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[Where I Read] Death Gate Cycle Part 2: Bibles, Magic and Nightmare Fuel Ahoy

Wields-Rulebook-Heavily

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That about sums it up, don't it? It's been a chapter-a-day ride from Castle Sinister to nightmare murder giants through a little bit of evangelical zombie apocalypse, a brief stop at No One Can Ever Be Happy In Death Gate Land (Now with more Satan) and finally a sort of fizzling out in Hand of Chaos with some child killing thrown in.

Have some links.

This threads picks up where we left off on the first chapter of the sixth Death Gate novel, Into the Labyrinth.


(Once again, credit goes too Dee's Death Gate Cycle fansite.)

So that's two dragons, a castle on a mountain and a bridge, I guess? It's supposed to be the Labyrinth, but there's daylight and there's never full daylight there or in the Nexus, so hey.

The book is dedicated to one Russ Lovaasen, and the book opens on a quote from An Essay on Man by Alexander Pope;

All our knowledge is,
ourselves to know.​

I'm not a fan of that poem personally, so that can only lead to good things, right?

I'll give old hands some time to resubscribe/rededicate/heap adulation on me/tell me how totally useless this whole project is before posting the first chapter later tonight.
 

Victor Von Villain

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The project is one of the greatest things I've seen attempted, let alone executed, on the boards. I don't know what I'll be reading every morning in two novels time.
 

anowack

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Books Six and Seven are kind of a blur in my memory, although I recall enough stuff that hasn't happened yet that must be in one or the other.

This should be interesting.
 

Jeremy Kopczynski

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I still don't know how you do it. The sheer willpower to go through these chapter after chapter.

To comment on points from the first thread:

If only evil were really dumb and self-defeating. I get the point they are trying to make especially in Dragonlance but real people don't deal with 'pure evil' just other people making choices, sometimes horrible ones.

People do get dumber in groups but still the Unseen get paid to be paranoid, suspecting and so forth. The Sidereal great curse only goes so far after all. Right?

Still once again thanks for the free entertainment and analysis.
 

Wields-Rulebook-Heavily

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CHAPTER 1

ABARRACH

This novel is already working hard at failing to impress me, I see.

ABARRACH: WORLD OF STONE, WORLD OF DARKNESS LIT BY THE fires of molten sea,
world of stalagmites and stalactites, world of fire dragons, world of poisonous air and sulfurous
fumes, world of magic.
Wasn't the point of Abarrach that magic was failing there?

Xar, Lord of the Nexus, and now Lord of Abarrach, sat back in his chair, rubbed his eyes. The
rune-constructs he was studying were starting to blur together. He'd almost made a mistake-and
that was inexcusable. But he had caught himself in time, corrected it. Closing his aching eyes, he
went over the construct again in his mind.
He imagines himself drawing the runes on a body, starting with a heart rune and covering the whole thing with an excquisitly complex spell.

It was perfect. He could find no flaw. In his mind's eye, he imagined the dead body on which he'd
been working rising up and living again. A corrupt form of life, admittedly, but a beneficial one.

The corpse was far more useful now than it would have been moldering in the ground.
Xar smiled in triumph, but it was a triumph whose life span was shorter than that of his imaginary
defunct. His thoughts went something like this:

I can raise the dead.

At least I am fairly certain I can raise the dead.

I can't be sure
.
I wonder if there's some coffee around.

My ass itches a bit.

What was I thinking about again?

That was the pall over his elation. There were no dead for him to raise. Or rather, there were too
many dead. Just not dead enough.
He slams a table with his fist, sending rune-bones flying, so we can assume that he is in fact in the Necropolis. Also, this book thankfully dispenses with recaps, but instead peppers the text with references to previous books. "rune-bone" merits one, for instance. I'm cutting most of these out, because the ones in the first five chapters alone outnumber the ones from the last two entire books. It's more tolerable than endless recap, I guess, and it makes use of a schtick the book was already working with.

Xar paid no attention to them. He could always put the construct together again. Again and again.
He knew it as well as he knew the rune-magic to conjure up water. For all the good it would do
him.
Oh. He can conjure up water. That's rather good, because neither Haplo nor Alfred could do that. Right now, he needs a corpse that hasn't been taken by the lazar (who, again, merit a reference footnote). It mentions that lazar are neither dead nor alive, the living dead.

He left the room he used as his study, headed for his private chambers. On his way, he passed
by the library. And there was Kleitus, the Dynast, former ruler (until his death) of Necropolis, the
largest city on Abarrach. At his death, Kleitus had become a lazar-one of the living dead. Now
the Dynast's gruesome form, which was neither dead nor alive, wandered the halls and corridors
of the palace that had once been his. The lazar thought it was still his. Xar knew better, but he
saw no reason to disabuse Kleitus of the notion.
Yep, the stuff from the footnote was immediately apparent in the text in the very next paragraph. Welcome back, Death Gate. Even Xar has to steel himself before facing the lazar, rivalling only the Labyrinth on the list of things he fears. Which now numbers two, by the way.

