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 Azure Bonds - villain motivations
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
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Posted - 31 Jul 2019 :  10:56:37  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote  Delete Topic
I was re-listening to some of the Reading the Realms podcast this morning and there was a discussion of intelligent villains being a key component of a good Realms novel. The podcast brought up Azure Bonds as having intelligent villains.

I love Azure Bonds, probably my fave Realms novel, but I don't know if I agree that I would classify all the villains/antagonists in the story as being smart or even understandable.

I also think we have to be able to understand a villain's motivations, and I'm not sure I do in this book for all of them anyway. So I ask Candlekeep to give your take on the Azure Bond villain motivations for creating Alias, here's mine:

Finder - his motivation is based on pure vanity, wanting to have Flattery 2.0 that would carry on his legacy and songs for eternity. (Elminster says " you created her to be your immortal vessel" at the end of the book). This is fine, and a good motivation in line with the character we come to know in the rest of the Realms series where he is featured.

Cassana - I don't TRULY understand her motivation in creating Alias. She is a very powerful sorceress with a lot of wealth and influence in Westgate. I am not sure why an unknowing sword wielding assassin with partial free will (at times) would benefit her, especially given she'd have to share it with other powers. The best I can come up with is 1) vanity - she made it in her image because she wanted to play dress up with a young clone of herself and 2) magical curiosity to see if it could be done, as a powerful wizard likes to experiment.


Zrie - I think his motivation if you can call it that is he is Cassana's puppet and has to do what she says because he's controlled by her. Doesn't seem to have any reason to create her otherwise.

Moander - the only one with truly a great reason and motivation to create Alias, he needed her to resurrect his avatar form due to the elves making some weird-arse unborn child can free you bit. Hugely odd that they wouldn't just permanently imprison him without a prophecy about who can free him, but this is fantasy literature and who are we to judge the elves, right? But this is good stuff and you can see why Moander's cult would want to be involved in creating an unborn child.

Fire Knives - so they wanted an assassin to take out their targets in Cormyr. I think that Alias got taken out so easily by a low level unsuspecting Winefiddle in the 2nd chapter of the book leads me to believe that Alias would have been a terrible assassin, and her power level should have been much higher for this to make a lot of sense. Like if she was some perfect killing machine, you could see how the Fire Knives would be very interested in this project. But she can't even take out a fat low level priest---or bumbling inexperienced Giogi at the wedding. I think the book would have been actually a bit better (keeping in mind I love it) if Alias had straight up killed Winefiddle when he tried to cure her because of the bonds, and did it seemlessly and efficiently. Then she'd have realised the bonds were very serious and her quest to remove them that much more serious -- and also shown that the Fire Knives were competent and involved with the Alias project for good reason. As it was, they were super irrelevant to the story and poorly written.

Phalse Okay...so..why is a daemon? Demon? whatever he was in origin interested in creating Alias, AND partnering with Moander who he is at war with and hates? Why partner to resurrect a power you hate? What use would Phalse have for clones of humans in the Realms? What was he getting out of the partnership? I don't understand his motivation, and I think setting him up to be the big bad guy without proper motivation for why wanted to create Alias was poorly written. Was it just experimentation and curiosity? Is that a good villainous reason to partner with a being you hate? Not really in my books but maybe I missed something.


___

I do love this book, but I don't love it because the villains make a lot of sense necessarily. I love it because the heroes are well written, have good motivations, and are not Mary Sue types (well..Dragonbait kind of is). And I love how Cormry, the Dalelands, the elven forrest, Westgate, and Yulash etc are written.

Edited by - Seravin on 31 Jul 2019 10:58:51

Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 31 Jul 2019 :  20:17:48  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think Cassana was also using Alias as a way to torment Zrie Prakis. For him, she was a second chance at being with Cassana.

Phalse was, I think, intending to use the clones to amass power for himself. I think he would have used them against the others, eventually becoming the only master. Either Phalse planned on Moander not being around long enough to be a factor in his plans, or he didn't realize Moander was using Alias as a literal escape clause. After removing Moander and the others, Phalse likely wound have used them in various ways to benefit himself "back home" much in the same way other fiends have interests in the Prime.

As for the Fire Knives and Alias's weakness as an assassin -- keep in mind that she was still in beta. She was a work in progress; her masters were not ready to release her into the world. The book states that she was helped to escape before they finished their work on her -- work that among other things would have made her more tightly bound to their control. It's reasonable to assume they would have "programmed" her further before releasing her, had things gone according to plan, and that programming likely included further class abilities.

