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larry

larry has written 140 posts for Dusk Before the Dawn
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iTunes Match – fixing “Waiting” and un-downloadable songs

I like the idea of Apple’s iTunes Match service but I’ve had some issues getting it to work the way I think it should, especially with the copies of CDs that I own that I’ve ripped. The main issue is songs showing an iCloud Status of “Waiting” constantly, and those same songs not able to be downloaded to any of my iOS devices. This is what I did to fix it and get it to where all of my songs are uploaded or matched on my OS X and Windows desktops and laptops, and available to download on my iOS devices. Hopefully it will help someone having a similar problem.

The basic fix is to find any song that is in an iCloud Status of “Error” and fix that error, either by deleting that entry, locating the song (if iTunes could not find it) or some other remedy. Since this did fix my problem, I’m assuming the synchronization process between iCloud and the local machine does not handle nor report errors very well, and either timeouts or just fails when it encounters them.

Why iTunes Match

There are several benefits to using iTunes match – when it works:

  • song availability on multiple devices (Mac, Windows Desktop, iPhone, iPad, Apple TV)
  • higher quality versions of songs
  • vinyl conversion. I’ve ripped several of my old LPs (some of which I cannot find in iTunes) and would like to use iTunes Match to make high-quality versions of these songs available across all of my devices.

Issues

The main issue is when songs from albums that I own (CDs ripped, Vinyl converted) are stuck in a “Waiting” state on iTunes for OS X and iTunes for Windows, and show as not downloadable (no “download from cloud button”). This state persists even when I’ve tried to force an update (from the iTunes menu File -> Library -> Update iCloud Music Library. The “Waiting” state looks like the screenshot below.

iTunes Match

Solution

It appears that there was an error in the iTunes “Update iCloud Music Library” process or the normal process to try and match music. But there is no error log. To detect the error, you have to locate at the “iCloud Status” for each song.
To do this and detect error:

  • Turn on visibility of iCloud Status. Select Songs from your Library, then select View -> Show View Options. See the screenshot below.
  • Check the box next to “iCloud Status”

iTunes Match

  • Sort on the iCloud Status column. There should be “Matched”, “Uploaded”, “Waiting”, “Ineligible”, and, in my case, “Error” (see screenshot)

iTunes Match

  • Fix the songs whose iCloud Status is “Error”. In my case there were some that could not be found, and some that were from an old iTunes account. I removed those songs from iTunes, restarted iTunes, and hit the “Update iCloud Music Library” link. Everything that was Waiting became either “Matched” or “Uploaded” on OS X and Windows, and all songs became available for download. Note that there are some titles marked as “Ineligible”. Most of mine were digital booklets, objects that would never sync anyway. These did not need any fixing.

I never found an error log that showed the exact errors, only this indicator in iCloud Status. Since I did this, I’ve had no issues on any of my devices.

Reinventing the Piano

course notes – Reinventing the Piano (Dr. Dan Trueman, Princeton) on Kadenze: Session 1

Reinventing the PianoReinventing the Piano is a course available through Kadenze which put the first session up on September 13. The subject is of course the piano, and the course goes through how it is built, why it is built the way it is, and what would happen if it were deconstructed and rebuilt in new ways. I haven’t had music theory since college, and haven’t played much since I broke my right pinkie finger more than a decade ago, but the first session, though it rehashes some information I’ve heard before, is an excellent outline of the instrument itself.

The course is taught by Dr. Dan Trueman of Princeton (bio here).

The course can be audited for free, or can be taken with a $10/month premium membership which gives the student the ability to submit course work, get a certificate of completion, keep a portfolio online and other perks. Students can participate in the forums as either free or premium users.

These are my course notes so I can refer back to them from future sessions and note the books mentioned.

Session 1.1 – Course Intro

Session 1.2 – Musical Scales and the Keyboard

  • quotes from Piano Notes by Charles Rosen that keyboard layout has a huge influence on western music. I think this book is in a box in the storage unit!
  • diatonic keyboard layout (traditional keyboard layout) favors octaves (of course). Keyboard as a rule. Black keys are pentatonic scale
  • chromatic keyboard layout (all white keys) makes for a crappy ruler (all the same)
  • wholetone keyboard layout (alternating white and black keys)
  • octatonic/diminished keyboard layout (two white keys, then a black key). black keys are a 7th chord
  • hexatonic or augmented keyboard layout (two white keys, then two black keys with a blank space between the two black keys).
  • Messiaen’s Sixth Mode of Limited Transposition (standard three white keys with two black keys beween them, separated by one single white key)
  • reviews a couple more: one built around Harmonic Minor, one for Harmonic Major, one for Acoustic/Lydian Dominant
  • Books mentioned:

Session 1.3 – The Action

Session 1.4 – The Harpsichord Action

  • Discussion by Dr. Gavin Black (this one and the Clavichord one)
  • Harpsichord always gets my vote for one of the coolest sounding instruments
  • The action plucks the string like a lute is plucked, not hammered like a modern piano

Session 1.5 – The Clavichord Action

  • Can’t play two notes right next to each other as they are actually hammering on the same string
  • Should play on the ends of the keys, mostly without thumbs, to get the most action (the far end of the lever)

Session 1.6 – The Organ

Session 1.7 – The Piano Action

  • I want one of those Kawai Action cut away models!

Session 1.8 – The Sound: Strings, Soundboard and Timbre

  • Some keys have one string (lower notes), others have two or three. Provides for better loudness, timbre and sustain
  • Interesting program Dr. Trueman uses called SPEAR. He was right, couldn’t hear the notes on my MAC without headphones
  • Sympathetic resonance is a cool idea and a good rock band name. The demonstration of partials at the piano is particularly enlightening.
  • The closing bit on how we hear and the graphs on audible range are more familiar now that I’ve had some hearing tests due to tinitus in one ear. The JND (Just Noticable Difference) is, of course, subjective, and an average of many test subjects, so every listener will, no doubt, be different.

Session 1.9 - Pedals

  • Review of the three pedals: una corda, sostenudo, sustain. And demonstration of how they work.
  • Half-pedaling (used when no sustain, usually?) as a pump or a half-press of the pedal

Session 1.10 - For Coders

  • I was hoping there would be some code….do have an idea for a musical app, but it will have to get in-line behind other work products.

Session 1.11 – Closing

Coursework – there is a Spotify Playlist with the same piece (C.P.E. Bach’s Moderato from Sonata in B-minor, Wq.49/6) played on clavichord, harpsichord, fortepiano and modern piano). Before I played the songs, I noticed that they were very different lengths. Then I went and read the assignment (yes, when I was a student, I often jumped too far ahead!) and the first question is…why are they different lengths.

  • Miklos Spanyi (on clavichord) 12:27. My assumption is that the clavichord recording is longer because of the playing style required that was demonstrated in the video, i.e., playing at the end of the keys and particularly not using the thumbs.
  •  Bruno Procopio (on harpsichord) 9:59. Similarly, the playing style of the harpsichord, with the need (or capability) to play an upper and lower keyboard, which takes time to move from one to the other, 
  • Sharona Joshua (on fortepiano) 6:14. I have no clue hear, other than assuming the fortepiano does not have pedals, and perhaps Mr. Colombo did use pedals on the modern piano one (need to listen through it again.
  • Claudio Colombo (on modern piano) 8:14. Used this one as the benchmark since it is the only instrument I have played.

The assignment also suggested taking a phrase and comparing it from piece to piece, picking a favorite performance and explaining why, and discussing why the harpsichord version’s lack of dynamics affects the piece.

The other suggested piece was Schubert’s Sonata in Bb-Major, D.960. I found a version of it on Spotify here. I much prefer the Andante Sostenuto movement over the Molto Moderato movement.

There is also a quiz and other coursework for those who are not taking the course in audit/free mode.

Session 2 is scheduled to be online September 27.

9780876112519

book notes – Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca: The Great Pedestrian of North and South America by Donald E. Chipman

Alvar Nunez Cabeza de VacaThe subtitle of this book on Cabeza de Vaca says it all. From the summary on the back cover:

Between 1528 and 1536, explorer Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca trekked an estimated 2,480 to 2,640 miles of North American terrain.

And, after that, he walked about 1,200 miles in South America as well.

This book is part of the Texas State Historical Association’s (TSHA) Fred Rider Cotten Popular History Series, which is a series of short books about certain events, people, cities, places or other items in Texas History. The book on Cabaza de Vaca is 60 pages long.

From the description in this book, de Vaca’s travels can be broken into the following segments, each one an amazing journey by itself:

By boat from Spain to the New World (eventually to modern day Florida)

De Vaca left Spain (Sanlúcar de Barrmeda) on June 17, 1527 and arrived in Española sometime in August. The expedition spent time in the various islands, some of it encountering and hiding from inclement weather. They left for Florida from Cuba (part of the Narváez expedition) late February or early March of 1528 and arrived on the West Florida coast on April 15, 1528.

By horse and foot from the landing south of Tampa to the Florida panhandle

About 300 men left the Tampa area about May 1, 1528 and reached the Florida panhandle near Indian Pass in August. This trip was about 1,500 miles, and according to records that had some horses (those that survived the boat ride over).

By raft from the Florida panhandle to near Galveston, Texas

When no rescue from their boat was forthcoming, the remaining members built five rafts and set off on September 22, 1528. The skirted the coats, landing and encountering various indians, and finally de Vaca’s raft reached some island near Galveston on November 6, 1528. Only he and 45 others were still alive. The other rafts reached shore as well, but disease and indians would kill most of them.

By foot from Galveston through Texas, into Mexico and to north western Mexico

Initially as a trader (for about three years), then as a captive (much of the time from autumn 1532 to the first few months of 1535), and eventually as an escapist and healer, de Vaca went through south Texas, down to Mexico, then north across the Rio Granda briefly and down to the coast in the northwest part of Mexico. They finally found other Spaniards in the spring of 1536.

By foot and horse to Mexico City

Cabeza de Vaca and his companions arrived in Mexico City on July 23, 1536, slightly more than seven and a half years after touching Texas soil, and 2,400 miles from where they had fled their indian captors in Texas.

By boat back to Spain

De Vaca sailed from Veracruz, Mexico April 10, 1537 and, after a stop in Cuba, arrived in Lisbon, Portugal on August 9.

By boat from Spain to South American

De Vaca sailed from Cádiz December 2, 1540 and arrived at Santa Catalina Island off the coast of Brazil on March 29, 1541. De Vaca had been appointed governor and military captain of Rio de la Plata.

By foot from the island to Asuncion, Paraguay

Instead of going by boat down to Buenos Aires and sailing up river, de Vaca decided to march from the short near Santa Catalina Inland to Asunción. From October 18, 1541 to March 11, 1542, he marched the 1,200 miles to get there…on foot.

By boat, Cabeza de Vaca goes back to Spain for the last time

Apparently over-thrown and jailed from April 15, 1544 to March 7, 1545 because of his laws and leniency towards the natives (and no doubt other disagreements), Cabeza de Vaca once again marched back to the ocean and took a boat back to Spain. He was tried, found guilty and then petitioned and won a lesser sentence.

The book is an excellent summary of his journey (find it on Amazon here). Full disclosure: I was given this book by the TSHA, as our JoSara MeDia team is working to turn this into an audio book (see other TSHA audio books here).

Pikes Peak Ascent

Race Report: Pikes Peak Ascent 2015 (better late than never)

This race report for the 2015 Pikes Peak Ascent is late. The race was August 15…of 2015. Since then we’ve driven back from Denver, fixed a leak in the ceiling and recovered. Almost a year has passed, and the race is coming up again. I’ve had a hard time writing about this race, or survival encounter, or run in with my own mortality…whatever flowery words we could wrap it in. But with the 2016 version of the race happening in a few days, I have hope that these notes will help others prepare.

It was the most beautiful and challenging race I’ve ever run. I heard from racers who have run the Ascent multiple times that we were extremely luck with the weather. I have no doubt it would be even more challenging in bad weather.

TL,DR: I finished in about 4:30. My goal was 4 hours, with a stretch goal of 3:30 – those goals vanished quickly. The last mile took forever as I could not catch my breath. My lovely wife was waiting for me at the top, and her yelling my name was the only thing that got me across the line.  I could call it the slowest half-marathon I’ve ever run…or the fastest I’ve ever run up a 14-er.

