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By: olaw, Oliver Law
Sep 07 2016 12:00pm
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Hello!

Welcome to the second article in my series looking at the Odyssey Block story. If you missed the first part you can check it out here. This is the second part of the story covering the second set in the block, Torment.  The book is Chainer's Torment by Scott McGough.  You may note that this is a different writer to the first book and in fact each book in this cycle is written by a different writer.  I believe this isn't exactly uncommon for Magic novels but can be problematic for continuity.

Contents

1. Characters/Factions/Locations
2. The Story
a. Part One: Cabalist
b. Part Two: Dementia Caster
c. Part Three: Dementist
d. Part Four: Master
e. The Mer Empire
f. Epilogue
3. Conclusions

Characters/Factions/Locations
Here is a quick summary of some of the major characters and factions from the story and what we know about them off the back of the last book.

*CONTAINS SPOILERS IF YOU DIDN'T READ THE LAST ARTICLE*

Aboshan: As depicted on Aboshan, Cephalid Emperor.  The now deceased Emperor of the Mer Empire.  He came into possession of the Mirari after Laquatus' former champion, Turg, delivered it to his troops.  Aboshan used the Mirari to try and flood the continent of Otaria and claim it as part of his kingdom.  The power of the Mirari eventually overwhelmed Aboshan and he died at the end of the Odyssey story.

Braids/Fulla:  As depicted on Braids, Cabal Minion.  A powerful female dementia caster and member of The Cabal.  Her Cabal name is Fulla and she is almost exclusively referred to by this name in the first two books but is referred to as Braids in the third book.  Braids is a nickname due to her hairstyle and my preferred name as it matches her card.

She was in Aboshan's underwater palace at the time he took possession of the Mirari as she had been placed in charge of The Cabal workforce hired to manage Aboshan's treasure room.  Braids took possession of the Mirari after Aboshan's death, with Laquatus to weak too fight her.  At the end of the book Braids and Laquatus are travelling in the stomach of a nightmare fish of Braids creation back to Cabal City.

The Cabal:  A black-aligned group lead by The First.  The group is associated with greed and profiteering is the main purpose of the organisation.  The Cabal are responsible for setting up and running Pit Fighting Arenas across the continent - profiting from the watching and gambling involved in the spectacles.

Cabal City:  The largest city on the continent of Otaria and firmly in the control of The Cabal.  It is the main location for the Cabal Pit Fights where pit fighters battle for money, prizes and glory.

Chainer:  As depicted on Chainer, Dementia Master.  The main character of this book as the book's title suggests.  Chainer is a member of the Cabal who we met briefly as he acted as Kamahl's guide to the Cabal Pit.

The Citadel: As depicted on Tarnished Citadel.  The base of operations for the Northern Order.  Largely destroyed in the aftermath of the spell cast by Kirtar using the Mirari.

Dementia Caster/Summoner:  Mages associated exclusively with the Cabal who are able to summon nightmare creatures from their minds.  The summonings often take a toll on the psyche of the summoner.

The First:  As depicted on Cabal Patriarch.  The leader of The Cabal.  The First is mentioned in the first book but we never actually come in contact with him.

Kamahl:  As depicted on Kamahl, Pit Fighter.  A powerful male barbarian who sought further challenges in Cabal City entering the Pit Fights.  There he came into contact with the Mirari which he has sought ever since.  He is publicly blamed for the deaths of Captain Pianna and Lieutenant Kirtar of The Order after making a raid into The Citadel to obtain the Mirari.  At the end of the Odyssey book Kamahl was in a port town trying to obtain information about the Mer Empire so he could take possession of the Mirari.

Kirtar: As depicted on Lieutenant Kirtar.  A male aven who was a Lieutenant and second-in-command of the Northern Order.  He obtained the Mirari after being granted it as a prize by The Cabal for his part in quelling a dragon attack on Cabal City.  Kirtar became obsessed with the power granted by the artifact and tried to use it to take control of The Order.  Kirtar ultimately could not control the power of the Mirari leading to the death of Captain Pianna and himself.   Turg would pick up the Mirari from the deceased Kirtar.

