Monday, May 23, 2011

Stone of Tears, Chapter 5 - I See the Future... and It Burns

Much like how I felt when watching The Two Towers when Edoras, the capital city of Rohan was first revealed with new characters, motivations, goals, and fears (after spending the first 15 minutes watching the familiar heroes of the first movie do their thing), chapter 5 feels like the true beginning of Stone of Tears... for obvious reasons.

Chapter 5: I See the Future... and It Burns

With a humble nod and a genuine display of respect, we're introduced a well spoken and respected woman named Sister Margaret. She's both scribe and interrogator. She's both religious figure by day and dungeon keeper by night. (And judging from the second season of Legend of the Seeker, I'm going to assume that she is one of the Sisters of the Light.)

Woken up late at night, she isn't pleased to find herself face-to-face with a prisoner named Nathan. Nathan was a prophet with the ability to see the future. (Together with Jebra, there seems to be a lot of people in in the world that can see the future, doesn't it?) After a little verbal jawing between Sister Margart and Nathan, many things come to light:

  1. Nathan has been a prisoner of the Sister of the Light for a very long time.
  2. Judging by the way he's treated, Nathan's power of prophecy is either unique or at least very rare. (Although I wonder what kinds of comparisons and contrasts exists between him and Jebra.)
  3. Nathan's power is so powerful that he's no longer treated as a person, but as a tool. Apparently, his power is so powerful that it's because of his whispers into a whore's ear that a war erupted 8 years ago. His words, based on his prophecies, can alter history itself.

Nathan reveals to Sister Margaret that there has been a "fork" in a prophecy. A little more chatter reveals that a fork describes a potential divergence in possible fates and one of those fates has become invalid. When asked how important the fork was, he replies stating that it effects a "core prophecy."

Through his description, he depicts the death of Darken Rahl by Richard. And interestingly enough, this fork occurred that very day. Meaning that while our heroes were saving the day off at the People's Palace, the Sisters of the Light were busy bees, paying very little mind to our heroes plight. Even more interestingly, it seems that although Sister Margaret was familiar with Darken Rahl, the Mother Confessor, and the Seeker, they did not dominate her thoughts. In other words, the adventures depicted in Wizard's First Rule was not a singular priority or even a singular interest when it comes to the work that the Sisterhood focuses. In the first book, we the readers were led to believe that the Boxes of Orden and the fate of the Seeker was the most important event ever to happen in the history of man. And now in this book, we're led to believe that event was just one of many important events, most of which have yet to happen.

Nathan explains to Sister Margaret that on the first day of Winter, when the Seeker faced off with Darken, there were two possible outcomes. He goes on to explain that one of these outcomes were good and the other was very bad: the dark lord would either be defeated or he would be victorious. Sister Margaret assumes that the death of the dark lord would be a good thing, but Nathan quickly corrects her. He reveals to her that it's because Darken dies that the Keeper will be unleashed unto the world and that their fates under the dark lord would have been a much more preferable outcome.

Startled, surprised, and a little fearful, Sister Margaret's head starts spinning, wonder what to do next. Nathan interrupts her thoughts one more time and reveals that he's been holding out on the Sisters this entire time. He likens the Sisters as chickens attempting to decipher holy writ. He tells her that all of their "work" is child's play when compared to the true way these prophecies are supposed to be seen.

Using his power on her, Nathan show her how he himself experience the prophecies. Her mind is whisked back and forth from mental image to mental image. It comes in a rush. She see's and experiences it in a way none of the Sisters were ever aware. And then she's back, crying herself back to a respectable level of composure. And before the night is done, Nathan orders her never to tell anyone else of what he has shown her this night. If she ever told anyone, he would deny it and he would deny it all to his grave.

* * *

Futzing With Time in Serialized Stories

Personally, I love all stories that have to do with time travel or futzing with time in general... as long as it's done right. When I was younger I always joked that every cartoon & TV show I ever watched always threw in the obligatory "time travel episode" and/or the obligatory "Honey I Shrunk The Kids! episode" at the end of that show's life cycle. In a lot of ways, over the years, my mind has been programmed to see "time travel" injected into any series as the beginning of the end. It's that one last whacky adventure where anything could happen. Most of the time the execution of story ended up just fine. But after it was done you kind of look around and ask, "where do they go from here?" Time travel has been so engrained in my mind as the pinnacle of adventure for any hero in any story in any world. And then there are the terrible episodes...