I finished it. And yes, I’d do it again. The picture below (taken by my wife), even as I was gasping like a fish for air, says it all. It was an amazing beautiful course, on a fantastic day. I doubt my stopping occasionally and playing awed tourist with my phone camera affected my time much. But the trail and the weather offered a unique perspective on the scenery, whether it was looking up a Pikes Peak, looking down on the trail just traveled, or spotting a lake off in the distance.

Description: The Pikes Peak Ascent is a half-marathon (13.32 miles) from Manitou Springs up to the top of Pikes Peak. Except for the first part on roads through the city of Manitou Springs, the race is on Barr Trail.

Elevation gain (start to summit) is at 7,815′ (2,382m); the start is at 6,300′ (1,920m) and the summit is 14,115′ (4,302m). The average grade is 11%.

It has been described as the toughest half-marathon in the world. After running it, I do not disagree.

Training: I’ve been following Hanson’s Half-Marathon training program, and as time allows jumping the mileage up to those described in the Hanson Full-Marathon training program. I used the Hanson Half-Marathon training program before, most recently to achieve a PR in the December 2014 San Antonio half marathon. It appears that the only differences in the training program are longer Sunday easy runs and longer Thursday tempo runs.

For those readers that I do not know, to level set: at race time I was 53 years old. My half marathon PR is 1:47. I am a “flatlander”, so much of my training (the first 12 weeks of the 18 week Hanson program) was done in Houston in very high humidity, very high temps and almost no altitude. I temporarily relocated to Denver around the 4th of July, to get a bit more used to the altitude. I’ve had ACL replacement in the right knee and have a bit of arthritis in my left knee (or so my ortho keeps trying to tell me) but have mitigated that by changing to Newtons and changing my gait to a short, choppy one with much more mid-foot than the heel-toe I was doing in my mis-spent youth. I sometimes run with a knee brace; sometimes this is to help the arthritis, sometimes it is to help with my imagination.

With the Hanson program as a my guide, my training was 153 miles in May, 165 miles in June. Though pace didn’t really matter in this race, my target pace for training was the same as my half-marathon PR (an 8:15 pace).

Upon arriving at higher altitudes, as instructed by several more experiences runners, I reduced the mileage for the first week to let me body adjust to the higher altitude. I did feel out of breath at the first, but dehydration was more of a problem. After the first week it was not an issue. But I did apparently aggravate my left knee, either from running speed runs the 2nd week in Denver or trying to keep up with my wife in yoga (pigeon pose? really?). After that, the knee brace was a constant companion. I backed it off a bit, and did only 136 miles in July, and wound down to 50 miles in the 14 days before the race.

Pre-Race: We indulged in the night-before-pasta dinner while picking up the packet, and heard a large portion of the Peak Busters program. The Peak Busters is a female race organization which includes the first lady to run a marathon, Arlene Pieper (it was the Pikes Peak Marathon) and Sister

We were a bit concerned about parking, as we doubted we could use the street side parking that we did for the Barr Trail Race. We opted for the “middle and senior high school” parking, which was a bit of a cluster to get into (a single lane in and out). But we were one of the last ones in, and it was easy for my wife to find for the drive up to the summit to rescue me.

Start line of Pikes Peak AscentRace: Unlike the Barr Trail Mountain race, the Ascent (this year, anyway) had a wave start, with about 100 runners starting every minute. My wave started promptly at 7:09am, on a nice sunny day with slightly warmer than expected temps. There was rain in the forecast for the afternoon, but no worries about weather at the top, other than the usual “weather can change on the Peak in a minute” warnings.

Also unlike the Barr Trail race, the Ascent (and the Marathon the following day) starts on the streets in downtown Manitou Springs, running along Manitou Avenue and Ruxton Avenue, joining Barr Trail about 1.6 miles in.

For a very detailed description of the course, see this article on the SkyRunner website.

Manitou Springs to Barr Camp - Barr Trail Mountain Race redux: The run through Manitou Springs was a nice warm-up, with lots of supporters (including my lovely wife) and everyone was in high spirits. In spite of the time I spent in Denver, the higher altitude had me breathing pretty heavily right away. But that happened during the Barr Trail race as well, so I wasn’t worried.

BarrTrail1The road steepens quite a bit at the Cog Railway station and as I did on the Barr Trail race, I made sure not to tire by controlling the adrenaline. There were several who sprinted up the hill; these were the folks who knew what was coming and did not want to get to far behind in the single file track line going up the steps. See the photo at right to see what I mean.

Just like with the Barr Trail Mountain race, we did a “fast hike” pace rather than a run, due to the crowd of people. I found out very quickly that this was the norm for this race; there were several spots, especially on the switchbacks where you cannot pass and it is a steep climb. Therefore you either save you strength and just follow in line, or try to pass. I did a bit of both as we went through the “W”s, the 13 or so switchbacks as you climb up the trail. My tracker told me I was doing this about a minute per mile slower than the last race (doing 17-19 minutes, as opposed to a 16-18 minute pace before).

I won’t repeat a lot of the description I did from the Barr Trail Mountain Race (link). The flat part before Barr Camp was again very much welcomed, and the fast hike turned into a jog again. Then we carefully passed the wet rocks part at entered the aid station at Barr Camp.

I cannot emphasize enough how much running the Barr Trail Mountain run several weeks before this race helped. Folks local to Colorado Springs get to run the Incline or the Barr Trail frequently, but I never had. The Barr Trail Mountain race prepared me, at least for the first half. It was on the same trail, so it was familiar the second time around.

Not that it was any easier…in the Barr Trail Mountain Race, I reached Barr Camp in 1:42:47. This time I hit Barr Camp at 2:05:45. Granted the Ascent does start 1.6 miles earlier in Manitou Spring; but 23 minutes difference tells me I was taking it slow, as I meant to. There was a lot of race left.

To say this was “tough” would be putting it mildly. The elevation gain is about 2,150 feet to No-Name Creek, for a grade of about 13%. There were definitely parts where the voices in my head said I would not make it. But the mantra on this race is “Keep on Moving” so we did.

Barr Camp to the summit – Everything after Barr Camp was new to me. I’d never been on that trail. And, in spite of the “workout”, it was spectacular. Near the top, as you can see from some of the pictures below, it would be hard to describe the rocky masses above the tree line as beautiful. Yet it was.

UnderTheRocks

Running from Barr Camp toward the point of interest called the Bottomless Pit, the trail goes through forest, similar to the flat part before Barr Camp but steeper. I had spied a young lady at the starting line that had some of the most muscular legs I have seen on any human being. At about this point in the race, she “road-killed” me, going by at a steady pace while offering piggy back rides to some of her friends who were encouraging her. I *almost* took her up on it.

There are a lot more exposed tree roots and step-up rocks on this part of the trail. I didn’t take a tumble as I did on the way down in the Barr Mountain Trail race. But I did stub my toes a time or two.

As one would expect, there are more switchbacks here, before you get above the tree line. The photo to the right shows one of the cooler turns, right underneath some huge boulders.

During one of these switchbacks, we could hear the folks at the top cheering. I turned to the runners next to me and said “That must be the winner finishing. We might as well break out the beer and just rest for a while, since we have no chance to win.” That started an entire conversation speculating who won…which is somewhat difficult to do while you are gasping for air (we were probably around 11,000 feet at that point). Like many, I was assuming local favorite Andy Wacker had won (as I mention in my Barr Trail post, he did some amazing running while starting late on the Barr Trail race). As it turns out, a gent from the Japanese army who was apparently still jet lagged won in a time of 2:15:42, beating Andy by about 3 minutes.  It is humbling to know that these two ran up this mountain in half the time it took me.

According to the splits, I was doing about about an hour between each of the major milestones (start to No-Name, No-Name to Barr, Barr to A-Frame). Then, it got a bit more difficult.

Trail2
Emerging from the tree line is an other-worldly experience. The trail had gone around a couple of turns where you could glimpse the summit…or at least think that you could as it was off in the distance. But now, with no foliage in the way, you could see that snaking trail of runners stretching out ahead and behind…if you dared to look up from the trail long enough. And the perspective is off – or maybe it was delirium – because it seemed like everything looked closer.

There’s only three miles to go at this point, and the trail is about 12,000 feet elevation. And, at least for me (and it seemed like several others around me) the race turned into a slog. JAM – Just Always Move – was what the voices in my head were telling me. And so, for a certain part of this length of trail, was a fellow runner. He was verbally egging himself on, telling himself to keep going, reminding himself of his training. It could have all been in my head, but at this point, I just wanted to be alone with my own voices. So I pressed on past him.

Trail3There are those that describe these kind of landscapes as moon-scapes or Martian. I took as much time as I could to enjoy them. Looking back down the way we had come made for some amazing views.

I did get a bit dizzy. Whether it was from the altitude or from improper eating on the way up, I may never know. I did hit every aid station, and I had gels with me which I ate at regular intervals. My brother and I have speculated that I may have had some low blood sugar – I tried to eat the sugary stuff they had at the aid stations (I think they were Skittles) but they just didn’t go down well. Next long run, it is definitely time to look into Tailwind Nutrition or something like that.

But I have no doubt that, even with spending as much time before the race in the Denver area as I did, the altitude was absolutely affecting me. A couple of the runners I talked to on the way up were always amazed when they heard where I was from, living right near sea level. I assumed, as I had read, that acclimation would happen in 2-3 weeks. But running at 6,000 feet doesn’t acclimate you for slogging at 12,000 feet.

My wife and I determined why the racer bibs are different in this race. The runner’s first name is displayed prominently. At this point on the trail, there were a lot more volunteers, many of them medical staff monitoring the runners. I must have had a more dazed than usual look in my eye, as I had several look at my bib and say “Larry, you okay?” I can’t say enough about these volunteers, and their genuine concern for the runners safety. I thanked as many of them as I could on the way up.

AlmostToTheTop

I feel I should describe this part of the race more, but it really is just an amazing number of switchbacks. Most of the trail is the kind of crushed gravel that you see in the pictures above, until it gets to the rocks.

Just when you are thoroughly exhausted…you get to the 16 Golden Stairs. I’m not sure who applied that label, or who put them in the way of a nice trail. But they are certainly not stairs, unless you are Hakeem Olajuwon. These are large rocks that runners (or, at this point, sloggers) have to crawl over. Supposedly some of the earlier finishers were running over these; more power to them. I ran a bit on the flat places, just because I could hear the crowds and assumed somewhere around the next switchback I would be done. There were a lot of switchbacks remaining.

I passed a signed that was cheering on “Uncle Larry.” I knew my nieces and nephews hadn’t put it there, but I was going to take any motivation that I could at this point. I heard my wife’s voice, and knew I was either close to the finish line or hallucinating again. I didn’t want to look up to find her, for fear of falling on my face (not the way I’d want to make the local news). The announcer called out my name as I passed over the timing mat, and someone on the medical staff asked me, again, if I was okay…then moved me out of the way when they saw that I was still able to walk.

My wife told me that she’d forgotten my bib number, and was worried about me, since I had forecasted a much earlier finishing time. She said they were calling off the bib numbers of people who had pulled out of the race or who had been hurt…but not saying their names.

There was no way I wan’t going to finish.

My line for the race: 4:34:31 was my time. 766th out of 1697 finishers. 69th out of 147 in my age group finishers. I could call it the slowest half-marathon I’ve ever run…or the fastest I’ve ever run up a 14-er. My elevation and pace chart is included below for your viewing pleasure.

Nutrition: I alternated water and gatorade in the bottle I carried with me. I had four Gu gels with me, and went through them at scheduled intervals. The aid stations were well stocked, and I ate grapes and salty snacks. And, as I said above, I tried to eat the sugary crap, but it just wasn’t happening. Next time I do a run this long, I’m trying Tailwind.

Afterwards: I lived. And then, my wife the race car driver sped down the Pikes Peak road, trying to kill me. We had some well-deserved beer at the after-party, got the incredibly nice warm up jacket (with thumb holes no less) that finishers get…then made the long drive back to Denver.

As a side note: I was content to crash, my wife wanted to go down and get her nails done. She called me and said I should come on down and let them fix the nails that I shredded today and from the last race. I told her that was a bad idea, but the ladies there insisted. While the warm foot bath was quite nice, the girl who was doing my nails almost fainted when she saw my feet…and then she valiantly soldiered on, even getting a bandaid when one of my blisters burst. The day ended with lots of Indian food, and thoughts on whether I could do it again…or maybe try the entire marathon!

