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Friday, December 30, 2011

The Brothers' War - Chapter 18

Reunited with Urza.

Chapter 18 - Urza's Tower

Three years after the fall of Kroog, Tawnos and Kayla track down Urza. With her son Harbin, and flanked by two animated clay statues , they walk down into the valley within the mountains were Urza is reported to be. The people of Korlis had been most helpful in hiding them and aiding them as much as they could, and eventually they were able to grab hold of the elusive news of his hideout.

Overhead the continual fog makes the tower hard to spot and from this distance it seems empty. They hope they haven't missed him and have to begin their search anew.

Six metallic warriors with ant-like heads pop up from behind the rocks and Tawnos' clay statues attack. The ant things are quicker than the statues, but their spears are have trouble doing permanent damage to the re-sealing clay that closes up after the spears do their damage. While the artifact creatures battle it out, Tawnos and Kayla run for the tower.

A whistle sounds from the upper battlement and the ant-headed automatons cease fighting. Tawnos signals for his warriors to stop as well. A lieutenant named Sharaman greets them and tells them that they'll be taken care of. Urza wants to see Tawnos right away. With a glance at Kayla, Tawnos follows.

Urza tells him it's good to see him alive and well, and Tawnos says they were forced to hide out longer than they would have liked.

"Yes," said Urza, pressing his palms together and twisting them slowly. "I suppose you had to. Look on my desk, would you? On the book holder there."

Tawnos walked over to the desk. "The Jalum Tome ," he said at last.

"The Jalum Tome," repeated Urza. "You succeeded, Tawnos. All the knowledge you loaded into that ornithopter. Young Rendall made it to Argive, and everything was waiting for me when I finally got to Penregon. Most of my work, and our papers. There was some loss, but nothing that could not be recouped. One student packed a list of laundry to be picked up, thinking it was an important paper, but under the circumstance it was a brilliant move." Urza looked at Tawnos. "Thank you."

Urza then tells him that his clay fighter are quite impressive, and Tawnos claims they're a metal framework covered in a special clay that he found while hiding out in the mountains. Then Urza opens up a chest overflowing with powerstones. The king of Argive has lost all political power since the fall of Kroog. They had left the Yotians to face the Fallji by themselves and now Yotia has fallen. So now the nobles, many of whom are former students of Tocasia, are offering their support.

With so many stones, he can power up an army of Yotian soldiers , the ant-headed machines. They're more fragile than the avengers, but easier to produce. He named them so as both a reminder of the people he failed, and to represent an army that will not allow the same fate fall upon Argive and Korlis.

As for his tower... the tower has been designed to be built in merely five days. He's even working on programing the Yotian soldiers to do the building. A wall of towers and soldiers along the border of Fallaji territory will ensure safety for all.

But enough with this talk. Tawnos confronts him about Kayla.

They've been searching for him for two years. Why doesn't he want to see her? And his son. It is his son. Urza tells him that he can't bear the fact that he failed her so completely. Her kingdom is gone. Only a fool would want to be by his side. Then Tawnos says that he, himself, should be counted as one of those fools.

Urza tells Tawnos that he can't have him as an apprentice. The creation of the clay statues has proven that he is a master artificer in his own right. Tawnos accepts while that may be true, Urza still needs someone who will knock some sense into him, and he forces Urza to go down and see his wife and son.

Urza and Kayla give each other a polite embrace. Urza's voice cracks when he says that it's good to see her, and Kayla attempts to speak but when she moves her lips but no words come out that Tawnos can hear. Urza then feels a tug on his smock and looks down on the boy.

"Unca, Tawnos says you're my daddy. Are you?"

Urza looked at Kayla, then down at the small child. He knelt and took the lad's small hand in his own.

"I suppose I am," he said. "And I'm very pleased to meet you after all these years."

* * *

Clay Statues

Did you take a look at the flavor text of the Clay Statue cards? This chapter is direct depiction of that. In fact, that's one of the things about this book that will never be matched by any other book. I don't know if it's 100%, but at least the extreme vast majority of cards in the Antiquities set are depicted and/or mentioned in this book.

The reason for this is because there are only 100 cards in the set (which includes variant art. Unique cards = 85!), the book is longer than most other Magic books by 100 or so pages, and because this book was written well after the set was released so Grubb was able to have full access to the cards and the whole story outline as he wrote the book, rather than having to write the book while the set was simultaneously being designed and developed.

That's just something that will not be happening again under the current system. (I'm not saying simultaneous book releases along with set releases is a bad thing, just that it has its pros and cons.)

Babies and Heart Strings

The use of Harbin to pull at our heart strings is another cheap trick that surprisingly doesn't feel cheap. Is this because I'm already obviously biased towards the book? That might be a part of it, but there's certainly much more. Baby language in the form of mispronouncing "uncle" as "unca" isn't the only reason the use of Urza's son at the end of this chapter had a genuine effect on me.

It's been well established that Urza hides himself in his work to avoid the problems of real life, as what happened to him after the warlord was killed and he hid away in orniary, and the circumstances that leads to Urza doubting who the father of the boy is was also very well laid out. It's easy to believe that there is a lot of inner turmoil and a sense that he's avoiding the subject that Tawnos forces him to face without it being explicitly written.

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