THE DOOR STOP COMETH!!! This is a big book. In the original hardback it was one of the longest novels ever written. Thus, in turn, this is the longest re-read post in the history of re-read posts. And, of course, it needs to be, since there is a lot to wrap up and a lot of questions to be answered:
- Who is Simon really? Or, maybe better stated, what is his heritage? Hints no doubt pertain to the ring he wears that came from his mother.
- What do the three swords do together (besides supposedly stop the Storm King)?
- What happened in the Garden to make the Sithi, Norns and dwarrows/niskies travel across the sea to escape? What was this Unbeing? Did it have anything to do with them not sharing the secrets of near immortality with the dwarrows and niskies? This may be a subject for the next Osten Ard series.
- Ineluiki’s brother, Hakatri, has to play a roll in this…or maybe not. May be another Last King of Osten Ard character.
This is the first part of the re-read of To Green Angel Tower, Part 1, the third book in Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series.
The introductory post is here, if you are interested.
The re-read post for The Dragonbone Chair part I, Simon Mooncalf is here.
The re-read post for The Dragonbone Chair part II, Simon Pilgrim is here.
The re-read post for The Dragonbone Chair part III, Simon Snowlock is here.
The re-read post for Stone of Farewell part I, Storm’s Eye is here.
The re-read post for Stone of Farewell part II, Storm’s Hand is here.
The re-read post for Stone of Farewell part III, Storm’s Heart is here.
This third book (part 1) is 796 pages – paperback. Part One: The Waiting Stone goes from page 33 (after a good thorough “what has come before” section, which should be required of all authors of long series) to 512.
A note on the obvious: if you have not read the book, since this describes said book…here there be spoilers! And color commentary is in color (mostly in this color).
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: Guthwulf is in the King’s hall at a dinner. He feels the call of the King’s sword strongly. Sir Flurien is reporting back from a visit with Duke Benigaris, frustrating the King.
“I helped Benigaris to his throne, Aedon curse him! And I gave him a lector who would not interfere!”
This said, Elias paused. Guthwulf, alone of all the company, heard a sharp intake of breath from Pryrates, who was seated across from the blind earl.
The King’s words about the lectorship and Pryrates’ gasp of alarm echoed over and over in his mind. The others would no doubt assume that Elias referred to influencing the selection of the pliable Escritor Velligis to succeed Ranessin as lector – but Guthwulf knew better. Pryrates discomfiture when it seemed the King might say to much confirmed what Guthwulf had already half-suspected: Pryrates had arranged Ranessin’s death. And now Guthwulf felt sure that Elias knew it too – perhaps had even ordered the killing. The king and the counselor had made bargains with demons and had murdered God’s highest priest. (pg 27)
Guthwulf decides he must leave, but when the blind earl attempts it, he gets lost in the Hayholt as it shimmers between the past and the present.
Chapter 1: Under Strange Skies - Simon is at the Stone of Farewell and is going through the ritual to become a knight, spending a purposefully sleepless night at “The Observatory”. Simon is introspective (again, as always) and is thinking whether this is what it means to be a man:
Was that what growing up meant? Having lots of scars? He supposed it also meant learning from the wounds as well – but what could he learn from the sort of things that had happened to him during the last year? (pg. 36)
As always, he easily sees visions of the past, this time apparently of the breaking up of the Sithi and the Norns.
A Sitha woman in a sky blue robe leaned toward the table and deftly scribed in trails of finger-flame her own additions to the glowing thing. Her hair was blacker than shadow, blacker even than the night sky above Sesuad’ra, a great cloud of darkness around her head and shoulders. For a moment, Simon thought she might be a young Amerasu; but though there was much in this one that was like his memories of First Grandmother, there was much that was not.
Beside her stood a white-bearded man in a billowing crimson robe. Shapes that might have been pale antlers spouted from his brow, bringing Simon a pang of unease – he had seen something like that in other, more unpleasant dreams. The bearded man leaned forward and spoke to her, and she added a new swirl of fire to the design.
Although Simon could not see the dark woman’s face clearly, the one who stood across from her was all too plain. That face was hidden behind a mask of silver, the rest of her form beneath ice-white robes. As if in answer to the black-haired woman, the Norn Queen raised her arm and slashed a line of dull fire all the way across the construct, then waved her hand once more to lay a net of delicately smoking scarlet light over the outermost globe. A man stood beside her, calmly watching her every move. He was tall and seemed powerfully built, dressed all in spiky armor of obsidian black. He was not masked in silver or otherwise, but still Simon could see little of his features. (pg 41)
Simon is celebrated at a feast for Sir Seoman, and, among other gifts, his horse Homefinder is returned to him. Towards the end of the feast, it is announced that Count Eolair has arrived, and brings new information about the three swords.
Chapter 2: Chains of Many Kinds – I often do not pay much attention to the chapter titles in books I am reading. But most of the ones in this series are quite relevant and often clever, including this one. Miriamele on Aspitis ship, trapped and wrapped up in Aspitis’ charms. Cadrach gets the ship’s Niskie, Gan Itai to get a message to Miri warning her that A-spit-on-us is a creature of Pryrates…but there is nothing she can do.
