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Glacier's Edge: A Detailed Analysis

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Neutrals

In this section, I will discuss the elements of Glacier’s Edge that aren’t intrinsically good or bad. These consist of new characterizations and lore introduced by the book. 

First, Jarlaxle’s wondrous hat appears to have gained a new function. In combination with his portable hole, the mercenary leader was able to utilize this new function to avoid being trapped in an icy tomb at the end of Starlight Enclave. We weren’t given details about how he’d managed to escape that fate in the previous book, but we were able to infer based on how we’ve seen him use his portable hole in the past that Jarlaxle laid it down to literally make a hidey-hole from the storm. Glacier’s Edge confirms this, as well as showing us a new feature of his hat:

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This is no mundane umbrella, and not the least because it spends most of its time as a fashionable chapeaux. Apparently, in its umbrella form, the hat can withstand quite a lot of weight. Certainly, this newest function comes at an awfully convenient time, but this is Jarlaxle we’re talking about, and he’s already got so many magical gadgets for every occasion that an additional one hardly causes one to bat an eye. As far as Salvatore-invented magical items go, it’s also not all that ridiculous, so it’s just another feature to add to Jarlaxle’s long list of possessions.

It seems that the canonical appearance of drow is different now. Although they’ve often been portrayed with gray skin by both official and fan artists, prior to the uncovering of the aevendrow, drow have always been described as having black skin, or synonyms of black like ebony and obsidian. They’ve also often been explicitly stated as coal-black. That description is different now:

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The unnamed woman in the passage above is Dab’nay, and although we haven’t been explicitly told what her skin color was before, shades of gray were never mentioned for drow by Salvatore prior to the recent drow updates. It doesn’t matter either way, but it’s noteworthy that he’s employing this change.

Aevendrow official stats haven’t been released yet as of this point. It is curious to me though that at least in Glacier’s Edge, it seems that aevendrow do not possess darkvision, or even lowlight vision:

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As always, I’d like to play Devil’s Advocate, so let’s examine the above passage from the perspective that what we see here does not necessarily indicate that aevendrow do not have darkvision. Assuming that aevendrow can see in total darkness like their Lolthite brethren can, it’d be a lot less likely for an aevendrow to be afraid of the dark, which Allefaero is exhibiting not only with the squeezing shut of his eyes, but also the description of the darkness “closing in”. When we feel something closing in, the sensation comes from either a literal physical restriction of the space around us, or what feels like such, as caused by a restriction of our ability to see. A creature that can see in darkness would not experience this feeling of being closed in anymore than we would feel that way standing outside under a wide open sky. Assuming that the timid Allefaero is afraid of the dark despite being able to see in it, Galathae certainly isn’t timid, and the darkness is described as closing in about both of them, not just the scared young wizard. 

More telling than that though regarding aevendrow not having darkvision is that Galathae measures their position based on what she feels, not what she sees. The only reason for a creature to rely more on their senses other than sight is if those other senses are more powerful than their sight, and while drow have better senses than humans, we’ve never been given any indication that their other senses are more keen than their sight. Furthermore, Galathae has to feel about her belt to find the lantern instead of just looking down to find it. The fact that she brought the lantern is pretty conclusive evidence that they can’t see in the dark, but perhaps Allefaero is a darkvision-blind individual among aevendrow and the lantern is for his sake. However, this possibility also falls away when we’re told that Galathae only sees things that are glowing, rather than the shades of gray melding into colors where there are light sources, which she would’ve perceived if she had darkvision. It is thus safe to infer that Galathae cannot see in the dark. 

Of course, it is always possible that only Galathae and Allefaero do not have darkvision among the aevendrow, but setting aside how stupid it would be to send two individuals like that into a dark space instead of pairing each with someone who has darkvision no matter how formidable they are, all the other aevendrow teams are similarly equipped, namely, with light sources. All of them need a light in order to conduct a proper investigation of the cave, which they would not need had they darkvision. It is the case that darkvision only allows seeing in shades of gray and that illumination is necessary for seeing color, but the shades of gray of darkvision do not omit any details, it would be the same as looking at a scene under sharp light but without hues. It's worth noting that this is distinctly different from how real life low-light goggles work. Most of the earlier generations of modern light intensification systems required significant training to use successfully as they suffered from issues with edge definition, fine detail, depth perception, and dependence upon moon-reflected infrared radiation. Darkvision is magical in nature, allowing it to not suffer from any of these issues and allows for crisp, clear and easily usable vision. 

Galathae and Allefaero are delving into very dangerous territory, one in which a light would draw unwanted attention to themselves. Logically, they’d only use a light if they can’t see without it, which indeed seems to be the case, further backed by the description of what happens once they uncover their light:

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This passage summarily describes the experience of a creature that can’t see in the dark suddenly having their surroundings revealed with light. The position that I took while playing Devil’s Advocate does not hold; aevendrow, or at least Galathae and Allefaero, do not have darkvision. That being said, it’s very likely that they’re not the only two that are that way, as many similar aevendrow exploration teams are being sent into similar caves. 

