Featured Articles

Thursday, March 29, 2012

The Gathering Dark - Chapter 20

The end... and a beginning.

Chapter 20 - Devastation and Creation

A student came to me once and said, "Oh, it was better to live in those ancient times than now." I asked him why and he said that it was a better time than this one, a time when one could write of real adventures and feel the excitement of true challenges. I had to laugh and tell him that were he truly living in those times, he would have so many adventures and challenges that he would have neither the time nor the desire to write. He would be too busy trying to survive.

-Arkol, Argivian scholar

A voice calls out to Jodah, one that he can hear but not quite place. It calls out to him a second time asking if he's alright, and Jodah can't quite respond yet, but he feels his consciousness trying to move towards it. After the third time, Jodah finally recognizes the voice as the only friendly voice he knew when he first arrived, and he opens his eyes and tells Shannan that he's okay.

Jodah sees the devastation as the world comes into focus. The walls and towers of the Magician's Conclave are now nothing more than rubble, and the smoke from the inferno still raging inside can be seen streaming out the rubble.

As for survivors, there is Jodah and Shannon of course. And Sima. And some servants and some of the younger mages. Shannan tells him that he missed most of the battle because he was in the garden. And he tells Jodah that he wanted to know when he finally awoke.

The he in question is the man further up the mountainside who sits amongst the outer stones of the mazework . The man who no longer looks like a glowing giant of rage that Jodah witnessed, as far as he knows, just moments before.

Shannan wants to know if that's really him, and Jodah confirms that the man is Lord Ith, and he walks over to the man that everyone else has kept a respectful distance from.

"Friend Ith," said Jodah.

"I prefer Lord, normally," said Ith with a weary smile, "but I will accept Friend from you, Jodah. I want to thank you for bringing me back."

Jodah shrugs as if it was nothing. And in reality he feels like he acted too late, but all Lord Ith cares about is that he was there to make the choice that he did.

"Your Rag Man brought me," said Jodah levelly.

Ith nodded. "I instructed him, in a moment of lucidity, to find someone to save me. He found you. Do you wonder why?"

"Because of I was of Jarsyl's bloodline? Because there was something about Jarsyl's grandfather? Because I had the mirror at the moment?" Jodah shook his head. "I don't know."

Ith gave a tired smile. "I don't know either. But I was looking for something to free my physical shackles. And the Rag Man sought out someone to free me from my madness as well."

"You destroyed the Rag Man," said Jodah. "Do you remember that?"

Ith nodded wearily. "I destroyed many things," he waved a hand out to the tumbled desolation ahead of them. "You sometimes have to destroy in order to create anew. Remember that, child. Above all else."

Jodah said nothing. Ith let out a sigh. "This place was a place of power, a weak spot in the fabric between the worlds. I thought I could master the forces that haunted it. In the end, they almost mastered me. In my vanity, I did not see Mairisl's treachery until he had slammed the cage door behind me. I think the darkness o this place got to him, as it almost got to me. A different way, perhaps, but still it got to him."

Jodah asks what he is going to do now. Lord Ith tells him that he's going to go into hiding. There's no point in staying here now. The villages will not tolerate his presence here, nor will the Church now that they know where he is. He tells Jodah that the world is dying. It's getting colder and darker and emptier and it will get worse before it gets better. And then he asks if Jodah wants to come with him as his new apprentice.

Jodah declines.

It took him a moment, but he knows he needs more structure than Lord Ith will give him. The City of Shadows is where he's meant to be. Lord Ith understands and bears no ill will towards Jodah for making that choice. He in fact understands how that place will be a good fit for him, and then offers to teach him the secret of the safe havens to speed him on his journey.

Jodah asks Lord Ith once more what his plans are, and Lord Ith tells him that he will seek out a place where he can finish his maze, gather his power to him, and write down the secrets he learned in the darkness. And if he can get around to it, perhaps he'll write a history or two. What he will not do is take any of the mages of the Conclave with him. They chose a different path, and are not his to look after.

Jodah was quiet, and then said, "So you will travel alone."

Ith brightened slightly. "I never travel alone. I have my Rag Man ."

"You destroyed-" started Jodah.

"A Rag Man," said Ith. "Sometimes it is necessary to destroy in order to create anew."

The new Rag Man rises from behind where it had been waiting for its master. While it is dressed in rags, it's clearly not the same as the one before. If fact the new Rag Man is noticably shorter, but he gives off a sense of strength and power that is all to familiar to Jodah.

