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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum - Chapter 6

We left off with our heroes following after their newfound... associates... the goblins and the kor Smara when all of a sudden they're under attack!

Zendikar: In the Teeth of Akoum - Chapter 6

A massive trench giant comes bounding through, knocking Nissa and Sorin onto their backs with a sweep of its hand.

The trench giant rose up to its full height. Not quite as large as a proper giant, it reached the span of five human men and the width of a sizable cave. its skin was the exact hue of the rock and the same roughness. The skin around its eyes and on its eyelids looked exactly like gravel.

The giant quickly snaps off the head of a goblin and pops it into his mouth and munches down with a loud crunch.

It was surely the ugliest trench giant Nissa had ever seen. Stunted trees grew out of the crags that ran along its back. There were petroglyphs carved in its thigh. And even from where she stood, its breath was a foul miasma. But giants left scat, and that meant they had yeast in their stomachs and other small life. Nissa knew what she could do.

[Word Check: Scat means "the excrement of an animal" according to dictionary.com.]

(What does scat have to do with yeast first of all, and yeast being in a giant's stomach. And more importantly, is Wintermute saying that animal droppings are in the giant's droppings? That small animals live inside the very violent environment that is a creature's stomach?)

Nissa catches the giant's eye as she begins casting a spell. It charges at her and she jumps straight up into the air precisely when it tries to grab her and its hand passes beneath her and it tumbles and falls.

(Nissa sure can jump high.)

It gets up and charges again, and this time when she jumps over the giant that's as tall as five men, she touches the tip of her staff to its forehead. The giant senses something is wrong and then Nissa  continues on with her spell and excites the millions of living creatures within its stomach. She excites them into higher and higher states of animation and the giant falls to his knees.

(More on this later.)

Then Nissa turns and his knocked unconscious.

Nissa wakes a moment later and finds Anowon facing a second giant, with her staff between its thumb and forefinger, and finds Sorin finally getting up from where he'd been thrown to earlier. Sorin begins chanting the same words that rotted away the brood lineage when she first met him. But while it seems to stun the giant, it's clear his spell isn't have the desired effect.

Anowon uses the distraction to pull out one of his his spell teeth and throws it at the giant. Its leg turns to a white marble. Nissa knows if she's going to do something, it better be soon, because Sorin doesn't look like he can keep up his spell for long. But before she can do anything she's surprised both that the giant would aim her own staff at her and that the giant actually got it to work and shoots a blast of energy at her. Anowon takes the opportunity to turn the giant's other leg to stone.

With the giant severely handicapped, Nissa demands that if her staff isn't returned, Anowon will turn him completely to stone. The giant counters that she release his friend from whatever spell she cast first and then he'll return her staff. Sorin stands beside the elf and tells the giant that they're not there to bandy words, and with a snap of his fingers the staff flies from the giant's grasp as into his own.

(Okay, job done right?)

Sorin continues to threaten the giant, and Nissa says that blood will start coming out of both ends of his friend. The giant asks where they're headed, and the kor who has been chanting this whole time say they're headed to the Teeth.

"Then you are walking to your death," the giant said.

"What? Is your cooking kitchen ahead?" Sorin said.

The giant looked at Sorin curiously. Nissa had to stifle a laugh. Do giants even cook? she wondered.

"There is only the tentacled scourge in the trench ahead," the giant said. "They have killed many of my kind."

"Oh, not the tentacled scourge again?" Sorin said. "They're everywhere... like elves."

Nissa cocked her head for a look at Sorin. Perhaps he should be thrown against the canyon wall more often. It seemed to affect this mood for the better.

(More on this later.)

The giant tells them he knows a better way to Zulaport, which the giant realizes will be a stop along their path. Nissa tells the giant to lead the way. The giant takes a few steps, and hums a spell. The glyphs on its leg begin to glow and a path opens up.

Before they head on up, the giants are freed from their enchantments, and Anowon demands that his hands be unbound. He's earned that much.

Up climbs Sorin, Nissa, and Anowon, as well as Smara and the goblins. The path is narrow and steep and Nissa learns that Sorin is somewhat afraid of heights, and when she asks him why his spell didn't work, he tells her that the giants must be made of stone because his spell only rots the living. Night falls and while they want to stop, they don't have the gear that a Tajuru would have to sleep on such a narrow path, and so on they go. They climb all night and most of the next day until they finally make it to some real land they can walk on.

