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Sunday, December 11, 2011

Test of Metal - Tezzeret: Exchanging Unpleasantries

Tezzeret back in Tidehollow.

Tezzeret: Exchanging Unpleasantries

Tidehollow. The slums of Lower Vectis of Esper, sheltered from the weather inside an enormous cavern. It smells of fish and mildew and despair. Tezzeret is back after so long away from his birthplace, naked and in the rain.

(Considering how practical he believes he is as revealed through his own thoughts, there's a strange "boo-hoo, I'm all wet" emphasis on him standing in the rain.)

Tezzeret takes comfort that Nicol Bolas at least had the courtesy of transporting him to the shadows of a rarely traveled path rather than out in the market during high noon. This leads him to believe that Bolas may actually want him to succeed.

But first things first. Time to find some clothing.

It should have been a small matter to summon mana sufficient for an illusion of clothing. In previous days, when I'd had my arm, I routinely wore illusory clothing of such sophistication that it was, for all intents and purposes, real. It was solid to the touch and interacted normally with sun, wind, and weather. I could carry small items in my pockets, hang pouches from my belt, and I could fine-tune it to provide warmth in cold climates, keep me cool in warm climes, or even function as armor against physical attack.

But that had been when I’d had my arm.

Gathering mana is such a chore now. It's going to take some time for him to adjust to his new situation. That means no more magical clothing. Conveniently, Tezzeret soon comes across a fence where someone had been hanging some clothes, and perhaps had forgotten to take them back into the house before the rain began. Beaten up clothes, owned by someone who likely didn't have much to their name... and Tezzeret finds that there is something inside of him that keeps him from taking the clothes.

I kept hearing my father’s voice. "They don’ has to want for them to take. Take is what they do. Take is their whole life."

Crushing an enemy is quite within Tezzeret's temperament, but stealing worthless rags from someone who owned nothing apparently breaks a vow he never knew he made, a vow to his seven-year-old self.

Before he can walk away, a woman's voice cries out from within the nearby house, calling out to someone named Chammie, a man who is no doubt her husband. Tezzeret once knew a boy named Chammie who ran with the other cave brats, and for a moment he has the urge to find out if this is that grown up boy. The urge to tell him about Nicol Bolas, being a mage and machinist, and traveling to other planes. In the end, no such attempt at connection is made, and he allows the man to drive him off, and goes off on his own. As he always has.

...Some time later...

With no etherium arm, drawing mana takes considerable effort, but mana and magic isn't the only form of power at Tezzeret's disposal. He had managed to steal the Infinite Consortium from Nicol Bolas and with those resources at hand Tezzeret had set up emergency stashes of cash on every plane he had ever been to in the event that anyone ever steal the organization from him in the same way, such as Jace Beleren had. With his experience as both a scrapper and a rhabdomant, the stash of etherium was carefully hidden out of sight, and cloaked with all kinds of magical spells. When Tezzeret carefully uncovers the stash and reaches for it, his hand catches fire.

Or does it?

He pulls his hand back and his hand is fine.

"Doctor Jest," I murmured grimly. "Interesting. It seems you’re hooked into my optic nerves in addition to my touch/pain network."


The voice within his head is deafening, and Tezzeret asks Jest to speak more softly.

"That's... tolerable. Even softer would be better. Um, hello."

"We've already met."

"I recall," I said grimly. "How should I call you?"

"Anything but late for breakfast." My hand went from my ear to my forehead. "You did not just say that. Please. You didn't."

(Ugh... seriously? Tezzeret pointing out that it was a bad joke doesn't help. I hope terrible jokes isn't the real reason this character is called Doctor Jest.)

Doctor Jest literally gives Tezzeret the opportunity to ask twenty questions to learn what he can about him. Jest claims to be a naturally occurring creature, and not some creation of magic. He either is extremely small or is magically bonded to Tezzeret's nervous system, and their fates are intertwined. If Tezzeret dies, so does he, and only Nicol Bolas can undo the connection. Tezzeret learns that Jest cannot read his thoughts, but he does have some kind of access to his memories, because the reason he prevented him touching the etherium is because he recognized it as a potential trap, something no one but himself should have been able to realize from the way he had set it up. The last thing of note is that Doctor Jest reveals that he's not quite happy working for Nicol Bolas, and is quite ready to team up with Tezzeret to break free from their shared master. Or at the very least give him a good kick in the nads.