Pikes Peak Ascent Medal

 

FrontCover1024

Book Launch Day – The Story Behind “Re-reading Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn”

My new book, Re-reading Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, is available on Amazon starting today.

It is indeed a bit of a departure. It is not fiction like Dusk Before the Dawn or Software By The Kilo. It is not about a place we’ve traveled to, like the Grand Canyon and Quebec City apps and eBooks.

This book actually has been categorized by Amazon in the “History and Criticism” genre. It started out of a series of re-read posts that I made for Tad’s epic fantasy series, and I’ve documented the reasons for that lengthy re-read here (mainly my poor memory and getting read for the new series Tad is writing in the same world of Osten Ard).

Contrary to popular opinion, I did not write this to help me survive the mad doldrums between the end of Sharks hockey season and the start of Packers season; though certainly a motivating factor, it is not the main one.

Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is an important series in the history of the fantasy genre. It bridged the gap after Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings to George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones and other epic fantasy series. The series suffers a bit from recency bias – it was first published about 25 years ago. With the upcoming release of a new series set in the same world as well as additional novels in Osten Ard, my motivation is to bring this series back to the forefront of the fantasy genre…to prepare for the new books, to refresh on the originals.

I’d recommend everyone read this series. If you need a refresher, try my re-read ebook or the re-read posts here on this site.

The ebook has all of the re-read posts, edited and cleaned up as appropriate for an ebook, interlinking all of the chapters (this is my equivalent of “didn’t I just read about that somewhere before?”). Also added is a re-read of The Burning Man, the only other story set in Osten Ard outside of this trilogy. There are articles on the Three Swords that are at the center of the trilogy’s plot, some summaries of Tad Williams’ other series, and some predictions on what the new series holds. The article that I originally wrote for SFSignal on where this series fits in the history of fantasy has also be updated and included. With the kind permission of Tad Williams and Deborah Beale, excerpts are included where appropriate.

The table of contents of the book is at the end of this article. If your copy does not include this table of contents, please request that Amazon send an updated copy – the first few pre-order copies were sent without The Burning Man chapter.

This book is dedicated to my friend John DeNardo who until recently spent many long hours running the two-time Hugo award winning SFSignal. The site has been retired, but John’s penchant for helping authors, publishers and bloggers has left a long lasting legacy. Those of us that were privileged enough to write for the site enjoyed freedom and support. There were more guest posts, launch posts and interviews than any other site in its time frame, and many of those helped launch books and careers. John did it because he liked reading science fiction, and he liked helping people who enjoyed both reading and writing it. Luckily, I live close enough to John that he cannot get away from me by simply shutting down an award winning web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Tad Williams is Ruining My Calm
Background: Memory, Sorrow and Thorn and its Place in Fantasy History
A Note on These Re-Reads
The Dragonbone Chair, Part One: Simon Mooncalf
The Dragonbone Chair, Part Two: Simon Pilgrim
The Dragonbone Chair, Part Three: Simon Snowlock
Stone of Farewell, Part One: Storm’s Eye
Stone of Farewell, Part Two: Storm’s Hand
Stone of Farewell, Part Three: Storm’s Heart
To Green Angel Tower, Part One: The Waiting Stone
To Green Angel Tower, Part Two: The Winding Road
To Green Angel Tower, Part Three: The Turning Wheel
To Green Angel Tower, Part Four: The Blazing Tower

The Burning Man

Thoughts on The Three Swords
Thoughts on The Last King of Osten Ard
Other Series by Tad Williams
Additional Resources

To Green Angel Tower Part 2

To Green Angel Tower Part 2 re-read – Part Two: The Blazing Tower

To Green Angel Tower Part 2INTRODUCTORY NOTE:  This is the LAST of TEN re-read posts. I had originally planned to time these last re-read posts of To Green Angel Tower with the release of Tad’s new trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard, so that I would go into those new novels with fresh memories of the original trilogy. I’ve had lots of feedback on them, and appreciate all of the comments (and corrections when needed). These posts will certainly help me to remember details when the first book, The Witchwood Crown, is published in Q1 2017 (which is about when the Packers will be winning Super Bowl 51 in Houston!).

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THE DOOR STOP COMETH!!! This is a big book. In the original hardback it was one of the longest novels ever written. And, of course, it needs to be, since there is a lot to wrap up and a lot of questions to be answered.

This is the second and last part of the re-read of To Green Angel Tower Part 2, the final 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.

The re-read post for To Green Angel Tower Part 1 part One, The Waiting Stone is here.

The re-read post for To Green Angel Tower Part 1 part Two, The Winding Road is here.

The re-read post for To Green Angel Tower Part 2 part One, The Turning Wheel is here.

This fourth book (part 2) is 796 pages – paperback. Part Two: The Blazing Tower goes from page 476  to 796.

This also means THIS IS THE LAST of these re-read posts after this one. Hopefully I have timed it to where there will not be too many weeks until the release of The Witchwood Crown, the first in Tad’s new series. And, yes Tad, this is a strong hint…or wish…or even bribery over adult beverages…to push for an early 2017 release! Or a 2016 Christmas present, dude!

EDIT: as of this posting, it looks like THE HEART OF WHAT WAS LOST: A Novel of Osten Ard (which is a bridge novel between the two series) will be released January 2017, with THE WITCHWOOD CROWN released in April 2017.

A note on the obvious: if you have not read the book, since this post describes said book…here there be spoilers! And color commentary is in color (mostly in this color).

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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.

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Chapter 21: The Frightened Ones - Miri finds that the ones who have taken her while Binabik fights with Hengfisk are the dwarrows, specifically Yis-fidri and Yis-hadra. They refuse to take her back, saying that she was in a perilous place, and brought something there that she should not have.

Segue to Count Eolair, who continues to worry about Maegwin. The Sithi tell him that she is still close to death, but also tell him she is muttering in the Gardenborn tongue. She acts like she seeks something to hold, and Eolair goes through her things, presenting them to her in her comatose-state one at a time. The stone that Yis-fidri carved for her calms her, and she again speaks in the Gardernborn language (Kira’athu of the Sithi is taking care of her). Then she is quiet and goes back into her deep coma.

Duke Isgrimnur is watching the show as Camaris and Josua’s victory and dominion over Nabban is recognized by the Lector of the church, and then Count Streáwe. The Duke is observing Camaris:

It’s as if he knows he’s done one of the things he’s meant to do – but only one. He wants to rest, but he can’t yet. The Duke thought he finally understood. I’ve wondered why he was so strange, so distant. He does not wish to live. He is only here because he believes God wishes him to finish the tasks before him. Clearly any questioning of God’s will, even the infallibility of the lector, was difficult for Camaris. He thinks of himself as a dead man. Isgrimnur suppressed a shudder. It was one thing to yearn for rest, for release, but another to feel that one was already dead. The Duke wondered momentarily if Camaris might, more than any of them, understand the Storm King. (pg 487)

Josua states that he knows the wealth that Count Streáwe has gathered while Nabban was under siege (Benigaris told him as he was dying), and tells him he wants ships ready to sail in seven days to Erkyland. The Count mentions that the Clavean Bell barely rang, it was so icy (this was one of the prophecies in Nisses’ book).

Back with Miri and the dwarrows, where she gives them permission to search her bags for the “something” that she brought that shouldn’t have been there. They eventually pull out Simon’s white arrow, saying it is part of a master witness, made by Vindaeomayo, whom the dwarrows had trained. They tell Miri that the tower stairwell is a place where “powers, things that were sleeping, are awakening.” The Tinukeda’ya hear the voices of the stone, and have walked through long forgotten tunnels from where Eolair and Maegwin met them to be under the Hayholt (that’s quite an underground hike! And, yes, as a map geek, I did not suppress the urge to whip out Nathan’s cool map one last time.).
map-osten-ard

This very cool map is from Jonadab the Unsightly One, used with his permission (thanks, Nathan!)
From Mezutu’a (just north and east of Hernysadharc) to the Hayholt (using the scale in the bottom left) is about 50 leagues … underground … with no underground horses with night vision. That’s a long journey. Maybe since they hear the voices of the stone they told them where the subway was.

Chapter 22: A Sleeping Dragon - Simon is on the wheel, talking with Guthwulf, trying to convince him to free him. Guthwulf gives Simon water, and says the voices are telling him to hide (we all have Voices in our Heads!). He leaves Simon on the wheel.

And now we get to the big reveals. Simon doesn’t now recognize what is being shown to him, but we do, don’t we?

Simon drifts again into delirium, and the “angel” comes to him again, to show him things in the past. He sees a fair-haired man with a spear, creeping toward a sleeping dragon. But the dragon was not sleeping, it was dead. Simon recognizes the place the vision is showing – it is the forge, from an earlier time. He sees a skeleton under the dragon, and the man who was that skeleton had slew the dragon, his sword still clutched in his hands and driven into the skeleton’s belly. Simon ALMOST recognizes the fair-haired man, then the thought fades. The fair-haired man pulls the sword from the dragons belly, then cuts the dragon’s claw to carry with him.

He felt the Sithi ghosts,” the angel whispered to him. Simon had been so caught up in the man’s private torment that he was startled by her voice. “He felt them shame him for his lie.” (pg. 504)

Simon doesn’t recognize the men in the vision, but the angel tells him they are part of his story…and that he must “go deeper” (we’ve heard that before). The angel takes him to another vision, of a man sitting in a room, a man Simon had glimpsed in his stairwell dream and thinks that he recognizes. An old woman with a little girl of seven or eight years old comes in, and something passes between the old woman and the man. He gives her a ring from his finger, and says a tearful goodbye to the girl. Then he pulls out a sword that Simon recognizes as the sword he just saw in the dragon’s belly. The angel prods him, asks if he understands, tells him this is HIS story. But Simon is delirious and doesn’t understand.

Simon wants to go back, feels the pull of oblivion, but the angel (who tells him she loves him) wants to show him one more thing. Simon sees a man with the antlers, the enemy, sitting on a pedestal of stone in the Pool of the Three Depths. “This version of the enemy was a living creature.”

The angel, who Simon finally recognizes as Leleth, fades away (finally being pulled into a true death), and Simon is stuck in whatever between-world she brought him to.

Chapter 23: The Rose Unmade - Duke Isgrimnur and Josua are at sea. They have Niskies aboard who are helping keep the kilpa away, but are still having to fight off several attacks a day. Isgrimnur makes the astute observation that if the Niskies are related to the immortals, and asks why they should favor the Sithi over the Norns in this battle? It is a question that is never answered.

Camaris cannot sleep, the sword is ever in his dreams. He says he must unburden himself to Josua, and asks the Duke for privacy. When the Duke returns after Camaris leaves, Josua has “the expression of a man who has seen his own death.” What Camaris and Josua spoke of is unknown.

Miri is with the dwarrows, trying to learn about the three swords. The dwarrows seem “afraid of everything,” cautioning her when she says Ineluki’s name out loud.

The dwarrows tell Miri that they made all three swords, and they can feel them like they felt Simon’s white arrow (which was part of a master witness, as you, dear reader, may recall from a couple of chapters ago).

This is a long excerpt, but pretty important in the history of the three swords. Miri says she heard that Ineluki made the sword Sorrow himself.

