This is the DREADED MIDDLE BOOK of the trilogy. And young master Robert Paul Williams has left the appearance that the forces of “good” are in a heap o’ trouble, with King Elias defeating or beating most of his enemies:
- the heads of Nabban and Hernystir are dead;
- Naglimund has been taken down by Norns, leaving Josua and a scant few knights (with women, one old jester and a historian!) running through the forest, and
- even though Simon smote the dragon down (good lyric for a rock song) and got Thorn, the sword they were looking for, Binabik and Sludig are prisoners of the trolls.
Tad dug a big hole indeed.
This book also moves its perspective around much more than The Dragonbone Chair, where of the 44 Chapters, 41 of them featured Simon. In this second book, the perspectives of Miriamele, Prince Josua and his group, Duke Isgrimnur, Maegwin and even King Elias get an opportunity to be the focal point.
The introductory post is here, if you are interested.
The re-read post for part I, Simon Mooncalf is here.
The re-read post for part II, Simon Pilgrim is here.
The re-read post for part III, Simon Snowlock is here.
This second book is 727 pages – paperback. Part One: Storm’s Eye goes from page 3 to 260.
A note on the obvious: if you have not read the book, since this describes said book…here there be spoilers!
Even after you read the re-read, I highly recommend reading the books and Tad’s words. Click on the covers below to find them on Amazon.
Foreword: Brother Hengfisk makes it to Naglimund from St. Holdenrud, and gets properly greeted by the Norns. Tad likes it when the smart mouth know-it-all monk gets his!
Chapter 1: The Music of High Places - Simon awakens (and, I note here for the record, that many of these chapters start with Simon awakening. Either the boy sleeps a lot or he gets knocked around a lot; probably a bit of both) in a cave, weakened after getting spewed with dragons blood after he smote the dragon down (yeah, liked it, used it twice). Binabik and Sludig are in a hole prison, and Jiriki is ready to leave. We learn a bit about Jiriki’s place in the Sitha world:
“I have no right or power to make the Qanuc do anything. Also, I have other responsibilities and duties you cannot understand. I only stayed as long as I have because I wanted to see you on your feet once more. My Uncle Khendraja’aro has long since returned to Jao é Tinukai’i, and my duties to my house and my kin compel me to follow.”
“Compel you? But you’re a prince!”
The Sitha shook his head. “That word is not the same in our speech as it is in yours, Seoman. I am of the reigning house but I order no one and rule no one. Neither am I ruled, fortunately – except in certain things and at certain times. My parents have declared that this is such a time.” (pg 6)
Simon, Haestan and Jiriki go to a meeting of the Qanuc/trolls at the Ice House (Chidsik Ub Lingit, the House of the Ancestor; when they said Ice House I thought beer and pool) where they address (or at least Jiriki does, since he is the only one of the three that speaks the language) the “Herdsman and Huntress of the Qanuc”, Uammannaq and Nunuuika. Jiriki requests a delay in Binabik’s trial for the “terrible crime” he has committed for two days so that Simon can recover enough to speak on Binabik and Sludig’s behalf.
Chapter 2: Masks and Shadows - Prince Josua, Sir Deornoth, Isorn and the others are retreating through Aldheorte Forest, pursued by Norns. Their group includes Vorzheva, Gurtrun (Isorn’s mother and Duke Isgrimnur’s wife), the Rimmersman Einskaldir, plus Towser and Sangfugol…and others that are wounded and/or dying. One of the knights, Ostrael, comes crashing through the forest, and Einskaldir quickly identifies that he is dead, possessed by one of the Red Hand Norns who would have killed them in their sleep.
Miriamele and Cadrach have found a ship and are almost to Perdruin, still unaware of all that has happened (to see where Perdruin is, see the very cool map here; you can click on the image to zoom in). There is quite a bit of back and forth between them, where first Miri trusts Cadrach, and then she does not. Cadrach is, as stated before, obviously more than he seems. They are making their way through Ansis Pelippé, the capital, during the Midsummer Festival, only to be threatened by a costumed “Death” with a knife, and take before Count Streáwe, Perdruin’s master.
