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Friday, March 16, 2012

The Gathering Dark - Chapter 6

Out to sea.

Chapter 6 - Voyage and Storm

Enigmas seem to attract enigmas. Viewed from our safe position in the future, the Dark was but an instant, a short prelude to the Time of Ice, and it makes perfect sense that Vervamon should have known Primata Delphine, who should have known Tivadar of Thorn who should have known the Rag Man. In reality, the continent is wide and the years long, and few if any of these people ever met, regardless of the later legends.

One exception to this may be the Jodah figure and the mysterious City of Shadows. Numerous individuals and places are credited as being Jodah's "teacher," but this secretive group surfaces again and again, and there may be some truth to the claims that they were the first to show the Jodah (or Jodahs) the nature of the third path.

-Arkol, Argivian scholar

[For reference, because this entry by our favorite Argivian scholar may be a strong hint that Vervamon the Elder may not be making an appearance in this book, here are the The Dark cards that reference him: Land Leeches , Carnivorous Plant , Amnesia , Hidden Path , People of the Woods , Martyr's Cry .]

There was no time to talk through the fear and exhaustion across the several days it took to make it to the safe house. There was no desire to talk while at the safe house while they kept hidden and waiting for the innkeeper of the small village receive a reply from the signal he displayed at the lighthouse each night. When a skiff finally appeared to take them to a ship that would then take them to this final destination, when they were finally out to sea and free from danger from Primata Delphine, it was finally time to talk about magic.

"You asked me what my color was," said Jodah. "Does magic have color?"

Sima shifted her position to regard the young man. "What color is the mana when yous summon it?"

Jodah shrugged. "It's white."

"Is it?" she said almost smiling. Jodah found the smile a bit patronizing but let it pass.

"Why wouldn't it be white?" he asked.

"Can you see it?" she asked, "with your eyes?"

"Well, no." said Jodah, "but I can imagine it with my mind. And in my mind it's white. And when I form the lights, those are white as well."

"You see it in your mind. So can you have color without vision?" said Sima.

Jodah shifted his position, stretching out his legs. "If you feel the color a certain way, I suppose. I don't think I'm making much sense, but yes."

Sima gave a knowing nod. "You're correct, and it does make sense. You can have color without vision, and it is that type of color that I'm talking about when I'm talking about mana. It was discovered early on that different types of memories unlocked different types of mana. Different flavors. Different colors."

Sima goes into the five known colors of magic and what those color represent. It makes perfect sense to the fledgling wizard. When Jodah asks what color it is that the Church uses, Sima tells him they use no such thing. She tells him that what he saw was likely caused by an artifact of some kind and not a consequence of real magic, and that makes sense to him as well.

Although there is a question that Sima keeps avoiding. As she explains to him what she knows about magic, she always refers to the knowledge that she knows as knowledge learned by a mysterious "we." He asks if this we has something to do with the City of Shadows she mentioned back when she was being rescued, and finally she tells him. The City of Shadows is a society that began during the Devastation. A society of scholars that chose to support neither Urza nor Mishra, but rather chose the pursuit of magic as an alternative to either. The Third Path that would help to preserve the world as opposed to the destruction the brothers were causing.

"And you want to bring me to your scholars?" asked Jodah.

"Yes," said Sima.

"Me," he said, his eyes narrowing, "or do you merely want Voska's magical mirror ?"

To his surprise, Sima assures him that they want both. Magical artifacts are important, but capable spellcasters are as well.

Jodah takes the compliment, but Sima won't let it get to his head. She tells him that he has the potential to be capable, but he's not one quite yet. It's time for more lessons.

...Days later...

After that first day, things quickly turn sour. Day after day Sima tries to explain to him the theory and minutiae of what is known about magic to the point of explaining how to breath properly when casting a spell and repeatedly telling Jodah that the way he's been breathing his whole life is wrong as it pertains to magic. Day by day Sima gets increasingly frustrated that Jodah isn't picking up what she's teaching and isn't understanding that her way is better than the almost formless methods that Voska taught him, and day by day Jodah is even more frustrated that she isn't making any sense and is focusing on stuff that isn't important and can't answer questions such as how artifacts and miracles fit into the five-color theory of magic and if the colors existed at the time of Mishra and Urza or if the world was changed because of the Devastation.

Eventually Jodah begins to feel like this whole idea has been a mistake. She once more tries to tell him that all he has to do is listen, but he's fed up and yells back at her that at his point he fells like he knows less about magic than before they started. He calms down a bit when she yells back that he has the most natural talent she's ever seen and she's just trying to help, and he takes the compliment for what it is.

Then a storm breaks.

The captain and sailors do their thing so they can all survive the storm. Jodah steps in to help hold the tiller steady as things get worse. And just when the appearance of dancing balls of energy energy signals good fortune, as explained by the captain... things get worse.

