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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Test of Metal - Tezzeret: The Dragon's Jest

What does Nicol Bolas want with Tezzeret? Read and find out.

Tezzeret: The Dragon's Jest

Tezzeret checks to feel if there was any serious damage by being flung against the cavern wall by the dragon, while Nicol Bolas approaches and calls out his name in an insufferable tone. He knows he's out matched, and as further proof Nicol Bolas grabs him again and flings him into the ceiling. It crosses his mind that perhaps the reason he's been restored to health, minus his etherium arm, is simply so the dragon can kill him personally.

"I admit and confess that you are larger than I am," I said, a bit thickly due to the blood and ragged scraps of the inside of my cheek. "You are stronger than I am. You can snuff my life with a thought. Can we skip the rest of your Intimidate the Naked Prisoner game and jump straight to what you want from me?"

His talons closed around me so tightly that black splotches bloomed in my vision. "But I like this game," he said. "What I like best about it is that it's not over until I get bored. By then you'll be free..." He smiled again. "Or lunch."

Tezzeret responds by asking Nicol Bolas how long he's been watching him, tells him he knows he's putting on a big show by the dramatic entrance he gave, and repeats that he'd rather the dragon just get straight to the point.

Nicol Bolas corrects him and tells Tezzeret that he isn't needed, but it will amuse him to give Tezzeret a particular task he has in mind. But the dragon will not be swayed to obey anyone else's timetable but his own, and he reveals the information at his leisure.

"As much as I enjoy bashing you into the rocks, the scent of your blood is making me peckish. And I can’t be wasting my life showing up to slap you around every time you need it. I’d hardly have time for anything else. So I’ve brought a friend for you.”

“I don’t have friends.”

“You do now,” he assured me, in a cheerfully evil tone, like a demonic used-carriage salesman. “But don’t worry, he won’t hurt your reputation. And he doesn’t have a reputation to worry about. I call him Mr. Chuckles.”

“I’m bored already.”

“I can fix that,” the dragon said. “Though I suppose you’re right—Mr. Chuckles is an undignified name. Let’s call him Jest, shall we? And make him a doctor. Doctor Jest. Do you like it? Doesn’t matter.” This seemed to tickle the dragon in some private way, as though it referenced a joke only he knew. “Doctor Jest, be polite. Introduce yourself to Tezzeret.”
This introduction took the form of a shattering blast of agony so overwhelming that I instantly collapsed. It felt like being hit by lightning while I was roasted alive in wasp venom. Over and over and over. I spasmed into convulsions, which did me the favor of banging my head into the floor hard enough to knock me unconscious.

Tezzeret quickly regains consciousness and Nicol Bolas let's him know that Dr. Jest will be Bolas' eyes and ears to keep him in check.

Once again Tezzeret asks Nicol Bolas to get to the point. There must be something important that needs doing if he went to the trouble from bringing him back from the dead. The dragon laughs at the idea that he would go so far. All he did was undo the mental scrambling that he underwent at the hands of Jace Beleren and restore an arm of living tissue. For all he knows Tezzeret's etherium arm is still in the swamps of Kamigawa.

No, Tezzeret isn't important, but he's an educated man that will appreciate the practical joke that the dragon has set up. Tezzeret is merely an audience.

Bolas then asks him a question. He wants to know if he remembers the first time they met, which was soon after Tezzeret had murdered Amalex Pannet, the Hieresiarch of the Seekers of Carmot. Bolas wants him to tell him what his grievances were against the man that would force his hand in that manner. Tezzert tells him that Pannet stole from him. Stole three years of his life.

"And what was your original disagreement with the Seekers of Carmot? You killed what, four of them? A respectable body count, especially against an order of mages. Why so angry?"

"Don't pretend you don't know." My jaw ached with strain. "The Seekers were your damned hand puppets in the first place! You invented the whole festering Order!"

"Humor me." The dragon turned his eyes on me, and the fake insouciance evaporated, leaving only bleak malice. "I’m about to spring the punch line, Tezzie. This little prank that I’ve been setting up for years. Decades. Play along."