Lord Ith says farewell, and he and his Rag Man part ways with Jodah.

Sima asks him what that was about, and he lets her know that he was given an offer but decided to turn it down. As for what they should do now, they should head to the City of Shadows . He doesn't just mean the two of them, but every survivor of the battle that chooses to some with them. Sima isn't too keen on the thought but Jodah insists that they are all mages, and magic is the key to making the world a better place. They can benefit from the City and the City can benefit from their knowledge. Bringing them is the right thing to do.

Sima let out a long sigh, then said, "Then we'll do it. But I'll warn you. Once you get to the City of Shadows, you'll have to have some proper training. You have a lot to learn. All of you."

Jodah surveyed the wrecked Citadel and inhaled deeply the cold air that swirled through the ashes. It smelled of ice, and of hying magic.

"So do you," he said smiling grimly. "So do all of you."

* * *

Rag Man? No!

Oh what? So I was hoping to find out what that stupid ruby ring was all about and wanted to know if Jodah and/or Barl was going to mention some kind of plans dealing with the gate to Phyrexia... and instead what we get is more information on the Rag Man.

I... somewhat... like that we learn that he was working mostly on his own to choose who was going to save Lord Ith But I'm also incredibly sad that his death by Lord Ith really was the end of him. Does that mean we'll never learn what his motivations were and why Jodah specifically was chosen to be that savior. He was a good "mysterious" character... and it looks like he'll forever remain that way.

As for the new Rag Man...

Am I supposed to be thrilled that Barl is the new Rag Man? Is that supposed to be fitting punishment for him? It doesn't really seem like punishment since we were taught to him of the Rag Man as a cool character. It feels more like a promotion for him.

Is he dead? Is he alive? We don't really know how the Rag Man spell works, nor do we know that Sima did to him.

I don't know how I'm supposed to feel about Barl being the new Rag Man... I just know I'm sad for the loss of the other that accompanied us through this whole story.

Jodah's guardian angel is dead, and the fact that this is a trilogy no longer brings any hope that he will return.d

(And what about that ruby! I can see how Phyrexia was used as mostly a tease during this story. But Phyrexia is a known quantity. The ruby that was talked about so often, and so highlighted so specifically right from the very beginning the prologue has done absolutely nothing. That's just so weird. Perhaps that will be brought up again in the other two books. If it is the Ring of Immortals , perhaps Mairsil will return?)

But Wait... That's Not All...

Despite how much I wrote about being sad for the Rag Man, that doesn't necessarily mean I think it was a bad choice. Perhaps it was bad that we didn't learn more about why we should be happy that Barl is the new one, but feeling a sadness for the loss of Jodah's guardian angel works. The story to the book that revolves around how bad the world has come, and lets us know that it is only going to get worse can't end with a perfectly happy ending.

I also like Jodah's decision to both join the City of Shadows and take the surviving students with him. Both paths could have worked wonderfully in the long view of where Jodah can go from here, but for the story contained within this book, his choosing to not just be an apprentice, but to go his own way (even if it is to be a student at another school) helps to make it feel like Jodah has grown up. He's going to be a student for a bit longer down either path, but on the one that Grubb chose, he's also become a leader as well.

(Oh, and I'd bet Lord Ith's last lesson about the necessity of destruction in order to create is going to be important as we move into the rest of the trilogy.)

Side Note

I am an idiot. I just thought I should let you know. Since this is the last chapter, this is the last entry where I can talk about it even though it has nothing to do with this chapter specifically. Why am I an idiot? I didn't realize until a couple chapters ago that the cover is depicting Jodah carrying his reflecting mirror ! I got the Jodah part, but not the mirror. I never looked closely at it, and I always assumed he was carrying the Skull of Orm . Orm was mentioned earlier in the book. I thought it was just too obvious and I never mentioned it. Why is the mirror reflecting back the image of a skull anyway?

And Lastly

I have to add one last thing. No Uncle Istvan ? How do you not write a part for this character within the book when it has that card name! Aren't you dying to know who he is and what he's about? The book is over, and I'll end this entry with the flavor text from the card.

Solitude drove the old hermit insane. Now he only keeps company with those he can catch.


1 comment:

  1. We're not done with the Ring, even if we are done with The Dark. Onward we move, the elements of this book continue, if not all the characters.