Critique of Chapter XX
By: Dhalgren99

Let's put your hands together and give a hearty Realms welcome to the Man with The Plan, the Boy in Blue, the...oh hell this is stupid. Do I really talk like that in real life? I sure hope not. Pouches' therapist says Pouches should stop referring to himself in the third person but since Pounches isn't Pouches' real name, he thinks that it's perfectly acceptable to talk like this. Oof, pardon me. Sometimes you just have to get stuff like that out of your system.

That said, if you buckaroos are at all scanning this tonight, it means that my wrist held out and I was able to complete this and send it off. Pumping out four thousand words today (one more section! one more section! he says, bouncing up and down like an over medicated schoolchild) did a bit of a number on it, even with frequent breaks, hopefully the last near two hour one helped but I'll give you all progress reports as we chug along. Thankfully this chapter is both short and straightfoward, nothing convoluted to work out, so with luck we can get ourselves one step closer.

It's Kenicy's chapter this time out and we're back to the happy village of Mordock, who we last saw Craven at. I'm going to take a moment and give the village of Mordock a giant I TOLD YOU SO!, since when I had last visited here I believe I noted that sticking around and merely hiding from the dragons would not be a good idea and nor would it lead to long and fruitful existences. Here I see I am proven right. The dragons are stepping up the raids (for no reason, it seems...I've never been able to figure out why they keep attacking the same village since now it's obvious that a party is probably going to come and kill them (or try)...but then it's stupidity on both sides, the village should have packed up a long time ago) but there's hardly anything left to raid. Actually it's too bad that dragons don't have the infamous D&D ability of infravision, since that would basically mean they would just have to attack in the dark...even if the gnomes are invisible (and still don't buy the complete vaporization thing, but thanks for playing) they still give off body heat. And even warm vapor is going to show up. Then it's just a matter of gobbling up all the little red gnome vapor shapes running around. Sounds simple to me.

Actually I am curious why the dragons choose to attack the village of Mordock...they obviously can't kill everyone and I highly doubt Mordock is the only village around with food, other than the gem thing it doesn't seem all that special. These dragons actually come across still as quite stupid, barely more intelligent than talking lizards...if the party winds up fighting lots and lots o' dragons later, the intelligence quotient definitely has to be pumped up...perhaps over the centuries dragons have slowly gotten stupidier and stupidier...the upcoming dragons may have been gone for a while and not suffered the devolution of their descendants and may not be too thrilled with how the race has turned out. Kinda like going to your twentieth high school reunion and everyone's spent the last two decades inbreeding. You're happy to see everyone again but at the same're not. Perhaps with nobody and nothing to challenge them (perhaps after their civilization collapsed?) the dragons that remained behind (perhaps a group went to explore the realms outside the Realms...maybe got lost and followed Odan's trail from the Shadowed Lands back home) got lazy and over time and sucessive generations lost that spark that made them the masters of the world. Because right now they're like giant cats, eating mice and basically living a hand to mouth existence, basically living at the whim of the moments. I think the dragons of old would have had a definitely exploratory culture, making headway in magic and even (gasp!) science and art and stuff...but the culture stagnated and everyone forgot. It happens. So like when the dinosaurs died off, the mammals took over, well the humans and all the little races that lived in the shadow of the dragon culture started to build their own empires and the lot...surrounded by the relics and machines and stuff from the dragon's time...imagine children being finally let into the world's largest playground, where you aren't sure how half the stuff works.

Again those are only theories. As I've noted before, I like to twist things to fit better how I see the world...however last I checked this chapter in particular has "Kenicy" as the author and not perhaps I should just be quiet and let the experts do the work.

I like the atmosphere of sudden dread and expectation, there's a sense of a ticking clock in the background as the villagers try and go about their lives in the face of total the same time waiting for the Innsfolk to show up and save the day (or not...personally I think Mordock should be lost and given up...stupid as this group of dragons are, you people are going to have to move pretty damn fast to take out as many of them as there are...even with divide and conquer, that means everyone has to take out one dragon...but unless you keep tabs on the others, you run the risk of letting the others run amok or simply regroup...unless Karl's gathering a very large army of people ready to die, this can't possibly end well) they can't leave (the smart idea) because the Karl and crew might show up and help...but they don't want to stay because people are dropping like crispy flies.