Tezzeret plays along and tells him that he joined the order to learn about the creation of etherium. A secret they supposedly uncovered through their research into the legendary Crucius the Mad Sphinx. Something about a mineral known as sangrite being infused with aether by way of using another mythological mineral called carmot. Only the Fellows of the Arcane Council, the highest mages in the Order, were allowed to read the book they called the Codex Etherium.

For three years he believed and did their bidding. And in the end it was all lies.

And now for Nicol Bolas' surprise. Tezzeret's task is the find Crucius. The artificer scoffs at the idea. Crucius isn't real.

"How sure are you?"

"As sure as I-" The dragon's hideously smug grin stopped me in mid-reply. "I don't... I mean, what are you saying?"

"There. See? That's the punch line."

I could only stare in dumb incomprehension.

"You don't get it? Joke's on you, cave brat. Crucius is real. He is a sphinx, and he did create etherium. He's a Planeswalker, just like us. Come on, Tezzie - did you really think everything the Seekers taught was a lie?"

"I..." I couldn't think of anything intelligent to say. "I suppose I did."

“Now, that’s comedy—but wait, there’s more!”

But that's not all. He tells Tezzeret to really look at where they are and grabs a piece of the dense, red crystal that litters the cave. Tezzeret looks at the dragon in confusion. Nicol Bolas tells him it's blood. Petrified dragon blood. It's dragon blood that was spilled in combat and so filled with all sorts of hormones that gives it a special property. Tezzeret looks once more at the crystals around him and really takes a look how it seems to be absorbing mana from some unknown source.

Nicol Bolas leads Tezzeret to the answer that he can't quite reach and asks him to tell him what the etymology of the word sangrite. Tezzeret replies that it's vedalken for "bloodstone." And then it clicks and Tezzeret cannot believe the answer.

It's all true. Those lies that you murdered all these people over? All true. Every single one. That's what makes it funny."

I had to sit down.
"All... true...?"

"Except for the part about them actually having the stuff. Other than that...? Yes. All true. Every rectum-blistering word. How’s that for a prank?"

With a self-satisfied wink, Nicol Bolas throws a glass orb at Tezzeret's feet, and when it explodes, Tezzert finds himself back in Tidehollow.

* * *

Sounds like Jace

"It's not an offer," the dragon said. "It's a description of reality. Do you understand the difference?"

"Let's not start on what we do and do not understand," I said. "What specifically do you want of me?"

"Not yet. There is one feature of our new working relationship that I've really been looking forward to showing you."

"Are we back to Intimidate the Naked Prisoner already?"

This book is clearly a direct sequel to Agents of Artifice, so comparisons between how the characters are depicted in that book to how they're depicted in this book are inevitable.

In Agents, Tezzeret was the one that was always in control. That's not the case here. When I read the section above, it really reminded me more of Jace Beleren rather than Tezzeret being himself. Is that a case of being in Tezzeret's mind and really seeing how vulnerable he can be? Or is it just a shift in characterization because a different author is writing him?

Whatever the case may be, it's likely this is all a set up to start off Tezzeret from the most vulnerable point possible so we can see him regain his confidence and sense of self throughout the book.

Playful Nicol Bolas

While I'm not sure how I feel about Tezzeret, I do know that I didn't like how Nicol Bolas was portrayed through most of this chapter. But who says dragons can't be moody? No matter how much Nicol Bolas says that Tezzeret doesn't matter in the slightest to him, I don't believe it. The confrontation between the two in Agents showed quite a lot of animosity. Tezzeret stole a whole organization from him, and he definitely wants payback.

That's what made the slick and sleazy portrayal of Nicol Bolas in this chapter so odd. There is one line in the chapter that makes it forgiveable, but it's too bad that it has to be forgivable rather than bringing me on board from the get go.

The dragon turned his eyes on me, and the fake insouciance evaporated, leaving only bleak malice.

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