In the Court of the Dragon Emperor

Author: pandemonium_213

Nominator: Russandol

2011 Award Category: Other Beings: General - First Place

Story Type: Story  ✧  Length: Short Story

Rating: Teen  ✧  Reason for Rating: Sexual Content

Summary: The Dragon Emperor of Kithai lavishes rich and tempting gifts upon two Istari: Alatar and Pallando. Will the Blue Wizards succumb to the Son of Heaven's request?

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Reviewed by: Russandol  ✧  Score: 10

I love the fable style of this tale, full of details painting an exotic, unexpected backdrop for a tale set in the Tolkien world, but completely convincing as a very recognisable historic setting in our primary world. I would have doubted it was possible to succeed at creating a tale of the Istari in ancient China, but pandemonium_213 pulls it off as though it were the most natural thing in the world and the Blue Wizards did indeed stand before the Dragon Emperor, but Tolkien just forgot to record it. The descriptions are so vivid that it's easy to imagine the smell of the camelias and spices of the far east, and to picture the lavish, tempting gifts paraded before the wizards: glittering treasures and lovely concubines (plus unnecessary remedies to enjoy their company!) I particularly admire the flavour of this story as a tale taken out of ancient teachings recorded in a remote land, a tale that the philosopher Lao Tzu (quoted as having spoken Pallando's words) could have narrated or written himself. The nature of the test is not perceived by Alatar so that, watching the scene through his eyes, I also fear for his head for an instant. I am intrigued by the hint of a background story to explain the contrast between the struggling Alatar and the serene Pallando, and I hope to see it written in more one day soon.

Reviewed by: Virtuella  ✧  Score: 10

Dear Pande, I am probably not alone in fandom to wish there were more stories about Alatar and Pallando. The mysterious mention of those two blue wizards in a mere half sentence has tickled my fancy for a long time. I was very glad therefore to find a story about them written by your capable hand, and I was by no means disappointed with what I read. Skilfully you weave in just enough hints to give us an idea of how the two blue wizards live in the unknown East, without getting bogged down with too much technical detail. It is a fascinating picture which stirs the wish to find out more. The scene you describe, the lushness and luxury of the court and of the gifts on offering, are beautifully rendered in a vivid and sensory way. I was particularly struck with the image of the (lacquered, I imagine?) box with the red and golden chrysanthemums. That was beautiful exotic and oriental and very charming in its simplicity, and oh, how lovely it would be to own such a box! The content of the box, of course, can be filed under “things the world doesn’t need,” lol. The end of the story is pleasantly surprising, convincing and very much in keeping with the context. A most excellent story, a true gem, which I very much enjoyed.

Reviewed by: elfscribe  ✧  Score: 10

Pandemonium's story "In the Court of the Dragon Emperor" packs so much into a short space that I feel I've read a piece of a much larger, fully-developed story. Like her story "The Man who Grew Tomatoes," she has taken characteristics of non-Western cultures and incorporated them into Middle-earth in quite plausible ways. I loved the idea of the Blue Wizards, Alatar and Pallando going to visit the Dragon Emperor. ["the Son of Heaven and the Supreme Ruler of Kitai, a man who could order them beheaded at any moment."] With that ominous but attention-grabbing beginning, I'm pulled into Pandë's fragrant, colorful court scene, where Alatar is tugging on his figurative shirt-collar wondering if he's about to make a quick trip back to Mandos. I enjoyed the characterization of both wizards, Pallando the serene, athletic sage who seems to have an earthy appreciation for lovely women, and Alatar, who is more concerned with keeping his hröa intact. The dragon emperor tempts them with all manner of worldly riches, including a manticore bone with special properties that you'll need to read the story to discover. All these riches will be theirs if only the Blue Wizards will grant the emperor perpetual youth. Pallando's answer and the result give this story a sense of fairy-tale timelessness. Pandë promises another story about her Blue Wizards and I'm looking forward to it.

Reviewed by: Raksha the Demon  ✧  Score: 6

Pandemonium demonstrates here that she can write 'foreign' locales as convincingly as she writes more usually written locales of Middle-earth. This is a dandy little story of two rarely written Tolkien characters, the fascinating, mysterious Blue Wizards, and their meeting with the Emperor of a great eastern civilisation. This place is a proto-ancient China, called Kitai, its Emperor referred to as the Son of Heaven, a traditional title of the Emperor of China. I love the exotic feel of the place; the spices and scents and riches; and the commitment that the two wizards have to this part of Middle-earth. The last paragraph reveals that the Emperor is as wise, if not as old, as his two visitors; and forecasts a potentially very beneficial relationship between the Wizards and the lord of Kitai. It would be nice to see sequels to this story....