The dwarrow sighed. “Indeed. We were the smiths of Asu’a – or at least some of our people were…some who had not fled our Zid’ya masters, but who were still Navigator’s Children for all that, still as like to us as two chunks of ore from the same vein. They all died when the castle fell.” Yis-fidri chanted a brief lament in the dwarrow tongue; his wife, Yis-hadra, echoed him. “He used the Hammer that Shapes to forge it – our Hammer – and the Words of Making that we taught to him. It might as well have been our own High Smith’s hand that crafted it. In that terrible instance, wheresoever we were, scattered across the world’s face…we felt Sorrow’s making. The pain of it is with us still.” He fell silent for a long time. “That the Zid’ya allowed such a thing,” he said at last, “is one of the reasons we have turned away from them. We were so sorely diminished by that one act that we have ever since been crippled.”
“And Thorn?”
Yis-fidri nodded his heavy head. “The mortal smiths of Nabban tried to work the star-stone. They could not. Certain of our people were sought out and secretly brought to the Imperator’s Palace. These kin of ours were thought by most mortals to be only strange folk who watched the oceans and kept the ships safe from harm, but a small number knew that the old lore of Making and Shaping ran deep in all the Tinukeda’ya, even those who had chose to remain at sea.”
“Tinukeda’ya?” It took a moment to sink in. “But that’s what Gan Itai…those are Niskies!”
“We are all Ocean Children,” said the dwarrow gravely. “Some decided to stay near the sea which forever separates us from the Garden of our birth. Others chose more hidden and secretive ways, like the earth’s dark places and the shaping of stone. You see, unlike our cousins the Zida’ya and the Hikeda’ya, we Children of the Navigator can shape ourselves just as we shape other things.” (pg. 515-516)

Tiamak and Strangyeard are on the deck of the boat (no doubt enjoying the nice cool breeze). I would normally embed a vid here, but “I’m On A Boat” is too perfect…and too explicit for this PG re-read! Anyway

They believe that the Norns have been using a strategy of misdirection to keep them from the answer of the three swords. “Either there is something so simple that we could not fail to see it, if we were not caught up in the day-to-day struggle, or there is someone or some place vital to us that we cannot reach as long as this war between brothers continues.” (pg. 523-524). Strangyeard thinks back to the Norns herding them as they were leaving Naglimund, and wonders if they were trying to keep them from the Sithi.

Miriamele dreams of a hand coming up from a grave crushing a rose. She wakes to find the dwarrows shaken; they call it “a very strong one…some change is happening here – a change in the bones of the earth and the heart of Asu’a.” (pg 526). Miri sleeps again (she’s picking up this sleeping habit from Simon) and awakes to find Binabik there, found by the dwarrows and brought to the cave, who tells her of his fight with Hengfisk. He tells her Hengfisk said the Norns were “false beyond believing.”  The dwarrows and Binabik tell her there are Norns and soldiers now in the tunnels. They have hidden the door, but someone with “skilz(my quote!) has found the door and is trying to get in. Miriamele admonishes the dwarrows for being a bit chicken about fighting (okay, more than a bit). As she and Binabik are set to fight whoever comes through the door, it opens and Cadrach falls in.

Chapter 24: The Graylands - Simon is stuck in the “Graylands”, his body on the wheel near death and Leleth his guide long gone. He visualizes himself strapped to the wheel, and tries to push himself out of the void, but cannot.

After a time, he feels another presence, and it coalesces into a woman. It is Maegwin. She says Simon had come to her before, and she says she is waiting…for what she does not know. She believe Simon is dead, but he assures he’s just left his body and can’t get back (what a problem to have). He convinces her that this is a waiting place – “the dead go on” – thinking of Leleth. Maegwin realizes her folly in thinking herself amongst the gods when she was alive (or mostly alive?). They tell each other their stories (they are in limbo, they got the time). Maegwin describes how she ended up in this place, after touching the mind of the “red one” in Naglimund, the one she thought was the god Scadach. Simon asks her to describe it, thinking it may clue him in on what is going on in the Hayholt. She shows him a vision of the White Tree that is always in Simon’s dreams…but this one is Green Angel Tower (that would be a good name for a fantasy book).

She also says it thought of Naglimund as the Fourth House…like the Fire Dancers who captured Simon and Miri had lunatically raved about.

Simon tells Maegwin he must get back to his body, so he can get this information to Josua and company. He tries again, but can’t get there. Maegwin believes that is why she was waiting, and some how she gives her essence, the last of her strength to Simon…who awakens in pain on the wheel…with Guthwulf trying to cut him down.

Guthwulf finally cuts him down, and Inch discovers them. He grabs Guthwulf and begins to push him under the water that the wheel was moving. Simon notices that the wheel is now out of the water; Guthwulf had figured out how to stop it and lift it up. Simon, using the little strength from Maegwin, hits at Inch, but Inch just picks him up and throws him. The other forge workers start watching, and Stanhelm comes to Simon. Stanhelm points him to the lever that controls the wheel, which is how Guthwulf had lifted it up. Simon releases the lever, and the wheel comes down on Inch and starts turning. The wheel catches Inch’s belt and lifts him up. He grabs one of the chains that is above the wheel (which is hanging from something up in Pryrates tower and being driven by the wheel). Inch gets himself off the wheel, but then gets his foot caught in the chain. He is pulled up the chimney, lets out a nice scream, and comes back out as a meat sandwich (of sorts).

Simon follows Guthwulf out of the forge by way of the escaping waters, to a cave Guthwulf calls home.

Chapter 25: Living In Exile - Maegwin dies. Jiriki and Eolair are with her. In spite of Eolair’s protests, Jiriki tells Eolair that what he knows of Maegwin’s last thoughts (he knows this because of Maegwin’s connection with the stone the dwarrows gave her, and Jiriki’s connection to it). Jiriki tells Eolair that Maegwin regained her sanity at the end, and that she thought of Simon (who Eolair says Maegwin had never met). Jiriki hurries off to the Hayholt, and Eolair leaves to take Maegwin home to bury.

Aditu and Duke Isgrimnur are conversing on the deck of a ship, having taken shelter from the storms at the Kynslagh. Isgrimnur is surprised that King Elias has not attacked as yet. He and Aditu speak of age, and how it affects each of their peoples. Aditu talks about how age affected the Norn Queen:

“…something in her was balked and grew bent, and so she curled in toward malice. As the years almost beyond counting rolled past, all that was once admirable became twisted.” Aditu had suddenly become serious is a way that Isgrimnur had not seen before. “That is perhaps the greatest sorrow of our folk, that the ruin of the world should be brought about by two who were among the greatest of the Gardenborn.”
“Two?” Isgrimnur was trying to reconcile the stories he had heard of the silver-masked queen of ice and darkness with Aditu’s description.
“Ineluki…the Storm King.” She turned back to look across the Kynslagh, as though she could see the old Asu’a looming beyond the darkness. “He was the brightest burning flame every kindled in this land. Had the mortals not come – had your own ancestors not come, Duke Isgrimnur – and attacked our great house with iron and fire, he might have led us out of the shadows of exile and back into the light of the living world again. That was his dream. But any great dream can flower into madness. (pg. 560-561)

A lot in that excerpt for the next series, The Last King of Osten Ard. Why were the Gardenborn exiled should be a key question I hope Tad examines in the new series.

A quick look in on the nursery…I mean, on Gutrun with Vorzheva and her twins. We learn their names: Deornoth and Derra. Vorzheva had a dream that Josua would come back to her safely. And it starts snowing (in Nabban….in the south).

Josua’s troops have landed. Tiamak is called to see to Aditu, who was discovered collapsed and seemingly asleep (like Leleth). Tiamak sees something in her hand; it is a mirror, and when he retrieves it, Aditu awakens and tells him not to look into it. She had tried to use the mirror to travel the Dream Road and find her brother Jiriki. What she did find was something waiting for her…a structure. “A construction of the Art….a maelstrom of smoke and sparks and black energies” (pg 568).  When she first encounters it, she hears or feels the word “Sumy’asu”, which means “The Fifth House.”

Count Eoliar and his Hernystirmen part ways with the Sithi. Isorn goes with the Sithi, in hopes of finding his family and Josua at the Hayholt. Eolair returns home to bury Maegwin and help his people rebuild (or survive).

Chapter 26: Song of the Red Star - Cadrach tells Miriamele that he followed her all the way to Sesuad’ra (our own Gollum!) and then followed her to the Hayholt. And then the Norns started following him and he forced open the hidden door. The dwarrows say that forcing the door open has weakened their magic, and that only a lore master could do so. Binabik tells Miri that once Padraic (Cadrach’s old name) was “perhaps the most adept user of the Art in all Osten Ard.” (pg 574). Miri tries to get the dwarrows to fight the Norns, but they are afraid…and Cadrach says it matters not for the end of the world is near…and he has know about it for a very long time.

Simon awakens (ok, this time he deserved his sleep) to find Guthwulf hot with fever, and mumbling about fever dreams. Simon considers taking Bright-Nail and leaving, but stays to take care of Guthwulf.

Pryrates finds out the Guthwulf and Simon were in the forge and have escaped.

Camaris comes to Josua and Duke Isgrimnur, telling them he is being called by his sword Thorn, which is being called by the other two swords. Josua and the Duke calm Camaris down. They two have discovered that Bright-Nail is not in King John’s burial tomb, and they have discovered Simon and Binabik’s digging (though they know not that it was Simon). Sludig comes in, reporting that while patrolling he heard horns from the North.

Miriamele presses Cadrach to explain his claim of “the end of the world.” He recounts some of his activities in his time with Pryrates, a portion of which he has related to Miri before. Cadrach spied on Morgenes, and sent correspondence to Jarnauga about Ineluki, but to no avail. Still seeking to please Pryrates (after lots of torture), and having already told Pryrates of the three swords, Cadrach sets out to get Bright-Nail, which he had figured out was King John’s sword Minneyar before anyone else. The King’s burial ground is guarded, so Cadrach tells Pryrates what he knows…but Pryrates was already aware of the sword’s location. He wants it left there…when the time is right, the swords will come together. Cadrach does not know if Pryrates intends to use the power of the three swords to keep the Storm King in check, or has some other plan.

After this story time, Binabik and Miri make plans to rush the door to try and reach the others.

Chapter 27: Hammer of Pain - Jiriki, Isorn and the Sithi reach the Hayholt where they meet Josua, Isgrimnur and the rest. They decide to send in Camaris with his sword and some of the Sithi while a siege is waged against the Hayholt, not only as a distraction but because they are running out of time. They all know the Conqueror Star is coming, and they do not know what is signifies. Yet they know time is running out.

Elias is wandering the corridors, looking for his cupbearer. Pryrates tells him they doubt they will see Hengfish again, and Pryrates will take care of him. The King talks about going out to his family, but Pryrates continues to tell him that they are the enemy. He gets Elias back into his bed. Elias tells him he can hear the Conqueror Star (there’s a lot of that going on) and it is telling him “it is time.” Elias also tell Pryrates that Elias will do what he thinks is right. As he leaves the King’s room, Pryrates puts spells on the door and hinges.

Tiamak decides he must go into the tunnels with Camaris and the Sithi, since he knows the most about the swords (besides Strangyeard, who is partially blind). They all sleep, intending to head into the tunnels and then start the siege in the morning. But Josua is awakened, seeing Camaris head for the caves in the night. He rouses Jerimiah to go get Isgrimnur, and follows Camaris. Camaris is mad with sword fever, and swings his sword at Josua when Josua tries to stop him. Josua, after lifting himself up, follows Camaris in the caves. When Isgrimnur and his men arrive later, they find that the tunnel Josua chased Camaris into splits into three paths, and they cannot find the prince.

Chapter 28: Abandoned Ways - Miriamele continues to push on the dwarrows to help fight off the Norns so they can escape their cave. She manages to convince them when Yis-fidri pushes her away, and she uses that to convince him he has the strength to push the Norns away (plus his wife, Yis-hadra, says she’ll help…so Yis-fidri is kinda screwed). The dwarrows loosen some stones above the doorway that drop when the Norns storm in. They fight, with the dwarrows showing strength, then turn and run. Miri has picked up a bow, and Cadrach seems to have vanished.

Josua is gone but Isgrimnur proceeds with the plan. Isorn will pretend to be Camaris, and now Brindalles of Nabban, in tribute to what Josua and the others have done to free their country, agrees to pretend to be Josua in the attack on the Hayholt.

Tiamak heads into the tunnels with the Sithi party, made up of Jiriki, Aditu, Likimeya (who Tiamak thought would be too important to venture into the caves), “…as well as Kira’athu, a small, quiet Sitha woman; another woman named Chiya, who seemed to Tiamak inexplicably more foreign than even the rest of the alien group; and a tall, black-haired Sitha-man named Kuroyi.” (pg. 627). They find Josua, whose torch had run out, and who had not found Camaris. Likimeya says if the swords are drawing them together, she knows where they will be going and will taken them by the straightest path.

Miri, Biniabik, the dwarrows and Cadrach (who was missing but just kinda turns up) are still fleeing the Norns. Binabik suddenly asks if all three swords were formed with The Words of Making, and the dwarrows say that they were indeed.

“Yes. It was needful to bind their substance – to bring their being within the Laws.”
“What Laws are these?”
“Those Laws that cannot be changed. The Laws that make stone be stone, make water be water. They can be…” he searched for a word, “stretched or altered for a short time, but that brings consequences. Never can they be undone.” (pg. 634)

This freaks Binabik the heck out, makes him agree with Cadrach that it is the end of the world as we know it.

