One more thing I wanted to mention with reference to Chapter 23 - as I said earlier, I had a lot a fun with this chapter. On page 127, the reader gets, perhaps, their first hint that things between Toad and Nibel have changed. Book Two will expand on this but for now, we have to be content with the just the beginnings of some tension and perhaps a foreshadowing of what is to come. After Dromian decides to end her relationship with Nibel (found on page 126) Nibel detects that Toad is having second thoughts about his service his master. Dromian, of course, brings up a number of moralistic concerns as to her employment with the dwarf, the most pressing is that the drink that Nibel gave his three scouts is causing them harm (actually poisoning them) Nibel seems unconcerned. His goal is to find the Hunter diary and thus gain information about the 8 Laws of Understanding.
Toad, of course, is thinking things over. Although I didn't go into too much detail about this from Toad's perspective, that is what is going on. Nibel, despite his foolish antics at times, is still of relatively sound mind and still quite ruthless in his quest to gain access to the Laws. So here are a couple of paragraphs to illustrate what I was trying to express.
Nibel paused before replying. He studied his faithful servant for a moment or two. Regardless of his frequent childish and often bizarre behavior, deep down inside, Nibel was no fool. He was uncertain as to what might be happening with Toad.
"Now you listen to me, Toadling. I was the one the rescued you from your miserable life in the bowels of the Underworld. By my alchemy, I gave you intelligence and reason and grew you to the size you are today. My experiments have prolonged your life, as they have mine. You are alive because of me. You would have died a pitiful Toadling death surrounded by the tortured spirits of the Underworld if it were not for me. Now you hear me well. If you want to leave, go. I will not stop you. But you should know, you will be dead in less than a fortnight without my serum. If you choose to stay, remember this. You belong to me and you will do what I say. Is that understood?"
Toad looked up in the tree and beyond into the sky where Dromian had once been. He then looked back at the dwarf. "If it pleases you, Commander, I'll see to Muspell." But the words were just slightly different. The tone was not quite the same as before.
This, of course, talks about ownership of another, slavery really!!! But even more heinous than that, is a dependency that accompanies the ownership. Toad needs Nibel's serum to stay alive as a "grown up Toad." If he walks away from Nibel, he will die in a relatively short period of time ( a fortnight)
To stay with Nibel, however, means a rather sick dependent existence in which he is forced to participate in one attempt after another in the quest to find the 8 Laws of Understanding.
To leave, then, means a greatly shortened life but one that is based on moral courage and a decision to invite decency and altruism into his life. Of course, this is a long standing set of human conditions that has been played out down through history.
So I had fun with this in the development of the Toad / Nibel relationship.