Chapter 3: Oath Breaker – Simon is rousted out of the cave (and slumber again!) by Qantaqa, whom he has briefly forgotten (how could he?). Qantaqa leads him to the hole that Sludig and Binabik are in. Binabik will not speak out of despair, and Sludig thanks him and tells him he was “very brave on the mountain.”
Jiriki has to leave. Simon comes up with a plan (which ends up being that Binabik, who won’t speak, is honor bound to speak because he is the only one that can translate after Jiriki leaves).
Jiriki gives Simon the mirror from the scale of the Great Worm as a gift.
Binabik’s trial, and why he is twice called Oath Breaker: one – because he did not return to perform a ritual that his master traditionally performs (and obviously could not) (“the singing man Ookekkuq did not appear at the Ice House on the Winter Lastday, as has been the law of our people since Sedda gave us these mountains”) and two – because he abandoned Sisqinanamonk, youngest daughter of the Huntress, after proposing marriage (Binabik, you sly troll you!).
Just as he is speaking for Binabik (telling what they were really doing) Simon gets a vision from Geloë that tells him to seek out the Stone of Farewell.
Chapter 4: A Bowl of Calamint Tea – Guthwulf, the King’s Hand, begins to recognize that everything has changed with the end of the siege of Naglimund and how it was accomplished. King Elias is irritated that more people did not show on his victorious return.
“Of course,” the earl repeated, “but our…allies…were bound to cause rumors.”
Elias turned to Pryrates. The king’s pale brow was furrowed, as though he were genuinely puzzled. “We have acquired mighty friends, have we not, Pryrates?”
The priest nodded silkily. “Mighty friends, Majesty.”
“And yet they have served our will, have they not? They have done what we wished done?”
“To the exact length of your intent, King Elias,” Pryrates shot a glance at Guthwulf. “They have done your will.”
King Elias is clueless.
Miri is with Count Streáwe, who keeps her as a guest/prisoner. A “religious friend” to whom the Count is in debt does not wasn’t Miri and Cadrach to go to Nabban just yet. So he keeps them in one of his houses. After she had been there a week, the Count tells her of the death of Duke Leobardis, making Benigaris the leader of Nabban. Three days later he tells her of the fall of Naglimund, though the story is that there were no survivors.
Those survivors are still in the forest. Prince Josua’s group numbers only nine. Deornoth determines that the Norns most certainly could have captured them by now, and they determine that they are being herded, attacked only when they move in a particular direction. Josua takes them that way, deeper into the forest, and the Norns attack, with Deornoth fighting and wounding one.
Miri and Cadrach are released and sent by boat to Nabban to the man the Count owes.
Chapter 5: Singing Man’s House – As Simon and Haestan try to determine how to rescue Binabik and Sludig, Sisqinanamook, who called Binabik oath breaker, asks them to help her rescue him. Troll love runs deep!!! They get Sludig out of the hole, and Sisqi must convince Binabik to come out, saying that Simon’s story about the world changing events they were doing rang true. Simon convinces Binabik that they cannot find the Stone of Farewell without him. They head to Binabik’s master’s cave to get maps and documents which might help them determine what the Stone of Farewell actually is (besides the name of a good second book).
They get to Ooqequk’s house and Qantaqa the wolf is guarding it, greeting Binabik like a long lost friend. They search through the Singing Man’s collection of documents, taking some, and Sisqi finds one tied with the Singing Man’s knot, signifying a document of some significance. As they are leaving, they are stopped by a large party of troll guards, including the Herdsman and the Huntress (who happen to be Sisqi’s parents; star-crossed lovers they are).
The knot signifies that it is Ooqequk’s “death testament and the Herdsman opens it and reads aloud:
I must warn those who remain after me that I have seen the coming of a great cold darkness, the like of which my people have never seen. It is a dreadful winter that will come from the shadow of Vihyuya, the mountain of the immortal cloud children.It will blast the lands of Yiqanuc like a black wind from the lands of the dead, cracking the very stone of our mountain in cruel fingers.
