The Final Calling: Progress Report Seventeen

Chapter Seventeen is now online.

I’m gradually getting back on track, but I still haven’t quite finished writing Chapter Twenty-One; it’s got maybe two or three pages to go.

Chapter Twenty-One is paid for, and about half of Chapter Twenty-Two.

Not much else in the way of news. I’ve been dealing with other stuff. I did actually turn down paying work so as not to interfere with The Final Calling, which I hope you guys appreciate, but on the other hand, it didn’t pay very well, and it wasn’t something that looked like much fun.

38 thoughts on “The Final Calling: Progress Report Seventeen

  1. Hm.. a nice chapter in all. Glad to see Hanner didn’t fall to pieces when rejected by Mavi. A bit of fridge logic – Vond was flying rigth beside the Towers. Just how powerful he was there? In Semma, before being Called he was strong enough to bend the edge of the world. What would have happened if he tried to use all of his power while near the towers? He probably had enough to turn Lumeth into wasteland in one blow… Or was there some limit on power regardless of distance?

  2. That was… depressing. It got me to thinking about the themes of the Ethshar books. They’ve all got a pretty light tone and generally fit with the concept of finding your place in the world (rather than “saving the world,” “saving the kingdom,” “saving the princess” type concept most “high fantasy” falls into). But most of the books have a definite theme of their own. Many of the books, but particularly Blood of the Dragon and Taking Flight, seem like they fit the theme of “discovery.” Unwilling Warlord and Ithanalin’s Restoration are more “overcoming adversity,” while Spell of the Black Dagger is “mystery” as everyone tries to figure *something* out. So far, this book seems like it’s tending towards “loss.” Nearly everyone’s lost something, in some cases (like Hanner and Rudhira) they’ve lost everything. I imagine by the end it’ll be “loss” something like the Tarot card is “Death” (actually meaning dramatic change). It’s still an interesting note- it seems like usually by this point in Ethshar novels the main characters who are losing things have stopped losing and possibly started gaining.
    I do have to say that this seems like an interesting inversion of the Night of Madness. In Night Hanner was worried about finding his place in the world and had a very satisfactory one more or less thrust upon him fiat accompli. Here he was settled and content with his place in the world and is going to have to fight to make a new one. Hanner’s a likable guy, so you don’t want to wish ill on him, but there’s something satisfying about that kind of symmetry.

  3. I wouldn’t put the theme down as “loss” so much as I would “change”. Hanner was married, now he’s not. He was powerful, now he’s not, was rich, etc.

    Sterren was the de-facto, though reluctant, ruler of a country. Now he’s Vond’s administrative assistant, albeit even more reluctantly.

    Rudhira went from nothing, to the most powerful warlock in the world, and back to nothing.

    Chances are that they’ll all change again.

    The only one who hasn’t changed (much) is Vond. And the Wizard’s Guild.

    On a separate note, IMHO this chapter is missing something. Far be it for me to tell a published author how to write his book, but I personally feel that this chapter is missing some kind of interaction between Rudhira and Hanner. So far Rudhira has been along for the ride, but if you wrote her out of the book completely at this point there wouldn’t be any difference. She hasn’t said or done much of anything. So far she’s nothing but an occasional afterthought.

    I’m assuming that she will be playing a larger role later on in the novel, otherwise there’s no real point in her being in the novel at all. So far all she’s done is been there. She’s nothing but a ghost tagging along after Hanner, with no apparent thoughts or feelings or personality of her own and having no effect on the outcome of any situation whatsoever. She hasn’t even really spoken with Hanner. We have no idea how she feels about being thrust thirty-odd years in the future.

    A little bit of interaction between her and Hanner would serve to flesh her out a bit here.

  4. I’d agree; I think change is at the heart of the series. If I had to formulate it, I’d say something like, “The World changes, no matter how much you try to stop it.”

    Most of the protagonists in the books go from a routine (if not necessarily pleasant) existence into a chaotic one, and have to find some way to adapt to that chaos and redefine their place in the world. Valder has to find a way to adapt to the end of the war and his immortality while the world changes around him; Tobas has to adapt to the loss of his master, his inheritance, and his expected position as a village hedge wizard; Sterren has to adapt to the loss of his quiet life as a small-time gambler–and so on and so forth.

