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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Gathering Dark - Chapter 10



Elsewhere. Everywhere... Part 1.


Chapter 10 - A Dance of Many (Part 1)

The thing that confuses most conventional historians about the period of the Dark is that they assume there must be only one story that encapsulates the entire period, much like the rivalry of Urza and Mishra dominated the times of the Antiquities. Instead it was a gathering of multiple threads and varied individuals - church and goblin lord and crusader and mage. There were those seeking to return to the glory of the Age of the Brothers, those seeking to crush out the light of magic, and those who cared not one way or the other. Only when these varied threads intertwine with each other do we get a full view of the tapestry of that dark time.

-Arkol, Argivian scholar

Sima stands on a beach, unsure where to go next. With Voska's Mirror in hand, she wonders where Jodah has gone. If he only didn't take it out from his boot, she could have saved them both. But when presented with the decision to go for the mirror or go for the promising mage, the mirror didn't have the option to save itself. If it fell into the ocean, it would be gone for all time.

Once the merfolk emptied the hold, they accomplished their goal and left. The captain, mate, and surviving crew all scrambled upon the lifeboats and escaped without any further merfolk attacks. With that danger out of the way, Sima placed an enchantment upon the mirror that would guide her toward Jodah. The enchantment is still quite active, so she knows he's alive, but his trial has stopped at the beach, and Jodah is no where in sight.

She could just abandon her search. She could return to the City of Shadows empty handed, pass on the information she had of Voska and Jodah, and go on with her life. But then she'll never know what happened to him. There's an option she hesitates to take, but if she's to find him, she knows she has no choice.

Sima draws upon the memories of her home islands.

She thought of one island in particular, one with beaches of the darkest volcanic sand. They had beached the craft in the face of mounting clouds from the east that never quite manifested into a full-blown storm and spent the evening around a bonfire, serving up the fresh catch with berries found inland. Several of her mother's sisters had beached their boats with them. One aunt had a small shell ocarina, while another always brought a bit of rum with her when they went to sea. By the end of the evening they were all singing and dancing, the sand beneath them as dark as the starless sky above, suspended between the heavens and the seas.

She thought of that island and inhaled and could almost hear the crackle of the fire and her aunt's piping music and smell the smoky scent of the roasting fish and the pungent tang of rum, for it was the first time Mother had let her try any (that Mother knew of, anyway).

Sima uses the mana gathering through that memory and casts a spell. She finds herself soaring above a sprawling mass of buildings nestled within dark mountains. A she gets closer, she spies two figures. One is a stocky, simply dressed man. The other is younger and dressed in a brown robe.

Sima recognizes Jodah and realizes the crow must have let out a cry, because both figures turn to face her.

Sima's consciousness returns to her body, and she shakes her head. Jodah's at the Conclave. The polar opposite of what the City of Shadows is trying to accomplish in regards to magic. That place is dangerous, and Jodah is there.

She remembered the maps, she remembered the tales, and she remembered the warnings. She remembered her promise to Jodah. The only thing she could not remember now was the evening on the black sands of that island in her youth. She had sacrificed that memory to power the spell.

A lone tear ran down the side of her face as she looked northward, though she could not tell anyone why.


...At the Conclave...

Barl mentions to Jodah that they have a lot of crows and ravens around this place, and they seem to be getting bigger as the years pass. That reminds Jodah of the stories his grandmother used to tell, and he can agree that the world is changing. But that's not why they're here.

Dressed in the brown robes that the Conclave had given him, Barl continues with what he was saying. He tells Jodah that this site was originally a monastery, abandoned during the time of the Brothers' War and taken up by the Lord Mage's mentor as the perfect site for the Conclave. To the east and south are the mountains, and the caves that provide safe haven to travel large distances for those who know its secrets. To the northeast is a small patch of forest knows as the Tanglewoods, which might not be a impressive as the Scarwoods or Savaen Expanses but are still filled with man-eating vines and carnivorous plants . To the north are the rolling hills and planes, filled with savage horsemen and superstitious townsfolk . To the northwest is the ocean, although the seas have receded enough that many of the islands have come together and larger, but fewer in number, islands. To the southwest lies swamps and bogs which many believe are haunted by banshees , undead , and evil spirits.

Barl asks Jodah if he understands what's being told to him, and Jodah nods.

Jodah pointed to each of the directions, following the same order Barl had just done. "Mountains, Forest, Plains, Islands, ans Swamp. Red, green, white, blue, and black. The lands of magic. The colors of magic."

