Critique of Chapter XXII
By: Dhalgren99

Ooh, twice in one day. Boy am I going to get hate mail. I've got a bit of time tonight and with me taking a break after having finished my latest "masterpiece" (and boy am I using that term loosely) I do want to wrap this chapter up and consider myself caught up for all of ten minutes before NovaReinna posts a whole slew of stuff over the weekend or thereabouts I'm sure. Brief feelings of contentment are still nice.

So here I am, with the chapter that burst from the minds of four writers probably not unlike the mythical Athena herself. I was wondering how this would be pulled off, I have a hard time working by myself, four writers must have been calculated insanity. My other question was whether one person would write it based on the collective plots or everyone would trade off. The trading off segment of the population must have won, or someone who writes like a chameleon worked on this because I can see everyone's in evidence here, I know FragmentFour's definitely (I think she kicks it off and ends it), NovaReinna at least does the short section with Sir Scat, I'm not familiar enough with Dru's to say for sure but I think she's in there somewhere and Kenicy I think has the Craven section (duh) and maybe somewhere else. The styles do mesh somewhat, like I said it is somewhat obvious if you're been reading all along that four different people wrote it which may or may not be a good thing. I'm not sure if it is honestly...because it means the reader has to constantly shift gears to adapt but hey, we're all big kids, we can manage. There may need to be a streamlining eventually especially with people who are almost polar opposites, such as going from FragmentFour's rather economical style here to NovaReinna's more dense paragraphs...but having never done a collaboration myself I don't know how it's supposed to be handled and since you folks are veterans at this, I'll assume you know what y'all are doing and simply shut up.

The plot then. I at first thought this was going to be the big meeting that's been hinted about in about a zillion (it's a real number!) chapters...I was a tad disappointed that the meeting wasn't totally pulled off here, you've got everyone in the same room now...the chapter was mostly a series of cross-sections, some of which moved the plot forward, some of which didn't. All were well written and extremely entertaining but my jury is still out on whether the sum total is greater than the pieces.

Let's go section by section then. Sound good? Not like you kids have any choice here, there's a madman at the controls now! Hear him laugh manically! And yet in an oddly cheerful fashion not unlike that slightly scruffy neighbor three houses down who wanders down the street day and night, calling everyone "chuckles" regardless of gender. Maybe that was me. None of you really know what I look like. Tee hee.

Darvon's opening was fairly full of forboding (along with all aspects of alliteration) and a good recap of recent events. His displeasure with Ricore not unjamming him from the horse is honest...hell I'd be pissed at her too...even if she really can't do anything about that. Interesting how Darvon walks into the room and basically says "Magic sense...tingling!" (that joke never gets old, True Believers!)...I'm assuming the "lightning bolt" he speaks of is metaphorical and he really didn't get hit with a bolt of electricity (which would break Karl's "no magic" rule...ha, fortunately any science advanced enough when compared to the people around might be seen as magic...and I've got the quantem physics textbook right here...we're going to have some fun) since that would look odd. Plus if he did, nobody seems to care. The combination of Tri-Nova and Karl and Ricore and maybe even Trey probably would look like a giant glowing blob to anyone casting "detect magic" (more useful than you might think). Also nice touch having Scat set off the mental alarms, the dude IS magic, essentially. I don't know much else about him but I do know that.

Tri-Nova gets a few lines in before Deay makes her entrance...good God, where did she get THAT dress...does Karl keep stuff like that around for attractive guests, in case they drop by? I'm still a little messed up with continuity (so what else is new?) since now it's been several nights since the Stalkers attacked Tri-Nova, I'm not sure when Deay left but I can't imagine her walking in from the swamps with that gown on. Oh well, nice effect at least. And we know Craven left Tri-Nova a few nights BEFORE she left for the Inn and now it's been a few nights since that time, so Craven has apparently been here a few days (so where did Odan go, they were only like two miles from the Inn, did he get lost?)...I think I'm the only one who cares about any of this and in my opinion it's so shot that the best chance we have is to pretend everything is fine and as the writers go along it'll sort itself out. But some of it can be headache inducing. Ouch.

