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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Test of Metal - Tezzeret: Pavane for a Death Princess

Time to face those zombies... and more.

Tezzeret: Something Stupid

Tezzeret emerges from his gate a few yards from the zombie boundary. The stench is so overpowering that he has to take a few moments to retch. The pause in communication so quickly has Baltrice asking through their earpieces if something is wrong.

“Imagine swimming in nyxathid vomit.”

 “Ooo. Damn, do I have to?”

Tezzeret takes a moment to change the magical filter that protects him from the glass storm to also block out the stench, and then he casts a spell that announces his presence in a booming voice and that he seeks to work together with whoever is seeking the center of the labyrinth. With the spell on repeat, he walks into the zombie horde and every zombie that comes in contact with him bursts into flame, thanks to a spell that Baltrice provided.

Now that they're in the thick of things, Doctor Jest doesn't like the situation all that much, but he realizes he can't do much about it. In fact, it seems like Tezzeret is constantly putting the both of them in these kinds of situations so he is practically forced to help out, because to do otherwise means death.

Tezzeret reaches the walls of the Labyrinth quite easily, now they just need to pick a direction to find the door. As he looks around, there's some odd movement not too far away. Some of the zombies are retreating.

No wait... not retreating. They're piling up on top of each other, their flesh is melting away, and their bones fuse into a doorway. A doorway very similar to the one that Tezzeret had made earlier. When Tezzeret asks if Baltrice can see what he's seeing, she doesn't respond.

When the view stabilized, I was looking into what appeared to be a lavishly appointed sitting room, and looking back at me was what appeared to be a young woman of exceptional beauty, her lustrous obsidian hair unbound and draped in ringlets to perfectly frame her flawless oval face. She wore a wrap of translucently sheer silk, artfully layered to leave exactly enough to the imagination. She said, “Tezzeret. It’s been a while.”

I said slowly. “Liliana Vess. The necromancer. I remember you.”

“That’d be more flattering if it hadn’t been quite so much work. We need to talk.”
 “You’re a Planeswalker.…” More and more about her was coming back to me, but in glacial drips and drops, slower than cold treacle—almost as though the information had been deliberately obscured. By Bolas, undoubtably. But why? “I don’t recall you having this level of power.”

They don't have too much time to talk, so gets right down to it. She wants to talk about Nicol Bolas.

She's also not alone. Silas Renn will appear as soon as he's done with Baltrice.

...Through the transit gate...

One of the first things Tezzeret notices is how bright the sun, brighter than he's ever seen on Esper. Perhaps they're on Bant.

Liliana then goes into a long tale about why she helped out Jace Beleren, how she was able to circumvent his interrogation techniques, and all sorts of other details that had escaped Tezzeret's memory since being reborn.

Despite this knowledge being freely given, Tezzeret eventually has to cut her off, and he tells her that he cannot understand why she would voluntarily place herself under Bolas' command. It certainly wasn't a choice on his part. She tells him there are various degrees of "willing."Sometimes the best choice still isn't a good choice.

He then tells her that her brute force attempt at solving the Labyrinth will never work. But should he tell her why, and actually join with her? Liliana Vess tells him that he must. That every hour Nicol Bolas loses faith in his ability to find Crucius, and even if he does, it won't change their fate.

Nicol Bola has to be stopped. She's noticed his memory failing him, and she's been able to piece together some of his end goal. And for whatever reason, to reach that goal he plans on killing them all.

“The Planeswalkers,” she said. “All of us. All of us he … well, owns. It has something to do with these oaths of fealty he’s collecting. And he’s planning to … do something. To us. All at once. And from how he talks, he’s not expecting any of us to be around afterward. I’m not sure how, or when, but he is absolutely certain that he can, and will, do whatever in the hells he’s planning.”

Not just the planeswalkers, but this entire plane of Alara. A plan which could very well cascade into destroying the multiverse if he makes a mistake.

That is why they need to work together. They must find Crucius first and keep Bolas from ever getting his talons on him. But first, they need to kill Silas Renn. Tezzeret considers her plan, and tells her that there's one problem with it. Silas Renn is more necessary to reaching the center of the Laybrinth than she is.

Liliana can't believe she would side with that mad man, and not so subtly transitions her dress from being opaque to transparent. Tezzeret understands the move to be one of desperation and rejects her advances outright.

With her final plea for help rejected, she tells him that he can find his own way back to the Labyrinth. Tezzeret on the other hand thinks to himself that he can't just let her walk away.

As he reaches for her, he notices how bright the sun is over here, brighter than he's ever seen on Esper.

No wait... he's watching as zombie flesh melts away from a pile of zombies, and then their bones fuse together to make a doorway...