Cries from the deck announce that merfolk have boarded the ship, while cries from below declare that other merfolk have holed it. Lighting cracks the mast, and soldiers do their best to fight off the intruders, all the while the ship slowly sinks. Things get rough and just when Jodah things Sima is trying to keep him from falling overboard, he watches as she dives for this magical mirror instead.

A cold hand closed around Jodah's heart. Then other hands, beneath the surface, latched firmly onto Jodah's arms and legs. Jodah had a moment to be out a shout of surprise as they pulled him underwater, beneath the churning waves.

And then Jodah did not think again.

* * *

That's It. Thanks for Reading

Book is over. The Gathering Dark took a dark turn. We go to learn the underlying theories of magic and witness some of the legends as mentioned in the cards in action and that's it. Since The Dark isn't officially part of the Ice Age block, we shouldn't have expected more. Time for Book 2!


We're only not even halfway through the book yet. Of course Jodah isn't dead. We still need resolution with Lord Ith and the Rag Man.

What's going to happen next? I have no idea. If Arkol's journal entry is to be believed, there has to be more to Jodah's magic lessons from the City of Shadows than this, and we'll clearly be seeing more of them and Sima again soon enough.

How he'll take that meeting, and if he'll want to learn more from her/them after this feeling of betrayal at choosing the mirror over him is another matter.

(I can't say that Sima was wrong to go after the sure thing though. Not when it comes to the big picture and pursuit and preservation of magic.)

The Captain and Crew

I skipped over the part about the descriptions of the captain and crew because they didn't seem overly important. But something did strike me as odd.

It's clear that he's a smuggler, and he tells them they're leave the crew alone, and stay on the deck and well away from the cargo. We're told that Jodah is surprised at how meek Sima (often referred to as wearing blue) is with him.

The blue-clad woman later explained that the captain was as superstitious as all seamen legendarily were but understood something of the magical craft and tolerated spellcasters. That made him a valuable asset to mages such as herself, and she was willing to follow his demands and turn a blind eye to his other activities.

From that description, and the little I know of sailing back in medieval times, saying that the captain is a traditionally superstitious person makes me think that he's superstitious about having a woman on board. It's back luck to have a woman aboard. A very common superstition that I've seen in I don't know how many books, movies, and TV shows that happens to have been an actual superstition way back when.

Then we get to the very next paragraph:

The captain's mat was an elven woman who said nothing but regarded both the new passengers with a sneer that made Jodah wondered if he had stepped in something before coming aboard.

(Yes it said, "wondered" instead of "wonder" That's the spell-check error of the chapter.)

Wait- Wait?

The first mate is a woman? So what's the superstition that the captain clings to? Clearly it's not that women are bad luck because his first mate is one. Clearly it's not that magic is evil. During this time period no one would be referring to the Church of Tal's views on magic as a superstition, and it wouldn't make sense if Sima was saying:

"The captain is superstitious about magic like most people, except he's a bit more open-minded than most captains and isn't superstitious about magic."

If it is about how he's giving them a break and letting them ride despite having stolen and/or soon to be smuggled cargo, well... that's him just being pragmatic. It's not superstition, so how does what she said make any sense?

Do female elves not count? Is it specifically human women that are bad luck, but since she's a mage and he's on board with the cause of bettering the world through magic, he'll willing to set aside his superstitions about having a human woman on board?

If that's the answer, it's not made very clear.


  1. Dominaria is a different world than ours, but http://caribbean-pirates.com/nautical_superstitions.php

    There are many superstitions, just the woman one seems a little extreme to focus on so much to nitpick that...

    Also, I'm surprised you didn't mention the Ball lightning.

  2. I understand that Dominaria is a different world than ours. Maybe I wasn't clear in my post, and failed in exactly the same way that I feel the chapter failed... but when things are different, the author needs to communicate that properly. If not, the default to relying on real world knowledge will just be assumed.

    If a fantasy world has night last for the period of a week, one week every month, and the author never explains it, that can lead to confusion as to why the hero was only able to travel 15 miles each night for 20 nights in a row, then all of a "sudden" on the final night he's able to travel 100.

    If a fantasy world has it that blocks of ice that are perfect cubes of 1 meter in length on each side don't melt and actually radiate heat, but the author makes no explanation and we found our heroes thankful to be able to snuggle up to a cube of ice in the middle of winter... that can lead to some confusion.

    These probably aren't the best of examples, because the superstition thing is more about cultural assumptions and not physical ones, but I can't think of a great example off the top of my head at the moment.

    (And I actually missed the ball lighting. Are you talking about the glowing spheres of energy that the captain said was good luck? I was assuming those were some kind of Will-o'-the-Wisp. The balls of energy were flying and didn't seem aggressive since it's told that wind is what tore the sails and not the energy balls. That didn't say "ball lightning" to me.)