Sometimes when time travel is used, the rules of the boundaries of time travel is their specific universe are violated... or they aren't reasoned out by the heroes in a logical manner... or it just becomes an excuse to create an odd parade of historical events and/or long lost ancestors and/or long lost ancestors altering historical events.

My point is that these episodes have much potential to be very good, but they can also end up horribly wrong.

Prophecy & visions have similarities with time travel (and Goodkind even desribes prophecy as "messages across time"), but it's not exactly the same. And now that I think about it, I think it's relatively uncommon to have a story with an abundance of prophecy in addition to the absence of time travel. I'm interested to see where Goodkind takes the story because of this odd half-way territory that he's steered the series towards. And much like all of those cartoons I watched when I was a kid, if those episodes were the "beginning of the end" of those series, I'm wondering how Goodkind plans to land the story back on its feet when all the hijinks are over... and then continue on for 9 more books. "Where does he go from here?"


Where is this taking place exactly? Although this information is intentionally kept hidden, it'll be interesting to find out. I only have 3 guesses (and they're broad guesses): They're either in some obscure corner of the Midlands or they're in an obscure corner of D'Hara or they're in a new land entirely. Of those 3 choices, I'd say D'Hara is the least likely. If they were in D'Hara, the prophecy of Darken Rahl would have been uppermost on Sister Margaret's radar.

Now that I think about it, as far as geography goes, Goodkind never described any oceans, seas, or any natural borders besides a few mountain ranges and the great plains in front of the People's Palace. Goodkind has spent a bare minimum talking about geography at all. As far as I know, Westland, the Midlands, and D'Hara might as well be rectangles smooshed up next to one another, with the Midlands in the middle. As far as I know, planets as we know them might not exist at all and the world is flat...? It's never described what is to the West of Westland and what is to the East of D'Hara. Maybe it's the end of the world that falls off into a never ending chasm? Who knows?

The Ripple More Important Than Once Thought?

I seems that I titled Chapter 1 a little more appropriately than I originally intended. Truthfully, when trying to think of a title, I got tickled with the idea of titling every chapter 1 of every book as "Not Your Ordinary..." (The 1st chapter of Wizard's First Rule was titled, "Not Your Ordinary Seeker" and the 1st chapter of this book was titled, "Not Your Ordinary Little Girl.")

(My powers of unintentional precognition have struck once again.)

(I didn't ask for these powers.)

With no specifics, Nathan referenced the "ripple in the pond" as an important event and that it had just occurred. And of course, we all know that the "ripple" is Rachael. I suppose in retrospect it makes sense since out of all the potential characters, she's the person Goodkind decided to open this book with.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stone of Tears, Chapter 4 - The Toasted Toads Truth

With the citizens of D'hara still gaining their composure after the skreeling attack on the People's Palace, Zedd takes his rightful place as the people's one and only savior who should be worshiped as if he were a god among men.

(I swear.)

Chapter 4: The Toasted Toads Truth

The wounded are being tended to, the dead are being carried off, the newly healed Jebra stands, and the Commander General approaches. Zedd asks his new best friend to read Trimach and tell him what she see's. Fortunately (for Trimach), she only see's an aura of duty and nothing more. With a word, identifying Jebra as a VIP to Richard's cause, the Commander General assigns two dozen men to serve as her personal guard. And with another word, Zedd orders Lady Ordith Condatith de Dackidvich and the rest her kind to be given the option to leave the People's Palace or be hanged. Trimach smiles in delight.

But now it was time to get down to real business.

Trimach may have been the Commander General of the First File of the Palace Guard (and he may have been the D'Haran With a Heart of Gold), but Zedd had to be sure that order in D'Hara be maintained and obedience to Richard remain intact. He tells Zedd than in the Palace only Demmin Nass outranked him, but in the field, there were many more generals who would not follow his command. Some of those generals would follow Richard and some would not. Zedd bestows his god like power unto Trimach to do as he see's fit to maintain control.

