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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Test of Metal - Tezzeret: Midpoint, Full Stop


Tezzeret: Midpoint, Full Stop

My first clue that forever might not be actually permanent came in the mournful contrabasso chords of a very, very old sphinx. “Greetings, Tezzeret. Welcome back, my old friend.”

In that instant, though he had never met him, Tezzeret knows he's in the presence of Kemuel the Ancient. He had reached the center of the Crystal Labyrinth. In the next instant, he took a second look at the words that were spoken and wondered what the sphinx meant by welcome "back."

The answer of course, lies in the nature of how Tezzeret reached this location. Not only did Tezzeret use clockworking to pick and choose from all the possible paths to reconstruction and solve the Labyrinth, but Kemuel himself is a clockworker (Although he doesn't particularly like using the power) and watched his progress. Kemuel tells Tezzeret that in only three times out of ten thousand does he ever reach this point.

Kemuel congratulates Tezzeret on reaching the Riddle Gate. A place that is either his final destination, or just the midpoint of his journey. Which it will be is up to him.

This response is even more puzzling. Mid-point? Where should be going from here? Kemuel tells him that he doesn't know. In all the parallel timelines he has so far never made it past this point.

“The way back is closed, Tezzeret. If you do not pass the Riddle Gate, here you will live. Here you will die.”

I looked around. No graves. No bones. No loitering Tezzerets. “What do I usually do?” 

“Your reaction to failure varies. Often you take your own life. Sometimes you attack me with such fury that I must kill you. On occasion, you have spent days or weeks—sometimes months—in conversation with me … and then you take your own life, or spend it in futile violence. This is how we have become friends.

Tezzeret then asks if he can have the etherium that he used to reach this point returned to him, but Kemuel tells him that first of all, the etherium is not his to have. The etherium belongs to his father Crucius. And second of all, he tells Tezzeret that etherium cannot enter the Riddle Gate. When Tezzeret gives him, and the etherium that is part of the sphinx's body a skeptical look, Kemuel reminds him that the Labyrinth was built around him, and so his etherium was never required to enter the completed gate.

Etherium also cannot leave the Riddle Gate. Kemuel has been here for millenia, and will continue to do so until the completion of his task. He is to witness the Seeker pass through the Gate. If Tezzeret is the one to do it, if it turns out that he is the Seeker he's been waiting for, then so be it.

As for what Kemuel does with all his time? First of all, sphinx by nature never get bored. But they also never get bored especially when they have the ability to make the chamber disappear and instead show a view of any location in Alara or the multiverse. Tezzeret tells the sphinx that he has no interest in sightseeing. All he wants to see the location of where he can find Crucius.

“You can find my father anywhere you can find yourself.”

Tezzeret then rewords his request and asks where he will find Crucius. The place where he can find himself. Kemuel smiles but also gives Tezzeret a warning. He lets him know that what he's about to be shown is shown to every Seeker, but the vision is only true for one of them.

Tezzeret asks for some clarification if he means that there are other Seekers besides alternate copies of himself.

“There is only one Seeker. But the Seeker is not always you. Nor is their Search identical to yours.”

That confuses Tezzeret even more. The possibility that they're not all searching for the same thing. But then Kemuel asks Tezzeret to explain what is it that he is looking for, and he doesn't have an answer.

He was placed on this path by Nicol Bolas, with Doctor Jest as his watchdog...

Actually... where is Doc? It seems like this would be something he'd have an opinion on. He hasn't spoken up at all since some point after Baltrice left. Tezzeret finds that the possibility of his disappearance actually has him a bit choked up, and so he calls out to him. There's no answer and he calls out one more time, telling Doc that he should stop kidding around.

Still nothing.

When Kemuel asks if he's talking to the voice in his head, Tezzeret lashes back and says that he's not just a voice. He is... has been... a friend. The only one he had.