My student, Binbiniqegabinik, I will bring with me on my journey. In the time that remains I will instruct him in the small things and long stories that may help our people in this foul time. There are other ones beyond Yiqanuc who have prepared lamps against this coming darkness. I got to add my light to theirs, small as it may shine against the storm that threatens. If I cannot return, young Binbiniqegabinik will come in my stead. I ask that you honor him as you would me, for he is eager in his learning. One day, he may grow to be a greater Singing Man than I. (pg 111)
This convinces the trolls to release them, and send them on their mission, with a guard of trolls led by Sisqi. They give them all parting gifts, giving Simon “a humble Qanuc knife”. And now his ensemble is complete with the cover of this book. Simon has his White Arrow, the sword Thorn, the mirror, his knife from the trolls…and where the heck is the blue scarf from Miriamele? And where do all the butterflies come in? As with the cover from The Dragonbone Chair, this awesome cover is from Michael Whelan.
Chapter 6: The Nameless Dead – Lady Maegwin decides to move her people further back into the caves, with her advisors thinking her just a bit mad.
Guthwulf sees the Hayholt changing, different rooms and walls. He goes to talk to Elias, hears someone with him in addition to Pryrates, and glimpses “a smear of white face.” When he goes to confront them, only Pryrates is there.
Ingen Jegger, who apparently cannot be killed, makes his way to Stormspeak, to silver-masked Utuk’ku, Queen of the Norns. He asked to be killed for his failure, but she invades his mind, painfully pulling out what she needs. She gives him back his hounds helm and his name, putting him in a deep sleep to rest, telling him “…this time I will give to you a quarry such as no mortal as ever hunted.”
The Norn that Deornoth fought in Chapter 3 is apparently not dead. Josua tries to interrogate it, to learn why the Norns haven’t killed them. The Norn only tells them that “his fellows discovered all that we need to know” and “Your time – the time for all mortals, shifty and annoying as insects – is nearly over.” Einskaldir squishes the Norns head with his axe and they bury it. Josua believe that the Norns were trying to determine if they had any of the two swords that Elias does not have, and takes heart in that knowledge.
Chapter 7: Spreading Fires – Miriamele calls Cadrach a traitor and pushes him off the dingy into the water. She is convinced that he sold her to the Count and thus to whomever they are heading to meet. Miri has some despair, knowing that she can go home to Meremund, knowing that her father the King has “let such ugliness loose on the land.”
The person who has been controlling the Count turns out to be Father Dinivan, who works for the Lector, the head of the church. He too recognizes Cadrach as Padreic, whom he thought was dead. He tells her that Padreic and Dinivan were “…members of the same…order, I suppose you would say.”
Which leads me to think they both are (or in Padreic’s case, were) members of the League of the Scroll.
Supposedly there are seven in the League of the Scroll:
- Erkynland rep – Morgenes (now dead)
- Qanuc rep – Ooqequk (now dead) – passed his scroll and quill to Binabik
- Rimmersman rep – Jonauga (now dead) – passed his scroll and quill to Father Strangeyeard
- Warannamen rep – Tiamak
- Church rep – Father Dinivan
- unknown (I suspect Pryrates used to be a member, but wouldn’t they replace him?)
- unknown (I suspect Cadrach/Padreic, but, again, wouldn’t they replace him?)
Dinivan brings Miriamele up to date on some of the fun facts: Josua is still alive (but he doesn’t know with whom) and Benegaris actually killed his father Duke Leobardis to take his throne (and throw in with Elias).
A brief side track to Tiamak, who is asked/ordered by the elders of the Wrannamen to make the long journey to Nabban to express their extreme displeasure to Benegaris who is following King Elias’ lead and taxing them more and more. He has not heard back from birds he sent to Morgenes or Ooqequk (for reasons obvious to us readers but not to him). As his is getting ready for his long journey by releasing his birds (no one will be able to feed them in their cages) he finds one dead in the back of the cage, with a note from “his wise friend in Nabban” (who I assume is Father Dinivan, though he is not mentioned by name) asking him to go to the inn they have spoken of in Kwanitupul. It is signed with the symbol of the League of the Scroll. Tiamak has to decide between doing what the Elders ask and doing what the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen and Trolls asks.
Another brief look in on Duke Isgrimnur, who is still following Miriamele, has made his way to Perdruin, where he is met by the same men who work for the Count. After punching one of them in the nose, they take him to see the Count.