It's good to see Karl again, even if we don't get much into his head, which I would very much like to see someone do...he's apparently hundreds of years old, fought evil incarnate, is a brilliant general and now runs an Inn. What makes a guy like that tick? His no magic rule still is probably the most sensible thing to ever come out of the Realms...though it's never been said whether it's an implied rule or something that is enforced by a magic in itself. What I mean is...if I were so bold as to cast a spell, what might happen? Does it fizzle out, do I turn into a cockroach, get a bad headache...or does Karl just take me outside and proceed to beat the ever-lovin' crap out of me. The fact that no one has even tried in the many chapters we've spent at the Inn shows how seriously everyone takes him though. Everyone's probably curious but no one dares try. Neat.

There's a POV shift in this section from Tri-Nova to Deay, it comes without warning and can be jarring to someone used to spending time in Tri-Nova's head. There are different opinions about that sort of thing, I prefer to keep POV consistent within a section to trim down confusion but it's up for debate. Some folks agree with me, some don't. Oh well, we all cope.

Deay is portrayed nicely here, her wolfing down of the food while initially ignoring both manners and the stares of everyone around her was funny and makes sense, like I said last chapter, she's lived alone in a swamp for quite a while. Etiquette is a bit of a problem, I'd imagine. Though she does spend an inordinate amount of time wondering what her father would be like...we've got my opinions (and Dru's counter opinions for that matter) on that and I will say that bringing it up several times in the same chapter might toe the line between "reinforcement" and "overkill". She'd like to know who her dad is...we get the point. Other than that Deay was done well, her dialogue with Tri-Nova shows that they hit it off real fast (Tri-Nova's a newcomer?...Karl seemed to know her and this didn't seem to be her first visit here...she ran to the Inn at the first hint of trouble) and her ease around people either shows that she's very trusting or it's just that confidence thing I talked about earlier.

The bit with "Walter" was nice and did add some atmosphere but personally I think it went on a tad too long...we've been treated to hints about this meeting for a while and now we finally get to it and everyone is still engaging in small talk...not only that but the would be mage has little to do with the plot itself (as of now), personally I would have rather just had a toss off line about "a drunken man shouted in the background about his magical prowess to the tune of clanking mugs before being drowned out by the usual strains of nightly revelry"...instead of spending so much time on it. Or something like that. I know I'm weird I'll spend ten pages riffing on a single phrase and all the variations but this stuff never sits that well with me. But I promise to get used to it.

It's also interesting how Ricore and Trey have nothing to say this entire chapter...I'd've thought that Ricore would have some choice words for the drunk's not like she's kept her opinion to herself at any other time. It'd be even funnier if Hellbore was here (who has now I think officially dropped off the face of the earth) when they're discussing the Stalkers since she might blurt out "Oh I killed some near the Inn not too long ago" and all eyes would slowly turn to her. But then her and Karl would start shamelessly flirting again and nothing would get done. Ain't that just the way? Speaking of that, Pedrin and Majica are nowhere in sight either...maybe they finally took my advice and went and got a room. Good stuff.

Tri-Nova seems strangely confident that she knows why Deay showed up...for all she knows maybe Deay was compelled to come here and listen to Walter complain. Like a good little magess, she takes the comment in stride though. I like how Deay both plops herself down uninvited into the meeting and also how nobody bats an eye. These are strange, strange people. I'll leave it at that.

Questions? I've got questions. Mordock is mentioned as needing help...I last remember the gnones waaayyyy back in the Lord of the Pit chapter and back then they were only talking to Sir what point did the Mordock Incident become public knowledge...and where are the gnomes, since this does involve them shouldn't they be around somewhere? Maybe they went back to march stalwartly into certain death. There's always vapor, I guess.

But you know what, finally FINALLY they sit down and discuss the...oh no they don't. ARRGHH! You people are frustrating sometimes. Instead we cut to Sir Scat who isn't paying the least bit attention... the saving grace is that the brownies for some reason are still damn cute (you know I won't watch Disney movies but I find them utterly adorable...go figure, maybe I am destined to have children...once I find a woman loopy enough to want to bear my children) and Scat remains cluelessly funny (keep rationing him out like this and it won't get old)...though his brief burst of vertigo is interesting...a premptive strike from the dragons perhaps? Or Karnak poking around the Inn? It's so odd that I know it must mean something. You've got me curious...also I wonder what was in those potions the brownies (awww!) borrowed, but hey if they drink them here we'll find out if magic really works in the Inn or not. That has to count. Strangely enough, after his weird experience in partial dissolution Scat almost has a lucid thought...the one concerning Walter that is. Is he still here? Gah.

