Critique of Chapter IX(A)
By: Dhalgren99


So next in the continuing adventures of Hellbore as detailed by the writings of Hensbane...what? What's that you say? Those chapters are over?

Oh.

Mm, maybe we should start this again, I got rather used to Hensbane and Hellbore and now I've got to critique someone else...hm, can I still do it? Do I still have the magic? Should I stop while I'm on a high note or somehow try to arrest the inevitable decline?

Huh.

Oh what the hell, let's find out.

After six successive postings we finally hit a different writer in the Phantom Realms (do they actually call it the "Phantom Realms" by the way, I think I saw one character refer to it as that but what's the "phantom" part, surely those weird spectres from the last chapter aren't all over, doesn't the place have a "proper" name, like say, Pouchesville...that has a nice ring to it I think) and that oh so lucky person is FragmentFour, one of the few that has a passing knowledge of my stuff and also prior knowledge of what she's in for with one of these things. My day went rather well so far, so you might be getting the happy cheery smiley review. Unless this story makes me mean. We'll have to find out.

We're back to the Inn, apparently...the weird thing about this chapter is that while the last chapter referenced a whole bunch of stuff that I never read, this chapter, the second proper FragmentFour Realms chapter, has very little mention of anything that happened last time around. Other than the fact that Darvon rammed some guy into a horse's brain (think he could take Ranos?), not all that much is mentioned. Instead we seem to have found a whole other set of plots...some of which are immediately accessible, some of which are going to take some time. But, even if not everything is explained here, fret not gentle reader, because FragmentFour went to the Hensbane School of Literary Enlightenment (does that exist? and if so, how can I enroll?) and she was a good student apparently since this chapter is divided into two parts (I didn't notice that before, is that a new addition, Webmistress Nova?) so any comments on that lovefest will be held over for next time. Oh boy oh boy oh boy.

Oh goody, Ricore is back and like most wizards and witches, is an apparently effortlessly powerful know it all that likes to order everyone else around? At least she doesn't throw herself at men, I never liked it when Elminister did that (well that and the fact that everyone got all depressed when he wasn't around, like all was lost if he wasn't there...come on people, let's hear it for human ingenuity) and I certainly wouldn't like it here. For some reason I've always found that habit a bit on the uppity side but I'm sure Ricore doesn't really care either way. Fortunately most of the chapter isn't focused on her...though the bit with her changing the broom was neat, I don't remember that from last time, that probably does come in handy...does it change into anything, like those Wonder Twins kids from the SuperPowers cartoon a bunch of years back ("Shape of...spatula!" "Form of lukewarm tap water!") or maybe a big gun (believe me those are more handy than that sleeping dust she uses, you'd be surprised how people start listening to you when you've got a cannon the size of their...oh, wait, my lawyer says I can't talk about that until the trial is over...sorry, hold that thought).

Majica seems to have...er, female tendancies, but being that she's changed into a bush and an eagle, one of which is gender neutral and one of which is not...is she really female, I mean not to be overly snide but why haven't we ever seen transvesites in fantasy...dude, I mean if I were a male shapechanger convinced that I was born to be a woman, how long do you it would take me to fix that? I'd never look back. I haven't yet. Oh, boy am I full of revelations tonight. She seems all girl though so I'm going to assume that calling her a "she" is in order. I'd like to know more about her race, nobody seems too disturbed that she can change shape and it appears to be a "community" sort of thing, Trey can apparently change shape as well...and he seems to be related to Pedrin and Darvon...hm, interesting. I don't think the others were elves, perhaps it's an adoptive relationship. Heh, I can hear DanO behind him ready to drop tackle me and drag me toward the bios. No, my good man, another day I shall.