Miri, Father Dinivan and Cadrach get into the town of Granis Sacrana on their way to the Sancellan Aedonitis (the Church HQ). They are almost kept out by the guards warning of Fire Dancers. They see the Fire Dancers talking of the Storm King coming, and being in their dreams…and then the Fire Dancers set themselves aflame.
Chapter 8: On Sikihoq’s Back – Simon evolves. Not just because he is growing up, but probably because of his unrevealed heritage mixed in with the things he has seen.
But moments like that were not what the dragon had brought him. Pondering as he waited for his damp gloves to dry, he looked to Binabik and Sisqi, saw the way they touched even when they did not touch, the long conversations that passed between the two of them in the shortest of glances. Simon realized that he felt and saw things differently than he did before Urmsheim. People and events seemed more clearly connected, each part of a much larger puzzle – just as Binabik and Sisqi were. They cared deeply for each other, but at the same time their world of two interlocked with many other worlds; with Simon’s own, with their people’s, with Prince Josua’s and Geloë’s…It was really quite startling, Simon thought, how everything was part of something else! But though the world was vast beyond comprehension, still every mote of life in it fought for its continued existence. And every mote mattered. (pg 175)
It’s the Force, Simon! Use the Force! Wait…didn’t that come decades after this book?
Binabik determines where the Stone of Farewell is…it is the “Leavetaking Stone”, Sesuad’ra. It was once part of the Sithi city Enki-e-Shao’Saye, the Summer City of the Sithi, which Jiriki showed to Simon in the mirror he gave Simon as a present.
Since Sesuad’ra is toward the south part of the forest, they continue trudging down the mountains in the snow. The winter is getting harsher, a present from the Storm King they assume.
And either because the Storm King is pushing south, or because the feel the pull of the sword Thorn, Giants follow the trolls and men out of the mountains and attack them. The Giants kill Haestan, who has been training Simon since Naglimund, shortly after he saves Simon from a giant’s club swing. Simon returns the favor by stabbing a giant in the back as it attacks Sludig, then jumping on it and stabbing it in the neck with a knife when the darn thing just won’t die.
“This is the first day in a thousand years that Qanuc and Utku – troll and lowlander – have been fighting at each other’s side, have been blooded together and have fallen together.” (pg 200)
Chapter 9: Cold and Curses – Geloê and Leleth find Josua and his band being herded by the Norns. She tells them once they cross the hill in front of them the Norns/ Hikeda’ya will no longer be able to follow (because on the other side is Sitha land). They walk through what used to be the ancient river of Re’Suri’eni which carried goods from Da’ai Chikiza (the city Simon, Binabik and Miri row to in Chapter 27 of The Dragonbone Chair) to Asua (the Hayholt).
“This was a fairy river?” Isorn’s attention had been wandering. Now, startlement on his broad face, he peered around as though the streambed itself might exhibit signs of treachery.
“Idiot!” Geloë said scornfully. “Yes it was a fairy river. This entire land was – as you put it – a fair country. What sort of creatures do you think pursue you?”
“I….I knew that,” Isorn muttered abashed. “But I had not thought of it that way. Their arrows and swords were real, that was all I could think of.”
“As were the arrows and swords of your ancestors, Rimmersmanne, which accounts for some of the bad blood between your folk and theirs. The difference is though King Fingil’s reavers killed many Sithi with their blades of black iron, Fingil and your other ancestors at last aged and died. The Children of the East do not die – at least, not in such a time as you can understand – and neither do they forget old wrongs. If they are old, they are all the more patient for it.” (pg 207)
The Norns close in and Einkinsaldor runs ahead with his torch as a distraction, leading them all into the river bed which goes under the hill but getting an arrow in the back for his trouble. Deornoth is also wounded.
The narrative returns to Rachael the head of the maids in the castle. She thinks Simon died in the fire that killed Morgenes four months ago and still mourns him. She sees Pryrates and a plan begins to form in her mind.
Geloë tells Josua of her contact with Simon and her suggestion to go to the Stone of Farewell. She reminds them that pursuing the three swords is the only path they have. She also welcomed Father Strangeyeard into the League of the Scroll since Jarnauga gave his pendant to Strangeyeard.