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Edited by - Wooly Rupert on 31 Jul 2019 20:20:27
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
938 Posts

Posted - 31 Jul 2019 :  21:12:46  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Good points as always Wooly...I agree with you there on Cassana and Phalse; although I think Phalse/Moander's rivalry was a retcon as I don't think it quite works in the first book and Cassana's overall motivation to create/use Alias seems a bit weak given how much she invested in the project for something that could have been so easily replaced with an actual competent sell-sword.

For the Fire Knives, that is likely true that Alias wasn't trained up yet in their ways. I still think the bonds would have had more weight and the Fire Knives a more significant evil force if she had murdered Winefiddle in the beginning of the book, but likely that would have made the book too dark for TSR / the Realms at the time. But imagine if she had killed him, because of the bonds, and felt the guilt/anger about the Bonds the rest of the book towards her masters.

Anyway - the book is great.
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gylippus
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52 Posts

Posted - 01 Aug 2019 :  16:13:51  Show Profile Send gylippus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Good points from both of you,

To be honest, we have to look at the villains in Azure Bonds as compared to other Realms novels. If you look at it that way, they are way more sophisticated than many other books. However, Night Parade comes to mind right off the top as a book with very good villains that have logical motivations.

I think Alias would have made a good assassin strictly for the reason that she didn't know she was an assassin. As Wooly pointed out, Alias was the beta version. One thing the Fire Knives could not control was when she was likely to be 'triggered' to want to kill one of their targets. Giogi triggered her by accident in a crowded wedding reception by using Azoun's voice. The likelihood of getting close enough to the king to assassinate him is problematic, but imagine if you have many Aliases and they are all triggered at once. Plus, if the Fire Knives are able to pump out more assassins what do they care if many of them fail most of the time? They only need one to be successful to kill the king.

Finder's motivations are probably laid out the best and make the most sense.

You have some good points about Cassana. What would a super powerful magician need Alias for? On the other hand Alias is useful in many situation where a magician would not be and she is a decently high level fighter according to 2e rules. Alias could be used to gather rare spell components, kill opposing magicians indirectly, etc...

Also, I think all of these people had ulterior motives for creating Alias. For instance Phalse would have used her to kill Moander or anyone else that got in his way.

Seravin has good points though. I don't think the authors had the time or pages to go into detail about everyone's specific motivations. I would have liked to see the third book explore those in more detail rather than focusing strictly on the Moander story arc. But, like I said, compare this to Aballister in the Cleric Quintet. He just wanted to take over the region and be more powerful. Sort of the standard boilerplate evil motivation. So, if I have a choice between the clear cut Aballister villain and the ambiguity of the KN/JG villain I am going for the latter.
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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
938 Posts

Posted - 01 Aug 2019 :  16:59:22  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I mean, Moander/his followers got exactly what they wanted out of the deal - as did Finder. The Fire Knives didn't have a leader or much going for them as written, but I suppose they did get a beta assassin type that wanted to kill Azoun, so a sort of mini-victory for them when she was created.

On reflection, and thinking about your point re: Aballister, I feel Cassana and Phalse's motivations were extremely unclear other than to be the big bad evil guy(s) and do evil for the sake of evil. Cassana's potential gains from the partnership and Alias seem extremely minor---she already completely controls a lich who carries a Staff of Power and enough riches and magic to have an army of warriors. Phalse too, and it is never made clear what he hoped to gain from creating Alias or her sisters or why he bothered to participate in the alliance (with a being he despises) other than to do "evil" things--the power represented by creating Alias/clones just doesn't line up to the effort. Bad guys hire mercenaries all the time, isn't Alias just an extremely unreliable and expensive (to create) sell sword mercenary when she is controlled?

I think this could have been all fixed if Alias was truly a weapon of mass destruction, like some kind of ultimate killing machine that could take out a dozen royal guards at once and then stab Azoun in the face. Also, I think it would have been great if she was 100% magic resistant, in addition to her misdirection. This would explain why these very powerful beings wanted to control her and fund her creation and work with people they hate, because she'd be worth the investment. Wooly speculates maybe how she ends up is not what she is meant to be because her escape happened before she could be fully trained/formed (and the clones were similarly premature) - but there's nothing written in the novel to indicate that her fighting prowess is less than what her creators wanted in the book. Which makes it fan fiction to speculate she wasn't as good as intended.