Reviewed by: Larner  ✧  Score: 6

Alatar and Pallando stand before the Son of Heaven, emperor of Kitai, and are having wealth they never dreamed of spread before their feet. It could all be theirs, if only they will share with the Emperor a single secret that he is certain they have in their possession. What will be his response once he realizes that they cannot give him the information he desires? Will they be beheaded and find themselves returning to Aman, and possibly to Namo’s halls, precipitously? The situation is displayed from Alatar’s point of view, with but the words of Pallando indicating his own take on the situation. Pandemonium has most skillfully woven into this short tale our-world philosophies and teachings of the far East, and I at least found myself wishing I, too, could visit this facinating and potentially dangerous court at the sides of the two blue Istari.

Reviewed by: Lyra  ✧  Score: 6

I read this story on a whim -- I can't remember seeing much fanfiction about Alatar and Pallando, so my interest was piqued -- and I'm glad I did! Pandemonium_213 paints a beautiful picture of the court of far-eastern Kitai and introduces a whole lot of interesting ideas about where the Blue Wizards may have been hanging out, adding a touch of Marco Polo to Tolkien's Legendarium. The allusions to Eastern philosophy and martial arts are delightful, as is the list of gifts offered to the two wizards in return for the secret of eternal youth. Tempting indeed! Fortunately, the Blue Wizards are wiser than certain other Maiar... and fortunately the Dragon Emperor turns out to be wiser than certain Númenorean Kings, too! I really enjoyed reading this - and I am grateful for the link to the awesome maps on the Lindefirion site, which I did not previously know!

Reviewed by: Adonnen Estenniel  ✧  Score: 5

In the Court of the Dragon Emperor is probably the most unique of the many responses to this prompt that I have read, and is by far my favorite. in this piece the author creates a lush and exotic scene, rich with detail and color; pandemonium's descriptive works is at its best here. And in addition to the wonderful setting, the featured characters are written splendidly. Instead of treated Alatar and Pallando as one entity, the same, the author highlights their differences, showing them to be separate, though united in purpose. A wonderful piece, certainly.

Reviewed by: Dreamflower  ✧  Score: 5

As always, pandemonium manages to open previously unseen vistas in Middle-earth and give us a glimpse of possibilities. Her depiction of the Blue Wizards here, (as two who did NOT fail in their mission, but merely had a different mission) is skillful, humorous and sly. I also love the glimpse of the Dragon Emperor's personality here, even though he is offstage. Clearly he is a wise man in his own right. I hope that this leads to more stories about Pallando and Alatar and their adventures-- especially the hinted-at adventures of Pallando...

Reviewed by: Linda Hoyland  ✧  Score: 4

What a fascinating idea that the blue wizards should visit a land akin to ancient China! This beautifully written story had the feel of an ancient legend as the Dragon Emperor tests the two blue wizards to see if they are genuine or the kind of fake magicians that must have been commonplace. I loved the way the personalities of the wizards were contrasted and their courage and dignity.

Reviewed by: SurgicalSteel  ✧  Score: 4

In this piece, the author uses Eastern legends from our primary world to create a really vivid look at what eastern Middle-earth may have been like. Her take on what Allatar and Pallando, the Blue Wizards, may have been like is quite different than what I've generally seen in fanfiction. It's a short piece, but rich enough in detail that it gives us a tantalizing look into an entire world. I hope to see more like this!

Reviewed by: Himring  ✧  Score: 4

Inventive and engrossing. I have always preferred the version that the Blue Wizards had a different task to do to the rather reductionist (and perhaps rather eurocentric) suggestion that they failed. What better setting for them than a Middle-Earth version of Cathay? These wizards seem to work well as a team, too, so that it makes sense that there should be a pair of the same colour.

Reviewed by: Oshun  ✧  Score: 4

Oh, my! I have just plain run out of time. I missed this one. The title says it all really--it's brilliantly creative like all the rest of your fiction. Ain't no other fanfic story that is going to be very similiar to it. I guess that is what entertains me the most about your stories. The depth and breadth of your imagination and your application of a lifetime of curiosity, experience, and knowledge is all used to flesh out your fiction. If you got it flaunt it. And you do have and you do flaunt it, in the best way imaginable.

Reviewed by: crowdaughter  ✧  Score: 3

This is an interesting and much different view at the two "lost" Istari, and one that is very interesting indeed. I would love to read more of their adventures in the east - this short piece is just rousing the appetites. Very well done!

Reviewed by: Liadan  ✧  Score: 2

This is a wonderful story. Short, clever and very insightful. There are many sorts of tests and temptations to be faced by all; hopefully they will be met with wisdom.

Reviewed by: Jael  ✧  Score: 2

Right down to the wire, I can't resist saying that I loved this story. It was so . . . different. This isn't the review it deserved, but I needed to say something. Excellent story!