Back in the Hayholt, Pryrates tries to talk King Elias out of sending Fengbald out after Josua, but the King insists. They have brief exchange as the King asks Pryrates what he gets out of all this…he gives the obvious answer “Power” , then tells the King the truth:
“I want to know everything. For that, I need power, which is a sort of permission. There are secrets so dark, so deep, that the only way to discover them is to tear open the Universe and root about in the very guts of Death and Unbeing.” (pg 67)
Maegwin, after sending Count Eolair away, tends to her people by judging disputes. She still feels finding the dwarrows in the underground city was a failure. She has a stone Count Eolair gave her that was a gift from Yis-fidri. One night she hears a message in her dreams, which tells her to Climb – Go to the High Place. Either gifted or nuttier that a Christmas fruit cake, she assumes this is a message from the Gods.
Miriamele goes to see Gan Itai, who explains that she knows Miri is the princess and not Lady Marya as she has claimed to be. She takes Miri through the sides of the ship to see chained-up Cadrach, who tells her to send a note to the inn called Pelippa’s Bowl. She learns a bit about the Niskies from Gan Itai, and returns to her room…only to have Aspitis come in, and proclaim that they will be married since they are already lovers.
“They bound Ruyan Ve’, did you know? The father of our people, the Great Navigator. When he would have taken the ships and set sail once more, they seized him in their anger and bound him in chains.” The Niskie rocked back and forth. “And then they burned the ships.” (pg 83)
Chapter 3: East of the World – The sword Thorn and Count Eolair have come to the Stone of Farewell. Simon, adjusting to being a knight, is included in the council. Eolair catches them up on what has been happening with Hernystir, and tells them of the dwarrows they have found. He also tells them what the dwarrows revealed: that King John’s sword Bright-nail is actually Minneyar (the third sword Memory).
“The passage that troubled Jarnauga so, the passage from Morgenes’ book! It told how John went down to face the dragon – but he carried a spear! A spear! Oh goodness, how blind we were!” The old priest giggled like a young boy. “But when he came out, it was with Bright-Nail!” (pg 101)
Eolair also brought them maps of the tunnels and burrows under the Hayholt, copied from the dwarrows’ stone walls.
Pryrates visits the water wheel and iron works, deep under the castle, guarded by Norns (Norns in the Hayholt!). The water wheel is connected to chains that go up in the darkness, toward Pryrates workroom. Inch is the foreman, and Pryrates gives him work to be completed.
A quick look-in on Duke Isgrimnur, still in Kwanitupul, with no luck in getting Camaris to speak, let alone remember who he is.
Simon, Jeremias and Leleth are searching for the source of a spring. Leleth still does not speak since her run in with the hounds, but hangs around Jeremias. Binabik comes to retrieve Simon as the council meeting resumes. Josua presents the council with three questions to answer, and Geloë adds a fourth:
- What does King Elias plan to do?
- How can they assemble a force to stop it?
- How can they retrieve the other two swords to stop the Storm King?
- And how much time do they have?
In the end, Josua sends Isorn and others with Count Eolair back to Hernystir. Simon proposes sending himself, Binabik and Sludig to sneak in and get Bright-Nail, but Josua shoots it down as too dangerous. As Binabik tries to comfort a frustrated Simon, Binabik lets loose with another quality Binabik-ism:
“Winter is not being the time for naked swimming.” (pg 122)
Chapter 4: The Silent Child – Miriamele sees the kilpa “pawing” at the ship, apparently trying to get on. She tells Aspitis this, but he says they will not board while Gan Itai is aboard to soothe them with singing. Miri tells Aspitis that she cannot marry him, that she is promised to another, but Aspitis starts laughing, tells her he knows she is the Princess, and that they will be married, so that he can be in line for King Elias’ throne. Sneaky and Cheeky bugger, ain’t he?
Tiamak is wondering around Kwanitupul, angry at being there as he did not follow his elders instructions, and upset that he cannot leave. Three Fire Walkers stalk him, taunt him, and when they start to attack him, Camaris shows up and beats the three of them unarmed…but still says nothing. That night, Tiamak dreams of Miri on the boat (the dream road appears to be still easily opened).
Maegwin takes her dream to Diawen the scryer. After having Maegwin concentrate her vision into a “worm glass” (maybe another Norn/Sitha stone?), Daiwen tells that, as her dream tells her, she should go to the “high place.” Maegwin, in spite of weather worthy of Lambeau Field in January (GO PACK GO), climbs to the top of the mountain and yells for the gods to come and talk to her.
Miri is in bed with Aspitis (tsk tsk), and a shipman knocks on the door. Miri is ashamed that the crew knows Aspitis is in her room, in her bed. She decides to take her own life, and goes to Aspitis quarters to look for a weapon to commit suicide with. She discovers that he has a Fire Dancer robe, and has been giving money to Fire Dancers at all of their ports to encourage them (the little wimp keeps records of this!). She takes the dagger back to her room, but Gan Itai the Niskie navigator comes to her, asking if the rumors of her impending marriage to Aspitis are true. Gan Itai sees the dagger, and Miri confesses her plan, and tells her that Aspitis is not only a Fire Dancer and instigator, but he knows Miri is the princess. Gan Itai say that Fire Dancers burned a Niskie village, and she asks Miri to give her some time to work on a way out.