    Then you have Irith, who HAS succeeded in resisting change–completely. I always read her more as someone to be pitied than someone to be admired.

    Vond came back, and at first, planned on simply resuming his previous life as if nothing had changed. It seems like he’s realizing that that might not be totally viable–and now, of course, Hanner’s realizing the same.

  5. Rudhira will have more to do later — and quite possibly in the second draft.

    She’s a quiet, self-contained person, and she’s still adjusting to her changed circumstances.

  6. Perhaps is Rudhira had a few more obvious opportunities to speak, and didn’t, her silence would seem more deliberate, and less like she disappears for the scenes.

    In any case, this chapter is wonderful, because it underscores what I think of as a standout part of Ethshar, which is that everything has _consequences_. You can have magic, or dragons, or spriggans, but they have to come from somewhere, and have lives, and eat something, and go somewhere when they leave the scene. People will use magic if it’s available, not just for slaying the great evil, but for building their houses, and trade, and love. The kind of world with these things looks different, not just in broad strokes, but in small.

    That means we need chapters like this, where we see what temporal displacement does, not just to a character, but to a family, and to the demographics of a town. Where do they sleep? is a question you wouldn’t expect in a lot of fantasy stories, but it really should be.

  7. Ryan, those are some very good observations. Especially the point that we’re 17 chapters in, and Hanner is still at the part of his story where he realizes how much of his life has slipped through his fingers. This was a pretty depressing chapter, actually. No clever idea or carefully considered decision is going to get Hanner back what he lost. That doesn’t make it bad, but I think it’ll read better as part of a complete novel.

    It’s hard to see how things can turn out well for any of our protagonists at this point. I think we’d have to go back to the Misenchanted Sword and Valder’s realization that he was immortal-but-aging to find an Ethshar protagonist in quite such a hopeless situation.

    With regards to Rudhira, the book so far has given me the strong impression that she’s hanging out with Hanner purely for lack of better options. He has a strong attachment to her, but there’s been no sign that she cares about him, other than in terms of what he can do for her. Which means that at this point in the narrative I’m regarding her with faint distaste as someone taking advantage of Hanner’s attachment. Not sure if that’s the intended reaction or not, but it’s all I’ve got for her right now.

  8. Rudhira doesn’t bother me. Mostly, I feel sorry for her situation. If she’s using Hanner, it’s because Hanner wants to be useful.

    I don’t think the earlier prediction that Hanner will hook up with her is correct.

    Obviously, I don’t know if Hanner will end up with anyone (romantically speaking), though LWE’s books often do end with the single hero finding a mate (or in this case, a second). However, I would point out that there is another female character on whom Hanner seems to have made a lasting and specific impression (not that that necessarily means romance).

    I think someone mentioned this elsewhere, but I also suspect that Rudhira is on a collision course with Vond.


  9. Well, we can’t always have Vond confront Lumeth Towers and the Tower of Flame in every chapter, can we? It’s all very realistic and a believeable characterization. Sterren’s interaction with Mavi was as necessary as it was ill-timed. I can completely empathize with his physical and emotional exhaustion.

    That past, we can now see where this will all lead (eagerly wringing my hands.) The anticipation is part of the fun of these serial novels. They say that people used to line the docks in New York awaiting the next chapter in Charles Dickin’s serial novels.

  10. Goljerp: Continuing the convo from the previous chapter (sorry, just noted your response.)

    I had said:
    Basically, most of them are monkeys who’ve learned to perform rituals. Only a few geniuses (like Fendel) seem to have an instinctual grasp of the connection between symbology of the rituals and the outcome.

    Then you cited a section from Ithanalin’s Restoration saying something that contradicted my statement above:

    “That was one of the Guild’s secrets; most people believed that wizardry was an entirely mechanical process of assembling ingredients, reciting words […] but actually the process was a good deal more dynamic than that. A talented wizard could feel when the magic was working properly and when it wasn’t, and could sense when a gesture needed to be altered, an incantation slowed or hurried, without any conscious understanding of why the change was necessary. A really good wizard could even sense whether other ingredients could be substituted […] — that was how new spells were discovered.