An encounter with Kleitus was never pleasant. Xar generally avoided the lazar. The lord found it
uncomfortable talking to a being who had one thought on his mind: death. Your death.
This is an uncomfortable sentence: Very. Very uncomfortable. Kleitus tried to kill Xar, once. He... failed. And has never tried again.

"Someday, Xar," said Kleitus, the corpse talking, "I will catch you unawares. And then you will join
us."

"...join us," came the unhappy echo of the lazar's soul. The two parts of the dead always spoke
together, the soul being just a bit slower than the body.
Grrgageagrg... Oh sure, resurrect that annoying gimmick while you're at it. :mad:

Xar is all sarcasm ("So good to see you still have goals") and calmly invites him for a chat. Gee, he and Haplo really are a lot alike at times. But he can't look at Kleitus' face long, prompting a small flavorful recap (sigh) of what Lazar look like to other people, i.e. horrible.

"Will you accompany me to the library?" Xar asked with a polite gesture, his gaze anywhere but
on the corpse.

The lazar followed willingly. Kleitus had no particular desire to be of assistance to the Lord of the
Nexus, as Xar well knew. The lazar came because there was always the possibility that Xar might
weaken, inadvertently lower his defenses. Kleitus came because he hoped to murder Xar.
This is becoming abundantly obvious. Xar irrationally wonders wether he should call another Patryn to guard, then rejects the notion. He can't show weakness to the Patryns, and no Patryn could defend Xar better than he can himself. Lazar just make him nervous.

Consequently, though he did so with misgivings, Xar shut the door made of braided kairn grass,
marked it with Patryn runes of warding so that it could not be opened. He drew these runes over
faded Sartan runes, Sartan magic that had long ago ceased to function.
Doors, man. Every novel has to mention them doors.

Kleitus's lifeless eyes sprang suddenly to life, focused on Xar's throat. The dead fingers twitched
in anticipation.

"No, no, my friend," Xar said pleasantly. "Another day, perhaps. Or would you like to come again
within the circle of my power? Would you like to feel again my magic starting to unravel your
existence?"

Kleitus stared at him with unblinking hatred. "What do you want, Lord of the Nexus?"

"...Nexus," came the sad echo.

"I want to sit down," Xar said. "I've had a wearing time of it. Two days and nights on the runeconstruct.
But I have solved it. I now know the secret to the art of necromancy. I can now raise
the dead."

"Congratulations," said Kleitus, and the dead lips curled in a sneer. "You can now destroy your
people as we destroyed ours."
Oh, look. Kleitus just up and reinforces what Haplo said about Necromancy. Xar dismisses it as Kleitus' usually negative outlook, which I find funny because... yeah, what other outlook is Kleitus going to have? He's right and he's dead.

The lone table in this library is covered with Sartan writing, which Xar has painstakingly translated and reiterated in Patryn down to the last rune structure. He did this because...

Xar could never, under any circumstances, think like a Sartan.
Hey, there's a problem for you; How do you do all that without thinking like a Sartan at some point? You'd have to understand them pretty well to do this. Apparently, Kleitus helped a bit, presumably looking for a Patryn weakness. But the Patryns have proven collectively too powerful to easily beat.

But it required an immense outlay of the Patryns' magic to sustain life in the darksome caverns of
Abarrach. The Patryns were beginning to weaken-ever so slightly. So had the Sartan weakened
before them; so had many of the Sartan died.

Time. The dead had time. Not soon, but inevitably, the Patryn magic would start to crumble. And
then the lazar would strike. Xar didn't plan to be here that long. He had found what he'd come to
Abarrach to find. Now he just needed to determine whether or not he'd really found it.
And this is Xar being totally cool and reasoned after taming a freaking super zombie apocalypse.

"I want to be able to test my knowledge of necromancy," Xar said. "I want to know if I can actually
raise the dead."

"What is stopping you?" Kleitus demanded.

"... stopping you?"

Xar frowned. The annoying echo was like a buzzing in his ears, and it always came just when he
was about to speak, interrupting him, breaking the chain of his thought.
Oh gee, you're telling me.

"I need a corpse. And don't tell me to use my own people. That is out of the question. I personally
saved the life of every Patryn I brought with me from the Nexus."

"You gave life," said Kleitus. "You have the right to take it."
His stated reason for not doing it; There aren't enough Patryns to go around. Yet. Yes, he makes procreation sound evil.

"What do you want of me, Lord of the Nexus?"

"...Nexus?"

"I was talking to one of the other lazar, a woman named Jera. She mentioned that there were
Sartan-living Sartan-still on Abarrach. A man named ... um ..." Xar hesitated, appeared at a
loss.

