Trial by Fire

Trial by Fire, Chapter 14: Friendship Is an Awesome Power

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 12.)

Dammit real life and Skyward Sword, you have distracted me from this blog for too long.

Anyway, back in the deep dark bowels of the Dark Circle, the party (Adriane, Emily, Lyra, Ozzie, and Zach) are attempting to backtrack their way to the crystal chamber. Lyra’s dungeon map isn’t much help now, because the Sorceress did some serious remodeling; now almost everything’s different. Exhausted, the party sits down to take a breather.

Zach thinks that now is a perfect opportunity to ask how Adriane and Emily met Kara. This leads to a massive recap of all the good times the party has had. Eventually the party reaffirms that, yes, they are each other’s best friends in the world. This moment is punctuated with lots of wholesome, friendly laughter. Personally, I think a party friendship song is in order.

And just like in Adventure Time, all this Power of Friendship stuff breaks a spell — namely, the mind-control spell Kara is under. Kara continues to activate the Fairy Maps, though, because she can’t let the Sorceress know that the spell is broken. In the original edition, the Sorceress finds out despite Kara’s best attempts … and then this happens:

Somewhere a wild animal shrieked. It was the sorceress. Long horns sprouted from her head, fangs protruded from her open mouth. She was screaming — but Kara could hear nothing.

This transformation is temporary; the next time Kara faces the Sorceress, she’s back to her normal more-human-than-animal self. For those of you who have read the entire series, this totally foreshadows something that happens towards the end of Full Circle — which is why I’m really disappointed it was deleted in the revised edition.

So Kara finishes combining the maps … and a familiar white unicorn shows up. Kara jumps on its back, and the two vanish….

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Adriane doesn’t call Kara “Barbie” during her recap of their friendship.

Next time: I hope you’re not sick of dungeon crawling … ’cause there’s gonna be more! Yay!


Trial by Fire, Chapter 13: Search Your Feelings, You Know It to Be True

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 11.)

So the party fell into some random room in the dungeons below the crystal chamber. Stormbringer and Dreamer aren’t with them, unfortunately: Stormbringer is keeping the trapped mistwolves alive somehow, and Dreamer is off doing baby mistwolf stuff. Adriane, Emily, Ozzie, and Lyra try to make it out of the lower dungeons and back to the crystal chamber. Along the way they find Zach in a cell, under the Skultum’s sleep spell. Emily casts Dispel, and Zach’s back to normal. The party recaps everything that’s happened so far. In the original edition, Zach also tells the party why the Sorceress needs both Fairy Maps:

“No doubt she’s gotten Moonshadow’s fairy map,” Zach said soberly. “Luckily, the fairimentals safeguarded the magic of the maps.”

“What do you mean?” Emily asked.

“She may have opened portals,” Zach explained. “But in order to find the source of the magic, she would need two fairy maps.”

Everyone was startled — and concerned.

“What?” Zach asked.

“Kara has the second map,” Adriane told him.

Which brings us back to Kara, who finds herself in the Sorceress’ lair under a mind-control spell. The Sorceress commands Kara to show her the Fairy Map, but Kara briefly resists the mind-control and pulls out the unicorn horn instead. Unfortunately, before Kara could fire off a Magic Missile, the Sorceress uses her Jedi powers to snatch the horn from Kara’s hands and pulverizes it. After lots more taunting, this happens:

Except replace “father” with “Lucinda’s sister”.

Kara is forced to combine the maps. While she’s doing this, though, Kara manages to ask the Sorceress why she can’t use the maps herself. The sorceress claims that she has “traveled beyond what she once was”. Now, we know two things: (1) the Sorceress is always described as a half-human, half-animal creature, and (2) Lucinda was a fairy queen. So that means that the Sorceress was … half-human, half-fairy? But that would mean that Lucinda was also half-human, and half-fairy! Are half-fairies allowed to be Fairy Queens?

Sigh … Kara’s lineage is kinda a headache to plow through.

Status Update!
Stormbringer leaves the party!
Dreamer leaves the party!
Kara loses: Lorelei’s Horn!