Chapter 5: Wasteland of Dreams – Simon, now a knight, continues his training with Sludig. His brain is obviously wired differently, through experiences and through heritage (still not revealed!):
As they sparred, he thought of shent, the intricate game of the Sithi, with its feints and puzzling strikes, and wondered if the same things might work in swordplay. He allowed his next few strikes to carry him farther and farther off-balance, until Sludig could not help but notice; then, when the Rimmersman swept in on the heels of one of Simon’s flailing misses with the aim of catching him leaning too far and smacking him on the ribs, Simon let his swing carry him all the way forward into a tumbling roll. The Rimmersman’s sword hissed over him. Simon then righted himself and whacked Sludig neatly on the side of the knee. The Northerner dropped his blade and hopped up and down, cursing. (pg 156)
Geloë gathers Simon, Binabik and Father Strangeyeard to join her and Leleth on a quest through the Road of Dreams, to see if they can reach Tiamak and Miriamele before “another Storm comes”, as Geloë says. They are able to reach Tiamak in his dreams, and he tries to tell them of Camaris, and of the Duke, but cannot…but he does communicate “Nisses book” to them. They are stumped trying to reach Miriamele, running into a barrier. Leleth, who moves most freely in the dreamworld, pushes hard with Simon but they cannot penetrate whatever is keeping them out. Simon almost gets lost in the dream world by continuing to push.
Geloeë meets with Josua and tells him what they learned on the Dream Road, but also tells him she has been talking to the birds and discovered that a large force of men has left the Hayholt heading in their direction. After the initial shock of the fact that she can talk to birds, Josua and Deneroth start planning for defense.
Simon has a dream where he was “seated on a massive throne made of smooth white stone.” Some foreshadowing of who Simon really is, perhaps? He awakens from his dream and finds Josua come to see how he is feeling. Josua tells him Geloë’s news about an army coming. Josua also expresses worry for his future child, if Josua does win the throne from his brother:
…one day I would have to send my son off to do something I could not do – something dangerous and glorious. That is the way of kings and their sons. And I would never sleep again, waiting to hear that he had been killed.” (pg 175)
Simon reminds him that daughters are no safer, citing Miriamele and Vorzheva’s perils. A bit of foreshadowing on Josua’s desire to not put his children through that…LAST KING OF OSTEN ARD, where are you when we need you?
Simon, frustrated by not being able to reach Miri, takes the dragon mirror that Jiriki gave him (while noticing the package that Aditu gave him at the end of the previous book to give to Josua, and having an “oh crap, I forgot moment“). As usual, Simon goes in with bluster and confidence, but is quickly grabbed by something more powerful than he (most likely the Storm King). He asks for “help” and Jiriki comes to him on the Dream Road and pulls him away from the big baddies, admonishing Simon for traveling the Dream Road alone. Jiriki says his father is dying, and all of the house of the Sithi are gathering, but he cannot promise to help. He shows Simon a glimpse through the mirror.
“Look. The members of all the Houses are joined at Jao é-Tinukai’i. Cheka-’iso Amber Locks is here, as is Zinjadu, Lore-Mistress of Lost Kementari, and Yizashi Grayspear. Even Kuroyi the tall horseman has come, who has not joined with the House of Year-Dancing since Shi’iki and Senditu’s day. The exiles have returned, and we will fight as one people, as we have not done since Asu’a fell. In this anyway, Amerasu’s death and my father’s sacrifice will not be in vain.” (pg 183)
Any of these characters going to be in The Last King of Osten Ard?
Jiriki helps Simon off the dream road.
Chapter 6: The Sea-Grave – Gan Itai hatches a plan to get Miriamele and Cadrach off of Aspitis ship…at much risk to Gan Itai. The Niskie tells the Princess to sneak some bags into the landing boat, and to find tools Gan Itai has hidden and break Cadrach’s chains…and then to make for the landing boat that evening, making sure nobody bolts her into her room.
Tiamak tells Duke Isgrimnur of the message he received from Geloë on the Dream Road. They argue about going to the Stone of Farewell now (Tiamak’s desire, as he carries the copy of Nisses’ lost book) vs. waiting for Miri (as the Duke wishes). Tiamak packs, as though to head out on his own, and reads a piece of the Nisses book he carries:
“…Bringe from Nuanni’s Rock Garden
The Man who tho’ blinded canne see
Discover the Blade that Delivers the Rose
At the foote of the Rimmer’s great tree
Find the Call whose lowde Claim
Speaks the Call-bearer’s name
In a Shippe on the Shallowest Sea
- When Blayde, Call and Man
Come to Prince’s right Hande
Then the Prisoned shall once more go Free…
A nice little prophecy on Camaris and one of the swords. Tiamak describes hypothetically how he alone or with the Duke and company would make it to the Stone.
Maegwin’s people find the crazy lady on the mountain freezing in the snow and leaning off the mountain like she was ready to jump. Apparently they had been looking for her for three days. She believes her vision from the gods told her they are coming, but she does not know what to do next. After coming down from the mountain, she talks to the scryer Diawen, who tells her “The gods help those who are bold”. Maegwin thinks this means she should take her very small army and take up arms against Skali, but she goes off to think on it.