Krosan Forest:  A large forest near the centre of the Otarian continent and not far from Cabal City.  The forest contains various beasts and creatures and is largely unexplored due to its size and the danger of travelling through it.

Laquatus:  As depicted on Ambassador Laquatus.  A male merfolk and former Ambassador of the Mer Empire to Cabal City.  Through his persistent scheming he rose to power under to rule of Aboshan before his death.  Laquatus attempted to kill Aboshan and take the Mirari but his champion Turg was killed in a battle with Aboshan's royal guard, weakening Laquatus.  As a result Braids took possession of the Mirari but he managed to convince her to take him with her to escape the collapsing palace.

Llawan:  As depicted on Llawan, Cephalid Empress. The heir apparent to the Mer Empire after the death of her estranged husband Aboshan.

Master Skellum:  The master of Chainer and one of the cooler characters to not get a card.  Master Skellum is a dementist, the highest order of dementia caster, and trainer of dementia casters.  He has a distinctive appearance mostly seen wearing a hat that covers his whole head with holes in various sections.  The hat is attached to a rig that allows it to spin.  The effect is both confusing and allows him to enter his dementia space to summon dementia creatures.

The Mer Empire:  The kingdom of the seas of Otaria.  The Empire was led by Emperor Aboshan until he died under the influence of the Mirari.

Mirari:  As depicted on Mirari.  A powerful artifact that can grant the power for the wielder to fulfil their wishes.  However, the power granted by the Mirari also tends to cause great destruction and can overwhelm wielders unable to maintain control of it.

The Order:  A white-aligned military/religious group largely made up of humans and various bird warriors (aven being the most often mentioned).  They believe in the destruction of artifacts as a result of the Phyrexian Invasion of Dominaria.  The Northern faction of The Order is currently without a leader in the turmoil of the deaths of their leader Captain Pianna and her second-in-command Lieutenant Kirtar.

Pianna:  As depicted on Pianna, Nomad Captain.  The former leader of the Northern Order.  She died in a spat with Lieutenant Kirtar over the destruction of the Mirari when Kirtar tried to usurp control of the faction.

Rillu Veza: A female merfolk who is the protagonist of the sub-plot of this book.  She is a Director of Breaker Bay dealing with the trade routes and other business of the Mer Empire at this location.

Seton: As depicted on Seton, Krosan Protector.  A centaur from the Krosan Forest.  He entered the Cabal Pit to find out more about disturbances within the Krosan Forest, later revealed to be the result of the Mirari.  He makes fast friends with Kamahl and assists him in his pursuit of the orb.  Seton is temporarliy blinded by an attack by Turg in the Forest while Laquatus and Kamahl are pursuing Lieutenant Kirtar and stays in the Forest to recover from his injuries.

Turg: Laquatus' champion and bodyguard.  Turg was a giant frog/anurid that Laquatus had trained to fight and created a psychic bond with so he could control.  Turg was killed by a giant octopus that formed part of Aboshan's royal guard as Laquatus tried to kill Aboshan to obtain the Mirari.  The severing of this psychic link left Laquatus weakened.

Back to Contents

The Story

Part One: Cabalist

Interestingly the first part of the story does not begin where the Odyssey story left off.  Instead we go back in time following some of the events that took place prior and alongside the Odyssey story.

The story begins with Chainer taking a walk on the marsh flats outside Cabal City. A voice calls in his head and guides him to a dilapidated manor house. He ventures to the basement where he finds and retrieves the Mirari. Upon holding the orb he sees visions of great triumph and being a mighty champion for the Cabal. He decides he must give it to The First, the Cabal Patriarch.

Mirari

Chainer rushes to make his way to The First's Manor to deliver the prize. However, he encounters a group of officers belonging to The Order who requisition him. The group is led by Major Teroh, an aven warrior.  Chainer sweeps the leg of the human solider in the group which allows him to make a running escape.  He manages to find sanctuary in a bar owned and run by Roup, a senior Cabal member.  With some fairly aggressive persuasion he gets Roup to send a message to his mentor, Master Skellum.  Chainer has to pass The Order soldiers to get to The First's manor.  Skellum shows up with Azza, a hellhound, and summons a bunch of nightmare creatures allowing Chainer to escape on Azza's back.