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Emily wonders why the Dark Sorceress needs large quantities of mistwolf magic, instead of mistwolf magic in general.
  • Adriane doesn’t realize why the Dark Sorceress needed animal magic (specifically Lorelei, Drake, and the Aldenmor refugees) to power her crystals.
  • Kara doesn’t respond when the Dark Sorceress asks her to demonstrate her magic.

Next time: Kara seriously pisses off the Dark Sorceress.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 12: I Am Altering the Plan. Pray I Don’t Alter It Any Further.

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 10.)

The next few chapters (read: the rest of the book) are essentially the first half of this video:

Right now the party flies in on Drake behind enemy lines. How they do that without being detected by the Sorceress’ goblin air force is never addressed. Eventually they reach the Dark Circle, which has gotten a minor facelift. The Sorceress’ lair now has three gigantic crystals poking out of the ground, surrounded by some nuclear reactors. Kara and Lyra state the obvious in the new edition:

“We have to go in there?” Kara exclaimed.

“Some of us have already been inside,” Lyra rumbled.

The party decides to enter the Disk One Final Dungeon with Stormbringer cloaking them. Drake gets to stay behind as backup because he’s too damn big.

Meanwhile, the Dark Sorceress and Skultum hang out somewhere in the dungeon. The Sorceress inspects her completed crystals in her scrying pool, and also detects the party sneaking inside. Yeah, that’s an epic fail with your Mass Invisibility spell there, party.

The Sorceress and Skultum have a different dynamic, depending on which edition you’re reading. Originally, the Skultum fears the Sorceress, and the Sorceress barely tolerates its presence. She even taunts him for not being able to open the Fairy Map in the last book. In the new edition, the Sorceress caters to the Skultum’s ego so she can manipulate him into achieving her goals. She still gets pissed at him in both editions for underestimating the party, though. She tells him that the party can control the magic of Aldenmor through their jewels, and (in the original edition) “channel the fairimentals themselves”.

Oh, and their evil plans differ between editions, too. Originally, the Skultum was going to retrieve Kara’s Fairy Map, so the Sorceress could combine it with Moonshadow’s. Both maps will reveal a source of immense magic. What they will do with this magic, the Skultum details below:

“I will drive the dark magic into the fabric of Aldenmor itself, through fairy magic, and it will be yours to command, my mistress…”

So that’s why the Sorceress wants Aldenmor to be a magical nuclear wasteland — it’s the only way she can use magic! Wow, that must suck.

The new plan makes a lot more sense: The Skultum will get Kara’s Fairy Map so that the Sorceress can combine it with Moonshadow’s and open the portal to the Gates of Avalon.

So the Skultum sings a weird guttural spellsong, which will summon Kara to him. I’m gonna assume it sounds like Inuit throat singing.

That long scene allows us to skip all the dungeon crawling the party’s up to. I guess we missed out on some block-moving puzzles and torch-lighting puzzles and random enemy encounters and other fun RPG elements. But eventually the party finds the base of those three gigantic crystals they saw outside … and to their horror, they discover that the entire mistwolf pack is trapped within them. Even worse, the party soon realizes that Kara has mysteriously vanished!

And then the party falls through a trapdoor. Oh noes.

Status Update!
Drake leaves the party!
Kara leaves the party!

Next time: I make another Empire Strikes Back reference.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 11: Finally, Some Action!

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 9.)

Okay, I forgot to mention this in my last post, but before the massive bad-ass battle, the party uses the unicorn horn to hopefully summon Lorelei. Instead, some giant fire-breathing beastie shows up. The party automatically assumes it’s everyone’s favorite manticore and thinks they’re screwed.

And then the battle begins! Adriane casts Shield and Magic Missile a lot, the party uses an Improved Magic Missile to create trenches that trip up the goblin cavalry, and Stormbringer mauls some enemies. In the new edition, Kara also gets caught in a tiny net:

Another group attacked from the side, driving the healer and blazing star apart.

“Stay together!” Adriane ordered.

“Kara, look out!” Emily screamed.

A wave of imps ran between the riders and threw a sparking net over Kara.

Adriane leaped and spun, fists of golden fire slicing the net to shreds.

Damn, that was not very descriptive.