Miri sneaks the supplies into the boat undetected, then goes down to free Cadrach. She finds tools where Gan Itai said they would be, and works with Cadrach to free his arms and legs. They tie the chains back together to give the appearance of them still be in working order, then Miri leaves, asking Cadrach to work the blood back into his legs. Feigning sea sickness in the storm to keep Aspitis out of her bed (or her in his), at the appointed time Miri dons her monk traveling clothes and sets out.
The Niskie’s song, rising above the storm noises, had a weird, unsettling quality, far less pleasant to the ear than usual. Perhaps it was the Niskie’s obvious unhappiness coming out in her song, Miriamele thought. (pg 209)
Gan Itai singing draws the kilpa up to the deck of the boat, instead of keeping them away as usual, thus revealing her plan to help Miri and Cadrach escape. After fighting off their own kilpa, they get to the boat. Miri goes back for Gan Itai, who tells her she is not coming, that she must save the boat after Miri and Cadrach have made their escape. Miri gets back to the landing boat and Aspitis arrives as they are leaving. He threatens her with his sword, so Miri tosses his dagger at his feet. When he bends to pick it up, she hits him in the stomach with the oar, and then whacks his pretty face with it. Cadrach and she jump over board toward the landing boat, and, they hope, a kilpa-less freedom.
Chapter 7: Storm King’s Anvil – The storm, after a bit of a layoff, has started again in earnest.
Like a tide moving toward some unimaginable high water mark, the storm spread further than ever before, bringing frost to southern lands that had never felt its touch and draping a great cold shroud over all of Osten Ard. It was a storm that numbed hearts and crushed spirits. (pg 223)
Fengbald and his army, along with some Thirthing mercenaries, have captured all of the folks who stayed at old Gadrinsett and have torched the town. Fengbald has designs on King Elias’s crown (who doesn’t?), noting that Elias is obviously sick. He interrogates the “Lord Mayor of Gadrinsett” for information about Josua and how many folks he has on the Stone of Farewell. The Thirthing leader is irritated by his delay, but Fengbald tries to teach him how to be treacherous.
Rachael is moving about the castle using the passageways behind the walls (Now I know where that rascal Simon used to disappear to!) While searching for food, she overhears King Elias looking for his cupbearer, and suffering…and then hears Pryrates. She is almost discovered. Pryrates assures the King that his suffering is worth “the greatest gift.” They leave without seeing Rachael.
Guthwulf is blind and thinks he is going mad (and he is probably right). He hears and feels the ghost-like presence of “others”, most likely either the dream road barriers falling down, or Pryrates experiments making the barriers between time and space transparent. A cat finds him, and returns a bit of his sanity.
The Queen of the Norns awakens sensing an uncertainty that has entered into the pattern of events she has crafted over centuries.
Chapter 8: Nights of Fire – Sir Seoman (or Simon, as I like to call him), at Josua’s request, leads a party (which includes Sludig and Hotvig) to determine the size of Fengbald’s army (folks fleeing from Old Gadrinsett have come to the Stone of Farewell bearing tales of this army). Simon’s first command gets him excited, even though he believes Josua sent Hotvig along to keep an eye on him. The storm is fierce and covers their approach. They count campfires, then sneak closer and count bodies around campfires to do the math. As an act of defiance, Simon borrows one of the Thirthing men’s bows and sends a flaming arrow into one of the tents.
Josua is worrying about the pregnant Vorzheva whilst she is trying to get him to stop worrying (this could go on for a while!). Apologies to Tad for turning five pages of prose into a one-liner.
Simon is introspective on his way back to the camp on the Stone, thinking about what knights do, warring or ruling over their fiefdoms.
So which was better? To flee war, or to try to make yourself so strong that no one could hurt you? Morgenes had told him that such problems were the stuff of kingship, the sort of questions that kept goodhearted monarchs awake at night when all their subjects were sleeping. (pg 259)
Binabik meets them at the shores of their “moat” and tell them the lake is mostly frozen, a hit to their defensive plans. As they make their way on the flatboats across the un-frozen parts, Sludig thinks he sees lights on the far shore.
Sir Deornoth admires the way Simon gives his report to Josua. Freosel, who was the constable of Old Gadrinsett, informs Josua the the Lord Mayor (whom Fengbald was just coincidently interrogating) has escaped and says he knows Fengbald’s attack plans. Geloë warns that she sees a “shadow” in the eyes of Helgrim, the Lord Mayor. Josua decides to speak with him. Feosel also informs the group that they are running out of food, and that folks are leaving for fear of starvation.
Simon dreams (that boy is always asleep) of Morgenes, who tells him once again “beware of the false messenger” and “you must fight for something…hate is not enough.” Binabik awakens him, asks him to get dressed and leads him toward the lights that Sludig was seeing. It is a group of trolls led by Binabik’s girl friend Sisqi. Simon and Binabik dance the night way with them, forgetting about war for a bit.
Chapter 9: Pages in an Old Book – Miriamele and Cadrach are in the landing boat, slowly rowing to shore. Cadrach tells his tale to Miri, slowly but surely. Cadrach says he overheard Dinivan saying they should make for Kwanitupul.
