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Thursday, February 2, 2012

Test of Metal - Tezzeret: Riddle Me This

The flashbacks continue.

Tezzeret: Riddle Me This

Esper is under attack. Alarms ring and blasts from unknown sources rumble nearby. Tezzeret and his constant companion Doctor Jest look through a scrying pool and watch as the mechanist Silas Renn yells at whoever he can in an attempt to look like he's actually playing a role in the defense of the Academy.

Silas was born into a family so rich that nearly every part of his body was replaced with etherium. And while Tezzeret feels nothing but disdain for him, he does at least respect Silas' natural raw power. Tezzeret explains to Doc that Silas' natural magical ability is greater than his own by at least a factor of ten, and that in the three years they trained together, Tezzeret was never able to beat him a single time.

But the plan isn't to fight him, not directly.

The blasts slow down and fade away and the alarm silences. And just as Tezzeret predicted, both he and Doc feel a rush of air as the Grand Hegemon of Esper teleports into the main courtyard. Silas senses her arrival as well, and a disguised Baltrice moves into place to intercept.

Wearing the same clothing as any porter, yells at her when he doesn't get moving. As he gets close, all the while never ceasing to berate the seemingly insolent nobody that he thinks she is, she knocks him off his feet with a casual backhanded slap.

Baltrice pounces and grabs him by an etherium rib, and she makes it quite clear that it is already too late for him to react. While his etherium isn't something that she can burn, there is still plenty of vital organs that make up his body that still are vulnerable, and if he just glances down at his etherium heart, the reason it's glowing unusually bright is because there is quite a devastating fire spell cast upon it that will completely destroy him should she fail to keep from holding it back. There will be no resistance, no fighting back, and no calling for help. He is to do as she says and that's that.

Baltrice sheds one disguise for another and tells him that what she wants it to be introduced to the Hegemon. He takes her to the sphinx, and after introducing himself, he allows his new companion to do the talking.

“Baltrice she said. “Just Baltrice. It’s a, y’ know, an honor and all that.”

“You are called by a single name, then?” The voice of a sphinx is different from that of other creatures, for their vast hollow bones can function also as organ pipes, and so every phrase from a sphinx is a motif, and a speech can be a symphony. “That is uncommon for a human, is it not?”

“Yeah, well,” she said through a crooked grin, “a last name’s just for people who want you to be impressed by their parents.”

I made a mental note to give her a bonus.

(I don't get it. I'm not going to nitpick what Baltrice said, it's a fun response to the Hegemon's question. What I don't get is Tezzeret's reaction.

(So he grew up in a place where last names weren't a big deal. Sure, I get that. But she's no longer under his employ. She's working with him for the sole purpose of keeping Jace alive. That's her "payment." What kind of bonus is he intending to give her?

(It could be a figure of speech, but considering the writing in the previous chapters, that's just not the case.)

Next came Silas' attempts to explain why there are no other members of the Arcane Fellowship to greet her. The truth was that they were in fact scavenging for etherium and seeking out the ingredient known as carmot. For decades they've claimed to know the secret to creating etherium, while the reality was that only Crucius had ever been able to do so. And with Esper at war, with a population smaller than that of the lands it was at war with, all eyes looked to them to provide more of the rare metal that is the key to their war efforts.

As Silas stumbles through is words, Baltrice adds that the Exalted Hieresiarch of the Order has returned and seeks an audience with the Hegemon Sharuum and awaits her within the Vault of the Codex. This only leads to ineffective protests from Silas who both fears the revelation that the order is a sham weighed against his fear of Baltrice and immediate death.

This moment was, because I share with Nicol Bolas a regrettable fondness for the dramatic, when I reached out with my mind from where I stood—on the far side of the Vault, leaning on the lectern that held the Codex Etherium—and opened the door.

Carefully framed so that the swirling dust motes in the single shaft of sunlight from the roof portal above shimmered around me in a golden halo, making me shine in the gloom-shrouded chamber like a fugitive angel, I spread my hands with an apologetic shrug.
“I’ve never been a fellow of anything,” I said, “and I’ve been here twice.”

...Within the Vault of the Codex...

Silas is naturally surprised when he recognizes Tezzeret alive and well, but the Hegemon takes it all in stride.

Sharuum lingered beyond the Vault door, eyeing me with wholly understandable caution. “If this is your Hieresiarch,” she piped to Renn, “please convey my compliments to his doctor.”

 “Is she hitting on you?” Doc whispered in my left ear. “I think she’s hitting on you. Wow, that makes her like a, whaddayasay, zoophiliac, right?”

(Is it just me, or does that not come across as the sphinx hitting on Tezzeret and does not come across as funny? Why would you pass on compliments to someone's doctor as a method to hitting on someone? It's not like Tezzeret still has an etherium arm so it could at least be a reference to the person who performed an enhancement to his body as a parallel to someone who might compliment a woman for getting some work done. I just don't get it.)

Silas calls Tezzeret a murderer, and he clears up that he did not kill the current Hieresiarch, but the prior one. A man who deserved death for the way that he had robbed him. And with that explanation, the Hegemon understands that the man that stands before her is Tezzeret the Renegade.

“Your Wisdom is very kind. Though I would resist the epithet the Renegade, as it implies that I broke faith with the Order, when the truth is precisely opposite.”