(His word, not mine.)

Tezzeret doesn't actually respond with an agreement to working with... whatever it is... but the conversation does spark a different thought. His trap was set up to tap directly into a person's nerveous system and leave them paralyzed and likely die from starvation if anything else didn't get to them first. But perhaps he could take that same concept and use it as an offensive weapon rather than a trap. How to create a device that can hijack someone's motor functions and make them into an unwilling slave, and how to imbue that device with its own consciousness. Tezzeret's surprised that he's never thought to do that before.

(Did he forget that he invented a mind slaver in Agents of Artifice in an attempt to force Jace to work for him?)

With those thoughts in his mind, Tezzeret deactivates the final trap and both he and Doctor Jest sense a release of mana that Tezzeret hadn't himself placed there. He instantly realizes that when Jace purged his mind, he learned his every secret, including the locations of all of his emergency stashes. Jace had left a trap.

A hole in space opens up, and a jet of lava precedes the emergence of several enormous scorpions with white hot carapaces. Tezzeret runs.

* * *

Two Issues

1) Tezzeret is not the Tezzeret I know. With all the claims of how smart he is, and how practical, and how the why of things doesn't matter because only what is matters, Tezzeret sure does cry a lot about how his circumstances suck rather than just moving forward with his so-called "practicality" first attitude that he believes he has. It's a bit annoying in that he isn't the strong and confident planeswalker that was portrayed in Agents of Artifice, and also a bit annoying just within the context of this book because his actions don't line up with his thoughts. At best, it's intentional because as he gains more control of his situation we'll see him regain his composure, but at this point I'm not so sure.

2) This is supposed to be Nicol Bolas reliving Tezzeret's memories as he dives into his mind on that metal island in the first chapter. However in these thoughts there are quite a lot of side tangents about things Tezzeret is not doing within Tezzeret's thoughts that it makes it hard to see it that way, such as him thinking about how he can be sentimental (like when he couldn't get him self to steal a poor man's clothes) but he's not sentimental enough to even consider going to visit his father who may still be alive. It's not as if he's elminating options to choose the optimal choice in a given situation, instead he's just giving us "fun facts" more like he's telling a story rather than it being someone reliving the memories directly. Another example would be the following sentence about how Tezzeret felt about having to interact with Doctor Jest.

After a few moments of careful questioning, during which I was tempted to kill myself only three times, my - our - situation began to come clear.

The first person retelling rather than really being in the moment ruins the framing device of Nicol Bolas being in his mind.

I'm Calling It

Doctor Jest is Nicol Bolas. Either 100% the dragon pretending to some creature he put in charge of watching over Tezzeret, or a detatched portion of his power that really is thinking independently of the dragon. The barely tolerable dialogue that comes out of his mouth included Jest referring to Tezzeret as "Tezzie," just like the Bolas had done in Chapter 2.

Note: Retconning

The ending written in Agents of Artifice is not the official ending of that book. In Agents, Jace chooses to give up the opportunity to strip Tezzeret's mind of everything he knows about the Infinite Consortium, and in doing so leaves behind the opportunity to take control of the organization. That is clearly not the case here. This is the official ending, which can be read the bio page for Jace Beleren on the mothership.

1 comment:

  1. "The first person retelling rather than really being in the moment ruins the framing device of Nicol Bolas being in his mind."

    This is going to pay off. Tezzeret is well aware that Nicol Bolas is reading his memories.

    "Tezzeret is not the Tezzeret I know."

    This is intentional as well. Indeed, as you pointed out, he's a lot less confident when he's not in control of the situation. A thing Matt Stover likes to do (or so I'm told) is take characters and push them outside of their comfort zones to test their limits. That's what's going on here, and you'll see more of it as the story continues.