Cadrach tells how he met Morgenes in a library in the town Cadrach grew up, and how Morgenes put him forward as a member of the League of the Scroll and how he met the other Scrollbearers.
This is one of those chapters where the entire chapter should be recorded, as Cadrach’s story tells the story of Pryrates’ origin and of the League. But in the interests of brevity I will only enter snippets.
“…he told me of the League of the Scroll, which was formed long ago by Saint Eahlstan Fiskerne, the Hayholt’s Fisher King. Eahlstan inherited Fingil’s castle and his sword Minneyar but he wanted nothing to do with the Rimmersman’s heritage of destruction – especially the destruction of learning. Eahlstan wanted instead to conserve knowledge that otherwise might vanish into shadow – and to use that knowledge when it seemed necessary.” (pg. 289)
He is introduced to Xorastra, one of the other Scrollbearers, who has two candidates of her own (like Cadrach is Morgenes’ candidate).
“Both of them were younger than I was. Dinivan was a mere youth at the time, studying with the Usirean brothers. Sharp-eyed Xorastra had seen the spark in him, and thought that if he were brought into contact with Morgenes and the others, that spark might become a great and warming fire by which the church she still loved could greatly benefit. The other that she put forward was a clever young priest, just ordained, who came from a poor island family, but who had made his way into a small sort of prominence by the swiftness of his mind.” (pg 290)
This second candidate is Pryrates. Cadrach says that he made him the man he is today. The fact that Pryrates and Dinivan were candidates together makes Pryrates murder of Dinivan all the more despicable, doesn’t it?
Cadrach descended into drunkenness, and left the order, taking with him some treasures, including a copy of Nisses’ rare book. Miriamele asks about Nisses.
“He was a man who came out of the North beyond Elvritshalla, from the land of the Black Rimmermen who live below Stormspike, and presented himself to Fingil, King of Rimmersgard. He was no court conjurer, but it is said that he gave Fingil the power that enabled him to conquer half of Osten Ard. That power may have been wisdom, for Nisses knew the facts of things that no one else even dreamed existed. After Asu’a was conquered and Fingil died at last, Nisses served Fingil’s son Hjeldin. It was during those years that he wrote his book – a book that contained part of the dreadful knowledge that he had brought with him when he appeared in a murderous snowstorm outside Fingil’s gates. He and Hjeldin both dies in Asu’a – the young king by throwing himself out the window of the tower that bears his name. Nisses was found dead in the room from which Hjeldin leapt, with no mark upon him. There was a smile on his face, and the book was clutched in his hands.” (pg 296)
Cadrach is affected when he reads Nisses’ book and it drives him to “oblivion” and drink. He doesn’t sell it to Pryrates, for he knew him to be evil, but sells it for money to buy more drink. But Pryrates knew he had a copy, finds Cadrach and tortures him into telling him the parts that he remembers, and then into to telling Pryrates who he sold the pages to.
Cadrach thinks Miriamele will no longer wants his company, but she tells him to rest and they will row to shore in the morning.
Chapter 10: Riders of the Dawn – A welcoming party is given for the trolls that have come to the Stone of Farewell. There is much drink and talk, and Binabik and Sisqui have a nice reunion. As one point, talking about Josua, Towser says “He is his father’s child, that’s for certain.” and it is obvious he is not talking about Prester John (oh the foreshadowing of it all).
Simon helps Binabik take the rafts apart so that pieces of them (nails) can be used to help in the defense against Fengbald. Binabik also teaches Simon the Qanuc language so that Simon can communicate with Sisqi’s troll army during the battle.
Simon is dreaming of the three swords when Sludig awakens him with news that Fengbald is preparing to attack. As he is looking for his gloves he find the bundle that Aditu had given him to give to Josua (which he had forgotten to do!) in the last chapter of the previous book (which means it was quite a while ago) and remembered again in Chapter 5 of this book…but this time he takes it to Josua. Josua, surrounded by a war council of sorts, listens to Simon’s story. Though the horn has runes on it which are Sithi, there is a letter with the horn, written by Amerasu, which is in Westerling. It reads “May this horn be given to its rightful owner when all seems lost.”
Of course, they all try a blow (some of them several) but none of them are “its rightful owner.” Even though they are certainly in a time of need, they set the horn aside.
Binabik gives Simon a shield hand-painted with his coat of arms. Josua gives a speech that is very much like the one below (both groups have a drunk at least! and if you replace “Earth” with “New Gadrinsett“), and then they are off to get ready for battle.
Josua and Fengbald meet on the ice, exchange a few threats. Geloë throws out the threat of the Sithi coming to protect their rock. Then Fengbald’s army pushes forward a sledge, perfect for the ice. Simon watches with his troll army, and waits.
Far from Sesua’dra, Jiriki calls the Sithi to ride to war. Are they coming to the aide of Simon and friends?
Chapter 11: The Road Back – Miriamele and Cadrach after another three weeks “living like beggars” finally make their way to Kwanitupul, and make their way to the Inn called Pelippa’s Bowl (which used to be owned by Soria Xorastra of the League). They finally meet up with Duke Isgrimnur.