And hey! Craven. He finally made it for certain! Though he seems to have just gotten there (I give up! you people win!) and it is odd that the barkeep says the meeting is about Mordock and the Valley when Tri-Nova says it's just about the Night Stalkers. Perhaps Karl is adding that last little item onto the agenda as a "oh by the way" sort of thing. I guess I'd have to see the meeting first but...must...maintain...composure. Good job reintroducing him to the cast at large, even if his role consists of about ten lines here...but the important thing is: he's here! He's here! Or he's been here but now we know for sure that he's here! Am I making sense? Does anyone care? Anyone?

Moving on then we get to Pedrin and Darvon having a heart to heart...this is actually my favorite section with Pedrin so far, honestly most of the brief scenes with him leave me flat, unlike the other brothers he strikes me as the plainest, here we start to get a bit into his head. And Darvon is always fun. The minimalist style works really well here, the mood is somber and you don't want to clutter it up too much with extraneous description, the only thing is that the dialogue is a little too rapid fire, especially since at one point two lines get stuck together ("I wouldn't know" and "I would!" I assume are Pedrin and Darvon speaking, respectfully but it's on the same line it seems like Pedrin says both...that threw me and is probably just an accidental formatting error) and the brothers are distinctive enough in their dialogue patterns yet where you can tell them apart purely by their speech. The hints about Pedrin having magic were well done (as opposed to rare, which I just won't eat) and something to look forward to being explored soon I think...this is a nice least until it starts to go deeply weird toward the this day I'm still not sure if the writers were using "Ranos" in the metaphorical sense to have a little fun with the bloke who makes their lives miserable on a regular basis or the actual mercenary dude Ranos who we often find paired with that most downbeat of mercenaries, Tristian. It can be read both ways and I was flattered that it was mentioned (even if everyone pretended that they didn't know what I was talking people are silly sometimes)...would Ranos speak to Darvon that way? I don't know, unless he was in the area and sensed Darvon's ability (which would mean Darvon isn't magic either and is actually a mindbender, or close enough that Ranos can tap into him) not having any training Darvon probably leaks mental energy like a broken faucet. Other than that the only reason they'd be in the vicinity would be if they were hired (maybe the gnomes figured the Innpeople were taking way too long)...though by now the pair would have this whole Mordock thing sewn up (hey, the team at the Inn may not be ready but Tristian and Ranos deal with this stuff regularily) and be heading over to finish off the stalker problem. No, no, not that simple but Karl should probably keep that option open and start passing the collection basket around. They might need the heavy hitters for backup when the dragons start flying around. And DanO's rule notwithstanding, who wouldn't say no to a sword that could cut through anything?

That all said I am curious to see if Darvon tries to further contact this "Ranos"...if it's my Ranos then Darvon's in for some fun, since chances are Ranos would only let him into his head if he had total control of the situation and being that Darvon might wind up being just a bit outclassed (dude, he grew up in the desert and was forcibly trained by the College, believe me some things just can't be substituted for experience)'ll be a learning experience for all involved. For sure.

So there are a lot of directions that the writers can go in here. I'm a tad frustrated that the meeting was still pushed off because other than a lot of characters finally being in the same room together nothing else really happened. The writers all did extraordinarily well on this chapter which moves fairly seamlessly and must have been a plotting nightmare (but nowhere near the torment that's going to come later, I imagine)...but like I said before it moves from part to part without the plot really moving forward in any great leaps, some parts take baby steps, some don't at all and so the entire package may wind up less than it could have been. Still I commend the writers for working together and pulling this off, speaking as a man who is such a control freak over his writing it's not even funny, I am very impressed that this turned out so well. Keep the collaborations coming, gang!

Ah, this gets me caught up for the least until NovaReinna works her spiffy magic and posts more chapters. But that's for the future and right now...oh it's a good feeling. Did anyone think they'd be stuck with me for this long, or that I'd ramble on about myself so much, blatantly plugging my work in each and every critique and lacking rhyme or reason in doing so? Still, you've all done a delightful job of concealing that no doubt crippling distaste and making me feel like part of the family, even if I am like the dirty cousin who can't seem to stop reminding you that he saw you naked when you were two years old. Maybe it's a fetish, maybe he just thinks he's funny. I know not.

But what I do know is that I'm done for tonight. Writers, keep it up and here's to the plot stumbling confidently forward! You've all done swell!

Bye all!

- Michael

"Don't tell me you've gone astray I walk in circles, I've seen a million things that tell me so..."
- Sunny Day Real Estate, "Pillars"

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