Major Teroh

Azza delivers Chainer to the Patriarch's Manor.  Skellum meets Chainer there for their audience with The First.  Touching The First is not allowed and instead he is served by a group of handservants who do his bidding (it is heavily implied that his touch is deadly and.  He has two more handservants who take notes and more mentally taxing duties and rest carry out physical activities.  Chainer hands over the Mirari to one of The First's handservants and The First is very pleased with it.  He seals it into a box and tells Chainer he will investigate it further, however, he can tell the power it has.  The First suggest that Chainer must be either very obedient or not very observant to hand it over to him - Chainer proclaims his loyalty.  The First thanks Chainer and dismisses him to discuss his future with Skellum.  They both agree Chainer has great potential but Skellum is worried about pushing him too hard too soon.

Cabal Patriarch

Under The First's instruction, Skellum starts Chainer's tutelage as a Dementia Caster with the hope he will become a Dementist, the highest level of caster. The process however is dangerous as it involves travelling into your mental world, referred to as Dementia space, to summon nightmare creatures.  The training is interrupted by a request from The First for Chainer to carry out a mission. The First tasks Chainer with guiding the barbarian Kamahl as he comes to attend the Games. The First also reveals that he intends to offer the Mirari as a prize for the tournament as part of his plans. The First's slightly bizarre logic is that the Mirari is too powerful for most to handle and that by giving it away it will work to destroy some of their enemies and inevitably fall back into the Cabal's hands. The First suggests that Kamahl is a favourite to win the tournament but will inevitably lose the prize back to the Cabal in the Pits.

Patriarch's Desire

We are given the extended version of Chainer and Kamahl's meeting and developing friendship. Chainer is forbidden by The First to carry any weapons other than a ceremonial dagger. Chainer shows Kamahl how to navigate the arena and place bets on pit fights. Kamahl successfully wins a bet as a Lavamancer dispatches a Sengir Vampire. He also leads him to his first pit fight and is impressed by the barbarian's prowess.

Sengir VampireGrim Lavamancer

We fast forward to Turg's fight and the Krosan Dragon's attack on Cabal City. Chainer allows Kamahl to go out to face the Dragon while he stays behind. Chainer rushes to his quarters and obtains his gear and then rushes to defend the prize vault where the Mirari is held from opportunist attackers.  Against Master Skellum's instructions Chainer attempts a dementia summoning as a group of three Order soldiers and a Limestone Golem attack.  The summoning fails and Chainer has to recover as two other Cabal guards come to his aid.  Chainer is forced to use a spell called 'Death Bloom' which was taught to him by his previous mentor, Minat, to destroy the Golem.  The two other Cabal guards are killed and only Chainer survives the battle.  The First and Skellum watch on from a scrying pool at the Patriach's Manor - Skellum again expresses concern for Chainer but The First is enthused by his progress.  Master Skellum claims a much weakened Chainer from in front of the vault and Chainer takes three days to recover.

Cabal Coffers

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Part Two: Dementia Caster

Chainer training continued and under Skellum's tutelage he became a very capable dementia summoner.  He returns to the Pits with great success and goes undefeated.  His physical and fighting prowess mixed with his increasingly powerful summoning abilities made him very formidable.  Skellum and Chainer have a meeting with the new Master of Games.  They are told that Chainer will be booked into a fight with a young barbarian female and an elder dwarf from the Pardic Mountains who have fought their way through the pits in search of their respective brother and apprentice.  The First has decided that they have earned the information they seek and Chainer and Skellum are to put on a show but throw the fight and give up the requested information.

Jeska, Warrior AdeptBalthor the Stout

Chainer faces Jeska and Balthor in a two-on-one Capture the Flag contest.  Chainer performs well managing to knock Balthor's fire wielding helmet from his head and vying with Jeska.  During the battle Chainer advises Jeska that her brother is unharmed and headed to the North chasing the Mirari.  The Pardic Mountain pairing proves though and Jeska sets up a catapult on her bracer to destroy the flag and win the contest.  In a vain attempt to prolong the contest Chainer wraps a chain around her arm but inadvertently directs the projectile at himself.  A large explosion costs Chainer his right forearm as he is defeated.  Chainer gets the old Luke Skywalker treatment and his missing forearm is replaced with a black metal 'golem' arm that is magically attached to his nervous system.