Tiamak comes back to the Inn, and warns them that he saw soldiers, including Aspitis, looking for them and the Inn. They decide to bug out quickly and follow Tiamak’s suggestion to go through the Wran to get to Josua (who, much to Miriamele’s surprise and relief, is rumored to be alive north of the Thirthings). They set about patching a boat, gathering food and water from the inkeeper, who they take with them as they paddle away just in advance of Aspitis and his men.
Eolair, Isorn and four Thirthings men, traveling back with Eolair have met a Rimmersman “from Skoggey” who takes them into a camp of a few dozen men. Isorn rallies them to their cause.
Maegwin shares her plan, based on what the gods told her on top of the mountain. She has one of the scribes who was under the mountain describe the wonders he saw, and has Crohban, her fathers counselor, describe her being found on the frozen mountain where she had been for three days, unharmed and in a deep dream state talking to the gods. She whips her people into a fervor, and then says she will tell them what to do…and then we fade to another scene.
Isgrimner, Miriamele and the rest drop off the captive innkeeper and head for the Wran, with Tiamak warning them of dangers ahead.
Chapter 12: Raven’s Dance – The battle for Sesua’dra begins, with Simon awaiting patiently while Deornoth leads the defender’s first sally. Josua exclaims that he hopes “Fengbald will take the feint” and, in the absence of Binabik, uses Jerimiasas a runner to Freosel and his archers and to ready Hotvig and his riders. Deornoth has his remaining men retreat.
Binabik is missing, and Simon discovers Sisqi is missing as well. Jerimias takes Josua’s message to Simon to have him wait a bit after the horn blows. Simon wants to run off and look for Sisqi, but Jerimias reminds him that he is a “trollish war chieftain now” (which is a very cool title).
Binabik returns, stating he dislodged several of Fengbald’s men from the cliffs by rolling stones upon them. He and the others with Josua think they see Fengbald’s red cape behind his men. Josua has Sangfugol blow on his horn the signal for Freosel, whose men loose arrows from hidden places at Fengbald’s forces. Then he gives the signal for Hotvig’s riders.
Hotvig’s riders have better traction on the ice than Fengbald’s, thanks to Binabik’s innovation with the nail and the horses hooves. Fengbald and Lehzdraka, the mercenary Thirthings leader, see this, and attack with greater numbers. Fengbald says to kill everyone, while the mercenary tells his people in their language that a live prince will bring a better ransom.
Josua comes down to the front to Deornoth, putting the iron shoes on his horse. He will joint the battle over Deornoth and everyone else’s objections.
Sisqi rejoins Simon, and he leads his troll horde down into the battle, them on rams, him on his horse Homefinder.
Hotvig’s initial attack had split Fengbald’s line and scattered it away from the safety of the sledge-scrapped track. Deornoth’s soldier – all but a few on foot – had then surged our from behind the barricade and flung themselves on those Erkyngaurd who had been cutoff from their own rearguard by Hotvig’s action…Simon’s troop struck the mercenaries from the blind side; those closest to the on-coming Qanuc had only a moment to look around in amazement before being skewered by the short spears of the trolls. A few of the Thirthings-men seemed to regard the onrushing Qanuc with a shock that seemed closer to superstitious terror than mere surprise. (pg 388).
Simon kills his first man in combat, then another. Then gets into a sword fight with a third.
It was only as he and this other were hacking at each other that Simon abruptly realized that to these enemies he was no child. He was taller than this particular mercenary, and in his helmet and mail shirt, he doubtless seemed a large and fearsome fighter. Abruptly heartened, he renewed his attack, driving the Thirthings-man backward. Then, as the man stopped, and his horse came breast-to-breast with Homefinder, Simon remembered his lessons from Sludig. He feinted a clumsy swing and the mercenary seized the bait, leaning too far forward with his return stroke. Simon let the man’s sword carry him well off-balance, then slammed his shield against the man’s leather helm and followed with a sword thrust that slide between the tow halves of the man’s chest armor and into his unprotected side. The mercenary stayed in his saddle as Simon pulled Homefinder back, tugging loose his sword, but before Simon turned away his opponent had already fallen awkwardly to the bloody ice.
Panting, Simon looked around him and wondered who was winning. (pg 391-392)
Williams does an excellent job in this chapter of telling the strategy of the battle, but making us realize it is only about individual conflicts in the midst of the chaos. And Simon finally realizes that he is large!
Josua calls everyone back behind the barricade as the sun goes down. Simon sees Sisqi looking over her dead ram, and grabs her. They see a knot of their own surrounded, unable to retreat, and go back for them, rescuing a few and retreating behind the barricade.
Fengbald is not pleased with the outcome of the day’s fight. But Helfgrim, the old Lord Mayor of Gadrinsett, comes back from Josua’s camp. With his daugther’s threatened by Fengbald, he tells them of another way up the Stone, through on old poorly guarded Sithi trail. Fengbald says he will take Helfgrim with him to show the way.
Chapter 13: The Nest Builders – Miriamele, Tiamak and company are making their way through the Wran. Miri draws Tiamak out a bit by asking him about the local plants, and adding them to their cook pot. Tiamak shares his fears with the company: their best route is through his village but since he went to Kwanitupul instead of doing as his elders wished, he is concerned that he will be detained. After much debate, they decide they must proceed to his village.