Anyway, the fire-breathing creature torches most of the imps and goblins, thus tilting the battle in the party’s favor. The enemies eventually retreat, and the fire-breathing thing reveals itself to be none other than Drake.

Drake’s now the size of a bus, and can fly pretty well. I guess baby dragons grow a lot over two months.

After the battle, Drake tells the party that he’s been searching for Zach. He hasn’t heard from him in a while, and fears the worst. The party decides to recap their adventures to Drake, and discuss what the Sorceress’ ultimate plan is. It’s different in both editions. Originally, the party — who finally knows what a Skultum is thanks to Kara — thinks that the Sorceress will use Avalon’s magic to spread darkness over Aldenmor:

“…[Be*Tween] told me the shape-shifter is really an evil fairy and it’s going to spread magic when it comes.”

“You mean like Phel spreading magic seeds?” Emily asked.

“That’s what fairies do,” Ozzie said. “They spread magic through nature.”

“An evil fairy would use the magic to poison nature,” Emily reasoned.

“Wait a minute,” Adriane said. “The merfolk told me they were waiting for the magic rain.”

“They didn’t know whether it would be light or dark rain,” Storm added. “Good or bad magic.”

“Maybe the sorceress has opened portals, but there’s no more magic,” Emily suggested.

“No, no…” Ozzie was pacing back and forth, thinking.

“Or she hasn’t found what she needs yet,” Kara added.

“No, no…” Ozzie came to a stop. “The portals opened in a sequence. I think she opened the pipeline but can’t start the magic flow.”

Question: what’s the point of turning all of Aldenmor into a magical nuclear wasteland? Was the Sorceress just doing it for the evuls?

Anyway, the original edition also offers a very stupid reason why an army ambushed the party instead of the Sorceress herself:

“Then why didn’t she attack us?” Emily asked. “We could have walked into a trap at the dark circle.”


They all looked at the ferret.

“She’s afraid,” Ozzie said.

“Of us?”

“Of course,” Ozzie started shuffling back and forth. “Whatever she’s doing, she doesn’t want us anywhere near her place. She tried to take us out, all together, right here.”

Or maybe she’s busy with her gigantic crystals and doesn’t think the party is worth her time? That’s a more plausible excuse.

Well, in the new edition, the party realizes why the Sorceress sent forces to ambush them, and what she’s after:

“They tried to capture Kara.” Ozzie paced. “Why? What has she got?”

“This.” Kara held out her backpack. “No, I mean, this!” she removed the fairy map. “Be*Tween told me the Skultum would come after me.”

“Why does she still need Kara’s fairy map?” Emily asked.

“We stopped the Skultum before he finished his job,” Adriane stated.

“The sorceress still can’t find Avalon,” Ozzie said.

“So … I didn’t open all the portals,” Kara concluded.

And then the party decides to pay the Sorceress a visit. Of course, one does not simply walk into the Shadowlands, so the party decides to fly on Drake.

Status Update!
Drake rejoins the party!

Next time: The party parachutes behind enemy lines!

Trial by Fire, Chapter 10: Obvious Trap Is Obvious

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 8.)

Kara wins the race to Mount Hope, and finds nothing there except for a cave guarded by a mistwolf pup. Lyra quickly discovers what the pup is guarding: a dozen half a dozen dead mistwolves.

Yeah, obviously the party came a little too late.

Eventually Adriane, Emily, and Ozzie catch up to Kara, and recap everything that happened in the past six chapters. I’m not gonna go over them again, because that’s what I spent the last two weeks doing. They also decide to let the young mistwolf — whose name is Dreamer, by the way — join the party. I mean, there’s no way they’re gonna leave the poor thing guarding a bunch of dead wolves.

Zach finally shows up, right when the party was wondering when the hell he was going to meet up with them. He’s all like, “Come over here, I got something to show you!” The party starts running towards him excitedly … but Adriane, who was smart enough to be Detecting Magic the entire time, realizes that things are not quite what they seem.

And then Zach reverts back into his Skultum form, and a horde of imps and nightmare night stallion-mounted goblins appear out of nowhere and surround the party. Yep, the girls are pretty much screwed.