(Somewhat bizarrely Jeska and Balthor are pretty much never mentioned again in the book, except a couple of brief mentions of Jeska.  It's not entirely clear from the book whether they went after Kamahl, waited for him to arrive back in Cabal City or just went home)

Cabal Surgeon

We finally catch up with the end of the Odyssey story with Braids and Laquatus landing in the port of Cabal City in Braids' travel fish.  Braids takes the Mirari back to The First and leaves Laquatus behind.  Kamahl returns to Cabal City in time for their arrival (which is a bit of a plothole as he was on the Northern Coast at the time of the flood and presumably Braids and Laquatus headed straight to Cabal City) and meets with Chainer and the two rekindle their friendship.  Kamahl decides to wait until the Mirari is put up as a prize in the pits and forms a pit fighting partnership with Chainer at Chainer's request.  The team go undefeated but Kamahl quits the pairing when asked to throw a fight to The Order at The First's request.

Braids, Cabal Minion

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Part Three: Dementist

Master Skellum announces that Chainer is ready to complete his training and become a dementist.  The First agrees.  To finish his training Chainer must take part in the shikar ritual - a pseudo-pilgrimage into the Krosan Forest.  The First decides that Skellum should not be involved in finalising Chainer's training as he does not want another Skellum who lacks the killer instinct.  The First arranges an audience with Chainer, meanwhile Master Skellum is forced into the pit alongside Braids to face The Order forces, including Major Teroh. Recognising he has been sent to die, Skellum transmits his conscious experiences to Chainer. A justicar hits Skellum with a bolt of lightning and he is then killed by The Order forces bringing the battle to the end. Chainer witnesses his mentor's death and starts lashing out until restrained by The First's guards.

Mortal Combat

Chainer remains determined to complete the shikar ritual and, acknowledging his grief, Kamahl agrees to accompany him into the Forest. Chainer completes the ritual battling and capturing various creatures to place in his Dementia Space. Chainer puts a particular emphasis on catching snakes, which he has an affinity for.  As they reach the centre of the Krosan Forest they are attacked by a druid who commands a group of creatures to attack the pair.  Chainer unleashes new power to fend off the creatures and taking them into his Dementia Space.  Chainer is knocked unconscious at the conclusion of the battle and has a vision in which he is embraced by the Cabal God, Kuberr.  Kamahl remembers his friend Seton and regrets their invasion of the forest lighting funeral pyres for the druid and creatures.

Krosan ConstrictorNostalgic Dreams

They return to Cabal City to find The Order attacking the City as part of a crusat (holy war) declared by Major Teroh.  The attack is assisted secretly by Laquatus who allows The Order to use a water teleportation device to transport Order soldiers to the port in the heart of Cabal City. Kamahl throws himself into battle attacking the forces at the gates of the city. Chainer makes his way through a secret entrance and forces his way to the Pits. Chainer cast a spell that covers all of the invaders in the building with snakes - impressing Braids who is also in attendance. The Cabal fend off the assault on the city and The Order are forced to retreat.  Chainer and Azza go in search of Kamahl and find him laid out in the street.  Chainer rushes his friend to the Cabal healers to see if they can heal his wounds.  It turns out that Kamahl was also laid low by the Justicar who attacked Skellum in the pits.

Teroh's Faithful

Chainer is rewarded by The First for his defence of the city.  He asks to use the Mirari to heal Kamahl and is also tasked with creating a new champion for Laquatus as part of The First's plans to exert control over Laquatus - again using the Mirari.  Chainer heals Kamahl using the Mirari and giving him reptilian skin grafts for his wounds.  Kamahl is horrified and burns out the new skin, reinjuring himself, and leaves the care of the Cabal.

At The First's request, Chainer attacks The Order camp where they are attempting to heal the wounded from the attack on Cabal City.  Chainer sends a Shambling Swarm at the hospital tent which is attacked by the angels defending the area.  However, their attacks only unleash the swarm of flesh eating insects inside the creature.  The swarm overwhelms and kills the angels and then the whole camp.  Major Teroh attempts to make a retreat but is captured and killed by Chainer.

