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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The Brothers' War - Chapter 8

Enter Tawnos of Jorilin.

Chapter 8 - Tawnos

Tawnos arrives at the Palace of Artifice unannounced, and after fifteen minutes of stumbling his way around with the aid of some helpful clerks, he finally makes it to Urza's oviary. An orithoper is suspended mid-air as if in the middle of an explosion, with each piece in plain view with lines indicating where one connects to another. All sorts of people seem to bustling about and the Chief Artificer himself has such a strong presence about him that can be felt even by the taller man.

Tawnos approaches a beautiful young woman standing in the middle of the room, the only person who doesn't seem to have an important task at hand, and he quickly realizes his mistake after he calls the princess herself as "miss."

Kalya bin-Kroog tells him to rise and asks him what he's about. He presents a letter of introduction to her and realizes how foolish his idea sounds once he speaks out loud that he's been a successful toymaker in the coast city of Jorilin, and more than one person suggested he seek out an apprenticeship with Urza. One of the many he can see Urza has already.

Kayla laughs at the thought. None of these people are apprentices. They're students and lackeys of all sorts, but Urza demands quite a lot from his apprentices and none of them ever last long. She says that if he's going to speak to Urza, today is as unbusy as he gets. She herself never really knows when busy is too busy and has come up with a system that if he doesn't notice her within fifteen minutes, then he has no time for her.

She's waited ten so far.

(What a shame.)

Kayla tries to call to her husband and he lifts up a hand in acknowledgement but he doesn't lift his eyes from his papers. After a few moments she tries again and he does the same, this time with an added wave. Tawnos decides to try something else.

"Perhaps this will help," said the visitor, reaching into the satchel and pulling out his gift. What he produced looked like nothing more than an inanimate hunk of rope of chain. He flicked a switch at one end of the chain, and it suddenly stiffened and struck forward. It was a snake, suddenly come to life in his hands. Kayla jumped at the transformation.

The snake leapt across the open space as if on invisible wings, landing among the papers littering Urza's table. It burrowed among them, emerging directly beneath the Chief Artificer's notepad. It raised its head, rattled its tail, and rasped a hissed warning at the Argivian scholar.

Urza looks up and asks who made the device, so Tawnos steps forward. Urza asks him about his materials and methods and is quite pleased with the thorough answers he receives. Urza then presents Tawnos with a question about how designing ornithopters and using birds as models. Tawnos says that if he's to suggest a bird as a model it is going to depend on the outcome that Urza wants. Soaring birds like gulls and vultures will give different results compared to a quick launching bird like predatory owls.

Urza admits that such simple insight had eluded him. Birds were all the same to him, but it makes sense that form follows function. During this exchange, Kayla repeatedly tried to get her husband's attention, but he was too caught up his work talk as always. Tawnos himself had forgotten about her when Urza handed him some blueprints to look at, and by the time he remembered her presence she was gone.


Kayla isn't too pleased by these developments. Urza almost never has time for her. He's too busy making his machines, and her father is always requesting more. Her father doesn't care how Urza acquires his supplies and Urza doesn't care what the devices are to be used for. In the years since their marriage, the commoners quickly accepted him, and then the merchant class, and then even the temples accepted him once Urza presented to them a healing device now known as the Amulet of Kroog . Urza was good at making everyone happy except his wife.

This new Tawnos fellow has a quaint attractiveness about him, but that path isn't something she really wants to consider. And besides, Urza will likely wear him out like all the others.

Kayla enters the chamber with her father and his advisers, which now includes the unofficial liaison to the merchant class in Rusko, and announces that Urza will not be coming again. Reports of the growing Fallaji threat around the Sword Marches continues. Their raids on caravans and the growing influence of the Suwwardi is quite worrisome. When asked about using more ornithopters for patrol, the Captain of the Guard says that the problem is due to the lack of powerstones. Without those to power the machines, all the rest of the supplies are useless.

Kayla's father commands for expeditions to go into the desert to search potential sites to dig for more stones, with suggestions from Urza, and to send letters to Argive and request for stones from them in terms of mutual defense.

Rusko then speaks up. He was told to look out for new machines and devices to be used for Yotia's defense. He presents to them Goblin powder. They tell him that it's too volatile to be of any use besides children's poppers. While that may be the common view, he suggests alternate uses such as using fuses or containers with flint to set off a spark. No one else seems too keen on his ideas until he proposes the option of dropping the containers of the power from a great height... like an ornithopter.

Why... from that height, the enemy can't throw it back. That could actually work. Kayla's father gives permission for Rusko to continue this line of research and suggests that no one tell Urza. It's his fault for not attending the meeting, and besides, it will be a good way to show him that other people have good ideas as well.

* * *

Fallability of Urza

I like it. I like how Tawnos came up with the bird idea, and how Rusko came up with the powder.
Those oversights feel very natural to his character, and it is nice to see that Urza isn't right every single time, not to mention it actually justifies having an entire chapter used to introduce Tawnos and demonstrates why Urza needs an assistant at all.

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