Kemuel apologizes that he didn't mean to suggest that Tezzeret was talking to an imaginary voice, because she known about Doc through meeting several other Tezzeret versions. Although usually the topic of Doc was spoken with bitterness or hatred. This is the first time that he's heard Tezzeret speak of him with any form of fondness.

"Of everyone who has ever had power over me, he’s the only one who treated me better than he had to.”

(I guess that's a friend... as close to one as Tezzeret has experienced anyway.)

Tezzeret regrets that he didn't even have a chance to say good-bye, and Kemuel says that Doc has not left. The exact opposite in fact.

Tezzeret thinks back on what he knows about Doc. How he openly claimed hatred of Nicol Bolas the first time he spoke, at how he seemed to know Tezzeret better than any ever has... and he thinks back on what he knows of a dragon's natural ability to think with partitioned minds. Could it be that that, is that change that Nicol Bolas made when restoring him? That Doc wasn't a creature that was inserted into Tezzeret, but rather is a partition of his own mind?

And what did it mean that he was driving himself to complete the task that Nicol Bolas had set before him?

After moments of reflection, Tezzeret tells Kemuel that he knows what he's looking for... for the immediate future anyway. Nothing else can be accomplished until he is able to cross through the Riddle Gate. When asked has he will accomplish that, Tezzeret tells him that he is going to ask the sphinx to show him.

Kemuel rises up in anger at the presumption of the man before him, but Tezzeret reasons out that his father couldn't have placed him in here simply to observe the Seeker pass through the gate. That he had a role to play in this. Tezzeret asks him straight out to declare what his role in this event is, and then for the sake of manners adds a "please."

Kemuel calms down and compliments Tezzeret on his improved manners and then lets him know he's allowed to show Tezzeret one thing and remind of him of two other things that he already knows.

What he shows Tezzeret is a vision of the metal island. A land of pure etherium. Tezzeret is overcome with excitement and runs through the plane, only to realize too late it is just a vision like the others he was shown earlier, and he is not actually standing upon the etherium shore. Tezzeret then understands that the Riddle Gate must be interplanar and he tries to just planeswalk to the destination shown before him now that he knows where it is he must go... but nothing happens and Kemuel reminds him that within the Gate, there is no power except etherium. That of course leads Tezzeret to lust after the etherium within Kemuel's own body, and Kemuel's reaction is a sad smile as well as to repeat the statement from earlier that Tezzeret often dies in the act in of attacking the sphinx.

(This part is wonderful to think about. About alternate Tezzeret's learning this secret and sometimes attacking the sphinx right away and dying, and other times waiting days/months/years trying to figure out the solution only to end up coming to the conclusion that killing Kemuel is the only solution... only to attack the sphinx and die. That's quite a puzzle Tezzeret has on his hands...

(Now what's the actual solution?)

Tezzeret can't help but feel that this how place was designed specifically to torture him... but before he can dwell on that, he asks Kemuel to continue and remind him of the two things he already knows.

The first is the phrase, "When one is made of glass, everything looks like a stone."

Tezzeret says that of course this place didn't have to necessarily have been designed to torture him. The fact that it tortures him so may very well be because of who he, himself, is... rather than why and how the place was built.

On the other hand... when everything looks like a stone, sometimes the stone that he thinks he sees really is a stone.

Kemuel smiles and tells Tezzeret that he is very proud. Tezzeret says that he thinks he gets it and asks him to tell him the second thing he already knows.

(Do I get it? Not really. Maybe?)

(Is he saying that the place really was designed to torture him? Or perhaps that if he is to believe that he is the Seeker that will be the one to successfully cross the Riddle Gate, and then adds that to the fact that Riddle Gate was designed for the Seeker in mind... then of course this place was designed to torture him. To believe that he is anything other than the Seeker that will complete the task is to already accept and believe he is defeated.)

The second thing that Tezzeret is to reflect on is the way that he solved the first two lines of Crucius' riddle.