Sharuum did not appear interested in the distinction. “Is there an epithet you prefer?”

This stopped me for a moment; I’d never actually thought about it. “I suppose,” I said finally, “the Seeker suits me as well as any I can imagine. Unlike these fraudulent Seekers of Carmot, my search is real.”

Sharuum makes it clear that her information about Tezeret's death is much newer than when Tezeret first left the plane, so Doc speaks up and asks Tezzeret if he thinks that she knows about planeswalkers. This only leads to the sphinx to ask Tezzeret who it is that he's talking to, and after he gives her a literally true but misleading answer about how he sometimes talks to himself, she tells him that he's speaking with truth but not honesty, and awaits a different answer. Tezzeret decides to reveal what he knows about Doc, and then asks permission if he can speak at length and explain why he's here.

He explains what he knows of the war and about the fraud that are the Seekers of Carmot. He goes on to say that he knows she was close to Crucius himself, the sphinx who both created etherium and helped to install her as Hegemon, and that she must be one of the few people not of the organization to know of their deception. But while his loss at finding that his life's ambition is a sham, the thing that she seeks is still out there waiting to be found. He tells her that Crucius is alive.

This catches Sharuum's attention, and she warns him to speak clearly and carefully, or her anger may be unleashed.

“I hear both truth and honesty,” she said faintly, a bit breathlessly, as though not allowing herself to hope. “How are you certain?”

“When I find him, shall I remember you to him?”

“Little mage …” Slowly, slowly, she came back to the door, her face wholly blank but her stare as fiercely concentrated as that of a hungry dragon. “Little human mage, how do you hope to achieve this, where the great powers of our world have failed?”

“I am little, and human, and a mage. But that is not all I am. You and I both know that our world is not the only world.”

Sharuum tells Tezzeret that Crucius believed etherium is the key to righting a sundered universe, but he also foresaw possible strife and destruction, and so he fled to prevent it. However the Maelstrom and war between the five merged planes of Bant, Esper, Grixis, Jund, and Naya has occurred anyway, and she does not know why he hasn't returned. But he also did tell her once, centuries ago, that should he vanish, there will come a day when a young mage seeks him out, and to this mage she should say two things.

The first it is the line she spoke when Silas tried to bar her from entering because outsiders were not allowed to see inside the vault.

“He asked me to say, ‘When one is made of glass, everything looks like a stone.’
The second is a riddle.

“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?”

Tezzeret is first surprised at the implication that his coming was foretold, and then overwhelmed at the realization this riddle is his to solve. He is an artificer and mechanist, the abstract is not his specialty. But when he realizes that Crucius was a mechanist as well, with an event so important as finding the creator of etherium, Silas offers up some of his own expertise in the matter.

“The direction of time is actually irrelevant to the function of magic. It’s equally probable that Crucius, as a clockworker, could have looked backward from the future and advised his previous self to confide his message to the Grand Hegemon.”

With that, and bit more reasoning that Crucius would not have had the riddle asked of Tezzeret if it was a riddle that Tezzeret could not solve, it all clicks, and he tells them he knows where to begin the search for the Mad Sphinx.

* * *


I did not expect us to reach this point where Nicol Bolas is no longer in control. I very much thought we were going to continue with flashback after flashback until at the very end Tezzeret's whole plan is revealed and everything just plays out on the Metal Island.

(Although this way helps to solidify that there is going to be a big reveal at with Doctor Jest's true purpose in this story, with my current belief that Doctor Jest is just Nicol Bolas hanging out in Tezzeret's mind.)

However the story has shifted away from who's in power, and despite that we still continue on with the flashbacks. Flashbacks that are no longer Nicol Bolas entering each character's mind and witness events first hand, but rather this time it's a flashback of Tezzeret voluntarily telling everyone what has come to pass.

I feel like it's here where the writing style makes more sense. This whole time, the writing style has made it feel like each chapter had each POV character talking to us by inserting all sorts of asides and background information. That just didn't make sense in the context of Nicol Bolas reliving memories. But from here on out if this continues like I assume it will, with each character talking to the others about the events that have led up to this moment, the style finally fits.

I suspect that it's because of this point forward that this style was applied throughout the whole book in an attempt to convey a single style.

(Or maybe there was no thought put into it at all, but I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt in this case.)

I would have liked the style to have been different and more appropriate for the first half of this book, but at least now there is at least something to latch on to that makes some sort of sense.

Sharrum and Tezzeret - Revisited

Let's go back to that comment of Sharuum about complimenting Tezzeret's doctor now that the chapter is over. "Doctor" could be a reference to Doctor Jest, or even Nicol Bolas if she's referring to the person who restored him to his current state. (Or both if Doctor Jest is Nicol Bolas.) That could maybe make some sense... but that line is spoken before it's revealed that the Hegemon knows about planeswalkers and other planes, before it's revealed that she knows there is a voice in Tezzeret's head, and before she even knows it is Tezzeret that is standing in front of her. She still thinks the person standing in front of her could very well be the Hieresiarch of the Seekers of Carmot.

What's the Answer?

I'm only asking rhetorically. If I had more time before posting, perhaps I'd make a guess before reading on, but that cannot happen at this moment in time. So I'll just go along for the ride just have some fun watching it unfold.

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