...He's retching from the foul stench of the zombies. When Baltrice calls out to him through their earpieces, he tells her there's a change of plan. He might be under attack by Silas Renn...

...He takes apart one of the etherium sleds to create some armor. Again. He knows he's done this before. Then a voice speaks.

“Just like déjà vu all over again, isn’t it?”

I froze. If I live a thousand years, I will never mistake that voice, the blend of upsloper condescension and petulantly malignant mockery.

The etherium dropped into my hand, and I left it there. “Renn.”
“This is the part where you turn and attack, Tezzeret.” He sounded like he was looking forward to it. “Come on, don’t be shy.”

Tezzeret tells him that he didn't come here for a fight, and Renn assures him that it won't come down to a "fight." Tezzeret tells him that no one needs to get hurt, and Renn tells him that Baltrice didn't seem to feel the same way. But he's done with her.

He also admits that the etherium armor he's about to create is impressive and that's he's always admired his ingenuity. He would be surprised at how many times he won their duels of theirs in other realities.

Finally Tezzeret turns around to face the clockworker, and tells him that he doesn't need to torture him to get any information out of him. He came here specifically to share information.

“You always were tiresome,” Renn said. He pushed himself off the gravity sled, to stand balanced on the sand. His personal shields crackled and spit as they disintegrated the powdered glass on the wind. “Listen to me, Tezzeret. You’ve already told me everything you know. I’ve been torturing you for several days—recreational torture, really. Just for fun. To pass the time. I’ll get so bored after I torture Baltrice to death. You told me everything before I even touched her.”

“Does he know he’s not actually making sense?” Doc whispered.

“He is making sense,” I muttered, “just not to us. Get ready.”

Tezzeret tells the clockworker to just get it over with if he already knows everything. That's when Renn admits that there is still one thing he hasn't been able to figure out. How he escaped.

“It’s not even possible,” he said. “I have you restrained by a mana siphon and shackles made out of these sleds, so you can’t use any magic at all, and I have you in a hundred thousand-to-one hypertemporal field. So I can watch you age. And then I blink … and you’re gone.”

Silas makes him an offer. If Tezzeret tells him how he does it, he'll allow him to live long enough to attempt it one final time. Tezzeret on the other hand tells him he'd rather tell him when they see each other again... twenty minutes from now.

Tezzeret concentrates like he's about to planeswalk, gives Silas Renn a wink, then emerges in the cavern of Nicol Bolas.

* * *

Liliana Vess and Zombies

Let's talk about the zombies first. What was the whole big deal about how it was impossible for millions of zombies to be summoned all at once by a single being, not even Nicol Bolas, and that this had to be the work of a whole gang of necromancers?

Now all of a sudden there's just one Liliana Vess, and she explains that it was Nicol Bolas that brought all the zombies here.

I'd be more mad about this if I wasn't already resigned to the fact that the whole concept of clockworking has derailed any chance of this book making any kind of sense.

Liliana Vess and The Plan

We at least did get some major developments to the plot in this chapter. Sort of. We knew Nicol Bolas was planning on killing Tezzeret anyway. In fact, we already saw the attempt on the Metal Island. What we didn't know is that Bolas' plan includes killing more than just Tezzeret. While having planeswalker servants can be quite useful, I have no doubts that Nicol Bolas would give each and everyone one of them up if restored him to his Pre-Mending power level.

As for Bolas also needing to destroy the plane to accomplish that goal... I couldn't really care less. It's no big surprise that Bolas is into plane altering events. In fact... he was the one that engineered a plan to take advantage of the five shards of Alara merging back into one plane. This plan isn't really all too far from that one.

And about Bolas potentially destroying the multiverse if he makes a mistake. There are all sorts of problems with this. For one thing, we know nothing of the plan, and how likely it is that this would happen. Is this a one in a million chance of destroying the multiverse or a one in three chance? Without having any kind of reference, it's hard to be invested in any kind of danger. And of course thinking about this pragmatically... while it is highly unlikely that Alara would get destroyed in a novel, so unlikely that I don't have the words to describe it at the moment... it is in fact impossible that Wizards would allow the destruction of the multiverse. No multiverse means no Magic the Gathering card game. The threat is so over the top that it loses all meaning, even had there been any kind of context into how risky Bolas' plan was.

Silas Renn and Clockworking

Not surprising, clockworking becomes more convoluted. Silas Renn isn't just seeing possible timelines and selecting which one he likes, and he isn't just time traveling... now he's actually pulling Tezzeret backwards through time to an extent that Tezzeret notices the effects.

By his very own words he's seen Tezzeret disappear before, so why should planeswalking save Tezzeret this time? Why is Tezzeret so sure he can escape? (Because I have no doubts he'll get out of this one.)


It's clockworking. What can I say. It doesn't make any sense. That's just how it is.

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