At this point, has the alert from Mordock reached the Inn...Tri-Nova was brought into a meeting a few chapters ago but frankly it hasn't been said yet and everyone seems fairly concerned with Karnak (rightfully so, since he wants EVERYONE dead) so I'm not sure what the meeting will be about until I get there (or until everyone writes it, whichever comes first)...actually I wonder with communication and everything...Karl should really look into finding a lot of Darvon's (i.e., what I call mindbenders and you kids might call psionicists) and setting some up in the villages so you have a network of instantaneous communciation, in fact you don't even need a bunch of mindbenders since as I've shown (oh like I'm some sort of role model) with Tristian and Ranos (hey first mention in a!) the mental link thing works great, it's not really distance oriented and it allows you to chat silently which is good since: (a) you don't have to shout plan changes in the middle of combat where everyone will hear you, especially those you don't want to hear, (b) good way to keep track of people you can't see (oftentimes Tristian will lose sight of Ranos and it's a good way to figure out where he is) and (c) Tristian could be sitting across from you at the Inn table and be talking to Ranos and you'd never know (Darvon might be able to sense it if he knew what to look for, but chances are he doesn't and Ranos would be a bit over his level anyway, if anything he'll find Darvon first simply because the man probably doesn't have proper mental shields and no doubt leaks psychic energy like an SUV wastes gas). Not too bad is the good package of powers you can train to get, Ranos' have ranged from teleportation (always a plus in those tense firefights, nothing like the instant retreat) to telekinetics (can't get that sword in the dragon's eye...look, ma, no hands!) to basically grabbing someone's brain between two hands and squeezing until you blow every synapse in their head. Lower reptiles giving you a problem...we'll just stimulate the hypothalamus until the heart rate climbs...since most reptiles are indeed cold blooded they don't adapt well to temperature changes and being they don't have an internal temperature correction like we do (i.e., sweating, shivering, etc.) they'll simply overheat and eventually drop dead, either from heatstroke or a lovely heart attack. And they laughed when I said science can be useful. Since nobody has used magic for anything spiffy yet, I think everyone better start really being nice to Darvon and maybe scraping some money to put him through to the College (well first figure out how to break dimensional membranes so you can cross over...though I guess Odan has done it without realizing how)...when he stops that flaming breath with an interial shield, it'll be money well spent.

Like I said, I do like the aura of doom that grows as the chapter goes on. People always try to exist normally even in the face of danger, even as their subconscious is telling them "YOU'RE ALL GOING TO DIE!" as loud as it can, everyone tries to do business as usual as much as they can. In one of my stories I tried to do that on a slightly larger scale, with Belmodeus running around basically picking off people totally at random, messing with the cops (taunted two officers then snuck into the car and punched through the backseat divider...then led them on a chase to a house and opened up some poor guy's throat right in front of them before going out the window...cheeky bastard!)...for ordinary people we read about that stuff in the papers and you've got that "Gee can it happen to me?" well you may not think so but the guy down the street who got carved up last night probably thought so too. And you saw what happened to him. So I like playing with that psychological aspect, if I were doing this chapter I'd probably stretch out the time to the attack until almost the breaking point where everyone is so tense that they just want something to happen, anything. And the pressure just builds and builds, you check your stores, make sure the gem is there, keep doing the same preventive measures, you get so tense you snap at your family, your friends, waver between bursts of frantic motion and just sitting and staring at the wall, wating for the end to come. But eventually something has to give. Then the attack comes, when nobody can take it anymore.

Another weird thing that is mentioned...Craven's visit is noted but it's noted as having occured "several years ago"...has Malef been searching for him for that long? How the heck long has he been wandering...the Mordock recollection was obviously a flashback when it happened but not a lot of time was indicated in between, when the flashback was mentioned Craven had just met Odan (or was about to, it's too late to hunt the references down) but Malef was still on his tail. And now they're getting closer to the Inn. Oy. It never was really indicated how much time was passing between chapters and you may want to look into that because I don't think it's been stressed before now. So the gnomes have been suffering through this for several offense but they really are asking for it. It's like they want to get slaughtered. Definitely a good question why they're stepping the attacks up...perhaps another influence is peeking in. Who knows?

Chaby is reintroduced a bit abruptly, the paragraph that brings him back is talking about the men coming back and then with absolutely no transition whatsoever pops over to Chaby and his happy fire...may want to make that one two paragraphs since they have little to do with each other. Kinda like, "Yo, the men are comin' back..and now back to you Chaby!"

I still can't believe a gnome (or even a group of gnomes) can provide food for a dragon...I mean they are cold blooded but geez, is it really worth the trouble they go through? Dragons can obviously fly, why don't they forage over a larger area (oh no, ecology...does he never stop?). The deaths of the villagers were well done but a tad sterile, I imagine the overall effect of the dragons just randomly eating small children must be something of Apocalypse Now potential...the smell of burning flesh, the constant screams, fiery lights silhoutted against the sky...if you're going to say something like "He was forever changed" well it might be better to show real psychic trauma, almost brutalize the reader with the effects, I mean you don't want to make someone physically sick but at the same time, this is a massacre. This is where you want the most emotional payoff, where you want the readers to shout at Karl when the meeting occurs, "Yes, go kill the bastards, kill them all!" with the memory of that brutal village destruction still fresh in their minds. You've shown us that they don't deserve to die, now make their deaths as demeaning and pointless as possible, simply pieces of meat caught between a dragon's teeth.