Shambling SwarmWaste Away

Chainer makes Laquatus' a new champion called Burke.  Burke is a humanoid shaped creatures made of an inert gel.  It has no eyes, mouth, bones or organs to be damaged or attacked and can reform itself if destroyed.  Laquatus is impressed after a demonstration and Chainer gives control of the monster to him.  Chainer also asks for Laquatus' assistance in a plan he has developed against The First.  Laquatus assists Chainer by researching and discovering The First's secret name, a name which has been lost for years and holds power over him.

Laquatus's Champion

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Part Four: Master

Chainer becomes increasingly important to the Cabal gaining his own private chambers in The First's manor.  He also becomes the primary guardian of the Mirari with it being kept in a vault in his chambers that can only be unlocked by a combination of him and The First.

The First requests a champion of his own from Chainer and gives him the Mirari in order to create one.  Chainer then strikes killing everyone in the room and then attempting to kill the first in the name of his dead master.  Chainer discovers, despite using his secret name, that he is incapable of killing The First who is virtually immortal.  The Cabal Patriarch explains that this is because he is the first follower of the Cabal God, Kuberr. As such he instead sends him into exile and forces him to cede control of Cabal City to him.  The First reluctantly agrees to make his way to Aphetto, a lesser city under Cabal control in the South of the continent, and gives Chainer control of the city.

Chainer's Edict

Chainer carries on with The First's plans to host another Mirari Games. The Games attract fighters from across Otaria and large crowds. However, the opening ceremony is interrupted by the Justicar and Angel of Retributions coming to avenge the death of the angels.  They try and attack Chainer in his viewing platform high above the pits.  Fights break out across the arena and Kamahl attacks and destroys the justicar. 

Chainer's EdictAngel of Retribution

Chainer uses the Mirari to access the minds of all the dementia casters on the continent and empties their collective minds summoning all the monsters into Cabal City.  Chaos ensues and Kamahl fights his way to Chainer to try and stop the madness being caused by his friend.  Kamahl manages to goad Chainer into a one-on-one fight without using the Mirari.  In his weakened state, Kamahl is no match for Chainer but he manages to grab Chainer's metal arm and flow burning heat into it destroying the arm.  Chainer tries to replace his arm with the Mirari but is not able to create what he desires.  Overwhelmed by the situation Chainer tries to unsummon all the nightmare creatures he created - they return but mutilate Chainer turning his skin into a swarming mass of nightmare creatures.  Kamahl mercifully burns Chainer's body to release him from the pain of what he had become.  Kamahl reluctantly takes the Mirari having lost his desire for the artifact but respecting Chainer's dying wish for him to take it.

Mutilate

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The Mer Empire

There is a subplot running through the book regarding the Mer Empire.  Though this runs with the rest of the book and in the same timeline it's probably easier just to summarise it all together.

Pre-Odyssey

We are taken to Llawan City the giant underwater place of Llawan, Cephalid Empress.  She is subject to an assassination attempt but is able to speed away and then defend herself in time for her Imperial Guard to arrive.  A surviving attackers gives an indication that Aboshan and Laquatus are behind the assassination attempt.  Llawan is keen to investigate further into the dealings of Ambassador Laquatus.

Llawan, Cephalid Empress

Llawan reaches out to Director Rillu Veza, a merfolk in the Mer Empire who holds the relatively lowly job of running the Empire's trading depot at Breaker Bay.  Merfolk are pretty relatively rare on the continent and so her kinship with Laquatus and her ability to grow legs for walking on land made her Llawan's spy of choice.  Llawan sets up contact between Veza and Laquatus and Veza does her best to study the Ambassador.  From her interactions with Laquatus, Veza is able to use a thought spell which allows her to identify the psychic link between Laquatus and Turg, Laquatus' frog champion.  This realisation would allow a psychic to tune in to this link and discover the true intentions of Laquatus.

Think Tank

Veza is visited by Empress Llawan once more.  She advises Veza that her best psychic was able to tap into the mental connection between Laquatus and Turg.  In doing so they discovered that Laquatus had become interested in the Mirari.  With the Mirari in Aboshan's possession, Llawan is concerned about Laquatus' schemes to obtain the Mirari and the possibility of him trying to take the Empire.  Her plan is to antagonise Aboshan to make him more insular and hopefully have Laquatus killed for being overly ambitious.  Llawan is gathering loyal followers in Llawan City and offers Veza a position in her court.  With that Veza gives up her position as Director of Breaker Bay and joins Llawan.

