Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Souldancer: Chapters 1-4

Xander Sykes is traveling by desert caravan to see his father, enduring abuse from his rival, Sem. The caravans meet prior to arrival at Medvia, where Nesshin youth prove themselves before the council. But Xander will not go there, nor will he be Nesshin, for his father exiles him from the tribe. Swept up by emotion, Xander flees into the desert and passes out.

He awakens in the middle of the night, abandoned by those who should have searched for him. A pack of caninids stalks then pursues him. At the end of the flight, Xander is saved by a green-cloaked stranger, but the exile's own strange power also slips its leash.

In Medvia, Gen artifact hunter Damus Greystone waits with his malakh guard, Nahel. He learns of a single Nesshin wandering into town from the desert and goes to investigate.

Xander wakes up in Medvia's Shrine of Water, treated by the local pontifex. A strange mark tattoos the exile's shoulder, one that neither priest nor boy recognizes. The pontifex expresses amazement at the news of Xander's exile, then dreams sweep him up once more.

Half a world away, an orphan is sent on a ritual pilgrimage in search of a pillar of fire. Jemai finds it in one of the ruined cities and closes in on the perilous Tower Graves... 


The Nesshin are a tribe of nomadic desert traders previously associated with the world of Tharis, as a quick search of Nethereal reveals. They are closely tied to the mysteries of Zadok and Thera. So what are they doing on post-ruin Mithgar?

At this moment, Souldancer has echoes of the typical shounen adventure. Represented by Naruto or My Hero Academia, these boy's adventures take a gifted young misfit, usually bullied by a rival, and through circumstance and adventure, force the little brat to grow up and find his place in a society that he will eventually save. If Nethereal is a guide, this process will mix supernatural horror, body horror, and other nightmares into Xander's bitter poison of maturity.

During the discussions of Nethereal, Brian Niemeier revealed the influence of the classic video game Final Fantasy VI on the story. At the time, I chose not to investigate too closely to avoid revealing spoilers, as not only did the climax of Nethereal bear many similarities to what would at first glance appear to be the finale to that video game's story, but Nethereal and Souldancer mimic a key feature of the game. A confrontation in the a land that is the source of magic for Final Fantasy VI creates a cataclysm that not only scatters the party, but ruins the world. This cataclysm divides the game into two stages, a World of Balance and a World of Ruin. And, after a time-skip of months and years, the story resumes, but with different perspective characters. Thera's rebirth at the end of Nethereal scatters the crew of the Shibboleth and ruins the worlds of the Soul Cycle. Now, twenty-five years later, the story starts again, this time with a Nesshin exile with hidden powers. And, like Celes in Final Fantasy VI, Xander is already gathering some familiar faces from the previous tale.

When last we saw Sulaiman, he had been body-swapped into Teg's body, and, thanks to a vile poison, transformed into an unthinking monster that only Khorne could love. That he now walks free and in his own mind is not only a shock, but due to the actions of unnamed liberators. Now he walks the deserts of Mithgar in search of a way to make Thera pay for his world's desecration. Fortunately, the green-cloaked priest of Midras has a chance to work out his mad on an ancient enemy about to cross his path, Hazeroth.

Damus serves a female liege from Avalon searching for word of her daughter. Is this Navkin?

Perhaps Jemai might become one of Xander's allies. Right now, though, his vision quest/fetch quest offers us the first sight at what is left of the cities of Mithgar. If my reading is correct, at least one skyscraper survived Thera's flames.

1 comment:

  1. This time, Nathan picks up on something that even Jagi missed at this point in her first read-through.