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Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Brothers' War - Chapter 3



The division begins.


Chapter 3 - Koilos

The drawings in the desert that Mishra spotted were made of raised mounds of dark earth and formed the shapes of all kinds of humanoid figures some of which matched no humanoid race known to them, as well as animals and geometric shapes. Beneath the sand was a rich trove of Thran artifacts including several more ornithopters and a near complete su-chi . Most importantly were the power crystals. There were enough intact crystals for Tocasia to keep for herself to use in her own experiments, as well as enough to send to various scholars and supporters or her work, all of which led to enough renewed support for her to set up a second permanent dig site in this new location. Over the next two years, they were able to discover twenty such sites arranged in a arc throughout the desert.

Despite all the discoveries, noticeably absent were any sign of Thran remains or even art. Who were the Thran exactly? That's one question that had no answer yet raised a monthly argument between the brothers. Urza was sure they had to be human because everything they've found was made for use by human sized beings. Mishra on the other hand favored more exotic ideas such as the Thran being minotaurs as a ruling class with humans, goblins, and other smaller creatures used as their labor force.

After Tocasia brings up the question about why they haven't found true proof of who the Thran are, the brothers throw out theories such as scavengers, or plague, or war, but nothing quite fits. As for art, the only possible art they've found are the desert drawings... but they're not exactly art either. Urza pulls out a map and shows them his latest discovery. It isn't the drawings that are important, he tells them, but the symbols and lines. They all point towards a location in the mountains, and that's where Urza believes the largest discovery yet waits.

Mishra laughs at his circular logic, something Urza had just used to counter Mishra's defense of his minotaur idea. He tells Urza that it would have just been as easy to calculate the center of the circle made by the arc to lead to the determination that the lines in the drawing are pointing to that location. There could very well be no meaning to lines at all and Urza is assigning meaning where none exists. But when Urza asks permission to take an ornithopter there the next morning, Mishra says he won't be left behind. He needs to make sure Urza doesn't see ruins when there are only just rocks.

After the brothers leave, Ahmahl approaches Tocasia with some concern. The desert is for all who respect it, but there are some Fallaji who are wary of the mountains. Tocasia is taken off guard. Nothing has been off limits before, but she knows her old friend well and when she asks that if they find anything if there will be any resistance from the Fallaji people, he tells her that his concern may be exaggerated, and most respect her enough that they will go along with such an idea. When she asks him if he will come along because she wants to see this place for herself, Ahmahl says he won't let old stories frighten him away. They've dug together for too long. He says that he'll go out into the camp and determine who feels the same.


...The next day...

The three leave the next day taking a day and half's worth of rations, and piloting the original ornithoper they assembled years ago currently modified with a larger forward housing. The two brothers switch off piloting the device every four hours and they spy more sand drawings which continue to point the way. The city ruins within a hidden canyon are unmistakable and Mishra congratulates his brother for the discovery with a grin on his face. They've found what Ahmahl referred to as the heart of the Thran. Urza dubs the ruins by the Thran word for secret. Koilos.

A shadow passes over them, and Mishra instantly reacts and dodges the attack by a roc. The second attack doesn't go as well and they all hear a noticeable rip in one of the wings. They head for the cave that Uzra spots and Mishra tries to weave left and right but they all feel the inevitable fatal strike from the roc coming. Urza shoves his brother from the controls and says they won't make it because he's flying the ornithopter like a bird and not like the machine that it is. Urza cuts all attempts and evasion and instead zooms on down straight towards the cave. His strategy works.

They have a rough landing, but they land alive. Urza asks his brother if he's okay, and Mishra lashes out that he knew what he was doing and that Urza didn't have to shove his way into things. Tocasia cuts off the argument and they decide they need to wait for the roc to disappear and need time to make repairs, so they might as well head on in and take a look at the cave. They enter it and rough rock soon gives way to smooth granite. Alcoves containing seriously broken down su-chi give way to su-chi of progressively better condition the further in they go. Their path leads them directly to a chamber containing plenty of artifacts, but one thing above all catches their attention.

It was a power stone, unmarred by age and unbroken by accident. Its facets were smooth and reflective, the edges sharp enough to cut the fabric of reality itself. It was about the size of two human fists. Yet it called to Tocasia's mind the image of two hearts, for it pulsed with it sown rhythm. A rainbow of colors played across it as it throbbed with life.

The power stone sat on a platform surrounded by mirrors, which were in turn attached to wires that connected to other artifacts. In front of the stone was a book made of metal with pages of glass, and the pages were covered with glyphs.

"It's beautiful," said Mishra. "Look how it glows."

"It's intact," said Urza. "Think what we can learn."

"These markings," said Mishra, spreading his hands out toward the metal book-glyphs. "They're so much like the Thran writings we've seen, but more detailed. More advanced."

"Don't touch anything!" called Urza sharply, thrusting out his own hand to intercept his brother's. "We don't know what they do!"

Tocasia could not tell which brother was responsible for what happened next. She could not tell which brother touched the particular glyph, or even if either did. Later, neither brother admitted to anything, and each accused the other of causing the disaster.

All she could say for certain was that Urza tried to stop his brother and then a soundless explosion and bright white light filled the room.

* * *


Division

What do I feel? I just want to read more. This is fascinating. This here is the beginning of the end for them and all of Dominaria will be caught in their war.


Read Through vs. Novel

Once again I want to encourage everyone to read this book for yourself if you've never read it before. I'm concerned that these summaries of what's going on is changing the impact of the story. I can see the whole thing coming off too simply, that the way the book deliberately directly contrasts the personalities of the two brothers constantly feels like the "easy way out" when it comes to writing. A "This soup is too hot. This soup is too cold. This soup is just right," kind of deal like in Goldilocks and Three Bears.

Grubb is most definitely intentionally writing this as a book about contrasts between the two brothers, but the way it's writing makes it all feel important and not childish and simplistic. Their approach to flying the ornithopter the first time and their different approaches to escaping the roc are wonderfully written, and I just want to put out one last advisory notice that this is just a summary with my impressions and in no way will be as good as reading the real thing on your own, even if I do quote choice pieces within each chapter.


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