Mission of MercyThis issue opens up with Darial and Shaya riding a cart into town when they are stopped by a group of draconian guards. The guards are wondering why they are arriving into town so late at night.
Darial makes up a story that Shaya is sick and needs a healer. The draconains, finished tormenting the travelers, sends them on their way.
A little while later, in the house of the town healer, Riva receives a foul smelling potion. In moments, the poison is purged from her body and the knight is up and about. The healer warns that Riva still needs time to heal and takes the three of them through a secret passage into a room, hidden from draconian guards.
While sharing a feast, Darial asks how Riva became a night. There's a one page montage of moments from the first arc of the comic: Lord Soth, Riva fighting Takhisis, fighting with Kitiara, Riva in an embrace with Vandar, and kneeing in front of Vandar's body.
Rather than tell her story, she continues talking about Winston Dawnbringer...
Wistan, under the training of Lord Sigmun, is almost ready to enter the knighthood as a knight of the crown (the lowest of the knightly orders), but Wistan expresses his desire to be a knight of the sword, like Lord Sigmun. Sigmun sets Wistan on a quest, one that, if Wistan completes, will prove his worthiness to be a sword knight.
The quest is for Wistan and Solith, the grandnephew of Silvanos (king of the silvanesti elves), to journey into Silvanesti lands under the control of ogres and a black mage named Ravenna, and rescue Vyratha, Solith's sister, who, through some means Solith doesn't discuss, is giving information useful in planning attacks against the elves.
The lands under the control of Ravenna have been twisted into a mockery of the peaceful, serene lands they once where. In this realms, the knight and elf are attacked by a group of savage ogres. In one particularly nasty fight, an ogre disarms Wistan and tries to attack the knight with his own sword. Wistan blocks every attack with his shield and ends up using the sharp end of that same shield to spear the hapless ogre.
A short distance later, they find Vyratha, only she has been transformed by dark magic into one of the twisted hideous trees that dot this landscape. Solith, not knowing any way to save his sister is set to destroy her tree form and thereby grant her some peace. But Wistan is not so ready to watch her murdered and fights with Solith to consider another solution.
Wistan deduces that the fruit blossoming from her tree form is how the ogres are getting their information to plan attacks. In that case, maybe the fruit also contains the knowledge of freeing Vyratha from her transformation. After taking a bite, Wistan learns of a nearby flower blossom that can free her.
As he heads in the direction of the flower needed to free the elf woman, Wistan hears (and then sees) his dead mother calling to him. Wistan moves closer to what he desperately wants to believe is his mother, all the while Solith is trying to convince the knight that it is merely an illusion. When Wistan is close enough, the plant (that was the source of the illusion) attacks Wistan.
The knight regains enough of his senses to realize that his mother is long since dead and strikes down this illusionary version with his sword. Afterward, both the elf and the knight hear more voices, but ignore all the calls, knowing full well they are merely illusions. Soon the retrieve the needed flower blossoms and when the flower's scent is released before Vyratha, she is transformed back into her elven form.
Wistan feels a cold wind blowing all around and comments that winter is coming early that year.
Before Riva can continue her story, a fiery explosion engulfs the safe room in flames. Riva leads Darial and Shaya out a secret passage and into a back alley, onto a pair of horses and out of the town. It seems Riva possesses certain information about the draconians that they are trying retrieve from her before she can make use of it.
CommentaryIf you've been following my reviews of the series, you know I haven't been a fan of many of the issues. This, on the other hand, is one of those really good issues that hints at the potential this series could have had.
First off, I thought the pacing of the story flowed smoothly. I didn't feel like any panels or pages were wasted space. Not a lot happened in the Riva section, but as a framing sequence for another story about Wistan, this was better done that the last issue. Also the revelation at the end of the issue actually makes Riva's section just as important as the tales of Wistan.
Speaking of the Wistan section, that story was also very exciting. Wistan's mission wasn't terribly original ("rescue the princess"), but the twists were fun and exciting, if not too suprising.
As for the artwork, Ron Randall did a great job this time... all my previous complaints seemed to have been addressed this time around. The draconains in the opening spread were well detailed and very menacing, the backgrounds of the twisted forest had plenty of detail, and the depiction of Vyatha in tree form was shocking and saddening.
I thought the fight sequence with the plant creature was exciting, as was the fight with the ogres. The details of the Solith fighting an ogre was the kind of background elements I wanted to see in issue #17.
Lastly, the artwork for the one page montage of Riva's events in the first four issues is a wonderful piece of art and something I wish I owned.
There were some negatives: the healer is never given a name, the ogres look too much like cavemen instead of what I've seen in various D&D game manuals, and I wish the importance of Riva's part of this arc was hinted at last issue instead of this one.
But overall, I think this may be one of the best single issues of the comic so far. I eagerly look forward to the next part of this story.