probably known for a while but is it the best idea to remind him? Or maybe it doesn't matter, because he thinks they were meant to cross paths.)

Nissa asks him how long it will take to get there, and he thinks it'll be two or three days. Then she realizes it might be a good idea to ask him what comes next. What it is that he actually wants. Why he's been heading there.

Mudheel looked down at the face of Smara, who looked up at the pocked, mole-covered face of the goblin. "She feels drawn by the spirit in her crystal."

"There is a spirit in that?"

"A most fabulous one," the goblin said. The words were barely out of his mouth when Smara began struggling again. She bucked her body up and snapped her legs out. Mudheel struggled to hold her. When Smara’s struggling became more violent, Mudheel gently put her down on the ground.

“The gift is in the loam,” Smara screamed, suddenly. She kept screaming it.

Her screams don't stop until they quicken their pace and Nissa asks what's wrong. Mudheel tells her that she's bothered by Sorin's plan which she overheard the other night. The stone tells her to free the Eldrazi and to kill all of them in the fire of the Eye of Ugin. It tells her that the gift in the loam needs to be released.

"You want to free them?"

"It is not I," the goblin said. "It is the desire of my mistress's ghost."

"And who is this ghost?"

"The knower of all things," the goblin said. "The predictor of everything."

Smara resumes her screaming and they rush to edge of the settlement as crowds of people take notice. Sorin reappears and Smara turns on him. To her surprise Sorin starts yelling back in the same language that she's speaking in.

Nissa notices that Anowon has returned as well, and notices him take care not to be noticed by Sorin and the kor. The argument escalates and Smara starts trying to actually hit Sorin, but he side steps her punches easily. She then spits at him and leaves, with Mudheel following.

Nissa tells Sorin they'll likely need to steal supplies, and after a snarky reply he tells her he needs to make a stop somewhere anyway, so he'll go scouting for some. She then asks Anowon what the argument was all about. He tells her that they were arguing about what to do at the Eye.

Nissa confesses that she should have realized that Sorin was vampire like he is and then asks him if the Eldrazi suck mana from holes in the earth like the Eldrazi spawn.

(That's what they were doing? I did not get that at all until just now. How does filling the holes with leaves and bodies equate to sucking mana? Why would digging holes even be necessary?)

Anowon tells her that some texts say they lived off the blood of vampires, while some say they drank the land. But he assures her that doesn't matter. He says the kor is crazy. If the Eldrazi are freed they will certainly leave the plane. When Nissa asks they wouldn't just stay, all he does is say that there are other places out there for them to go to.

(More on this later.)

Nissa then asks him what he saw at the Eye when he was last there. He says he ran into other people that aren't from Zendikar. People not from Zenkikar like Sorin and herself. After she tells him that she's most definitely from Zendikar, he then continues on to say that he ran into a mind mage that was pursuing a girl with fire for hair. He wanted to feed on them, but he was sidetracked and before he knew it their actions caused the brood lineage to be freed. He tells her that Ugin is, or was, a dragon and whatever they did weakened its ability to keep them trapped.

Sorin returns and leads them to lonely camp with just one lone sleeping person. They raid it for supplies, and she pockets a jar of Berm-bee honey. One drop of it will make the user feel euphoria and see prophecies. Three drops would cause flight for a brief time. More causes death. When they leave the camp, Nissa asks Sorin if he drugged the man, and Sorin tells her its time to drop their charade. The man won't be waking up because he drained him of blood.

(Yes, please! Let's drop that charade. Thank you! 88% into the book, it's finally over.)

They make it to the base of their final mountain and begin their ascent. They switchbacks are steep and narrow enough they come to the conclusion that it's best if they tie themselves to each other with some acquired rope.

Later, in the dark, things seemed unusually quiet. Nothing moved. A lizard croaked somewhere far off, and then another closer by, and suddenly Nissa was wide awake. She rolled onto her stomach and took hold of her staff, waiting for the next lizard call to signal an attack.

But none came. She heard no more lizard calls. The stars blinked above in the empty sky, and in a moment her eyes felt heavy again.

No attack comes and that worries Nissa . She's sure there was something watching them.

The switchbacks become steep and narrow enough that they tie themselves to each other with some of their newly acquired rope. Their preparations come in handy as they survive a Roil and two near missing from falling boulders.

While on watch that night, Nissa smells smoke and goes to investigate. Around a corner she sees a shadow trying to hide from her and she commands it to reveal itself. It's Mudheel.

* * *

How Racist

She was still getting used to the goblin speaking and thinking as well as he did. Mudheel could surely be the leader of a whole goblin nation if he wasn’t bound to Smara as he was. As kor to goblin.

Why are half-elves okay, but a goblin/kor pairing weird? Not just in Nissa's thoughts, but in my mine as well when she first brought it up. Is it because goblins are generally depicted as disgusting creatures? Because they're a lot less human than elves or kor appear to be? That would be my guess.

Unnecessarily Long

Would have loved if this chapter was much shorter. This summary doesn't actually reflect the proportions of the time dedicated to Affa as compared to the ascent up the mountain. The latter actually takes up one third of the chapter. I get that Wintermute wanted to give us a tour of Zendikar, but we've seen mountains already. We've had feelings of unseen danger. We've had Roils. And we've had rocky dangers. Did we really have to rehash all that one more time?

At the very least it would have been nice if the chapter ended with the acquisition of the supplies, rather than running into Mudheel again. It would have ended with the Sorin and Nissa finally admitting to quit with the pretense that he's just a human, and would left the question open as to if and when they'd meet with Mudheel and Smara again, but Wintermute likes to traverse two locations per chapter whenever he can get away with it.

Freeing the Eldrazi

I've mentioned this before, but I really hate Anowon's logic. The Eldrazi have no reason to leave the plane. If they really do feed off of mana, it makes sense they'd want to stay and continue feeding and/or recover their strength by feeding on Zendikar's mana. At least this time Nissa brought up that it doesn't make sense, however it's Anowon that's the scholar and she gives in to his expertise. That's just terrible.


The meetings with the other planeswalkers that Anowon mentioned can be read in the webcomics Awakenings and Enter the Eldrazi .

And speaking of other planeswalkers, I've been so distracted about everything going wrong in this book that I haven't mentioned the lack of Jace, Chandra, and Gideon. I knew Jace and Chandra were involved in all this thanks to the webcomics, although I didn't quite understand that it was the Eldrazi spawn that was being awakened in Awakenings.

I'm surprised their only link to all this is just their meeting with Anowon. (Although that somewhat makes sense as to why he has such a big role in this book.) And I know Gideon is involved in this story, but at this point I think it's safe to say he's not going to have any part in this novel. How this is all going to come together, I'm not quite sure.

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