Chapter 29: Hand of the North - Underneath Stormpike, Utuk’ku has an out of body moment.

The angry Dark One was gone from the Harp. He had moved himself to the place – if it could be called a place – where he could act in concert with her to enact the final step of their centuried scheme, but she could still feel the weight of his hatred and envy, personified in the net of storms that spread across the land above. (pg. 636)

She reaches out to see if the power that she needs is accessible in Venyha Dos’ae (the Three Pools?), and it is.

The rest of this chapter focuses on the attack on the walls of the Hayholt, told from multiple changing perspectives.

After reading a Writ (i.e., Elias is a bad boy), they send in the battering ram. Isgrimnur wonders briefly if the enemy’s only goal is to delay them, then why didn’t they parley to delay? Sludig and Isorn (who is dressed as Camaris) see Norns on the wall. The Sithi start singing, as they did at Naglimund. The battering ram is at the gate, and the winter storm is making it hard for archers on both sides.

Strangyeard, who is in the back watching with Sangfugol, realizes something about the tunnels, and leaves his safety to find the Duke.

The battering ram brings down the gate. Isorn, dressed up to imitate Camaris, charges through. A second gate, hidden, is raised behind them, trapping them. As the Duke is trying to muster troops to get them out, Strangyeard warns him that the Norns must know of the tunnels as well…just as the Norns come up behind them…trapping them like Isorn and his troops are trapped.

Chapter 30: Beside the Pool - My notes on these next four chapters are long, so I apologize in advance (you think Tad was wordy?). But there is a lot happening here near the end.

Guthwulf is still feverish, mumbling about the flaming tree. Simon finds the cat (Tad, what is it with cats? What about a dog or two?) that was leading Guthwulf around.

Simon wonders if the sword Bright-Nail had made Guthwulf come after him.

The thought was a frighteningly seductive one. If Bright-Nail was being drawn to the great conflict that was coming, then maybe somehow it knew that Guthwulf would never willingly go up into the light again. As Thorn had chosen Simon and his fellows to bring it down from Umrsheim and back to Camaris, maybe Bright-Nail had chosen Simon to carry it up to Green Angel Tower to fight the Storm King.
Another dim recollection surfaced. In my dream, Leleth said that the sword was part of my story. Is that what she meant? The details were strangely misty, but he remembered the sad-faced man who had held the blade across his lap as he waited for something. The dragon? (pg. 653)

Simon pulls Bright-Nail away from Guthwulf, and it feels “right” in his hands. He sleeps with it. When he awakens, Guthwulf is cold and dead. Simon wraps the body, and starts to head blindly through the caves. But the cat stops him (by tripping him; a dog would have barked, or panted, Tad!), and Simon follows the cat.

The dwarrows show Miriamele and Binabik the way up to the tower. The dwarrows go down into the tunnel, away from the light, and Miri, Binabik and a reluctant Cadrach go up toward the tower.

Josua and Tiamak are with the Sithi, awed by the wonders of Asu’a (all this time, sitting underneath the Hayholt). The reality is shifting for all of them, in waves it seems to pass and the mortals see many other people in those waves. They had stopped for a while in the Hall of the Five Staircases, and Aditu tells Tiamak that is where her mother’s mother, Briseyu Dawnfeather, died.

The waves come stronger, and Jiriki says they must hurry. They reach the Pool of the Three Depths, which Jiriki tells them is a Master Witness. They find Camaris there, quite wild-eyed. Likumeya tells him they can help ease his pain, but Camaris has his sword Sorrow out. The Sithi Kuroyi pulls his, but Likumeya tells him to put it away.

“Pity.” Kuroyi sounded genuinely regretful. “I have always wondered what it would be to cross swords with the greatest of mortal warriors…” (pg. 665)

Tiamak hears a voice in his head. “How you do love mortals…You cannot leave them alone.” It is Utuk’ku, who forms in the mist above the Pool of the Three Depths, using the Master Witness to amplify her presence. Likumeya and the Sithi begin a mental battle with Utuk’ku, silent except for the singing. Camaris heads away and the Sithi tell Josua and Tiamak to follow him.

“Go!” said Aditu urgently. She tugged at Tiamak’s sleeve, pulling him off-balance and sending him stumbling towards Josua. “We will call on the power of the Oldest Tree and hold her at bay as long as we can, but we cannot defeat their plan here. Utuk’ku is already drawing on the Master Witness. I can feel it.”
“But what is she doing? What is happening?” Tiamak heard his voice rising with terror.
“We cannot see that,” Aditu moaned. Her teeth were clenched. “We have all we can do to hold her back. You and the others must accomplish what remains. This is our battle. Now go!” (pg. 666)

Tiamak sees something else forming in the pool, something tree-like that begins entangling the Norn Queen’s image. She destroys Kuroyi and staggers Aditu, but the Sithi recover and sing stronger. Josua pulls Tiamak after Camaris.

Simon is still following the cat, feeling stronger for having survived the wheel and the void, and using that strength to resist the strange images that he sees around him (like the rest of our merry troupe). He gets back to where Rachael had left the food, and finally gets back out of the tunnels. He starts up a staircase, which the cat refuses to follow.

I suppose there’s no cat in the world stupid enough to go where I’m going. (pg. 671)

Simon comes up out in the storeroom where he had found Prince Josua held captive long ago. He goes up the ladder to the refectory. Bright-Nail is pulling him towards Green Angel Tower, but as he looks out the door he sees the battle raging in the yard between him and the tower.

Chapter 31: The False Messenger - As Binabik, Miriamele and Cadrach are climbing (and catching their breath), Binabik puts 18 and 18 together and believes he has figured some things out, not the least of which is the “false messenger” they have been repeatedly warned about.

Binabik reminds them that the Words of Making must be very powerful, as they are holding the swords together, swords that were made from materials that should not been together. That means there is a LOT of pent up energy in there. His theory is that the book of Nisses, and the rhyme they have been following were given in glimpses to Simon and others along the Dream Road. But the Dream Road was compromised.

What if the Storm King put those dreams there, directing all to bring him the swords, so that, instead of the power of the swords being used to destroy the Storm King, that the power of their un-making could be used for something else?

Then, a theory of my own: since the swords are made from things not of Osten Ard, are the Sithi actually from another planet? The ship they refer to could be a space ship, and one of the swords was made from it keel. If true, this could be great fodder for the next series of books. If not…well, forget I mentioned it. The Niskies seem to have great affinity for the sea, not space…so possibly a theory without merit.

Duke Isgrimnur tries to rally his forces outside of the gate, fighting giants and Norns in massed chaos.

Miri, Binabik and Cadrach make it to the King’s chambers, and find them empty (and disgusting). They look out over the lower bailey and see the same battle that Simon was viewing through the door of refectory. But they see who they think are Camaris and Josua (we know that it is Isorn and Brindalles of Nabban imitating them), and the Norns are slowly but surely driving the two and their troop to Green Angel Tower. Binabik suspects it is to get the swords there.

Josua and Tiamak are still climbing after Camaris. After climbing through multiple storerooms, they catch him, standing in a sort of daze. At the bottom of a staircase leading to the room is Pryrates, surrounded by seemingly dead soldiers…and holding a Camaris look alike (which is, of course, Isorn dressed as Camaris). Isorn is dead, and Josua rushes Pryrates with his sword drawn. But Pryrates, having already dispatched Isorn, Brindalles (who was dressed at Josua) and their soldiers, easily surrounds Josua and his sword with magic, grabs both and slings Josua into a wall where he falls motionless. Tiamak, who was running behind, slides into the shadows, and watches Pryrates lead the real Camaris with his sword up into another chamber. As they are leaving, Camaris tries to resist. Then a door explodes inward, people rush in through the haze, and a black arrow is shot at Pryrates, piercing his neck, dropping him like a red rock.

Miri leads Binabik and Cadrach through back passages she used to play in as a kid (only a few short books ago!).  They collect arrows along the way, including some black Norn arrows (yes, we can see where this is going). They get to a door that is locked, and too strong to force. Cadrach senses that Pryrates has also built some kind of a magic dome barrier. The threesome are now trapped inside this barrier, and the barrier is shrinking, forcing them against the locked door. Miri asks Cadrach to force the door with magic but he says he cannot. While Binabik pulls something out of his ever-present pack and starts working on the door, Miri tries to go back the way they came, but the ever shrinking barrier stops her. She returns, and Binabik blows the door. They step through and see Pryrates, who Miri instinctively shoots with an arrow (aiming for the body, but hitting the neck…a nice miss!).

They see Josua stirring, and he is dazed and surprised to see Miriamele. Camaris is still being pulled to go up the stairs with his sword. Miri, Binabik and Tiamak all try to stop him, and Miri asks Josua to run him through, to do anything but take the sword up (since they have now determined and have told Josua that is just what the enemy wants). Josua cannot bring himself to fight Camaris, but has figured out who waits at the top of the stairs. Begging the trio to stall Camaris, he runs up, sword out, to face his brother. Miri asks Tiamak to follow him, and asks him to make sure Josua and her father (who is surely at the top of the stairs) don’t kill each other. Tiamak drags his alligator-munched leg up the stairs, still wishing he was back home.

Then…Pryrates springs back to life, pissed at Miri for using a Norn arrow to shoot him. She notches another but he destroys it with magic. Pryrates calls Cadrach/Padreic to him, and, to Miri’s dismay, Cadrach crawls over and kneels in front of Pryrates. Miri asks Pryrates what he has to gain from all this.

“Gain? Why, everything. Wisdom such as you cannot even imagine, child. The entire cosmos, laid naked before me, unable to hide even its smallest secret.” He extended his arms and, for a moment seemed almost to grow. His robe billowed and eddies of dust whirled away across the chamber. “I will know things at which even the immortals can only guess.” (pg. 705)

Camaris can no longer resist, and marches upward. Pryrates goes as well, even though Binabik shoots him in the neck with one of his poison darts.

Tiamak reaches the top in time to see the confrontation between Josua and Elias. Josua tried to reason with Elias, then tries to fight him with his sword. But when Elias begins to fight back, Josua is overwhelmed. Elias grabs Josua’s sword, and as the King is about to deliver the killing blow, Tiamak jumps on him…but only slows the blade, which hits Josua across the neck, knocking him down and out.

Chapter 32: The Tower - Simon makes his way up to the throne room, intending on using one of his old paths to get across the chaos of battle and to Green Angel Tower (that would be a good name for a book!). And, as always, even here at the end, Simon is introspective: in the throne room, he sees the six figures of past Kings in the throne room, and stops before Eahlstan Fiskerne’s likeness.

He’s the one I saw, he realized suddenly. In the dream Leleth showed me. He was reading his book and waiting for the dragon. She said: ‘This is part of your story, Simon.’ His eyes dropped to the thin circlet of gold around his own finger. The fish symbol scribed to the band looked back at him. What was it Binabik had told him the Sithi writing on the ring meant? Dragons and death?
“The dragon was dead.” That was what Leleth had whispered in that not-place, the window onto the past.
And King Eahlstan is part of my story?  Simon wondered. Is that what Morgenes entrusted to me when he sent this ring to me? The greatest secret of the League of the Scroll  - that its founder killed the dragon, not John? (pg 713)

Simon goes out a window and crawls across a wall through the blizzard above the battle. He has to leap across to a roof, almost falls, and  as he leaps into a tower window, makes his way through something invisible that tingles and stings him (Pryrates invisible magical dome, no doubt.). Bright-Nail is singing to him, pulling him up the tower. When he hears people and footsteps, he tries to hide, almost falls through a hole in the floor but drops the sword through it instead.

Miri and Binabik climb the stairs to the top of the tower, Miri adding a dagger from one of Isorn’s men to her bow and arrows. When they reach the room on top, they find Tiamak and Josua unconscious or dead on the floor, with Pryrates, Camaris and Elias in the room. Camaris is still waging his internal war with the sword.

Miri tries to talk to her father, but Pryrates uses magic and flings Binabik and Miri against a wall, pinning them there. Elias tells Pryrates to send them away, but Pryrates wants them to watch. From his responses (or lack thereof) to her pleas, Miri realizes that her father is lost to her, and that her attempt was futile. She tells her father she did it for love, but he rejects the concept.