And why do the kids turn back visible again they all slip at the same time...and can't you just quickly rerub the gem (some of them might think of it at least). And if people are vapor, how will fire hurt them? Do they evaporate?

But then, almost as an afterthought, we get back to Craven and Odan...who have taken about three steps since we last saw them. This is a good summary of what happened last chapter (though by now I've got Craven in so many places it's not even funny) from the point of view of Craven, even if his thoughts aren't that much different from what he's told the reader so far...a Kenicy poem piece is always a treat and it's nice to see him keeping in practice. Question that I didn't mention last time but since it was mentioned here, why the hell not...okay, Odan's a scribe and while the scribes are a sort of secret society, Craven knows one of the main rules at least...I thought Odan came from the Shadowed Lands, and he's the only scribe (where are the others? you think he would have tried to hook up with the kin at least) when would the society have been set up. To me, it's more fun if nobody's ever heard of the scribe guild (?) except for like Karl and maybe Hellbore (and even they could be supressed memories from the Shadowed Lands, since they could be unconscious reincarnations of those previous selves...they may not even remember those days until seeing Odan triggers it)...then you get not only lots of confused looks from Craven but a "one man against the world" sort of feeling, Odan's stuck somewhere where except for a few others (Ms. V, Karnak maybe) he's a nonentity, a legend, like Paul Bunyan. But guys have the history, I don't. You'll all make it work, I'm sure.

Oh Craven abandons the scribe and hits the Inn on his own...not quite the dramatic entrance I hoped for but it'll work I guess. Other than that the Craven section isn't that essential, it'll be interesting to see how DanO handles the rest of the chapter since he's still in the middle of that last one if I recall...probably another summary...sigh.

But hey, what's that grinding noise I that the plot actually moving a few inches...the call has been sent out (who sent it? and when did it get long must I wait? oh, how long?), Craven is heading definitely toward the Inn (but I'll believe that when I see it) and the dragons are running know wouldn't it really suck if the dragons just flew away when Karl showed up at Mordock and then flew back to the Inn and leveled it out of pure spite because Karl and company are all at the village (I doubt anyone can move faster than flight, the shapeshifters might be able to match it but what good will they do when they get there...I highly doubt Hellbore turning into a dragon and bringing the smackdown will accomplish anything, the act of changing into something that large will make her fairly useless soon enough anyway)...boy, it sure would be good to have a teleporter at that point. Either Karl better crack open the spellbook or someone start buttering Darvon up. I'm telling you someone has to attack the Inn, it's a big target and eventually it's not going to be well guarded...destroying it would be a good psychological victory for evil (especially leaving it as a large smoking crater...sorry Hensbane but there are no friends in war) since it's such the bastion of good (especially that...accursed...KARL!).

I'll look at the Craven section as an added bonus, the real meat is Mordock (sometimes literally) and I imagine the repercussions of this will resonate for a while (still on idiocy alone the village should you wait for help...what have you guys been doing to help yourselves all these years..."Karl! Save us!" oh go stuff yourselves you sad group of midgets, you deserve help like I deserve a license to dispense drugs). But it's a typically neat Kenicy effort and I applaud it for telling her tale succinctly and neatly and keeping that oh so important narrative drive.

All for now, next up is Dru I think...aha, fresh blood! Going to be fun there. Whee! Speaking of new blood...the new reader that was bandied about a few days ago...I haven't seen her added to anyone's mailing list...should I send her these or because I tend to summarize the plot something fierce (I have no idea how far she is) should I let her find this stuff out on her own and have her draw her own opinions (which shall take far less room than this). If anyone talks to her, let me know, if she's interested she'll get a dose of the Pouches newsletter, or she can just read it off the site, NovaReinna's nifty formatting job makes it easy. Just figured I'd toss that out, since I don't know what her involvement will be.

That's all for now. Hand just went numb so I think I managed to squeeze in under the wire. Good for me. Taking it easy the next few days though while I wrap up the ol' novel so it may be a bit before we do this again. I imagine you kids will survive.

Kenicy, I tip the hat. Everyone else, I believe I'll quote the homeboy down the block and simply leave you with a "Word!".

And I'm done.

- Michael

"And the battle's just begun, there's many lost but tell me who has won, there's trenches dug within our hearts and mother's children, brothers, sisters torn apart..."
- U2, "Sunday Bloody Sunday"

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