"Balthazar!" Kleitus hissed.

"Balthazar..." mourned the echo.
Okay, that's even more annoying now than it was last time. Haplo's report apparently mentions they're all dead. His report being his big confession, I suppose? Kleitus remembers Haplo. The memories are unpleasant. He then asks if Jera gave him the whole story.

Xar found the corpse's gaze disconcerting. "No," he lied, forcing himself to remain seated when it
was his instinct to get up and flee to a far corner. "No, Jera did not. I thought perhaps you-"

"The living ran before us." Kleitus resumed his restless walk. "We followed. They could not hope
to escape us. We never tire. We need no rest. We need no food. We need no water. At last we
had them trapped. They made a pitiable stand before us, planning to fight to save their miserable
lives. We had among us their own prince. He was dead. I had brought him back to life myself. He
knew what the living had done to the dead. He understood. Only when the living are all dead can
the dead be free. He swore he would lead us against his own people.
And then Jera's husband, who'd learned some secret art from some mensch-named Sartan (Xar confirms him as Alfred) totally ruined the part for everyone else.

"Alfred?"

"Perhaps. What difference does it make?" Kleitus seemed obsessed with telling his tale. "Jera's
husband broke the spell that held the prince's corpse captive. The prince's body died. The prison
walls of his flesh crumbled. The soul floated free." Kleitus sounded angry, bitter.

"...floated free." The echo was wistful, longing.

Xar was impatient. Gift of death. Sartan nonsense.
And Jonathan - he's only named "Jera's husband" here - somehow hid all the survivors from the Lazar.

"So there are Sartan still living on Abarrach," Xar said, fingers drumming the table. "Sartan who
can provide the corpses I need for my experiments. Corpses who will be troops in my army. Do
you have any idea where they are?"

"If we did, they would not still be living," Kleitus said, regarding Xar with hatred. "Would they, Lord
of the Nexus?"
How cooly he mentions experiments. Jonathan is apparently gone as well, disappeared when Xar arrived. He'd been staying in the Necropolis, somehow keeping all the lazar away, and found Xar too much of a threat.

"He fears nothing, Lord of the Nexus!" Kleitus laughed unpleasantly. "He is the one of whom
the prophecy speaks."

"I heard about a prophecy." Xar waved a negligent hand. "Haplo said something about it. He
viewed prophecies much as I view them, however. Wishes, nothing more. I give them little
credence."

"You should give this one credence, Patryn. So the prophecy is spoken: 'He wilt bring life to the
dead, hope to the living, and for him the Gate wilt open.' That is the prophecy. And it has come to
pass."
oh not this again dammit

"Yes, it has come to pass," Xar echoed the echo. "I am the one who has brought the prophecy to
fulfillment. It speaks of me, not some perambulating corpse."

"I think not..."

"...think not."
Repeat repeat echo echo

...repeat echo echo

Time for this book to make Fire Sea's plot-deviced plot even more stupid.

"Of course it has!" Xar said irritably. " 'The Gate will open...' The Gate has opened."

"Death's Gate has opened."

"What other gate is there?" Xar demanded, annoyed and only half-listening, hoping to steer the
conversation back to where it had started.

"The Seventh Gate," Kleitus replied.

And this time the echo was silent. Xar glanced up, wondering what was the matter with it.
Whaaaaa? So basically the entire plot of Fire Sea was a plot device that is now revealed to have been entirely misleading by referring to yet another plot device? Has this book seriously just succeeded in making Fire Sea seem even worse?

"Your talk of armies, of conquest, of traveling from world to world... What a waste of time and
effort." Kleitus gave a rictus smile, "When all you need to do is step inside the Seventh Gate."

"Indeed?" Xar frowned. "I have been through many gates in my lifetime. What is so special about
this one?"

"It was inside this chamber-the Seventh Gate-that the Council of Seven sundered the world."
Say. That has possibilities. When asked to describe where the chamber is, Kleitus fetches what appears to be a children's primer and tells Xar to read it.

The Earth was destroyed.

Four worlds were created out of the ruin. Worlds for ourselves and the mensch: Air, Fire, Stone,
Water.

Four Gates connect each world to the other: Arianus to Pryan to Abarrach to Chelestra.

A house of correction was built for our enemies: the Labyrinth.

The Labyrinth is connected to the other worlds through the Fifth Gate: the Nexus.

The Sixth Gate is the center, permitting entry: the Vortex.

And all was accomplished through the Seventh Gate.

The end was the beginning.

That was the printed text. Beneath, in a crude scrawl, were the words - The beginning was our
end.

"You wrote this," Xar guessed.

"In my own blood," Kleitus said.
Wait, what? Are we still talking about Death's Gate system here? Because that's just one gate that leads to the worlds, not four or five seperate ones. Even the appendix of the last book says as much, as uninformative as it is.