Amugaba
Llawan and her entourage travel in large leviathan eels with compartments for travel (this is the closest image I could find)

Llawan takes a group of followers including Rillu towards the Emperor's palace but this is when the Aboshan uses the Mirari and ultimately succumbs to it.  Llawan's psychic Olsham uses his powers to protect the leviathan ship from the shockwaves sent through the ocean by the Mirari and those on board celebrate the death of Aboshan.

Post-Odyssey

In the wake of Aboshan's death, Rillu Veza is tasked along with a leviathan eel ship and crew to try and map the newly created sea left by Aboshan's flood.  However, the ship is ambushed by manta rays and forces under Laquatus' control.  Laquatus boards the ship and captures the crew.  He persuades Veza to join him after beheading the rest of the crew and having a conversation with Empress Llawan in which she refuses to negotiate for Veza's life.

Laquatus' and Llawan's forces battle it out over chasm.  Laquatus takes the offensive having called in a favour from Chainer (who is indebted to him for finding out the true name of The First), who sends an army of nightmare sea serpents that attack Llawan's forces. Veza, who is on the front deck of Laquatus ship, communicates with Olsham telepathically to assist Llawan.  This is picked up on by Laquatus who sets Burke on her and Veza flees the ship with the champion making after her.  Laquatus' advantage is ended though as Chainer's death causes the nightmare serpents to vanish and catching Laquatus' forces unaware.  Burke breaks Veza's leg but is called back to Laquatus as Llawan makes a surprise move pushing her ship forward offensively.  Llawan then puts into action a plan using Olsham's powers and crystals planted in the walls of the chasm by Veza.  Llawan turns the chasm into a giant water teleporter prison.  The result being that Laquatus and his forces are trapped inside unable to escape and others are unable to enter, instead being teleported to the other side of the chasm.

Back to Contents

Epilogue

The epilogue catches us up with some of the main characters directly following Chainer's death:

  • Kamahl leaves the Cabal Pit to find even more challengers for the Mirari waiting for him.  Restless and weary Kamahl reluctantly prepares to fight his way out of Cabal City.
  • Braids and Azza are leaving Cabal City.  Braids sees a vision of Kuberr, hinting that she has also reached the level of a Dementist. They catch up with The First who is walking to Aphetto.  He has managed to kill the escort of reptilian soldiers Chainer created for him.  The First encourages Braids and Azza onward to Aphetto as he follows behind.
  • Laquatus is trapped in the prison Llawan has created for him.  However, he is able to make small breaks in the prison and is confident that he will manage to escape.  He rues that his attention has been split between trying to obtain the Mirari and taking control of the Mer Empire.  He resolves to concentrate on taking the power of the Mirari and then to use it to fuel his ambitions.

Conclusions
Chainer's Torment is a very enjoyable read as it looks deeper into the inner workings of the Cabal and follows Chainer who is a well fleshed-out, sympathetic character and interesting protagonist.  A superior book to the others in this series though not without its flaws.  I have to say that the Mer Empire subplot with Rillu Veza is far less interesting than the main plot and is ultimately not greatly consequential.  There are also some plotholes like Kamahl's arrival in Cabal City and Balthor and Jeska appearing and disappearing without further explanation. However, these are probably largely the result of the change of writer.

Another shame is that a lot of the character development and fleshing out of Cabal City as a location goes to waste to a degree.  Chainer is a very interesting character but his death means his character development kind of goes to waste.  Rillu Veza also isn't a greatly important character in the grand scheme of things making her an odd choice as the secondary protagonist of the book. Additionally, Cabal City is abandoned in the aftermath of Chainer's death and The First relocates to Aphetto which is not nearly as fleshed out as Cabal City as a location.

In the next article I will look at the Judgment story.  Now Kamahl has the Mirari what is next for the story?  Find out in the final installment of this series.

Thanks for reading,

Oliver Law (olaw on MTGO)