When Jodah asks Barl what kind of magic he employs, Barl tells him he commands a magic that is different than the like that he understands. It's a magic of forces and weights. But he does serve as Lord Mairsil's right hand because he can make things happen for him. But teaching is not among those duties. There are no formal teachers here. Each person is responsible for their own learning.

But now it's time to join the others, and Barl leads Jodah down some stairs and through some double doors. Within is a room full of color and noise. Capes, vests, silk skirts, and masks adorn all within. The room falls silent as Barl enters the room, and a voice speaks up from behind Jodah. He turns to find himself facing the figure in the painting as he first entered.

"We have a new arrival," said the tall figure, addressing the crows. "one who has shown the talent and passed the initiation and wishes to be admitted into our bortherhood of equals. What is the name of this new brother?"

Barl nodded at Jodah, and the young man said, "Jodah." His voice cracked as he said it.

"Louder lad," said the smiling figure. "I don't think everyone heard you!"

"I am Jodah," said Jodah feeling as if he was shouting it, then adding, "of Giva Province."

Jodah answers yes to the formal questions asking if he's willing to become a part of the Conclave, if he promises to devote his energies to uncovering the secrets of magic, and if he promises to aid his fellow mages and to treat each other as friends. Lord Mairsil formerly declares that Jodah has passed his challenge, and when no one speaks up when asks if there are any reasons why he should not be admitted, Lord Mairsil declares that Jodah of Giva Province is now formally inducted into the ranks of the Conclave.

Jodah is asked to step forward, and Lord Mairsil touches his forehead, placing an enchantment upon him that will make him hard to track, hard for anyone to discover the location of the Conclave. The last declaration is to announce to the room the Friend Jodah will be initially assigned to the library.

When Jodah looks about the room, besides the few faces that don't seem particularly pleased about his assignment, most people seem bored.

Before long, Jodah notices that Lord Mairsil has already left the event, and Barl soon suggests that Jodah himself has had a long day and Jodah agrees that maybe he'd appreciate being shown to his room.


...Far to the south...

News that the blind miracle worker has lost the trail on the wizard's apprentice is most displeasing to Primata Delphine. But Sister Betje of the Order of St. Nanta can only tell her the truth. They had found his position by way of the sacrificial alter, and then all of a sudden the signal was gone.

Primata Delphine tells her to track down the girl instead, and again isn't pleased to hear that it will take some time to redo the whole ceremony if they're to use it to track down a different person.

"The heavenly hosts stiffed you on your first request," said Delphine, her voice dripping with irony. "See if you can get them to pay off in an alternate sinner!"

Sister Betje's shoulders stiffened, and her mouth became a thing line. "Don't blaspheme. The hosts are not merchants, to be battered with at one's whim."

Delphine attempts to calm herself down when she sees a messenger arrive, and she tells to the Sister to do as she feels best, yet she can't help but give her one last lashing with her tongue before leaving the Sister to do her work.

She then turns to the messenger and is told that the lord guardian will see her now.

The primata stifled an unladylike and unTal-like curse, nodded, and motioned for the boy to lead her to the Lord Guardian's presence. As they walked through the high-vaulted passageways of the temple, Priamta Delphine mentally composed herself, reeling in those large portions of temper and harsh words that she had so willingly dealt out moments before.

Delphine straightens her robe and fixes stray strands of hair before entering the reception chamber. Within she walks down the short hallways that leads to a raised circular dais, with a small white desk and stenographer at its base.

Atop the dais is a throne, and in the throne is a large, balding man, who appears to be asleep, although to speak of any imperfections in regards to the lord guardian of the Church of Tal would of course be heresy.

With his eyes still closed, the lord guardian speaks, and asks Delphine why she has come. Delphine gets straight to the point and tells him that two sinners have escaped her, and she seeks both permission to hunt them down and aid from the church to help her in this endeavor. She tells him that they burned her and defeated her loyal warriors and by escaping they have tarnished her perfect record. The lord guardian reminds her that both anger and pride are sins, and then asks her if she knows the mysteries.

"I know the prayers and the psalms, my Lord Guardian," said the primata. "I know how to make the holy wards to keep me proof from their magical entreaties, and the prayer to reduce their hellspawn artifacts to dust . I know the ritual of holy light to make their souls quail and may call upon the sword of justice to execute them in the name of Ta's Wisdom. I feat no evil magic, for I have the power of the book of Tal within my heart."

The lord guardian asks her once again why it is that she wishes to go after these two with such intensity, and in the end he grants her permission and promises documents will be written up to let all loyal followers of the church know they should aid her.