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gylippus
Seeker

52 Posts

Posted - 01 Aug 2019 :  19:08:11  Show Profile Send gylippus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Well, I would need to go back and read the part about splitting Dragonbait's soul, but perhaps the big baddies didn't know a paladin's soul was going to be used or after Alias was made they realized a paladin's soul is not the best source material.

Phalse used other souls to create his Alias lookalikes. On the other hand, the lookalikes seem to act pretty similar to Alias and they don't seem that differentiated except for skills. As far as I know, none of them are evil.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
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Posted - 01 Aug 2019 :  21:05:20  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by gylippus

Well, I would need to go back and read the part about splitting Dragonbait's soul, but perhaps the big baddies didn't know a paladin's soul was going to be used or after Alias was made they realized a paladin's soul is not the best source material.

Phalse used other souls to create his Alias lookalikes. On the other hand, the lookalikes seem to act pretty similar to Alias and they don't seem that differentiated except for skills. As far as I know, none of them are evil.



As I recall, all of the Alias clones got part of Dragonbait's soul. And while we saw some similarities between Cat, Zhara, Jade More, and Alias, I'd say they did not otherwise act the same.

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gylippus
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Posted - 02 Aug 2019 :  02:19:22  Show Profile Send gylippus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I decided to get out the book finally and look up the pertinent parts.

Phalse - I've determined why you are flawed, and I know how to prevent it in other models. You see, when we made you, we hadn't taken into account the strength of the saurial's will. The soul was easy to divide, but a spirit is supposed to have limits. We assumed you would not come to life until we slayed the saurial so his spirit could transfer into you, enthralled by our will of course. Somehow, the saurial found a way to create a spirit for you, broke off a shard, so to speak, from his own spirit. You were able to draw on his stronger spirit whenever you needed to.

Later, Dragonbait gives two through thirteen some of his spirit, but they disappear before he knows if he was successful or not.

My point is that all of the Alias clones have the same flesh, soul, and spirit. The only question is how much of Dragonbait's spirit did they get? To me, this indicates they are all more or less the same, and they are all more or less good to a certain extent.

However, only Alias is able to sing Finder's songs (that we know) and she woke up knowing how to fight. If this is so, why can't the other clones fight just as well as Alias and sing? Perhaps Phalse altered the process slightly to give them all different skills and slightly different personalities. Also, they did learn some skills when they awoke and various people taught them things. For instance Flattery taught Cat magic and Olive helped Jade become a better thief.

In the end, KN/JG did something right because we are still talking about it many years later.

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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1838 Posts

Posted - 06 Aug 2019 :  07:58:39  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Cassana… well, she made a somewhat younger clone of herself and dressed her up in armor that was revealing enough to require jumping through extra hoops to compensate with enchantment.
That's near the high end of "unsubtle" scale, IMO.

quote:
Originally posted by gylippus


However, only Alias is able to sing Finder's songs (that we know) and she woke up knowing how to fight. If this is so, why can't the other clones fight just as well as Alias and sing?

Because they didn't quite get to the part of this process where "innate" skills would be given?

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Lord Karsus
Great Reader

USA
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Posted - 21 Aug 2019 :  01:49:32  Show Profile  Send Lord Karsus an AOL message Send Lord Karsus a Private Message  Reply with Quote
-A lot of villains in earlier novels were kind of one-dimensional, or more "stereotypically mustache twirling" rather than dynamic. It's been many, many years, but I remember this series kind of being more of the former rather than the latter.

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Seravin
Senior Scribe

Canada
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Posted - 21 Aug 2019 :  12:56:20  Show Profile Send Seravin a Private Message  Reply with Quote
It is still among my favorite Realms' novels (if not my fave) so I don't think it overly suffers from a few of the villains having poor motivations. Arguably Moander and Alias' faulty past/memories are the main antagonists of the book, and Moander's motivations are clear and strong for what he and his followers tried to do. Moander was used in video games, future novels and remains relevant after this book.

While Cassana, Zrie and Phalse don't really rate as memorable villains in Realms lore I think because they lack strong and meaningful motivations for their actions in the book. The Fire Knives had a decent motivation I guess for being involved in her creation, but JG/KN didn't give them a face or voice in the book by having a guild master represent them, so they kind of fell flat. Mist was more of an anti-hero than a villain in the book, but I did love her too!


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