    Such wizards, wizards who could safely change spells as they went, were very rare.”

    Well, perhaps my broadbrushed statement above was a bit harsh on Wizards, but I think the example you cite actually supports it to some extent. Wizards “feel” in your example, but don’t really come to understand what my professors would call the “first principals” of their art. In The Misenchanged Sword, I think they refer to research wizards as having a lifespan in weeks. So, while they are incredibly powerful, they are more artistic than methodical.

    As I wrote this, I also had a thought: one of the inequities in Ethshar is the presence of all those immortal wizards. You don’t see most of them because they tend to withdraw, but there might be another reason. You could see that anyone who became immortal would inevitably become bored. A bored wizard would become more likely to endeavor to find new spells, and that would be the end of that.

  11. >>A bored wizard would become more likely to endeavor to find new spells, and that would be the end of that.

    Actually, it has occured to me that the odds aren’t on the side of any wizard, really long term, even casting pre-existing spells. High order spells are lengthy and difficult (at least, that’s my impression). And even low order spells have been shown to be dangerous when miscast. So, even if someone like Ithinia has a 99% success rate, eventually… boom.

    But perhaps they have protection spells the mitigate the danger.


  12. Actually, the spells wizards cast are relatively stable, given that they are dealing with Chaos here – I mean they can be performed by almost any wizard (with training), with never exatly the same ingredients and still give consitent results, most of the time. It may be that older wizardstend only to use safer spells, and of course, protect themselves when they cast them. There is always a chance of error, even then, but it is relatively small compared to apprentices, etc. Actually, it may be that complex spells are actually safer than simple ones, because (due to their length) thay can only have been discovered when they were stable (tend to just do nothing on error, or at least, not to kill caster ), while the simple ones.. well the Dissipation spell and Trindle’s combustion are two examples of simple spells with lasting and potentially disastrous consequences. In fact, I believe that there may actually be very simple spells comparable on destruction level with any of the higher level ones, just very exact and unstable, like (a female wizard of age 25 casting on the night of the new moon, with the pebble the exact form of her heart..etc, etc, and any deviation results in completely unpredicatble results).
    I also believe that the wizard that actually *understands* wizardry (and underlying chaos) is completely insane by definition.

  13. My impression is that wizards are like cooks. Most people cook by rote, the ingredients on the list go in the pot and whatever comes out they call by the name on the recipe. The really good wizards don’t necessarily “get” the process better, cooks can’t necessarily explain the chemical and physical reactions happening in their stews, but they can “taste” what’s in the pot and know what ingredients will shift the flavor/effect in which direction. (if “needs more cilantro” is the rough equivalent of “needs more eye of newt” I guess that would make dragon’s blood a wizard’s salt?)

    I have to say I’m looking forward to Rudhira and Vond meeting with both eagerness and trepidation. That seems like it’s going to be either oil and water or gas and flame. She does currently seem like an observer, but as I think back to NoM, she tended to be pretty quiet when she didn’t feel she had a something to interject. I imagine she’s seething after Ithinia shut her down so abruptly, but Hanner hasn’t really given her an opening because he’s been pretty preoccupied.

    All (good) stories are about change. Whether the story is about resisting change, embracing it, or just experiencing it; without some sort of change there really isn’t anything interesting *happening.* It’s something of a truism that fantasy tends to be about resisting change. The descriptions read defend/restore the kingdom/princess/throne/people/world against the wizard/dragon/ usurper/hordes/apocalypse, but it could just as easily say “defend the status quo against the agent of change.” Tolkien assuredly fits this pattern- all the good change seems to have happened, so we want to keep the good change (rid of Sauron et al) and maybe reclaim some prior glory (return of the kings of Numinor). On the other hand that’s not always true; more modern authors tend to be more embracing of change. My favorite authors certainly seem to fall into this camp of “progress marches on,” and “get on board or get run over.”
    But, getting back to my point, “change” isn’t so much a theme as a feature generally. Night of Madness and Final Calling may bring the level of change to the level of theme, but even there I think it’s more just larger events driving their different themes. I dunno, that’s my $.02.

