Quick Read: Canticle ch. 2

cover

 

Two: Agent of Talona 

Before we get started with the (no doubt gripping) events of this chapter, someone in the comments last time found a map of the specific location the story is currently taking place in. Let’s take a look:

Snowflake_Mountains

Yes, the Snowflake Mountains. They couldn’t even go for something like the Frostspires? And the Forest of Shadows, I bet there’s fun stuff in there.

The element I found most baffling is the location on the left called Daoine Dun, which the map seems to be implying translates to Hill Of The Stars. Daoine Dun is actually Irish and translates to something like “person fort”, which doesn’t make any sense.

I’ve noticed a trend of epic fantasy authors hijacking words from the various branches of Gaelic languages to use in conlangs and place names, especially if fairies show up. I’m not sure why. I guess if you’re not familiar with it it sounds suitably Ye Old World or something.

From a distance, the rocky spur at the northeastern edge of the Snowflake Mountains seemed quite unremarkable: piles of strewn boulders covering tightly packed slopes of smaller stones. But so, too, to those who didn’t know better, might a wolverine seem an innocuous creature of the forest.

That might be one of the most tortuously constructed sentences I’ve ever read.

A dozen separate tunnels led under that rocky slope, and each of them promised only death to wayward adventurers seeking shelter from the night.

This is where this book being D&D tie-in fiction shows: the fact that the world contains things like mysterious tunnels and “adventurers” who go traipsing around dangerous places for the lulz.

This particular mountain spur, which was far from natural, housed Castle Trinity, a castle-in-mountain’s-clothing, a fortress for an evil brotherhood determined to gain in power.

Pfft showing is for dorks, it’s all about the telling here.

Wary must wanderers be in the Realms, for civilization often ends at a city wall.

I can’t figure out what this sentence has to do with anything that precedes or follows it.

It turns out Castle Trinity (a castle in mountain’s clothing, in case you didn’t know) is where our pal Abblaster Allibaster Abillaster Abbalister is holed up. He’s about to put his nefarious scheme into action, having collected all the ingredients he needs.

“Quiesta bene tellemara,” he mumbled under his breath.

Wait isn’t “bene” Italian? Are all of these conlangs just constructed by mashing real languages together?

If Druzil’s claims for the chaos curse proved true, Aballister and his evil companions would soon realize more power than even he, an ambitious wizard, had ever hoped for.

We’re in Aballister’s POV here, he really shouldn’t be thinking of his allies as “his evil companions”.

Their plan is to conquer “the entire Snowflake Mountain region” which seems a bit lacking in ambition but whatever.

At around this point the book decides it’s time for a more in-depth description of our villain. How is this facilitated? If you guessed “by having him gaze around the room for no reason until he sees himself in a mirror” then congrats, you win. I’m going to say this is the fastest and easiest way to make yourself look like a total amateur short of using blatantly incorrect grammar.

At this point in his wretched life, the power seemed as hollow as his own face.

SHOW DON’T TELL

SHOW DON’T TELL

SHOW DON’T TELL

Aballister’s laughter trebled, with just a hint of unease in it. “Most Fatal Horror” was a title associated with Talona’s highest-ranking and most devout priests. Barjin, Castle Trinity’s clerical leader, had not yet attained that honor, being referred to only as a Most Debilitating Holiness.

Yes, our villains are a bunch of evil guys who worship an evil deity and unironically call themselves things like “Most Fatal Horror”.

Evil organisations in real life don’t do shit like this. They give themselves names that are supposed to sound grand, impressive and powerful, like Storm Brigade or ISIS or The United States Government.

af0ca01a_rimshot

After Aballister leaves there’s a Dramatic Reveal that Druzil the imp is actually just using him to carry out some sort of nefarious plan that isn’t interesting and which I don’t care about. Then a whole lot of squabbling and drama happens between Aballister and the other members of the Society of Evil, which I’m only going to hit in spots because seriously who gives a shit.

For some reason Aballister doesn’t actually know what the chaos curse is going to do even though he’s spent the last two years making it, so Druzil gets to exposit a bit:

It will invade the hearts of our targets,” the imp explained, “and exaggerate their desires. Simple impulses will become god-given commands. None will be affected in quite the same way, nor will the effects remain consistent to any one victim. Purely chaotic!