The dialogue is breezy and fun, like a good old school Heinlein novel before he got all into that free love thing (hey I'm all for free love but at least make up one other theme to go along with it)...it does have that rapid fire feel which works here because nothing crucial is happening but careful not to get too excited with that back and forth thang...without the intervening gestures and crap, it's hard to read emotions (unless you're into that "naturalistic" thing where people pause in odd places, stutter, repeat themselves, shift gears in mid sentence...it's my cup of tea but I'm not sure if it would fit here...) and you don't want to have dialogue that sounds good but has none of that good nutritional filling we all need. Mm, nutrients.

The conversation between Ricore and the dragon is interesting, some of the early stuff about the deceased knight struck me as vague...is Ricore happening on the scene just as the knight in...NovaReinna's (?) (I think) story is getting his ass torn off, cooked and handed back to him...if that's the case then nice crossover between the stories, I really like when you guys drop those little reminders that everyone is living in the same Realms, since this is a "shared world" technically (unlike me, which I shall guard like a mother seal guards her babies...back off, people!)...for some reason Ricore feels the need to speak in that bizarrely archaic FantaSpeak that fantasy characters love to talk in...it's off putting, and you think that dragon would have learned to talk like normal people in all those years. Actually, I find it funny that everyone writes talking lizards with a prominent lisp, I brought my turtle over to show him and he just sort of shook his head sadly (yet slowly) and said in a vaguely Indian accent "Why must we always be so unjustly maligned?"...I mean granted that there are no talking reptiles that I know of (I'm going to speak for myself, you bunch of weirdos might actually know somebody for all I know)...who looked at a lizard for the first time and thought "Gee if they could talk I'd bet it would be like they had a cleft palette..." Whoever it is I wish I could go back in time and smack him. Hard.

Other than that the conversation alludes to some past stuff that either Ricore was around for or just knows about (oh man, not Druids, bloody tree huggers...), and is it me or she saying that cutting off the tip of the dragon's tail caused him to lose part of his memory...talk about speading your thoughts out. I wonder why the dragons ever agreed to not eat people, if I were a dragon and the head Druid said to me, "Don't eat people" I'd lisp "Sssso what?" and then eat him. And actually eating people is probably the quickest way to end any argument, try it some time and you'll find it not only a good solution but good for you as well. Ricore whips out the magic too, which is nice, apparently it doesn't bother her that the dragon cooked a knight...she sends mixed messages though, first she heals him and then spends the rest of the time yelling at him. Hey, who's side is she on anyway? If the dragon it would be easy to counter the invisiblity thing...hm, I breathe fire, fire causes soot, I think I'd just vent out all the soot in my nostrils and she'll get covered in dust and then I'll have dusty witch for dinner. Hard to hide when you're coated in oxidized residue.

The meeting between Pedrin and Majica was romantically amusing, does it generally happen that fast in real life? I like how the sentences were only as descriptive as they needed to be, complementing the dialogue rather well, I could definitely hear Majica's hormone influenced eagerness (yup, she's all woman)...Pedrin is still a little harder to get a handle on, compared to his brothers he can come across as rather bland, especially contrasted with Trey's wide eyed good nature and Darvon's mysterious spellcraft? The entire sequence very much bordered on "cute" which normally isn't my thing (come on, nobody is crying in the rain and for the love of God, where's the ANGST?) but I do have to admit it was well down, even if you couldn't elicit the "awww!" you'd get if I were my sister. But then my sister would write "This is too long! And the Backstreet Boys aren't in it!" which is why I'm doing this and she isn't.

The sudden switch between Pedrin and the Majica/Trey conversation was a tad abrupt, especially since they weren't even really nearby...it's not something that I would do but it's not overly jarring, but it has the potential to be considered awkward. The beginning section with Pedrin probably could be worked in elsewhere, since it has little bearing on everything else, except maybe to compare with Majica's desire to leave as well. I don't think either of them are going anywhere right now though. Hey. Hey! None of that, I said.