Elias goes to the center of the room, and holds Sorrow aloft. Camaris, through no will of his own, joins him, holding Thorn in the same manner.

A point of blackness began to pulse where the tips of the two blades crossed, as though the world had been ripped open and some fundamental emptiness was beginning to leak through. Even through the bonds of the alchemist’ spell, Miriamele could feel the air in the high chamber grow hard and brittle. The chill deepened. Traceries of ice began to form in the arches of the windows and along the walls, spreading like wildfire. Within moments the chamber was furred with a thin surface of ice crystals that shimmered in a thousand strange colors. Icicles were growing on the great bells, translucent fangs that gleamed with the light of the red star. (pg. 723).

Simon climbs down and retrieves Bright-nail, then resumes his climb to the tower. The sword pulls him on, filling his mind with thoughts of glory, telling him that the time is now and the time is right. A part of Simon knows he is being controlled, and, like Camaris, he fights that control. But in the end, he is pulled into the room. Camaris sees him, and apologizes, saying everything is his fault. Simon sees Miri and Binabik pinned to the wall, but can do nothing. Pryrates acknowledges the “kitchen boy”.

Before he knew it, he was stepping forward. Bright-Nail clicked against the other two blades. The shock of contact traveled not just through Simon, but through the room as well. The black emptiness where the swords met deepened, a hole into which the entire world might fall and perish. (pg. 730)

Simon fights to break free and smite Pryrates with his sword but can’t. Elias is whining about how much it hurts, asking Pryrates if immortality is in reach. Pryrates calls upon the five houses and starts to say the Words of Unmaking.

Here’s where the five house are located; is there any significance to this arrangement? Any pattern? There is some discussion on the Tad Williams forum about it. (thanks to Ylvs for the tip!)

TheFiveHousesMST

  • 1st house  - on Thisterborg, one of the Red Hand is waiting.
  • 2nd house – Wentmouth, one of the Storm King’s servants
  • 3rd house – above Hasu Vale
  • 4th house – Naglimund, and we all know what happened there
  • 5th house – in Asu’a

Utuk’ku has apparently defeated Jiriki, Aditu and company using the Pool of the Three Depths, and there the Fifth and final house is created.

Rage and anger escape Simon, up through his sword arm and into “an unending emptiness, a gate into Unbeing.” (pg 735). Pryrates says he is funneling fear through the patten of the Five Houses. King Elias is burning away, though Pryrates continues to promise him immortality.

Pryrates begins chanting the Words of Unmaking. Elias begins to change; he is being used as a vessel for the return of Ineluki, the Storm King.

“I have prepared the way!” Pryrates called. “I have crafted the vessel. Now, in this place, let Time turn backward! Roll back the centuries to the moment before Ineluki was banished to the realms beyond death. As I speak the Words of Unmaking, let him return! Let him return!” He lapsed into a bellowing chant in a language harsh as shattering stone, as cracking ice. The blackness spread out over Elias and for a moment the king vanished utterly, as thought he had been pushed through the wall of reality. Then he seemed to absorb the blackness, or it flowed into him; he reappeared, thrashing and shrieking incoherently. (pg. 736).

Pryrates tells Elias he will live forever, but in his own body dominated by Ineluki. Simon watches helplessly as “something too horrible to exist” forces its way through the void and into Elias. The walls of the Hayholt vanish, and Simon sees that Time has indeed rolled back. He imagines the battle outside from five centuries earlier when Fingil’s army were attacking Asu’a, and wonders what happened to his time.

The Storm King somewhat solidifies, and Pryrates greets him, but tells him that Ineluki will bow to Pryrates will. Pryrates begins chanting again, supposedly a spell that will allow him to control this powerful undead Sithi. 

He chose…poorly.

A brief battle (well, more like Pryrates groveling for his life), and Pryrates realizes he has lost. He tells Ineluki he can be of service, but the Storm King, now somewhat solid, burns him to a crispy critter.

Sensing that Pryrates had weakened Ineluki, Simon tries to break free of whatever is holding him, and earns the attention of Ineluki. With it comes fear, and a glimpse into Ineluki’s soul. Simon has another one of those “Simon-introspections” that we’ve come to expect:

Staring helplessly across the short distance between them, watching as the thing regathered its strength, Simon remembered the vision Leleth had shown him of Ineluki beside the great pool. Such shattering unhappiness had been in that face, but the determination had been a mirror of Eahlstan’s as he sat in his chair and waited for the terrible worm he knew he must meet, the dragon he knew would slay him. They were somehow the same, Ineluki and Eahlstan, doing what must be done, though life itself was the price. And Simon was no different. (pg. 741)

Simon empathizes with the hatred and fear that Ineluki felt, and the hold through Bright-Nail lessens. As if he can sense what Simon is doing, Camaris regains his feet, and seems to shake off the hold of his sword a bit as well.

With Pryrates down and gone, the hold on Miri and Binabik is released. Miri calls to her father, and Elias is able to surface through the weakened Ineluki. But the King knows he cannot hold. Simon sees Miri put an arrow through Elias/Ineluki’s breast, and the beast begins to die. For a moment, the thing that is/was Ineluki tries to get into Simon, but he repels it. The spell on Simon is broken, the world returns to its normal time and the tower begins to collapse. A piece hits Simon in the head, thus ending his point of view (and this chapter!).

Chapter 33: Hidden From The Stars - Tiamak recounts the destruction of the tower and the survivors escape to Duke Isgrimnur, who continues to mourns the loss of Isorn.

Tiamak tells Isgrimnur that he believes Josua was killed by Elias sword, in spite of Tiamak’s intervention. Josua’s body was not found in the rubble.

Tiamak was awakened by Binabik as the tower was collapsing. The two of them and Miri grabbed the unconscious Simon and hightail it out, only dropping Simon twice. As they go down the stairwell, they encounter Cadrach covered with ash. They go down further together, the tower crashing around them, and reach a point where the stairwell is completely gone, with no way across. Cadrach sits and employs some magic, and urges Miri to trust him. She does and, as Tiamak describes it, walks across the air. The rest cross, but Cadrach says his energy is spent, and he stays on the other side as the building falls on top of him. The rest get down, Simon awakens and leads them to a window from which they can jump. Tiamak says the tower completely collapsed so nothing could be recovered…but Isgrimnur says that at least they were able to get Isorn’s body out.

Simon is wandering the destruction, two days after the collapse of the tower (which he slept most of; even after all he has been through, Simon is still a world-champion sleeper). He went to see Miri but, after checking out each other’s wounds and scars, she was distant. Simon goes into the throne room, trying to put the last pieces of what Leleth and his experiences were trying to tell him. He puts it together in front of the Fisher King, Eahlstan Fiskerne…his ancestor. He is still there contemplating when Duke Isgrimnur and others come in. The Duke says simply: “So you know, do you?” (pg. 756)

Simon has questions (Tad’s method for tying all the strings together, and very welcomed here!). He asks for more explanation about:

  • The “false messenger” warning, which Binabik had told him about. Simon asks why Pryrates and Elias needed he and Camaris to bring the swords, instead of just taking the swords. Jiriki explains, using what his mother Likimeya gleaned from Utuk’ku during their battle at the Pool of the Three Depths:

“The swords were almost living things. That will come as no surprise to anyone who bore one of them. A large part of their might was, as Binabik of Mintahoq suspected, the unworldly forces bound by the Words of Making. But almost as much of their power was in the effect those Words had. Somehow, the swords had life. They were not creatures like us – they had nothing in them that humans or even Sithi can fully understand – yet they lived. This was what made them greater than any other weapons, but it was also what made them difficult for anyone to rule or control. They could be called – their hunger to be together and to release their energies would eventually draw them to the tower – but they could not be compelled. Part of the terrible magic the Storm King needed for his plan to success, perhaps the most important part, was that the swords must come to the summoning themselves at the proper time. They must choose their own bearers.” (pg. 759-760)

  • Why go after Camaris (the burning tent and mortal wounding of Geloë incident) if the sword had already chosen him?

Apparently, he was a wild card. Utuk’ku knew he’d been with the Sithi and met with Ameresu, but didn’t know why. So they just decided to try and take him of the board.

  • Is it truly over? The Duke had told how the Hideka’ya fled when the tower fell. Aditu relates more:

“Even after Utuk’ku wrested control of the Pool from us,” Aditu said, “we fought her still. And when Ineluki began to cross over, we felt it.” The long pause was eloquent. “It was terrible. But we also felt it when his mortal body – King Elias body – died. Ineluki had abandoned the nowhere-place which had been his refuge, and risked final dissolution to enter back into the world. He risked, and he lost. There is surely nothing left of him.”
Simon raised an eyebrow. “And Utuk’ku?”
“She lives but her power is destroyed. She, too, gambled much, and it was through her magics that Ineluki’s being could be fixed in the tower during the moment when Time was turned withershins. The failure blasted her.” (pg. 762-763)

So Ineluki won’t be in the next series…but Utuk’ku might?

  • They speak of Simon’s heritage, that he is of the blood of Eahlstan Fiskerne, last king of Erkynland in the centuries before Prester John, and found of the League of the Scroll. Jiriki knew of Simon’s heritage, as Ealhlstan Fiskerne was the first mortal king after the fall of Asu’a to reach out to the Zida’ya. Jiriki was a messenger between Amerasu and Fiskerne. Jiriki knew the motto on Simon’s ring was King Eahlstan’s, but didn’t tell Simon because he thought it might distract him (ya think?).

Then the Duke drops the bomb – they want Simon to become King. Not just because of his heritage, but because of the respect in which he is held because of his actions and deeds. Simon points out that Miri should be the heir, but Isgrimnur and others point out that she is somewhat of a pariah – not quite trusted or respected based on her actions (always leaving some places right before bad things happen) and the rumors that Aspitis has been spreading. The kingdom needs a strong leader. They ask Simon to think about it for a couple of days.

Simon is sitting by the fire and Miri shows up. She is distraught about killing her father, and worried that the Duke et al are going to ask HER to take the throne, and marry some pig! Hah! She asks Simon to run away with her, asks him to never leave her. They confess their undying love for each other, and then hop into the sack…er…tent. Finally!

Hours later (I guess it could have been 15 minutes), someone interrupts. Simon thinks it is Binabik come to talk…but it is Josua!

Chapter 34: Leavetaking - Josua luckily is too late to do a coitus interruptus (that would have been a drag since we’ve been waiting a gazillion pages for Simon and Miri to get together) but does surprise Simon and Miri with the fact that he is indeed alive, just stunned by Elias’ sword blow – which he partially blocked with the manacle around his arm from being Elias’ captive. Camaris apparently pulled Josua to safety out of the collapsing tower.

Josua tells them he is leaving, and Simon argues with him, that even though Simon is a descendant of Saint Eahlstan that Josua is John’s heir. But then Josua tells them that Camaris, not King John, is Josua’s father. John was old when he married Josua’s mother (Efiathe of Hernysadharc), and Camaris was her protector. When she died giving birth to Josua, Camaris went mad.

“At last, he took the horn Ti-tuno and went in search of the Sithi, perhaps to expiate the sin of participating in John’s persecution of them, or, perhaps, like Elias, he hoped the wise immortals could help him reach his beloved beyond death. Whatever the aim of his pilgrimage, Amerasu brought him secretly to Jao é Tinukai’i, for reasons of her own. I have not discovered all that happened; my father was so distraught when he told me it was hard to make sense of anything.” (pg 777).

Josua says he will go in search of his father, after he has seen to the safety of his wife and new twins. He tells Simon and Miri they are fools not to wed, and Miri calls Simon on it…after asking what this heir of Eahlstan stuff is all about. Apparently we have ourselves a new King and Queen!

The Sithi are leaving. Even way back when this book was published, either Tad or Jiriki (maybe both) knew another series was coming:

“Do you remember I told you once that it took no magical wisdom to say we would meet again? I will say it once more, Seomon Snowlock. The story is not ended.” (pg. 781)

But it took Tad more than two decades to get back to it!

Duke Isgrimnur and Binabik also tell Simon they will be leaving soon, and Simon and Binabik claim they will always be besties (not sure how to say that in troll). They all go to the party bonfire.

Rachael the dragon finally emerges from hiding, and eventually wanders toward the bonfire. Jerimias sees her, and takes her to a happy reunion with Simon (who she did not know was alive).