Status Update!
Dreamer joins the party! (Sadly, his only ability at the moment is Detect Magic.)

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Kara doesn’t remark that Dreamer looks too small to be a mistwolf, and Lyra doesn’t explain that Dreamer is just a pup.

Next time: Kara gets caught in a tiny net, and Adriane makes a massive bad-ass display.

Trial by Fire, Chapter 9: Exposition Fairies

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 7.)

Remember when I said it was a smart idea to do Kara’s scenario first? I lied. Kara gets infodumped by Be*Tween, because she needs to know a shitload of stuff about Avalon and fairies and a future boss battle and other fun stuff. And a lot of it was changed — or rearranged — between editions, so prepare to be bombarded with quotes.

So Kara’s all like “OMGWTFBBQ it’s Be*Tween!” but she still has no idea where the hell she is, why Be*Tween is here, or what the hell she’s supposed to do. Don’t worry, Be*Tween’s ready to explain it all.

Where the hell is Kara?
Be*Tween’s little fairy rave is in a “twilight realm between worlds”. But what exactly is a twilight realm? In the original edition, a twilight realm is an astral plane. In the new edition, it’s a “hidden pocket of magic” created by the disintegration of the Magic Web.

Why did Kara piss off everyone in the party?
Because Kara doesn’t know shit about fairy etiquette. Fairies can’t reveal their real names, or else they lose their powers. As Be*Tween succinctly explains to Kara: “If you trick [a fairy] into telling you [its name], you capture its magic.” Which begs the question: if the Fairimentals and Be*Tween have names, which are already known to the party, why haven’t they lost their powers? Or are the names they gave to the party fake?

What are Be*Tween? And why are they big?
Be*Tween calls themselves muses, because they “inspire creativity and imagination”, both of which are sources of strong magic. As for why they’re human-sized, that’s only answered in the revision: “Fairies and fairy creatures come in many sizes”.

What the hell happened to the Fairimentals? (original edition only)
A quick explanation of fairies and Fairimentals, straight from the original edition:

“Fairies spread magic through nature,” Sylina explained. “It is elemental, flowing through earth, sky, water, and fire.”

“You mean like fairimentals?” Kara asked.

“Fairimentals are guardians of special places of beauty and magic like Aldenmor,” Sylina said. “They are the highest power of fairies, existing as pure, flowing energy.”

“They are only visible when cloaked in shapes of nature,” Andi added.

“Where are they?” Kara asked.

“They have closed themselves off, like a seed, waiting for the rain,” Sylina explained.

Okay, so they’re just in hiding … which isn’t a good thing, after reading through Emily’s scenario.

So why are Be*Tween in this twilight realm?
Depends on which edition you’re reading. In both editions, Be*Tween is protecting the fairy creatures of Aldenmor. The new edition explains that they’ve been touring all over the Magic Web, summoning fairies and using their spellsinging to restore the Magic Web until a more permanent solution is reached. Originally, Be*Tween was on tour on Earth when a certain someone interrupted them:

“We were called back by a human wizard to protect the fairies of Aldenmor,” Crimson said. “You may know of him, Henry Gardener.”

Wait … Mr. Gardener’s a wizard? Dude, he’s like the best person to train the party so they don’t suck at magic! Why the hell is he absent? And if you’ve read the entire series (original or new edition), how the hell did Mr. Gardener contact Be*Tween?

About that fairy princess thing….
And here, things get complicated. Apparently magic existed on Earth, and shows up in humans every few generations. Here’s the full explanation from the revision:

“Many years ago, humans and magical creatures worked together,” Sylina told Kara. “When the portals between worlds closed, some of the magic remained on Earth. Many animals of Earth descended from magical ancestors.”

“Some retain highly developed senses,” Crimson added.

“Yeah,” Kara mused. “There was this dog that saved his whole family from a fire.”

“The same is true for humans as well,” Sylina said. “Some humans still carry its seeds. Every few generations the magic becomes strong in them.”

And then the big reveal: Kara is a descendant of Lucinda, the greatest of all fairy queens. Kara, of course, is all like, “Yeah, right.”

So what exactly is in Avalon? (new edition only)
Yeah, we’d all like to know this. Unfortunately, nobody does.