Miriamele, Cadrach and Father Dinivan finally get to the Sancretum, with Cadrach and Dinivan arguing divinity and belief in Usires along the way. Dinivan takes Miri to speak with the Lector (head of the church) to whom she tells of her experiences. He informs her that Pryrates is coming for a visit but does not know that Miri is there.
Chapter 10: The Mirror – Simon is mourning Haestan and cursing the gods and feeling small against battling the Storm King. Binabik, as always provides counseling for his friend. These types of self-examination from Simon as he grows, asking questions that we all tend to ask ourselves from time to time, connects the reader to Simon, even though he is in a fantasy.
“…I thought it would be like a story. That we would find the sword and it would be a powerful weapon, that we would destroy our enemies and things would be right again. I didn’t think any more people would die! How could there be a God who would let good people die, no matter what they do?”
“Another question I cannot be answering.” Binabik smiled, but gently, mindful of Simon’s pain. “And I cannot be telling you what is right for belief. The truths that become our stories of gods are faraway in the past. Even the Sithi, who live for eons, do not know how the world began, or what began it – or at least not for certain, I am thinking. But I can tell you something important…”
The troll leaned forward, touching Simon’s arm, waiting until his young friend had raised his eyes from the moss once more. “Gods in the heaven or in the stone are distant, and we can guess only at what they intend.” He squeezed Simon’s forarm. “But you and I, we are living in a time when a god walks the earth once more. He is not a god who intends kindness. Men may fight and die, they may build walls and break stone, but Ineluki has died and come back: that is something no one else has ever been doing, not even your Usires Aedon. Forgive me, because I am not meaning blasphemy, but is not what Ineluki has done a thing like a god can do?” Binabik gave Simon a little shake, staring into his eyes. “He is jealous and terrible, and the world he can make will be a terrible place. We are having a task of great fear and very great difficulty, Simon – it may even be that there is no possibility of succeeding – but it is not a task we can be fleeing.”
Simon tore his gaze from Binabik’s. “That’s what I said. How do you fight a god? We’ll be crushed like ants.” Another stone went flying out into the darkness.
“Perhaps. But if we are not trying, then there is no chance of anything but this antlike crushing, so we must try. There is always something beyond even the worst of bad times.We may die, but the dying of some may mean living for others. That is not much to cling to, but it is a true thing in any case.” (pg 242-243)
Sludig decides to take up Simon’s training. Simon also contemplates the riddle of the three swords.
Whether because of the changes wrought by the dragon’s blood (see the above quote in Chapter 8), or through some heritage of his parents that has not yet been revealed, Simon sees many things in Jiriki’s mirror. He is able to easier see the Dream Road than other mortals. Simon, missing his friends, decides to try and use Jiriki’s mirror to see Miri again. Instead he stumbles into Amerasu of the Sithi, searching for someone.
“I come to you a second time. Do not ignore me again! Please forget your ancient grievances, however justified. Ill will has stood too long between our house and that of Ruyan Vé.Now we have a common enemy. I need your help!”
Ancient grievances? The Ruyan Veé must be the third house (in addition to the Norns and Sithi) that was mentioned by Jiriki. Then Amerasu senses Simon, as does an enemy.
“You are traveling in places not meant for you,” the voice said. “You do not belong here. Who are you?”
A new voice spoke, harsh and chilling.
“Who is he? He is a meddler, Amerasu.”
The first face was now entirely gone. A gleam of silver swam upward through the mirror’s grey depths. A face appeared, all gleaming metal, expressionless and immobile. He had seen that face on the Dream Road and had felt the same sense of dread. He knew the name: Utuk’ku, Queen of the Norns. Try as he might to look away, he could not. He was held in an unshakable grip. Utuk’ku’s eyes were invisible in the mask’s black depths, but he felt their stare on his face like freezing breath.
The manchild is a meddler. Each word came sharp and cold as an icicle. As are you, granddaughter. And meddlers will not prosper when the Storm King comes…” (pg 251-252)
Simon, Sludig, Binabik and the trolls reach the place where the trolls will stay and the other three will depart to take the sword Thorn to the Stone of Farewell.
Here is a link to the next post in the re-read.