Afterword – A year has passed, and most of the remaining company re-gather at the Hayholt for a Feast. Tiamak and Father Strangyeard observe the rebuilding of Green Angel Tower, which will be an archive and a school. Gutrun and Duke Isgrimnur stop at Isorn’s tomb, now adorned with jewels. Binabik and Sisqi could not come, as they are performing the Rite of the Quickening.

Count Eolair arrives, and greets King Simon formally…until Simon tells him of seeing Maegwin at the end, that she was herself and loved Eolair. That breaks the ice, and they walk back to the party.

THE RE-READ DOTH ENDETH!

These re-read posts and other essays (close to 50,000 words…not as wordy as Tad, but…) have been collected into an eBook, available by clicking on the image below. Please consider supporting this blog by purchasing the eBook. Thank you!

Start Of The Trail

Hiking in Huntsville State Park

Huntsville State Park is a little over an hour north of Houston, just west of I-45 and a bit south of the city of Huntsville. It was a blue-sky day, semi-low humidity so we were off for another weekend hike. We didn’t see as many “critters” as we saw at Brazos Bend State Park on our last hiking adventure, but we did see (and almost step on) some large copperheads (pictures below).

There was a line of cars already there when we arrived, and one kiosk for entry. The cost for entering for the day is $5 per adult.

Our targeted trail for the day was the Chinquapin Trail, a 6.8 mile loop around Lake Raven and the park. The description of the trail on the park map says:

If you want to see the whole park, this is the trail. This trail encircles the entire lake. You will travel over marshes teaming with wildlife where you are likely to see shorebirds and nutria. Listen carefully for the drumming of a pileated woodpecker high in the pines and watch for eagles as you cross the dam.

It is the orange trail on the map below (link to PDF of map at the park’s web site).

Trails Map - Huntsville State Park

We started off toward the top of the map, parking at the Nature Center. There was a monarch butterfly display at the Center, but it seemed that the height of monarch season had already passed, as we saw few of them.

The park is surrounded by Sam Houston National Forest and this State Park reflects that. The hike is almost all through the trees. Though there had been a lot of rain and rough weather nearby (and there were some down trees), the trails were not muddy. And the park has lots of wooden walkways and bridges for the parts that are frequently wet.

Lone Sta rTrailThe trails are very well marked. In the photo you can see the trail marking showing the intersection with the Lone Star Trail, the 100+ mile trail that runs through Sam Houston National Forest. The orange marker at the top is for our chosen trail, the Chinquapin (apparently named after a couple of creeks in the park), and the green marker is for the CCC trail. The CCC trail is the longest of the trails in the park, going 8.5 miles along the border of the park. There are two shorter trails in the park: the Prairie Branch Loop and the Dogwood Trail Loop, both of which are less than two miles long.

Though some of the Chinquapin trail on the back side of Lake Raven goes along a rocky service road (in the map above, it is the part of the trail at the bottom left), we were always assured that we were on the right trail by the orange markers, which are every half-mile and at every intersection.

The trail we chose was deceptively long, but it was a great hike. Part of the deception was in how the map depicts Lake Raven, and our expectation that a view of the lake would be “just around the next turn in the trail.” If you look at the top of the map, it shows a very skinny part of the lake that sticks out. I do not know if the lake gets that high, but, as you can see in the next photo, that part of the lake is nothing but greenery, with a bit of water underneath it. There is a pier out over the brush, and it looked like a great place to spot an alligator. But, unlike at Brazos Bend where they were everywhere, we saw no gators.

Tip OfLake Raven

 

There were quite a few mountain bikers on the trail, which was in most places wide enough to accommodate bikers passing on the left. Parts of the trail were mostly sand, and by the tire tracks, it looked like they were a challenge to some of the bikers.

And there were quite a few hikers with dogs. Both bikes and dawgs had challenges with the multiple places where there were trees down across the trail (we assume from the recent storms), whereas those of us unencumbered just scrambled over.

TreesOnTrail

 

The trail finally does come out along Lake Raven, walking along what seems to be a man-made dam to a spillway.

This day there were several kayaks, fishermen and pedal-boats out on the lake. The building in the distance is Raven Lodge. The majority of the campgrounds and picnic areas are grouped around the lodge.

Lake Raven

Going around the backside of the lake, we ran into a biker who had just run off a six foot rattlesnake. As proof, he offered us a picture he had taken…and he said he’d tried to grab its tail. A bit further on, around the fifth mile of the trail, we ran into these two copperheads in the middle of the trail. When I tried to move them out of the way with a stick, I at first thought they were rubber snakes, as they did not change their coil or the angle of their heads. Suddenly one of them headed toward me, but I was able to push him into the woods, and he (or she…I didn’t stop to ask) took off deeper into the woods at quite an amazing speed. The second one had already headed into the brush, as we could hear it rustling through the brush.

Two CopperheadsIn spite of the snakes, and the mosquitos, it was a great hike. We saw a few woodpeckers in flight, and heard a ton of them, but never saw any other wildlife. We did see lots of “babbling brooks”…

Babbling Brook

…colors other than green…

Purple Flower

 

… and lots of bridges and boardwalks through the trail of green.

Park Boardwalk

There are, of course, lots of other activities to do here, including the boating on the lake, camping and picnicking in the shelters. But it gets high marks for well maintained and marked hiking trails. Granted, this was early May; I’m not sure how enjoyable this would be in the SE Texas August or September.

On The Trail

Welcome Sign

Brazos Bend State Park

Brazos Bend State Park is an hour drive south of us, and since we are northwest of Houston, it is a lot closer to most Houstonians. We had not been since the kids were little and the weather was perfect this early April weekend for a little hiking. It is $7 per person entrance fee and, if you rarely carry cash like me, be prepared to park and go inside to pay your fees, as the outdoor drive up kiosks do not take credit cards.

The state park is known mostly for its alligator population, and they aren’t shy about showing themselves. My gorgeous wife saw on one of the signs that there are 300 adult alligators in the park. We saw more than 20 close to the trail, and quite a few more further away.

Alligators in Brazos Bend State Park

But the park itself has some gorgeous scenery and very well maintained trails, with water available at trail junctions. We hiked around the 40 acre lake, took the “Spillway Trail” past the observation tower over to Elm Lake, then hiked around it and back. This is a very small portion of the trails available in the park (park trail map here and a picture of the map section we walked is at the end of this post). There are 50 mile and 100 mile trail runs held in the park (in April and September respectively) and the 50 mile run goes for three loops of around 17 miles each. So there is a lot more to cover than the 5 miles we did this weekend.

There are quite a few wooden decks and bridges built so that you can peer into and over the water.

Decks Over Water

There were quite a few folks fishing, though we never saw any of them catch anything. I assume it is catch and release. If you look at the picture below, you’ll see an alligator floating just past these fishermen…maybe hoping for a lazy catch.

Desk with Gator in the Background

There’s also the George Observatory in the park, which holds lots of stargazing events throughout the year.

Most of the gators we saw were stationary, and hard to tell apart from statues (still doesn’t mean you should take a selfie with them…though Darwinism didn’t intervene when a couple did so). But occasionally you’ll get one in the water who starts moving around a bit. And they always draw a crowd…so pardon the screaming kids (not mine) in my video.

Here’s a picture of the same alligator, just floating along, minding his (or her) own business.

Alligator in Water

I assume that the park is also a bird-watchers paradise. There are multiple postings in the picnic areas that denote what type of birds are seen recently in which areas of the park.

Ducks

A few of the birds even act like you are not around.

And, there is a very good chance to see multiple birds in flight. With the backdrop of the lake, it is a sight to behold.

Bird in flight

And of course, there are turtles. Even some that apparently babysit the smaller gators as a service.

Turtle with Baby Gators

While crossing the spillway trail, we did see a couple of turtles coming out from under the bridge so quickly (at least for turtle speed!) we thought that they might have been chased by…something. But fortunately, they were just passing through.

Though we saw quite a few rangers/volunteers in the park, we also saw two places where there might have been a missing ranger.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Maybe that is why these guys look so happy?

Alligator Looking at Me

Gator In Green

 

Picture of the trail map, zoomed in to the section we walked. We parked near 40 acre lake, walked to the left and immediately saw alligators.

Brazos Bend State Park

 

And remember, don’t feed OR annoy the gators!

Don't Feed or Annoy

To Green Angel Tower Part 2

To Green Angel Tower Part 2 re-read – Part One: The Turning Wheel

To Green Angel Tower Part 2INTRODUCTORY NOTE: I had originally planned to time the last of these posts for To Green Angel Tower with the release of Tad’s new trilogy, The Last King of Osten Ard, so that I would go into those new novels with fresh memories of the original trilogy.
So much for the best laid plans for Larry…and Tad…and Mrs. Tad, for that matter. Big book companies merge, schedules change. The first book, The Witchwood Crown, is now projected to come out in Q1 2017 (which is about when the Packers will be winning Super Bowl 51 in Houston!). But the good news is that there will be two other books intermingled with the trilogy, a bridge book now called The Heart of What was Lost – which starts right after the events in this here Part 2 that I am re-reading and summarizing.

Given the schedule, I delayed a bit these final two re-read posts…but now we are back in action!

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THE DOOR STOP COMETH!!! This is a big book. In the original hardback it was one of the longest novels ever written. And, of course, it needs to be, since there is a lot to wrap up and a lot of questions to be answered.

This is the first part of the re-read of To Green Angel Tower Part 2, the final 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.

The re-read post for To Green Angel Tower Part 1 part One, The Waiting Stone is here.

The re-read post for To Green Angel Tower Part 1 part Two, The Winding Road is here.

This fourth book (part 2) is 796 pages – paperback. Part One: The Turning Wheel goes from page 33 (after a good thorough “what has come before” section, which should be required of all authors of long series) to 474. So, yes, crafter-of-doorstops-Williams has a part one of a book (which is part 2 of a book so larger in hardback the paperback had to be split in two) which is 441 pages…longer than most mere mortal books.

This also means I have only one more of these re-read posts after this one. Hopefully I have timed it to where there will not be too many weeks until the release of The Witchwood Crown, the first in Tad’s new series. And, yes Tad, this is a strong hint…or wish…or even bribery over adult beverages…to push for an early 2017 release! Or a 2016 Christmas present, dude!

A note on the obvious: if you have not read the book, since this post describes said book…here there be spoilers! And color commentary is in color (mostly in this color).

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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.

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Chapter 1: Tears and Smoke - Tiamak is sitting by his lonesome, either trying to become one with the world or having a bit of a pity party, when he sees Aditu and a bird or owl hurrying by. Following them, he comes to Camaris tent, where the Talons of Utuk’ku (Norns) are attacking Camaris who is now aided by Aditu and an owl (which we readers all know is Geloë but Tiamak does not yet). Tiamak find that he can’t yell, but stumbles upon Camaris sword, picks it up and smacks the Norn attacking the old warrior. Tiamak gets smacked himself, and pulls himself over to the brazier, dumping the coals on the side of the tent in hopes of alerting help.

Duke Isgrimnur (still one of the coolest names ever. is the Duke Grim?), Binabik, Strangyeard and Josua are having a council, waiting on Geloë, and we get another great Binabik -ism:

“…answers are not like a sheep that is coming when a person calls.” (pg 38)

Do sheep really come when called? Not in my humble experience.

Strangyeard tells them of what he has learned in his research on the three swords, some from Morgenes’ documents and some from Ookekuq’s (Binabik’s deceased mentor). The three swords are “not of Osten Ard” and they go “against the laws of God and Nature.” Josua asks how then were the swords made, and they discuss The Word of Making, which they know little about. The dwarrows/dvernings would seem to understand it, since they forged the sword Sorrow. Then they hear the commotion and they rush for the fire that Tiamek started.

Tiamek comes to after being pulled from the fire, and hears Geloë and Aditu talking. Geloë has been mortally wounded and wants to die in the forest. Tiamak sees Aditu help her up, then sees Valada Geloë turn into an owl and fly away.

After the fires are put out and the wounded seen to, Josua asks for his men to take a head count, and to find Miriamele and Simon to see if they were targeted by the Norns as well. They are found missing, of course, and Simon’s note says they have gone together. Hotvig goes in search of them, but does not find them.

