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Thursday, January 12, 2012

The Brothers' War - Chapter 31


Chapter 31 - Magic and Machine

The attacks began immediately, attacks by elves, centaurs, treefolk, and even the wild animals of the forest. Towers were erected with forest cleared a mile in every direction as a necessary defense. Every foot had to be fought for and the resources of Argoth were required to be used to acquire more of Argoth's resources. Then months after landing here, the attacks stopped. A week after that an elf showed up ready to sent word they wanted to parley. After a short consultation with Tawnos, it was agreed that Harbin would go with four additional ornitopter pilots to the location indicated. From there Harbin would be taken to the Court of Titania . His protection would be guaranteed.

The elven buildings seemed to be made of the trees themselves, he had no idea when he first arrived that there was any indigenous people here, let alone a court and a queen, but he stands before her now, spoken to through her Speaker.

The speaker said in his clipped tones, "I speak for Queen Titania. Titania speak for the goddess Gaea, most bountiful and all-powerful. Argoth is under the protection of Gaea and home to her children. You are not welcome here, and you should leave."

Harbin tries to explain why they're there and who they fight, but all that is said to him is that they know who is he and why he's here and they want him to leave. She let's him know that Mishra himself has landed on the other side of the island and fights her the same was as he does. Harbin says that if she doesn't ally with him Mishra will destroy her, but she tells him she sees no difference. She then asks him directly what was the fate of the dwarves who were their allies. The depth of her knowledge takes him aback and he clumsily claims that the dwarves were never their allies and they were found to be selling ore to both sides. She asks him what befell of his mother's homeland, and she tells him that nearly a third of the land has been turned to a black glass.

No she will not ally.

He will leave or he will die.

On the way back, Harbin sees humans within the crowds and he expresses surprise. The Speaker tells him that they are the Citanul Druids . When Harbin asks if that's how they know of Urza and Mishra, he tells Harbin that the druids came to Argoth centuries ago.

"Do you think," said the Speaker, "that yours is the first empire to rely on the tyranny of the machine? Or the last?" When Harbin did not answer, the Speaker asked, "Why did you bring your flying devices here?"

Harbin tells him that it was the quickest way to travel as well as a method that wouldn't harm the woods, but the Speaker calls him out and says that it was a show of power. Well, they aren't lacking in power themselves. The Speaker signals to the druids, and they sing a complex song and the ornithopters crumble into dust. The Speaker reminds Harbin that no harm will come to them until they touch down on their despoiled land, and he wishes them a pleasant walk back.

...The other side of Argoth...

Mishra was gone by the time Ashnod made it to the shipyards in Zegon, and she managed to intimidate and bargain her way onto a supply ship.

After making it to the island of Argoth, she sees that Mishra hasn't wasted any time, and factories are already up and running. But spotting a broken dragon engine and dead elven bodies it is clear that there is some resistance to their presence. Going to meet with Mishra directly might not be the best of ideas, so she seeks out Hajar first.

"You are back," he said shortly.

She follows him to Mishra's new throne room and he catches her up with what's been going on. He tells her about the fighting, and about Mishra's response of unleashing his dragon engine fire upon the native that first attempted to contact them. When they get to the throne room, Hajar remains at the door and it becomes all too apparent to Ashnod that the Gixians have even surpassed the loyal Hajar in Mishra's hierarchy. She sees that Mishra still has the ankh of Sarinth tucked away in his belt, despite it having recently risen up and revolted against him, but he looks younger and more muscular than ever. Even his hair looks darker.

"I thought I had banished you," said Mishra grimly. "I said I would have you slain if you were found within my territories again."

Ashnod says that it does not look like these lands are yet to be his, and she has a way to change that. Ashnod pulls out a brass bowl and tries to explain the great power she's learned, but Mishra has no patience to hear about magic, even after she offers a demonstration. He reminds her that the two of them have fooled the gullible before with true science, so she shouldn't try doing the same to him.

Despite her idea being shut down, he tells her that her talents as an artificer were great once, and they can be again if she returns to her studies. She can choose to go or stay. Her banishment is lifted, however she will be watched for any signs of betrayal.

(Like the future meeting with Tawnos in the middle of the night?)

The lead priest follows Ashnod out to the hallway and confronts her. He tells her he wants the bowl. If there is a true power within, they will be the ones to find it and be able to present it to the Artificer Qadir in the proper way. When Ashnod looks over at Hajar, and watches as he keeps his eyes solidly fixed to the ground, she knows she must give in.

In her new quarters, Ashnod actually considers leaving thanks to these new developments. Mishra isn't as he once was, she isn't even sure now who gives the commands. At least she had the presence of mind to forge a copy of the sylex . The original is still within her backpack and still hers to command.

* * *


That could have gone better.  Harbin is doing his best, but he clearly is still quite inexperienced with it comes to being a diplomat. Not only that, but it seems like he truly believes his father is completely in the right (or works hard to convince himself that, that's so) while even Urza himself is a bit sad about the state of the world thanks to the war. Without a broader perspective, of course Harbin would totally and utterly fail in any attempt at making some kind of treaty or compromise.

To be fair, Queen Titania likely wouldn't have made any compromise at all, no matter how competent of a diplomat he was. She seemed pretty set on her policy of leave or die.


That actually went pretty well. That was pretty much as good as a welcome from both Hajar and Mishra that she could have ever dreamed of. If not for the presence of the Gixians, it couldn't have gone better. Mishra pretty much said:

"Shush. No need to apologize or give excuses. Welcome home. I missed you."

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