[For reference:

“It’s very simple, and those are the hardest of all. Crucius suggested I should ask you, where do you search for what can’t be found, and what do you say without saying? What is your sky when you’re tombed in the ground, and whom do you rescue by slaying?” - Sharuum, Test of Metal, Tezzeret: Riddle Me This

[A reminder that would have been useful at this point as to a few paragraphs later like it is in the book, considering that the full riddle was spoken eight chapters ago. There was no way I was going to remember the whole riddle after such a long time.]

Realizing the Crystal Labryinth was the answer to the first part was a uncovered through logic and reasoning. Understanding the nature and see the Labyrinth with pure clarity as the answer to the second part was uncovered through his determination and diligence. What did they have in common?

The answer was that he was the common factor. Analysis and diligence are two of the four defining traits of an artificer. The third was inspiration. Something that was happening to him right now.

The third line is, "What is your sky when you're tombed in the ground?"

Clearly he was in a metaphorical tomb at this moment. So what was his sky? What was it that was forever out of his reach? Something that he wanted more than life itself?

(That's how I view the sky. Doesn't everyone?)


And what is the nature of the sky? It's just an imaginary boundary that divides here and the infinite of space that is always out of reach.

“Etherium gets in my way.”


“Because it’s as much an idea as it is a substance.”


“And etherium can’t pass through the Riddle Gate.”


“Even the dream of it. Even the hope for it. As long as etherium is something to me, I’m trapped here.”


“The only way I can get to where I most want to be … is to not care if I ever make it.”

Tezzeret makes a guess that this is one of those points where he often takes his own life and Kemuel confirms that it's so. Tezzeret asks Kemuel what he's supposed to do next, but the sphinx does not know.

“I don’t know. None of you ever has,” he piped sadly. “This is why the Riddle Gate will be your end: succeed or fail, the man you are will die here. But the Riddle Gate will be the midpoint for the Seeker who finally passes through; for the rest of your days, your existence will be defined by that passage. Not by your birth, your death, nor your rebirth—no matter how many times you experience each of them. You will mark your days by what came before the Riddle Gate, and what came after.”

Tezzeret has spent his whole life becoming the man that would be able to make it to this point... and now it is that man he has to leave behind for his journey to continue.

...Time passes, and Tezzeret becomes a new man...

Tezzeret stands, says farewell to Kemuel, and leaves instructions for Sharuum should she pass this way. Tezzeret takes a step, and stands upon the metal island.

(Where did he get the power? Etherium is the only power in the Riddle Gate... unless you reach a new state of enlightenment?)

Tezzeret kneels and meditates upon the final piece of the riddle.

But if you want to know what that answer was, old worm, you’ll have to give up this silly mind-siphon trick of yours and ask me yourself.


Don’t trouble to open my tomb; I let myself out. Oh, and by the way?
I’m right behind you.

* * *

Alright, Good Job

For the most part, this chapter was pretty awesome. And that's after following the fantastic moments from the previous chapter. Things are looking up.

Why was it so good? Maybe because there wasn't any terrible dialogue because of Doc and/or fight banter. This whole chapter didn't have action, didn't create yet one more ability that clockworkers can perform, and didn't include even one snobby remark about how "I'm better than you are."

Take out all of those things, and the book can be pretty good.

Tezzeret actually using his intellect rather than talking about it. It wasn't great, or perfect, but a personal transformation is often the solution to a labyrinth (as opposed to a maze) as explained to us much earlier in the book. It makes some sense, and wasn't frustrating or groan-inducing. I'll take what I can get.

Doc, That's It?

Doc was just a contruct of Tezzeret himself, created by Nicol Bolas and inspired through a dragon's nature to be able to create sub-personalities? He was used simply for an outlet for exposition and as a cattle prod to get the story going and now he just disappears? That's anti-climactic.

1 comment:

  1. I expect by now you're starting to see what I was talking about when I said this book is much better on the second reading. If you went back and re-read the Metal Island segments with all this additional context in mind, plus the reveal in the epilogue, they'd be a lot less confusing, right?