How do you beat a Skrull Skultum?
In the original edition, this is where Kara finally learns that the shapeshifting creature from the last book is called a Skultum. He’s an excellent spellsinger, but he’s subject to the same weakness as all fairies: get him to say his name, and he’ll lose his powers. This will be especially hard for Kara, because she has low resistance to fairy magic (thanks, magic lineage!). Only problem is that the party doesn’t know his name. Kara asks Be*Tween what the Skultum’s name is in the original edition, but….

“Once we did, but when the Dark Sorceress released the creature from the otherworlds, it took on a new name,” Crimson told her.

Yeah, you’re a great help there, Be*Tween.

Other random stuff I couldn’t fit in above:
* The party is famous in the Fairy Realms in the new edition. How word spread that far, and why haven’t any powerful fairies tried to aid the party on their quest yet, is never addressed.
* Only fairies can enter fairy raves.
* Be*Tween mentions that the Dark Sorceress was transformed somehow. Did she undergo the same mutation as the Spider Witch, but not turn into a monstrous cat-lizard-person?

Goddamn, that was a lot of stuff. Aftewards, Kara and Lyra leave, using the unicorn horn to open a portal to Aldenmor. The new edition gives them some friendly banter:

“Hey,” Kara said, suddenly realizing something. “If only fairies are allowed, how come you’re here?”

The cat stared back. “Gah.”

“I know how you feel,” she sympathized.

Status Update!
Kara gains: lowered resistance to fairy magic! (Damn, that sucks.)

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Kara tells B*Tween that she loves their music, not their latest CD.
  • B*Tween are no longer muses.

Next time: And finally, the party is reunited!

Trial by Fire, Chapter 8: Quarantine Zone

(If you’re reading the original edition, this is Chapter 6.)

We meet up again with Emily and Ozzie, who are surrounded by armed midgets. The midgets think Emily’s a witch because she has a magic jewel that’s shining darkly. Obviously, they have no idea that Emily is suffering from Detect Evil and Detect Wounded Animals overload. Before the midgets could prove Emily’s a witch, though, Ozzie berates all the midgets for wearing elven war masks. It turns out that the midgets are a party of elves, led by Ozzie’s cousins Tonin and Crusp. Ain’t that convenient.

Elves in Avalon are weird. They’re all about four feet tall, have curly brown hair, and spend all their time farming. Take their shoes off, and I bet they have large hairy feet like hobbits.

Anyway, the elves tell the party that goblin riders have been seen around their village, and that one of the outlying farms was contaminated with Black Fire. Emily asks to be taken to the farm so she can assess the situation. Of course, on the way there she starts feeling all woozy and sick.

When the party finally reaches the farm, Emily finds a family of elves and some animals, all suffering from severe radiation poisoning. Emily decides to treat an elf child first, but finds it extremely difficult to cast Heal. Black Fire is apparently stronger on Aldenmor — or more concentrated, I guess, since it is where all the irradiated animals came from — so Emily isn’t accustomed to curing it.

But then Ozzie holds on to Emily, and suddenly Emily receives a vision of Phelonius (and, in the new edition, a field of sparkletastic puff flowers). Phel sends Emily magic somehow, enough to help her cast Heal and eventually cure all the irradiated elves and animals on the farm. Yay.

And in the process, Emily learned something important: “In healing others, she had healed herself”. Yes, Emily is no longer suffering from Detect Evil and Detect Wounded Animals overload, and her Rainbow Jewel isn’t glowing black anymore. And believe it or not, this proves to be useful later on in this book.

Quick question, though … why does Phel show up when Ozzie touches Emily? I guess that’s answered at the end of the series, but still….

After everyone on the farm is healed, the party learns that goblin riders are headed their way. I guess goblins can Detect Magic or something. So Emily and Ozzie, with the aid of some elves, head for a portal that will lead them to Mount Hope….

EDIT: Changes in the e-book edition

  • Ozzie says “I’m right here” when he grabs on to Emily during her healing attempt.
  • Apparently the light Phel sends to Emily doesn’t help her “lead her home”.

Next time: Kara gets infodumped.