And back to the all knowing wizard...for some reason and maybe it's because of where I live, I very much get images of what I would no doubt politely call "white trash" (hope I'm not offending anyone with that) when Ricore visits our trailer park ready couple (if we're going to wallow in stereotypes, I might as well nail them all at once). Again, her magic use is interesting, though she shops at the same place as most witches, the sleeping powder is standard fare...let's see...broom. Check. Powder. Check. Herbs. Check. Minor magical skills used cleverly for great effect. Check. Haughty and self righteous attitude deriving from the common misconception that if you live long enough your opinion counts more than everyone else's? Check-a-roo. So far she hasn't done much more other than float or heal, I'm not expecting some fireballs (oh should I mention fire? maybe that's not a good idea) or her throwing planets...shape changing is apparently a common skill in ye olde Realms, since Majica, Trey, Hellbore and even Ricore and her broom can change shape at will. Geez, maybe they should have a convention or something, you know compare notes. They could have panels like "Women in Shapechanging" "Maintaining Your Identity in a Shifting World" "When a Tree Might Not be a Tree" all sorts of good stuff.

But anyway Ricore has the baby, who is sick. Maybe she wants to shapechange too. I'm not sure how Ricore knew about sick baby, at least she placed the baby at a higher priority than the two headed goat or strange fruit, nice to see someone thinking for once. The baby seems to be neglected which is a rather sudden injection of a somber issue...the couple are treated as rather buffoonish when they should probably be slapped around something fierce for doing that to the kid, Ricore almost seems condescending here, which is interesting. Hm, I'll have to think on that one.

The broom scene is great and gives us a good chance to get everyone together and have fun with the character interactions. I liked the subtle hint of what Majica and Pedrin were doing before all the ruckus erupted and everyone's deadpan reaction to one of the few brooms Mickey apparently didn't smash in the Sorcerer's Apprentice is fun stuff...the image of a bunch of people standing around trying to figure out what a broom is trying to tell them is sort of a Lassie moment ("Woof!" "What, Lassie, you mean Timmy is in the well a half mile north of here, right behind Mrs Potter's farm?" "Woof?" "And you're predicting rain?" "Woof! Woof!" "And that the Dodgers are going to take the Series?"). Good stuff. Darvon's comment as he enters is classic and what I would call a Ranos Moment because I can't go a paragraph without referencing my stuff. Fortunately FragmentFour is used to it by now. I hope.

Darvon's reluctance to ride a broom and utterly dry sense of humor is typically wizardish (are there any exciteably wizards?) but really funny. Just thought I'd mention that. There are so many light moments that some of the darker ones make for a strange contrast...Majica's a bit exciteable herself though, being that she nearly panics at the thought of Trey not being there, are eagles normally that edgy? However her quick change from eagle to mouse to human was near brilliant, that's the kind of thing that shapechangers should do. Now we've got to get her to turn into the Jabberwocky and we're all set. I'm not sure how Trey came along unless he turned into a tick or something, which is highly possible, we haven't seen any limits yet. And he's not a typical shapechanger, as Majica said before, they always recognize each other and she didn't in the beginning. But he does seem to know a lot.

I'm not sure why Majica is so surprised Ricore knows what she is, I mean she certainly hasn't been as secretive as Hellbore was in her shifting (think they're related?)...I can only guess that Darvon and Ricore are going to either burn the fever out of the child or exorcise him or something. Something tells me it's going to get very hot very soon. Whee!

But as for what happens, I'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out. That sound good to y'all? So far it's a trip though, the characters are all on the way to staking their own territory and becoming distinctive, I'm curious to see what other facets these people have to them...other than the ones we've been shown already. Surely Ricore can't be like that all the time? God, I hope not.

So I'll have to find out. Very good then. As for your little side story you shared with us, just think...life can't be predictable all the time. You'd get bored too easily.

Ha!

Bye everyone! (where is he going?) (away!)

- Michael

"It's no accident I've changed my name..."
- The Mekons, "Flitcraft"


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