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Saturday, January 28, 2012

Test of Metal - The Metal Island: The Fire This Time

Back to the present. A new player arrives.

The Metal Island: The Fire This Time

Back on the etherium island with Tezzeret trapped in a Web of Restraint created by Nicol Bolas. Tezzeret asks they dragon why he stopped sifting through his memories because the good part is just about to begin.

But Bolas ignores him and listens for something else that has caught his attention. Someone else is coming. Another planeswalker, and not someone he summoned. Well... Nicol Bolas will not be caught out in the open. He released Tezzeret from the spell and wraps himself up with his wings and disappears.

Tezzeret simply sits down and waits, and watches as a woman appears.

Apparently human, she was large enough that one might be forgiven for speculating that a giant or two had contributed to her bloodline. She was nearly a head taller than Tezzeret—who could be fairly characterized as a tall man—and though Tezzeret was muscled like a boxer, the woman’s shoulders were half again the width of his.

Her hair was gray, and cropped close to her skull in an “I’m too damned busy to waste time doing my hair” style. She was dressed in a similarly utilitarian fashion, heavy drakeskin boots, with tunic, pants, and jacket of tightly woven fibers of stonewort, a Bantian mountain herb widely recognized for its fire-resistant properties. The reason for her peculiar ensemble was prominently announced by the flames that licked from both of her hands, and the swirl of fire dancing across her head and shoulders.

(Wait huh? Isn't she dead?)

The woman isn't alone. There is an unconscious man that is connected to her through some harness made of etherium. She picks him up and throws him over her shoulder and moves cautiously with a sphere of fire protecting her, and she turns to face Tezzeret when he calls out her name.

“You’re naked.”

Tezzeret nodded. “And you’re not.”

Baltrice’s frown dissolved, and she shrugged. “Better than the other way around, I guess.”

(More on this later.)

Tezzeret thanks her for coming and for the bringing Jace Beleren with her. She says that it seemed like a good a time as any to find out if his word is good, only to immediately be outraged that he's not wearing a specific etherium ring like the one she wears on her own hand.

Tezzeret apologizes, and let's her know that the current circumstances weren't exactly how he envisioned this meeting.

(Okay, I can't wait until later to talk about some of it. Why isn't she concerned about how odd this whole meeting is!)

The two banter back and forth for a bit. Tezzeret compliments her on finding a day to keep the device that he created from killing Jace, and he wonders if his father is still alive. When she speaks of Jace in a familiar way, Tezzeret picks up on is and presses her about how exactly she feels about him and if he feels the same way.

(I am so confused... have things changed so much between the end of Agents of Artifice and now? Or is this all just retconning of what happened?)

She tells him that she just appreciates Jace. She tells Tezzeret that Jace pays her better than he ever did, and that they're friends. Tezzeret laughs and that and tells her to ask him about whatever happened to his friend Kallist some day. Baltrice doesn't appreciate his attempts to antagonize her and he quickly apologizes, and she continues on hoping they can work together in a civil manner.

“I mean, sure, you and me, we’ve had our differences—”

“A mild phrase for betrayal, torture, and several attempted homicides.”

“Still, you know, we worked together pretty good for a while, back before …” She shook her head again. “And then on this sphinx hunt of yours. I even chased off your little black-haired, zombie-sucking slut bag for you.”

But it's time to get down to why this meeting is taking place. One of Tezzeret's devices is in Jace's head, and she wants him to remove it. He tells her that there are two problems with the plan. One is that she assumes that he's both willing to remove the device and able to do so without killing Jace, especially without any tools at hand in their current location. The other major flaw in the plan is that she assumes either of them will be going anywhere.

This once again puts Baltrice on the defensive. She intensifies her shield and accuses him of betrayal.

“You’re ready, aren’t you,” she said. It wasn’t a question. “You’re ready for any move I can make. Fight, walk away, cooperate, whatever. You’re ready.”

“It’s not impossible to surprise me,” he said. “It’s only difficult.”

“You planned all this,” she said accusingly. “You had it all worked out in advance.”

(More on this later.)

“I allowed for a range of possibilities. Something resembling this situation was among them,” he said. “I certainly didn’t plan for it to be here; here is a place that at the time, I did not believe existed. And I did not plan on being naked. Fortunately, there is one thing about you that I can always count on, Baltrice.”

(He planned on being brought back from near death by Nicol Bolas?)

Tezzeret tries to remind her about the lessons he tried to instill on her about being prepared, but as ever, she claims that if there is something she can blow up or burn down, she pretty much doesn't care. He sighs and tells her that there are some things that even she cannot defeat, such as an elder dragon.

Nicol Bolas appears. His massive talon wraps her up so completely that her fire shield extinguishes. When she gets the chance, she unleashes all she can in a blast of fire straight towards his eye, and all it does is almost make him blink.

Nicol Bolas is quite pleased. Another set of memories to keep him amused.

“I think you and I are going to be friends,” he said. “Very good friends. Good friends don’t keep secrets, hm? So … let’s see what you were up to, the night I turned Tezzeret loose.”

* * *


This book is not friendly to people who are expecting continuity between this book and Agents of Artifice. Tezzeret's non-death is fine. It's at least given some kind of explanation. But at this moment in the book, the fact that Baltrice is still around (and the whole Jace running the Infinite Consoritum) has had no explanation whatsoever and it's rather disorienting.

But let's get past that and on to what has happened in this chapter. More specifically Baltrice's behavior.

This was quite a terrible reintroduction for her.

Yes we learned that she's alive, she works for Jace, and that Tezzeret believes her to be an excellent, yet impulsive pyromancer. But how impulsive is she?

Through both their words it seems like she doesn't think anything through. Yet she is also smart enough to modify Tezzeret's etherium trap so it only keeps Jace unconscious from the pain rather than killing him outright. So she certainly has some smarts to her. But maybe that's only because it might not have been in the heat of battle when she had to perform her little trick. (Despite it being a trap.)

But her arrival on this plane is more like entering a battle. As I said, both claim that she is rather impulsive and doesn't think things though. Yet her very arrival shows her carefully walking around, looking for any signs of danger with a shield of fire thrown up to protect her. So she's not as completely care-free when it comes to danger as both of them make her sound. We've seen it right in this chapter.

At the same time, while she does move cautiously about when she arrives on the plane. The fact that she's on a plane made entirely of etherium doesn't seem to strike her as odd. A plane whose very existence Tezzeret was doubting, and a plane that Baltrice certainly knew about because she mentions she knows about Tezzeret's hunt for the sphinx that created etherium! She should be awed that they're actually standing on such a place!

She's on a plane made of etherium, and sees Tezzeret sitting on the ground naked. Something he certainly doesn't do all the time, because she's surprised when she sees him in that condition. (Let's pretend she knows about his restored non-etherium arm because it's clear they've had a run in since his "resurrection" back from the dead.) She witnesses two strange circumstances, yet just shrugs it off. So is she a cautious person or isn't she?

She then is quite upset that he doesn't have the etherium ring he's supposed to be wearing despite her holding up that end of the bargain, but she also shrugs that off when he gives her a non-explanation.

This is all followed up with a very "tell" and not "show" rant when she finally realizes the deal isn't going to go off as expected when she goes on and on about how "You planned for all of this didn't you."

It's not as if there weren't all kinds of warning signs about how strange this whole situation is. Signs that she herself pointed out and then ignored!

Are we supposed to believe that she's blinded by love for Jace that she doesn't notice these things? It's strongly implied that she's quite fond of him in that way. Is that supposed to make all these contradictions acceptable?

I think not.

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