  14. Gordon A: I agree with your “more artistic than methodical” statement. About the lifetime of research wizards, Kilisha does muse later on the same page about how forcing wizards who don’t have the knack to try to create spells anyhow basically resulted in dead wizards and lots of collateral damage. Of course, since we learn this from her POV, she’s just passing on what she was taught by Ithanalin, and what he was taught by his master…

    As far as Rudhira goes, while it’s true she hasn’t been saying much, her mere presence must’ve made it easier for Mavi to reject Hanner. I’m content to wait to see what happens when Hanner and Rudhira have more time alone (or Rudhira has more time to adjust)

  15. I have to say that Hanner’s reaction to finding out his wife was married to another man was nicely handled and very consistent with what we’ve seen of him thus far. He handles unexpected changes, even very unpleasant ones, with a certain degree of self-control, and he was able to see the validity of Mavi’s position, painful though it was.

    It’s a nice, nuanced response, where a lesser writer might’ve had Hanner in the street bellowing his wife’s name like Brando in “Streetcar.”

  16. I hadn’t even considered the potential interaction between Vond and Rudhira. Now that you mention it, though, the constant references to her being the most powerful warlock in Ethshar for the few days before she was Called likely mean something. Why keep bringing it up if she’s never going to do warlock magic again? Hmmm. We know that people have varying levels of innate talent for warlockry, and hers must be pretty high (as compared to Sterren’s being very low). I wonder if she has enough talent to pick up on the Lumeth source jsut from standing next to Vond and feeling him use his power?

  17. Ryan, I really liked that cooking metaphor. I’ve never thought of it like that, but from my experiences as a chef it seems to be spot on.

    As for the quote saying that a research wizard’s lifespan can be measured in weeks, that was quoted during the Great War. I believe that the correct statement now would be “a COMBAT research wizard’s lifespan can be measured in weeks, especially when they are enlisted to commence researching instead of naturally gravitating towards it”. Fendel himself at one point said that outside of the army it’s different.

  18. >>I wonder if she has enough talent to pick up on the Lumeth source jsut from standing next to Vond and feeling him use his power?

    I was actually wondering if it would occur to her to try “listen” for the other source. It might be faintly audible to her, even in Ethshar. We don’t know if an unpowered warlock can tune in to another source, though, even if they know about it.


  19. If any warlock taps into Lumeth and regains their powers, I would expect Rudhira to do so.

    There’s an interesting thought–it seems as if the Towers are a source of power because they’re damaged and “leaking” energy. What if the leak is finite, and only so much energy is available? The more Warlocks draw from it, the less powerful any one of them can be?

    You’d have a sort of magical “Dilemma of the Commons.” Every Warlock would want to tap into the source, and would also want the other Warlocks NOT to tap into it.

  20. I agree that it might make sense to have Rudhira saying and doing a little more at this point and a little earlier — probably not too much more in the scene of Hanner’s reunion with Mavi, though; it would not make sense for Rudhira to interrupt their conversation except just where she does, when Mavi seems to think that Hanner and Rudhira are romantically involved and Rudhira angrily corrects her. But perhaps a few lines of dialogue exchanged between Hanner and Rudhira when they arrive at Mavi’s house and are waiting for someone to answer the knock, or a bit more dialogue from her on the way to Warlock House or after their arrival would make her character clearer, especially to readers who haven’t read _Night of Madness_ recently or at all.

    I infer from the business at the end of the chapter that Hanner had years to get used to feeling the position of furniture etc. in the dark with his warlock sense, and now functions poorly without it, while Rudhira never had time to grow dependent on her warlock sense. It might help to make this slightly more explicit, but it’s probably not necessary.