They pass the pool of Sekob, who is a croc or gator or dinosaur(!) as long as ten men. Isgrimnur was skeptical before, but now he be a believer!
Tiamak tells them of the ways of the Wran, a people without a king where a man can become an elder by providing feasts for others. Duke Isgrimnur is again skeptical, and Cadrach sarcastically says that “passing lands down to sons” or “winning lands by hitting people with axes” is just as daft. Sometimes Cadrach is insightful and funny.
Miri watches Camaris.
Miriamele could stare without embarrassment: the tall man seemed quite uncaring, no more interested in the business of his fellows than a horse in a paddock might be with traders talking by the fence. Observing his bland but certainly not stupid face, it was almost impossible to believe that she was in the presence of a legend. The name of Camaris-sá-Vinita was nearly as famous as that of her grandfather Prester John, and both of them, she felt sure, would be remembered by generations yet unborn. Yet here he was, old and witless, when all the world had thought him dead. How could such a thing have come to pass? What secrets hid behind his guileless exterior? (pg 416)
They enter Village Grove, Tiamak’s home city. They stay the night and have a sleepover at Tiamak’s place, as he checks in on his birds (ably assisted by Camaris). In the morning, he finds some old buried flour (!) to cook with. Miri has him take her to a freshwater pond where she can bathe. On the way back, she sees her first ghant.
They get to the center of Village Grove and everyone is gone. Tiamak takes a boat and goes off by himself to look for Old Mogahib, the village elder…but Tiamak does not return. They go after him, find his boat and find not Tiamak but an old Wranman, assumably Old Mogahib.
The group travels aways while Old Mogahib sleeps (not unlike Simon’s snoozing). When the round a bend and see a giant ghants nest capable of holding hundreds of the critters, Old Mogahib is awake enough to yell something in Wran-lang akin to “Tiamak is in there.”
Chapter 14: Dark Corridors – Rachael is roaming through the Hayholt, gathering provisions for the hiding place she has found and made her home. She barely avoids some Norns/White Foxes, and runs into Guthwulf, who she realizes is blind and mostly mad.
Guthwulf is roaming, trying to keep his sanity, and he feels the sword that Elias made him touch, always drawing him. He feels the fires of the forge.
Inch is in the forges, explaining delays to King Elias (obviously the source of the sword Guthwulf senses). Inch tells the King that they only see parts of the plans…just as Pryrates shows up. After a bit of back and forth (“we don’t have it all”, “it is secret, you don’t need it all”), Pryrates spell seems to fall on the King and he leaves, after giving a lackadasical order of when everything should be done.
Back to Rachael, who is making her way back to her hiding place and runs into Hengfish. Hengfish (who, you may recall, has appeared and disappeared in several chapters; he was originally a monk but stumbled into Naglimund after the Norns had taken it, and now serves the King as one possessed) appears to be dazed and lets loose with some foreign words. Rachael escapes him, and runs back to her hidey hole.
Chapter 15: Lake of Glass – The Sithi were riding.
Long the Peaceful Ones had hidden from the eyes of the world, nursing their sadness, living only in the memories of other days. Today the rode in armor as brilliant as the plumage of birds, their spears shining like frozen lightning. They sang, for the Sithi had always sung. They rode, and the old ways unfolded before them, forest glades echoing to their horses’ hoofbeats for the first time since the tallest trees were seedlings. After a sleep of centuries, a giant had awakened. (pg 456-457)
What a tease! The Sithi are not coming to help the 2nd day of the battle at the Stone of Farewell.
Simon cannot sleep, and wanders over to where Josua and the others are discussing the upcoming battle. Freosel informs them that Helfgrim, Gradinsett’s mayor, is gone. They hope he is not hurt (if you recall, dear reader, that he went to Fengbald in Chapter 12 to trade information for his daughters).
Freosel hopes that Simon can summon the Sithi. Sludig hears this, and says “God gives a man what he deserves, no more, no less.” After Sludig leaves, Simon asks Binabik and Strangeyeard if they believe this is true.
“Because my friends Morgenes and Haestan certainly didn’t get what they deserved – one burned, and one crushed from a giant’s club.” Simon could not keep the bitterness from his voice.
Strangeyeard tells him God has plans, which Simon says that is what priests always say.
“He may have chosen to forget the more painful things,” Strangeyeard said gently. “If you lived forever and experienced every pain in the world as though it were your own – died with every soldier, cried with every widow and orphan, shared every mother’s grief at the passing of a beloved child – would you perhaps not yearn to forget to?” (pg 460)
Binabik asks why Sludig’s words struck him so.
Simon shook his head. “I just don’t know how to… to be. These men have come to kill us – I want them all to die painfully, horribly…But Binabik, these are the Erkynguard! I knew them at the castle. Some of them used to give me sweets, or life me up on their horses and tell me I reminded them of their own sons.” He fidgeted with a stick, scuffing at the muddy soil. “Which is right? How could they do these things to us, who never did them any harm? But the King is making them, so why should they be killed, any more than us?”
“The questions you are asking are important ones, but they are also questions without answers. This is what being a man or woman means, I am thinking, instead of a boy or girl child. You must be finding your own solutions to questions that have no true answers.” (pg 461)
They read a bit of Morgenes book, which says Camaris had similar questions, then try to sleep before the battle.
