Friday, February 17, 2012

"The Order of the Scales"

Stephen Deas is the author of the acclaimed short story “The Snow Fox.”

He applied the Page 69 Test to The Order of the Scales (The Memory of Flames, Book III), and reported the following:
Page 69:
It wasn't a big room. A few crude beds, a simple table, pots to piss in, that sort of thing. Food on the table. Leftover biscuits and dried meat. Alchemical lamps, several of them. And more tunnels leading out of the back of the room. Too many to be looking into. Six men alive and two dead. You said there were eight. Are you sure?

I cannot be certain, Kemir.

‘Are there any more of you lurking back there?’ he snapped and watched their faces carefully. There was no guile in these men; perhaps they were too shocked by the casual way he'd executed two of them. They didn't start to glance at the tunnels, just stared at him in slack-jawed horror.

‘Well? Do I have to shoot a few more of you so the rest can find their tongues?’ He took a step towards them and they cringed. They could rush me if they wanted. I could only shoot one of them and the rest would be on top of me. With strength of numbers they would win, and yet they won't. They'll cower, too afraid, and then I'll herd them outside and they'll be slaughtered like cattle. All because every one of them would rather live for another few minutes more than win.

Your kind are indeed curious, observed Snow. What you are doing would not work on dragons.

Kemir gritted his teeth. He muttered under his breath, ‘And how would you know that, Snow? Dragons find themselves on the wrong end of these situations often, do they?’

We are very old, Kemir. We remember much that your kind have forgotten. Powers far greater than us. Powers that made us. Snow went silent and there it was, the catch in her thoughts. The something that passed for a pause for breath, a mouth that opened to speak, and then closed and chose to to be silent instead. One of those silver men moments. Even as he thought that, he sensed Snow bristle.

The alchemists, Kemir.

Yes. The alchemists. He'd given them far too much time to think about rushing him. They were exchanging glances and starting to fidget. Two bad signs. He switched his aim to the one who, in the dim glow of their lamps, looked the oldest. In Kemir's experience, the older men got, the keener they became on living.
At the start of the Memory of Flames series, dragons are enslaved to men through the use of alchemy, so it's pleasantly ironic that here we have a man, Kemir, serving a dragon the Snow. Desperate men, dragons issuing orders, the old order being torn down without thought of what it stood for and no mercy for any in sight; and yet, as we see here in Snow's words, We remember much that your kind have forgotten, there are deeper and darker currents running beneath the chaos. If you're familiar with the likes of Prince Jehal and Queen Zafir, perhaps it's no surprise that the dragons are more aware of their histories than men, very much to the cost of the so-called 'little ones.'

There may be far grander schemes at play in the Order of the Scales; battles that darken the skies with dragons and set the horizons alight in rivers of fire, but the changing relationship between Kemir and Snow plays out everything on a more intimate scale; while the fears and the paralysis of the old order (seen here as the alchemists) are all that either ruthless men or ruthless dragons will need to see out their ends.
The Order of the Scales, Deas reports, is "graced by yet another a piece of gorgeous dragon-art from the mighty Stephen Youll."

Read an essay by Stephen Deas on the "Memory of Flames" trilogy.

Visit the official Stephen Deas website.

The Page 69 Test: The Adamantine Palace.

The Page 69 Test: The King of the Crags.

--Marshal Zeringue