In order to test the chaos curse Aballister uses it on a “fighter” (as in he’s literally described by his character class), who then runs off and tries to murder his rival. It doesn’t work and he ends up dead, but the curse gives him incredible resilience and a berserker-like ability to keep fighting no matter how badly wounded he is.

“A worthy adversary,” one bold orc remarked, coming over to inspect the body.

Covered in Haverly’s blood, and with his own nose broken, Ragnor was in no mood to hear any praises for Haverly. “A stubborn fool!” he corrected, and he lopped off the orc’s head with a single strike.

I already couldn’t take these guys seriously, and that doesn’t improve when they go around decapitating each other at the drop of a hat.

I was planning on doing another chapter, but I’ve got a boat load of real-person work to get through over the next seven days so I think I’ll stop here.

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19 thoughts on “Quick Read: Canticle ch. 2

  1. braak

    We’re in Aballister’s POV here, he really shouldn’t be thinking of his allies as “his evil companions”.

    A kind of fun thing about things set in the D&D world is that it’s a cosmology in which “evil” is a real, verifiable phenomenon. It’s not just like, selfishness or narcissism or megalomania or psychopathy or something like that — it’s actually Evil for its own sake.

    I think this is pretty interesting, though, because “alignments” are really useful in a game, where you have to figure out who you can kill and who is an enemy and who you can trust, but they don’t make any sense in novels, and so the D&D novels either treat evil in this really bizarre, unreal way, or they end up accidentally being empathetic to the monster classes like Orcs and Drows.

    Reply
    1. rmric0

      I’m sure it doesn’t help that the people writing D&D novels are writers who weren’t good enough for Star Wars tie-ins. Also, they tend to take themselves much too seriously so they miss out on the chance to play with the absurdities of life in D&D.

      Reply
  2. Archibald van Winkle

    When coming up with names for things in fantasy novels, how hard would it be to et someone who actually speaks another language to create some interesting names for you? Like, you create an interesting fantasy setting ns give it a really poetic name, then get someone to poetically translate it into another language; this way you have awesome sounding names and they’re authentic.

    This way no one would read your map and call you out on ‘person fort.’

    It probably wouldn’t cost anything, either. You know how many foreign fantasy fans would just die to help translate? Especially if you’re a published author.

    Reply
    1. Archibald van Winkle

      Speaking of your American comment, Ronan, I think a quick read of the Constitution would be a doozy. Talk about delusional fantasy!

      Reply
  3. Mr Elbows

    “civilization ends at a city wall” and how, pray tell, are the people inside these walls still alive with no farmland to generate produce, Mr Salvatore? does the food just poof into existence via a Level 5 Ring of Splendor? do traders and merchants visit via magic portals?

    Reply
    1. Hal

      Welcome to Forgotten Realms, where the rules are made up and the points don’t matter. Forgotten Realms is basically the worst and least original D&D setting, known for its plethora of terrible Mary Sue NPCs. You can’t go two steps in Forgotten Realms without tripping over some author’s pet characters.

      Reply
      1. Toastehh

        And I think this is the reason why even ‘grimdark’ takes on D&D/fantasy that people have been discussing usually fall flat. Sure you can say that a band of adventurers roaming around killing bandits, from bandit hideout to bandit-occupied-tomb, is ~~morally grey~~. But it’s such an artificial, unrealistic scenario. It’s so obviously constructed to provide gameplay that it’s barely worth deconstructing, and has next to nothing to say about real human beings.

        Reply
    2. zephyrean

      You wish, but they don’t. If there was a tie-in book where Create Food and Water dispensers provided food assistance for 1-level commoners, aristocrats ate Stone-to-Fleshed Walls of Stone, and weapons were Fabricate-spun out of Walls of Iron, I’d marry said book and have its babies. Forgotten Realms is simply a terrible D&D setting, good only for an only sane (wo)men / Connecticut Yankee run.