  21. Well LWE has already told you that he has plans for Rudihira. I mean yeah, there could have been some scenes where they interacted but I would like to remind you all that a) Less is more b) Showing’s way better than telling c) Things are happening very fast in this (at least for Hanner and Rudhira) novel. Rudhira could have merely seen Hanner as a trick ticket home, she used to be a prostitute after all. I think that we can all agree that she had nothing better to do. I think it says a lot about her honesty that she would speak up during the conversation in front of Mavi’s house about who was sleeping with whom. Everything that has happened to her has taken less than a month. She knew this pudgy kid for a few days, now he’s older, thinner, people looking up to him all the time and she’s lost her magic. My favorite insight into Rudhira was in the NoM when she pointed out in front of the witch’s house that if she had not been affected she would not have bothered trying to find out what was going on-an honest frankness, most likely a break from work.

  22. Additional note: I think that Hanner is going to get his heart broken near the end of the story. He has been in love with Rudhira’s memory all this time and she’s known him less than 3 weeks. Also, I think Rudhira’s story can be seen as a microcosm for the Warlocklry phenomenon.

  23. If nothing else, he can sell them to someone who wants a hideaway. They may end up trapping Vond there or using the hidey-hole for all the dispossessed warlocks with no where else to go could live there, anyway.

  24. In the following post,
    You state that the prayers and beseechings that theurgists do, COMPEL the gods to service humans? Not persuade? Was that a mistaken word choice, or do the prayers, when said correctly, actually CONTROL the gods? That’s a pretty significant distinction, especially since many of the prayers were discovered via wizardry. Does that mean that there could potentially be a wizardry spell that could DIRECTLY control a god?

  25. Gods are immune to wizardry, so no, there couldn’t be such a spell.

    “Compel” was the correct word. Not persuade. The gods can set conditions before granting boons, but they cannot refuse a correctly-performed invocation.

  26. So in the Black Dagger they could have healed Lord Kalthon, but the price would have been high, or what? I guess I’m not clear on the concept that it compels them but they can negotiate; is it a qualified compulsion then?

  27. I said set conditions, not set prices. Lord Kalthon did not meet the conditions.

    Gods either do or do not. There is no persuading or negotiating; either you tell them to do something and they do it, or nothing you can do will make them do it.

    Basically, gods don’t have free will.

  28. Now, that’s a very interesting piece of information. Is it the purity of their nature which negates the possibility of free will?

    That would also explain why they waited so long to intervene in the Great War; if they’re restricted to specific responses to specific conditions, they couldn’t act until those conditions were met.

    Do demons have free will, or are they similarly constrained?

  29. That would depend how you define “purity of their nature,” but you could say that.

    Yes, it’s why they didn’t intervene sooner.

    Demons are not so constrained; they’re restrained, instead. With gods, you ask them to do something; with demons, you give them permission.

  30. When I say “ask them to do something,” that doesn’t mean they have a choice — if you ask, and it’s something they CAN and MAY do, they will do it.

  31. More and more interesting. I really hope you have the time and inclination to write a full-length novel from a theurgist’s point of view in the future–the glimpses you give us of the metaphysics of Ethshar are one of my favorite parts of the series.

  32. I was wondering if Theurgy is something of a “lost” are similar to Sorcery or has the end of the Great War put new limits on what they are able to accomplish?

  33. Interesting suggestion, that a finite amount of power may be leaking from the damaged Lumeth tower. That implies the warlocks could double the amount of power available to them, just by smashing one of the remaining towers, and they’d still have one tower left to keep the World from complete devastation.

  34. It just seems like in “Misenchanted” that Theurgists were capable of much more than what they seem to be doing after the war….. that could just be me.

  35. No, Hullvald, it’s not just you. Theurgists during the Great War were much more useful than after. That’s because the basic layout of what the gods were willing to do was fundamentally altered by the Northern side’s magicians and their use of demons, etc. which induced the gods to take an active role in ending things, after which they decided to not to meddle as much any more.

    That was actually spelled out specifically by General Gor in his big speech: “The demons have been forced back into the Netherworld — and, that being done, the gods in turn have retreated into Heaven, swearing never again to interfere so directly in human affairs.”

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