The battle starts again:
Those who survived this battle would call it by many names: t Josua and his closest company, it was the Siege of Sesua’dra. For the captains of Fengbald’s Erkynlandish troop, it was Stefflod Valley. To the mercenary Thirthings-men, it was the Battle of the Stone. But for most who remembered it, and few did without a shudder, the name that was most evocative was Lake of Glass. (p 467)
Helms’ Deep, anyone?
Simon fights, and begins to feel his oats a bit, seeing fear in his opponents eyes. He cleaves a man’s head nearly off after seeing one of his troll friends run through. Sisqi finds him and says his “Crohook friend” is in trouble, and they rush in and save a surrounded Sludig. Sludig asks where Deornoth is, says he slew the mercenary leader. They find Deornoth nearly dead. Simon helps Sludig put Deornoth on this horse, then Simon sees the red cloak of Fengbald. Thinking to end it all, he rushes him, captures him and lifts his helm…to find it is not Fengbald.
And then we cut out of the excitement to Maegwin, who is leading her people (mostly the old, the young and the unable to fight, singing uplifting Hernystir national songs) out of the mountains. They encounter Skali’s men, who say they are too many to surrender. Maegwin says they are there to take back their homes, with the gods help of course, and they keep walking (now with a north Rimmersmen escort). When they get to the Hernysadharc, and make their way to the former King’s residence the Taig, Skali waits them on the steps. He listens to Maegwin’s demands from the gods that they leave, then tells his men to put them into pens. Maegwin despairs, and calls for the gods.
And then we cut back to the big battle.
Simon has the false Fengbald, but the real Fengbald is being lead up a back trail by Helfgrim, the ex-Lord Mayor of Gadrinsett. As they approach the top, Helfgrim asks that the men carrying his daughters be allowed to ride next to him.
At the top of the trail, they are stopped by a handful of men. One of them, Freosel, Freobeorn’s son, hails them, offering to let them live if they retreat. He says they are from the village of Falshire, which Fengbald burned to the ground (along with these men’s wives and children, way back in Book 1, The Dragonbone Chair). Fengbald orders his troops forward. Freosel and his group draw heavy mallets and start pounding the ice. They, along with Helfgrim (whose brother was mayor of Falshire and killed by Fengbald) had prepared this trap for Fengbald. The ice cracks and Fenbald, Helfgrim, his daughters and the majority of Fengbald’s troops, fall in and drown.
And back to Maegwin.
Maegwin screams for the gods, Skali says her gods are dead and makes to grab her. Then a horn sounds and a troop comes riding in with various colors of armor (must be the Sithi). Skali’s men scramble and one of them konks Maegwin on the head.
And back to Simon.
Binabik, Qantaqa and Sisqi find Simon, sitting beside the guy who was pretending to be Fengbald. Simon is spent, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Binabik tells him it is over, the real Fengbald is dead, “though the price was high” and they get Simon up to walk him back. Simon says “I want to go home.”
Chapter 16: Torches in the Mud – Duke Isgrimnuer and Miriamele plan to rescue Tiamak from the ghants nest. Cadrach says he cannot go into the nest, that in reminds him too much of a place he has been before. They have Cadrach pole their boat out toward the nest where they capture and kill one, examining its armor to see how they can defend themselves against an entire nest of them. They find that the shells can be pierced, and that ghants have no stingers or pincers. Instructing Cadrach to pole the boat to the middle and wait for them (with lots of threats from the Duke about hunting Cadrach down if he abandons them), Isgrimnur, Camaris (who I’d forgotten about, he hadn’t been mentioned in this chapter until this point) and Miri find an entrance big enough and they enter.
They go through tunnels that seem to loop back on each other, kill one ghant, and then get stuck and un-stuck in the ooze. They scare and follow a group of ghants, and come to a vast center chamber with hundreds and hundreds of ghants, humming. And in the middle is Tiamak, in some kind of trance with strange words coming out of his mouth.
As Isgrimnur tries to think up a plan, Camaris heads toward Tiamak, swinging his torch. Isgrimnur goes after him, telling Miri to stay near the tunnel with her torch held high so that they can find their way back. But of course, MIRI NEVER LISTENS. She puts two torches near the entrance and heads after the Duke, nearly getting overwhelmed by ghants before Isgrimnur grabs her on the way back, Camaris trailing him with Tiamak in tow.
They are pursued, lose their way, and then are surrounded by ghants. Isgrimnur decides to go through the walls, and kicks a hole through the nest. Miri gets the Duke and Camaris’ shirts, lights them from their torches and sticks them in the hole, which scares the ghants from following them.
The group follows tunnels that lead up, kick a few more walls in, and then find daylight and are out. Cadrach and the boat are nowhere to be found. The ghants surround them again, and, just as they are about to fight, fiery balls shoot toward the ghants. Cadrach used some of his alchemy skilz and made weapons out of the palm oil leaves. After a few well places missiles, the crew jumps down, gets into the boat and escapes, leaving the flaming nest behind.
This ends Part 1, the longest re-read post in the series (as this part has more pages than any other). The re-read for Part 2 of this book starts here.