So, why would aevendrow have lost their darkvision? Perhaps you’re thinking, millennia of differentiation and evolution away from their Underdark counterparts ridded them of the necessity for darkvision. There is validity to that, however non-drow elves have darkvision, and they spend all of their time on the surface world. One could argue that surface elves have darkvision because it’s helpful at nighttime, but the thing is, darkvision under nighttime makes the world look like a colorless version of the world in daytime, with it being painfully bright on cloudless nights. Darkvision is overkill even for fully overcast nights, yet non-drow elves still have it, so it’s pretty odd that aevendrow do not. In fact, it’d make even less sense for them to have evolved out of it while their surface cousins did not, since we’re told that where the aevendrow live, there are entire seasons in which the sun does not rise. Sure, they’ve got the Merry Dancers, but those would be hidden by the numerous ice storms that the region also experiences, and it’s questionable whether aurora borealis would be brighter than Selûne and all of its tears, as well as a night sky full of stars. It could just be something that Salvatore overlooked, as Jarlaxle apparently also lost his darkvision (which I will go into more detail about later). It’s hard to say at this point and too soon to tell for sure, we will have to see when WotC releases official stat blocks for aevendrow.

The final new piece of new neutral impact lore that I’d like to discuss is some new attributes being given to remorhazes, also known as polar worms:

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We find out pretty early in the trilogy that polar worms play a big part in the aevendrow storyline, so it’s no wonder that they’re being discussed. However, the passage above also tells us how Callidae will have to open its doors to outsiders from the south lands. It’s very much a having their hands forced situation, as it’s either let out the secret of their existence or have no reason for that secret to exist. They might not know how to deal with excruciating heat, but a people who, oh, I don’t know, literally live with an active volcano that houses a fire primordial, certainly might.

Going back to polar worms, the mentioned information about them does not correlate to what’s been written about them in both the D&D sourcebooks and other official publications. There’s never been any indication that the remorhaz can age and develop without eating for decades. There’s also no precedent for them being able to eat or chew crystals. Up until this book, polar worms are known to prey upon other arctic creatures that shared their environments, such as elk and polar bears. In fact, its hunting tactic is adapted to the acquisition of live prey, as stated in the 5e Monster Manual: “When hunting, a remorhaz burrows deep below the snow and ice and lies in wait for the faint vibrations created by a creature moving above it. While hidden under the ice and snow, it can lower its body temperature so that it doesn’t melt its cover.” The changes introduced by Salvatore seem unlikely, as that would be quite the elaborate adaptation for a creature that doesn’t need to eat for decades, or one that can sustain itself on crystals. However, fundamentally, it’s not a huge deal, and it’s an observation made by a member of a group of people who haven’t had much direct chance of studying a living remorhaz, so it can be written off easily enough as an unreliable narrator’s words.

There is no existing lore about the relatedness of remorhazes and dragons. Dragons can indeed go decades without eating, as there is precedence of dragons slumbering for very long periods of time without waking up to eat. There isn’t much information about whether dragons can grow and develop without sustenance, but given the wide multitude of things that dragons are capable of, that hardly seems like something they wouldn’t be able to do. The lack of previous indication about remorhazes and dragons being related is not challenged here, as the statement is an impromptu hypothesis from Allefaero that we never hear about again. Hopefully it stays that way.

Polar worms making a sound similar to a cat’s purr when they’re chewing or eating also doesn’t have any precedence in existing lore. It is yet another minor factoid that can be attributed easily enough to an unreliable narrator, as Allefaero states they’ve “been known to” rather than testifying to hearing the sound himself. Furthermore, even if the sound does in fact exist, different people often interpret the same sound in different contexts, what sounds like a purr to one person can very well sound like a growl to another.

Although Allefaero’s mention of polar worms “training” their teeth on crystals is presented with a greater degree of certainty than the mention of their purring, this behavior is also one that he has not personally observed. There is, yet again, no precedence in existing lore about whether remorhaz teeth grow continuously, and if they do, whether they grow like rodent teeth or like shark teeth. Rodents do have to chew hard objects to keep their teeth from becoming too long if their normal diet does not do the job, however it is rare for their teeth to fall out. Sharks, on the other hand, grow new teeth to replace ones that have fallen out as a result of getting stuck in their prey. Allefaero likens the remorhaz to both rodents and sharks, which, like much of Salvatore’s attempts to sound deep, doesn’t make a whole lot of sense when one puts some thought into it. As I doubt that we’d get an official answer from him about how remorhaz teeth regrowth works, I’d guess that, based on what’s presented in Glacier’s Edge, that a remorhaz’s existing teeth grows continuously like a rodent’s so that they would have to chew hard objects, like crystals, to keep them from growing so long that they stab themselves in the mouth, but at the same time they also grow back lost teeth like sharks do if they lose their teeth from getting them stuck in their prey. While it is true that all of this is stuff that feels like it was made up on the spot to make the plot work, it’s not the most ridiculous thing that Salvatore has done.

All in all, the information discussed in this section are entries that should go into character and creature bibles that the author himself doesn’t seem to keep.