Just then, Sister Betje returns to let Primata Delphine know that the the hosts have smiled upon her they have tracked down the other, and Delphine leaves knowing that her crusade has begun.

Back in the reception hall, the lord guardian asks the stenographer to repeat back the primata's last words.

The recorder straightened his papers, then said, in a level voice, "I will not rest until I have put every wizard to the torch, burned every demonic book fo spells, and rooted out every vestige of magery, regardless of where it may be found."

There was a long pause, then the lord guarding gave a hiccuping chuckle. Then he was silent again.

"Lord Guardian, if I may speak?" said the clerk.

"Of course, my son."

"Her Grace. does she not know?"

The lord guardian tells her that the mysteries are mysteries for a reason. If she knew less than she does, she would be less effective. If she knew more, she would be useless.

There is silence once more, only broken by the occasional hiccuping chuckle.

* * *

Part 1

Obviously the title of this chapter was taken from the card called Dance of Many . It's obvious why it was named so, because of the use of several substantial POV sections within this chapter. And lastly, it's obvious that there will be at least one more chapter written in this style.

That's kind of an odd choice. This book is very random when it comes to changing POV sections. The titling of this chapter makes it even more awkward. It's not that I don't appreciate the content revealed to us in this chapter, but I would have like these "Dance of Many" chapters maybe more evenly distributed throughout the book rather than beginning past the halfway point, or just have this chapter be the only one named "Dance of Many" and rename the others. It's not like there have been absolutely no other POV sections in this book that didn't contain Jodah.

It's a small nitpick, because it's the content of the chapter that's actually important, but it's also impossible to not notice considering it's the chapter title displayed in a large font for all to see.

Who knows, when I read the other "Dance of Many" chapter(s) it might make more sense as to why they get the special titles.


Sima

Look at that. Sima was pretty much acting how I thought she was. Not betraying Jodah for betrayl's sake, but because it's just the obvious choice to take when charged with preserving and furthering the study of magic.

The interesting more interesting part of her chapter is the fact that the City of Shadows sees itself as the opposite of what it is that the Conclave is trying to accomplish. She views the members of the Conclave to be dangerous, undisciplined wizards.

I wonder if they've always been viewed in such a manner only since Lord Mairsil took over twelve years ago, or if they've thought so since even Lord Ith was in charge. Considering that Sima says she only knows of the rumored location of the City of Shadows through tales from her mentors and through old maps, it could easily be either.

What if freeing Lord Ith isn't actually the best of ideas?

(I don't actually believe that, considering how evil they're making Lord Mairsil out to be, but it's also a possibility that could be fun if executed properly. Lord Ith did summon a black creature to help serve him. What is it that the Rag Man is getting out of this by serving his master?)


Jodah

Not much here. We learn why the Conclave is placed where it is and Grubb uses it to mention as much cards as he can to fit them into the story. We are shown one way in which the Conclave and the City of Shadows differs. Despite the fact that Lord Ith is referred to as Mairsil's mentor, we're told that Conclave has no such thing whereas it seems through Sima's actions that teaching those with potential is a common occurrence. In fact, without Sima teaching him the basics, Jodah wouldn't have been able to understand what it was that Barl was trying to point out to him.

We also learn that the members of the Conclave continue to be jerks. Showing disinterest before it's determined if he'll be one of them or become a servant makes a lot of sense. But at his formal induction into the Conclave no one still seems to care!

Down with the Pretender!


The Pretender

Speaking of... at this point, it's clear that Grubb is drawing inspiration from more than just the card in the set The Dark, such as referencing the Yotian Solider from Antiquities, and Alabaster Potion from Legends. And what did I happen to come across as I was skimming all the cards in Legends trying to find a flaming sword spell that Delphine uses? A very prominent ruby ring ! Considering that Jodah very clearly fell into the Fountain of Youth , the Ring of Immortals seems like a clear counterpart for the villain to have control over. No idea if that's the actual truth, but now that the though is in my head it's not going to come out until proven otherwise.)


Delphine

Oh brainwashed Delphine. Quite clearly this section was meant to firmly cement in our heads that we should not be rooting for Delphine even if her conviction to her cause is admirable. We're shown quite clearly it's conviction based in false ideals that the highest members of the Church very well know about.


1 comment:

  1. One interesting note on Delphine: She's portrayed as being ignorant of the truth, but at least admirable in her convictions. But what truth was the clerk laughing over? :)

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