From closing off vulnerable entrances to the People's Palace, to re-assigning questionable troops to protect supply routes in the sea, to increasing the ranks of the First File, three times over, with trustworthy troops, Trimach has many idea to solidify control over the masses. Trimach looks to Zedd for an official order before putting any of his ideas into motion. He reminds Trimach that he once hunted and killed other wizards who chose to rule nations (the old ways) and Trimach scoffs, reminding Zedd that this is the way things are done in D'Hara--only one with the gift may rule in D'Hara. So with a heavy heart, he accepts his new role as omnipotent overlord of all people.

Satisfied with his new role, Zedd confesses that he had not been expecting the Keeper to act for at least a few months after Darken Rahl's demise (meaning that the skreeling attack was expected eventually?). And because the skreeling appear moments after Darken's death meant that any timeline for further attacks was up in the air--they could happen at any moment. Darken was an agent of the underworld. And Zedd reasons that if there was one agent, there are definitely even more that roam the world that work on the Keeper's behalf.

With a final command, he orders Trimach to find Richard with the Mud People.

"Tell him I said to trust you... tell him I said it is the truth. The toasted toads truth. It's a code commander. He will understand it."

With Trimach gone to carry out his orders, Zedd now turns his attention to Chase and Rachel. After first casting a Wizard's Web on Jebra's Stone (making Richard desire it if he ever laid eyes on it), he gives the stone to Rachel to hold and protect. He uses words like "Giller" and "Box of Orden" to get her attention, letting her know exactly how serious he really was. With gritted teeth and a glare, Chase knew the danger Zedd was putting the little girl in, but he reluctantly lets it slide and puts his trust in the wizard.

"She is a ripple in the pond. She is destined to do great things."

* * *

Becoming What They Hate

Just as Richard now takes the mantle of the dark lord he swore to kill, Zedd now becomes the leader of a nation--something he never wanted. It's interesting because it creates inner conflict and I hope this fact is more than a passing irony. At the very least I think it should referenced again and again. And at the most, it should be a lasting realization that no matter how they wish they could rule D'Hara, maybe they were wrong and "the old ways" were the best ways to rule after all.

Messages Across Time

Many of the oldest prophecies I believe are about what's beginning to happen now and about Richard. Whoever wrote them was intending to send him help across time. I believe they are meant to aid him in the fight against the Keeper, but much has happened in the last few thousand years to muddy those words. I fear that it is the Keeper's patient work that has obfuscated the meaning of the prophecies. He has no more important skill than patience. He has an eternity of it. He has probably been sending careful tendrils into this world to influence people, wizards like Darken Rahl, to do his bidding. The fact that we need the prophecies so much right now and that there are no more wizards left to understand them can't be coincidence. I have no idea where the Keeper's eyes lurk or what he intends next.

Zedd says this to Chase and it's a long quote, but it's the most compelling paragraph written in the first four chapters. While Jebra's visions were interesting, Zedd's analysis of prophecy and inconvenient timing really begins to shape the uphill battle they're going to have to fight if they want to beat the Keeper. In this book, much like Darken Rahl in the last book, the Keeper is a patient foe. But unlike Darken, the Keeper's menace doesn't have an expiration date. The battle with Darken was only ever going to last until the first day of Winter, but with the Keeper, this battle may last their entire lifetime.

Also, Zedd's description of the origin of the prophecies is fascinating. They aren't riddles passed down from up on high. They were warnings from the past to help the future, written by real people. With the language Zedd used, these prophecies (as opposed to prophecies in our real worlds, for example) seem much more concrete. And it's clear at this point that prophecies do not always come true, but instead may come true. If this weren't the case, there wouldn't be fear of them being "muddy" after thousands of years.

Speaking on the prominence of prophecies in general, I think it's an excellent choice to include them so heavily in this book specifically. This book has introduced a foe that has lived an eternity and because the Keeper has lived so long (and presumably can continue on living until the end of time) what better weapon to wield against him but messages sent through time? If time is the battlefield in which the war with the Keeper will take place, the heroes better have the right weapons to fight him, don't you think?

Ripple in the Pond

I'm a little hesitant to see more being done with Rachel. I've said in the past that she was my favorite supporting character from the first book and I would hate for Goodkind to ruin her character. I've also said that Kahlan was my favorite main character. But unlike Kahlan, Rachael has already fulfilled her part her in the story. She completed her task she could have then been easily written out. We'll see. It may turn out to be the correct move in the end.