      Reply
      1. braak

        hahaha, I made up a D&D setting called “Dungeonworld” that was just layer after layer of dungeon, with an economy based on looting magical items that could be broken down and used to fuel Create Food and Water spells.

        Also giant bats.

        Reply
      2. reveen

        Ever played Arx Fatalis? It was a PC rig where the entire premise is that it’s a fantasy world set entirely underground due to the sun dying or something.

        Reply
      3. rmric0

        I really like when people find fun ways to use magic in books and D&D, or put some thought into how things might actually work with all that magic, hidden treasure and very present gods. Like why aren’t armies seizing dungeons as important strategic resources? Why do good-aligned temples charge for healing services (apart from ones that have a high component cost)?

        Reply
  4. reveen

    Most Fatal Horror? Wow, that’d be lame even as a name for a metal band.

    Now, I don’t know how far this book will go into regards to it, but played-straight DnD morality kind of freaks me out. It’s the moral complexity of a saturday morning cartoon combined with the violence of Conan. None of these guys are going to be sympathetic, they’re going to be capital E evil and the heroes are probably going to flat out kill a bunch of them despite their gee shucks morality. It may seem like that’s not so different from, like, Die Hard or something. But Hans Gruber was evil because he was an asshole, not because he had a thing on his character sheet that says “I’m evil!”.

    Like, take the guy who killed that Orc. It’s basically him showing how evil he is for murdering an ally in cold blood. But as far as the Forgotten Realms universe is concerned him killing the orc in of itself was not eve remotely a bad thing.

    Atleast grimdark books sometimes flirt with the idea of “hey, maybe killing is kinda inherently unethical?”

    I’ve noticed a trend of epic fantasy authors hijacking words from the various branches of Gaelic languages to use in conlangs and place names, especially if fairies show up. I’m not sure why. I guess if you’re not familiar with it it sounds suitably Ye Old World or something.

    I know that the Witcher series jacks the Celtic/Gaelic/Brittonic languages wholesale for the language that elves and Nilfgaard speak. But I actually kind of give Witcher points over most American fantasy since it actually uses kind of interesting names for things, even if they’re pan-European mishmash.

    Reply
      1. reveen

        Well, Nilfgaard kind of has a consistent naming scheme, Skellige consistently has Scots mixed up with Nordic names But the Northern Kings is this mishmash of French names, Germanic names, English and Eastern European mingling together with no real idea of which northern kingdom is supposed to be which.

        But I just like really foofy names like Julian Alfred Pankratz viscount de Lettenhove.

        Reply
      2. rmric0

        I always imagined it was easier to just steal words and their meanings from other languages (or at least assign arbitrary meanings to naughty words so people get a laugh).

        Reply
  5. autobaan

    I’m guessing this all feels so disjointed because of it’s DnD baggage. It’s like he’s throwing in whatever he wants. I haven’t played DnD either but I’ve heard people describe Kvothe as “Someone gushing about their DnD character”. Now I understand.

    Reply
    1. Signatus

      Problem with Qvothe (whatever it is written like) is that he’s the type of character one would make in his very first D&D campaign when you’re like 15 and your gamemaster lets you all get epic level characters. Even then I wonder what sort of person would choose bard as main class. In our club there is a saying about bards, “the bard is the perfect fifth in a group of four”.

      Something I really hate (and I love fantasy) about fantasy is how simple it can get at times. There is barely any gray at all. Evil dudes are laughingly evil, and good dudes are… well, most of the time they’re as evil as the Evil Dudes yet their evil actions are justified by the greater good or whatever. There is something I liked about Dragon Age is that morality seemed gray most of the time, and you were force to take some choices which had unexpected consequences. In the Dwarven storyline the king is dead and there is a crude political fight between the king’s youngest son and his second hand. You have to position yourself over one or the other. The second had is a more noble person, and yet he’s such a traditionalist he maintains the cast system (similar to Indian system), while the king’s son is a cold blooded murderer who doesn’t hesitate to raise his weapon against others, but if you position yourself with him he proves to be a more efficient king and a strong egalitarian who wants to take down the cast system. So… everything is kind of gray which is rather cool.

      Reply

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