There's a river with cool, clear water nearby and drink their fill. When Nissa watches Anowon walking up and down the river clearly looking for... something... he tells her he's looking for signs. He pulls out some pebbles and shows them to her. There are craved faces with Eldrazi features on them. He says that streams near the Binding Circle are supposed to be filled with them.

Suddenly Nissa had the feeling she was being attacked... something was running toward her. But when she spun, the mesa behind her was covered only with dense grass that spread away into foothills. There was no enemy. Even in the slanted morning light she could see the gaps in the mountains where the ancient ones had sheared off the tops and put their magic in between so they rose and crashed down at irregular intervals. The foothills extended into blunt mountains capped with snow, and dark, purple rain clouds sat on the horizon. On either side of the stream, twin statues of grotesque, tentacled statues stood in massive repose. One was missing a head, and the other's body was floating slightly above its pedestal.

She looks towards Anowon and he says he feels it too and they need to be on guard.

Anowon then points down below at a speck at the base of the mountain that she realizes is actually a palace. Nissa asks if that is the Binding Cirle, and he says he's not sure.

(What is the Binding Circle, and why would it be a palace? I have no idea what this thing is that's been mentioned several times now.)

Smara and the goblins finally climb up from the side of the mountain, and Nissa notices Sorin already asleep in the grass from exhaustion. Soon they're all asleep with no watch set.

* * *

The Spell

Okay. Let's examine Nissa's spell now that we've seen the whole fight. It's fairly simple. Nissa spelled the bacteria within the giant's gut to attack the giant. And knowing that, there's so much wrong with what Wintermute told us.

First thing to note, a few months after we're born, our stomachs are filled with all manner of good bacteria known as our gut flora, a word that Wintermute specifically uses later on the fight. These bacteria do all kinds of things like regular the pH levels in our intestines and help digest food that we can't break down ourselves. This is something natural in (I assume) all creatures that have stomachs. Bacteria are everywhere.

So what does this have to do with scat? Nothing. Wintermute uses a word that's not very common and will likely confuse readers... and then he uses it wrong. Scat doesn't prove the existence of yeast and bacteria, because while they are organisms, they're not animals. And waste from bacteria is on such a molecular level that it's not like you'd see "bacteria poop" inside a giant's droppings, and even if you could pick out waste from a specific type amongst who knows how many different types are in a giant's stomach, you'd gain knowledge of a specific type, but it wouldn't be anything too insanely special because all creatures including humans, elves, kor, vampires, goblins, and baloths all have bacteria in their stomachs!

Bacteria waste has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not Nissa can cast her spell on the giant because she can cast that same spell on any other threatening creature she encounters!

(And let's not go their attack by making microscopic organisms just move around inside of him.)

Wintermute gives us a rare word that will only confuse readers, uses it wrong according to its definition, and uses it in a way that provides absolutely no benefit to what's going on in they story.

Yikes. Here's Wintermute in perfect form.

Word Bandying

So Sorin says they're not there to bandy words and grabs Nissa's staff from the giant's grasp using the Force.... and then he starts bandying words with the giant. I guess he thinks that word games are only fun when he has the upper hand.

(If what he says can be qualified as word games.)

To make matters worse, Nissa actually reacts positively to the word play between Sorin and the giant that had just tried to kill them. And more so after Sorin adds in a bit of teasing towards the elf. Teasing that goes probably goes over the giant's head and is only said because Nissa's watching.

Is Nissa seriously developing a crush on Sorin while he's just be a pretentious jerk? I sincerely hope that's not the case.

The Presence

Look at that. Something that was not just good, but actually fantastic. The invisible presence paragraph actually builds up tension quite well. And having Anowon confirm that he senses the same thing tells us that the danger is very real and not just something going on in Nissa's tired mind. And now they've all fallen into an exhausted sleep with no lookouts!

For such a terrible chapter nearly all the way through, Wintermute actually managed to create an excellent finish.


  1. Love the critical descriptions. This book was indeed a chore to read.

  2. Also from a setting standpoint, why are there grotesque tentacled statues everywhere? Isn't the idea that the people of Zendikar *didn't* know the Eldrazi were imprisoned there, except for obscure clues in distant places?

    "Oh, like in our children's stories" is a bad enough cliche. But "It was like nothing I'd ever seen before... except in the giant freaky statues that a traveler sees everywhere they go"? That's really stretching it, Wintermute.