Xar fortunately forgets all about necromancy when presented with this possiblity. I am deeply grateful.

"You know where the gate is? You will take me there?" Xar rose eagerly to his feet.

"I know. The dead know. And I would be only too happy to take you, Lord of the Nexus..."
Kleitus's face writhed, the soul flitting restlessly in and out of the corpse, the hands flexed. "If you
met that requirement. Your death could be arranged..."

Xar was in no mood for humor. "Don't be ridiculous. Take me there now. Or, if that is not
possible"-the thought came to the lord that perhaps this Seventh Gate was on another world-
"tell me where to find it."

Kleitus appeared to consider the matter, then shook his head. "I don't believe I will."

"...I will."
He wants endless death in exchange for this knowledge, and there's not a whole lot of death to go around. Certainly not for Xar's liking. But then Kleitus hints at a "minion" of Xar's having already been to the seventh gate.

"What minion? Who?" Xar was confounded a moment, then asked, "Haplo?"

"That could be the name." Kleitus was losing interest.

"...name."

"Haplo knows the location of the Seventh Gate!" Xar scoffed. "Impossible. He never mentioned
it..."

"He doesn't know," Kleitus responded. "No one living knows. But his corpse would know. It would
want to return to that place. Raise up this Haplo's corpse, Lord of the Nexus, and he will lead you
to the Seventh Gate."
So he's been there, but he doesn't know where it is? I'm smelling some serious plottery in the making. Xar thinks Kleitus is just fishing for Haplo for some reason, but doesn't really want to play the game unless it's for his own benefit.

" 'And all was accomplished through the Seventh Gate.' How? What does that mean, Dynast? Or
does it mean anything? It is hard to tell; you Sartan derive so much pleasure out of playing with
words."

"I would guess it means a great deal, Lord of the Nexus." A flicker of dark amusement brought
real life to the dead eyes. "What that meaning is, I neither know nor care."
"You'll have to get your exposition elsewhere."

"...elsewhere."

Reaching out his hand, its flesh bluish white and dappled with blood, its nails black, Kleitus spoke
a Sartan rune, struck the door.

The Patryn sigla protecting the door shattered. Kleitus walked through it and left.
Xar doesn't care, and considers this a petulant display at best. Xar can't figure what Kleitus wants with Haplo, but whatever it is it could prove a bargaining chip for Xar. He's calling Haplo back no matter what.

Leaving the desk, Xar crossed the room, opened the door. Several Patryns were roaming up and
down the corridor.

"What do you want?"

"My Lord! We've been searching all over!" The woman who had answered paused to catch her
breath.

"Yes?" Xar caught her excitement. Patryns were disciplined; they did not ordinarily let their
feelings show. "What is it, Daughter?"*

"We have captured two prisoners, My Lord. We caught them coming through Death's Gate."
"Indeed! This is welcome news. What-"

"My Lord, hear me!" Under normal circumstances, no Patryn would have dared interrupt Xar. But
the young woman was too excited to contain herself. "They are both Sartan. And one of them is-"

"Alfred!" Xar guessed.

"The man is Samah, My Lord."
*Not actually his daughter. He's just an embodiment of patriarchy that way.

Samah! Head of the Sartan Council of Seven.

Samah. Who had been held in suspended animation long centuries on Chelestra.

Samah. The very Samah who had brought about the destruction of the worlds.

Samah. Who had cast the Patryns into the Labyrinth.
Samah. They say this one cat is one bad mutha- shut yo' mouth!

Samah. Can you dig it? :cool:

At that moment, Xar could almost have believed in this higher power Haplo kept yammering
about. And Xar could almost have thanked it for giving Samah into his hands.
Those serpents who arrived to "help" Samah seem to have made themselves useful to Xar after all.
 

CaliberX

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#9
Hah! Re-subbed once more!

Thanks again Wields! This has been one of the highlights of my morning since you started, and as others have said, I'm not sure what I'll be doing with this time once you finish. :p

I think I liked this book more than Hand of Chaos, although it wasn't until the very end that I remembered how much I had disliked that last book; hopefully a similar realization isn't awaiting me in this one. I do remember the Labyrinth being highly disappointing after being built up so much, but there is likely little help for that.

I do love how badass Xar is here. "Meh, zombie apocalypse. I better shut that down so I can learn how to make my own zombies." "What's that, a place where the world was destroyed and rebuilt? That seems moderately intriguing." Very Epic level character feel there.
 

Vagabond ZOD

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#10
Alright, resubscribing. Except this time I won't make the mistake of getting an e-mail once a week. That was a rather daunting amount of material to read.

This is a wonderful thing, Wields, thank you for doing it. I can't remember if I stopped at the 2nd or 3rd book, but it's certainly been interesting seeing what I missed. Or "missed".
 
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