Geloë visits them one more time, talking through the now comatose Leleth. She says Leleth’s spirit is with her somehow, and reminds them to not forget about Simon’s vision of the “false messenger.” She tells them the Norns are playing a “double game. Tonight was not a feint but something even more subtle.” (pg. 55)

Chapter 2: Ghost Moon - Simon and Miriamele are heading north, hiding their hoof prints in the thousands Josua’s horde has just left, unaware of the attack behind them. Simon questions their direction, finds out that Josua knows where they are going and that Simon does not, and that Miri ain’t going to tell him until they are far away. As they stop to hide and rest in the daylight, somewhat-insightful Simon understands a bit about what is in store for him with Miri:

Did all women have a little Rachael the Dragon in them? They certainly seemed to enjoy telling him what he should do. (pg. 60)

Simon dreams of Geloë (with Leleth by her side) yelling the word “false” at him; Miri dreams of darker things. When they awaken and have eaten, Miri tells Simon she wants him to teach her how to use a sword, and she will teach him what she know about using the bow….queue the cover reveal. They head toward the old forest Aldheorte and Simon demands to know where they are going. He had guessed Erkynland, and Miri tells him they are going to the Hayholt. He then assumes after the sword Bright-Nail, but she says her purpose is her own business. They chat around the campfire about being a princess and a scullion back at the castle, and how Miri had followed him around (she’s a stalker!). Then Miri sings a song and they crash. Great camping party!

Chapter 3: Windows Like Eyes - Binabik lets Sisqi know he will be heading after Simon and Miri, keeping a promise that he made. He speaks of it to Josua, explaining his rationale, especially their fear that Miri means to attempt to recover the sword Bright-Nail, which could do her harm.

The story cuts to Eolair, on the road with humans and Sithi to Naglimund. Maegwan is with them, still crazy in Eolair’s eyes (and probably in most of ours!). He sits on a war council with the Sithi, and hears of their dislike for fighting the Hikeda’ya’, and their dislike for humans.

“It is one thing,” spoke up Yizashi Grayspear, “to fulfill an ancient debt, as we have done at M’yin Azoshai. Besides, those were mortals we routed, and the descendants of bloody Fingil’s ship men besides. It is another thing to go to war with other Gardenborn to aid mortals to whom we own no such debt – including those who hunted us long after we lost Asu’a.”(pg. 86)

Jiriki reminds them that the Gardenborn he is citing also invaded their home and killed him father and grandmother, and that puts an end to the argument. They discuss how to attack Naglimund. They ride further and reach Naglimund, the old town around it destroyed and Naglimund shrouded in mist.

A quick look-in on Rachael the Dragon, who checks the food she laid out for blind ole Guthwulf, and sees that it hasn’t been touched in two days. She may have to go look for him. Binabik and Qantaqa take their leave of Joshua and the others and head out to track Simon and Miri.

Chapter 4: A Thousand Leaves, A Thousand Shadows - Simon and Miri are traveling through the forest, and Miri is being a bit introspective. She likes Simon, but believes herself “unclean” because of Aspitis. She thinks about how, since she was the princess, she was rarely around boys…other than we she disguised herself and stalked Simon around the castle.

They eat, Miri decides to cut Simon’s hair. She gives it a good chopping, then rubs his neck a bit. Simon goes to get Jiriki’s mirror from his bag, and realizes that he doesn’t have his White Arrow. He hopes Binabik finds it (Binabik to the rescue…again!). That night, Simon awakens Miri, as he heard someone nearby talking to themselves. Miri is worried that someone might be stalking them (turnabout, eh?). Let’s see…a stalker who talks to himself. Who could that be?

They make the Riverroad, and find many villages abandoned. They reach Stanshire, which has many houses that look abandoned. Simon goes to an inn to get food, as Miri does not want to be recognized. They find a shed, eat, and lay down to sleep. Miri feels the weight of the world upon her, wishes things were they way they used to be and starts to cry. Simon goes over to comfort her, and after at first pushing him away, she relents. One thing leads to another, there’s a kiss…and then she pushes him away again. As always happens…the horses whiney, someone is outside...coitus interruptus! I’m sure it is Gollum again, but Simon storms out to check.

Chapter 5:  Flamedance – Simon runs out, quite out of him mind with anger at being interrupted, and catches an old man, who says his name is Heanwig and swears he hasn’t been following them. Heanwig was afraid they were Fire Dancers and they were chasing him; apparently the city Simon and Miri chose to rest in is hosting a Fire Dancer rave down at the local quarry (Burning Man, anyone?). Miri decides the old man should stay with them for the night. Simon has another great Simon-esque introspection:

But what dreadful fate had sent the old man to frighten the horses and break the twigs at the very moment when he was finally holding Miriamele in his arms? They had been kissing! She, the princess, the beautiful Miriamele, had been kissing Simon. … Simon abruptly laughed. The greater part of his anger dissipated like chaff before the wind. The loveliest girl in all of Aedondom, clever and quick – and she had kissed him. Called him by name! He could still feel the shape of her face on his fingertips. What right had he to complain? (pg 123)

When we start to forget that Simon is still a teenager in puberty, Tad smacks us with a 2×4 like this to remind us.

They wake up the next morning, tell Heanwig where they are heading. He tells them not to go that way, that the places are haunted. But, of course, our heroes head that direction anyway. That night, Simon (rather presumptuously) pulls his sleeping pallet next to Miri’s…who then gets up and moves to the other side of the fire.

The duo rides the River Road for several days, getting warnings from the few people they talk with to not go past Falshire. After a while, Simon convinces Miri they should stop at an inn, if not to sleep under a roof then to at least get a decent meal. Simon gets what he needs at the inn, and as he is walking out he hears a commotion behind him. Three Fire Dancers are dragging a woman and man out. Simon, of course, even though they are supposed to be traveling in cognito, turns back into try and save them. Fighting ensues with Simon getting the best of one of the men, while Miri hits a second on the head with a jug of wine (that Simon had just purchased for them). They leave hurriedly as the third Fire Dancer had left to go get help.

Chapter 6: The Circle Narrows - Count Eolair, Isorn, Maegwin and friends are with Jiriki, Likimeya and the other Sithi at Naglimund, confronting the Norns and the Red Hand. Likimeya begins to sing, and is eventually answered by a Norn singing. Zinjadu, the Sithi lore-mistress, explains to Eolair:

“They speak of the Pact of Sesuad’ra.” Her eyes were fixed on Likimeya and her opposite. “They speak of old heartbreaks and mourning songs yet to be sung.” “Why so much talk?” Isorn asked raggedly. “The waiting is dreadful.” “It is our way.” Zinjadu’s lips tightened, her thin face seemed carved of pale, golden stone. “Although it was not respected when Amerasu was slain.” (pg 146).

Trash talking ensues between the Norn (named Akhenabi) and Jiriki. Akhenabi notices the mortals, and begins to taunt Eolair, who responds bravely. The Norn presents two human figures on the wall, asking Eolair if he wants to risk their lives with a siege. Jiriki shoots an arrow into one; they were already dead, their animation proof that one of the Red Hand is within.

Back with Duke Isgrimnur and Josua who are in Metessa, one of the easternmost of Nabban’s outer states. Isgrimnur encounters a young boy named Pasevalles, who leads him on a tour of the castle. The Duke and the boy even spend some bro-time polishing old armor.

At the state dinner, Josua tells the Baron (Seriddan Metessis) that Josua and his army indeed plan on riding to Nabban to wage war on the Baron’s liege lord, Benigaris. Josua reads a letter written by the late Sir Deornoth, which relates the account of Benigaris slaying his father at the battle near Naglimund. The Baron, quite irritated, says this is an old rumor, and it would take many nights swearing to it for it to be true. When he is about to place Josua under arrest, Josua pulls forth his ace-in-the-hole: Camaris, who is the rightful heir to the throne of Nabban. An old woman is called in, and she identifies Camaris. Pasevalles gets into the act, bringing forth a helm for Camaris, one that he and the Duke had previously polished. Josua proceeds to tell him of the other nasty things his brother has been doing, appearing to recruit Seriddan to his side.

Chapter 7: White Tree, Black Fruit - After their fight with the Fire Dancers, Simon and Miriamele end up in a barn a couple of hours outside of Falshire. Miri has a fever dream, and we soon figure out why: she has a fever. Her dream was about a white tree  whose fruit was souls. She sleeps most of the next few days (spending part of the time secretly spying on Simon practicing swordplay shirtless) then they move from the barn up to the cottage near it, which Simon had found deserted.

After dinner as they chat, Miriamele tells a questioning Simon how her mother died, by a Thirthings arrow as Josua tried to protect her. Josua lost his hand in the battle. This made her father lonely, she says, and starts crying at the thought of her father. She tells Simon that is why she has to see her father, and finally explains to Simon her reasoning for her journey. Cadrach had told her of Nisses book, and of “Speaking through the Veil”, which is part of the book that Pryrates had tortured him to learn. Miri believes that her father would do anything to speak to her dead mother again…which is what “Speaking through the Veil” is all about.

“…Pryrates must have lied to him and told him that they could reach her….beyond the Veil or whatever that horrible book called it. Maybe the priest even thought that he could. And he used that promise to make my father first his patron, then his partner…then his slave.” Simon pondered this. “Perhaps Pryrates did try,” he said finally. “Perhaps that is how they reached through to…the other side. To the Storm King.” (pg 179)

Miri thinks that speaking to here father might disuade him. Simon tries to talk her out of it, and Miri says that he mind is made up, but he doesn’t have to go with her. They finally go to sleep. It rains, leaky roof, they get cold, one thing leads to another…then Simon drops the L-bomb, tells Miri that he loves her. Miri tells Simon she is not a maiden to try and cool his jets, that she is not worthy of him.

Miri tells Simon about Aspitis, and that she was not forced. “I wanted him to.” she says. A large slap in the face, Simon says. After that, they ride on, not talking civilly to each other. On the trail, they come up the Fire Dancers that Simon saved in Chapter 5. They offer shelter, then lead them into a trap with the other Fire Dancers that Simon fought with to free the original two. There’s gratitude for you!

Chapter 8: A Confession - The Sithi are singing at the walls of Naglimund, driving Count Eolair and Isorn as mad as Maegwin. Jiriki comes to their fire after three days and tells them “The battle will being…it will be dreadful.” Their singing has been part of the siege of the walls.

Tiamak is summoned to one of Josua’s councils. Josua asks Camaris if he had ever been to the Sithi home of Jao é-Tinukai’i.  Camaris does not want to say, as he does not believe it would be honorable. Tiamak suggests having Camaris talk to Father Strangyeard under the seal of confession. This is done, and Father Strangyeard, though very disturbed by what he has heard, says that though Camaris was indeed in the Sithi home, nothing he did has affect on the three swords or the Storm King.

Guthwulf is wandering around, blind and starving, feeling the pull of the sword.

The Sithi breach the walls, the fight at Naglimund has begun. The battle is, as Jiriki had forseen, dreadful. They are fighting more than Norns; things such as giants emerge from Naglimund. An orange dust washed over them, making the mortals hallucinate and attack each other. Eolair figures out that the snow washes it and its effects off, and he rallies his troops to the Sithi. Several of them have been slain (including Zinjadu the lore-mistress, “…hoisted on the spears of a group of Norns…”). And Maegwin wanders around it all, dazed and confused.

Chapter 9: The Third House - Trussed up as sacrifices, Miri and Simon are marched up a hill and tied to a tree. Norns, hidden in black robes, come to observe the sacrifice to the Storm King. Miri has the mirror Simon gave her, and she asks him to try and use it to call Jiriki for help. It does not work, so Simon breaks the mirror and tries to get one of the shards to cut the ropes that bind them. If it’s seven years bad luck to break a mortal mirror, what is it to break a Sithi mirror? 700 years?

Simon closed his eyes. Forgive me, Jiriki, he thought. But Morgenes told me any gift that cannot be thrown away is not a gift but a trap. (pg 225)

Meanwhile, the Fire Dancers have taken the two that Simon originally saved and have tied them to a rock to sacrifice them (they need blood to call the Storm King, to call forth his Third House). Their chanting and blood sacrifice bring through a Red Hand astride a white bull. Simon succeeds in cutting Miri’s bonds, but not in time. The Norns grab them and take them forward. The leader of the Fire Dancers had a dream that the Storm King wanted Simon, but the Red Hand says he is “no longer wanted,” and they should add his blood to the sacrifice. The leader of the Fire Dancers comes at Simon, who pulls his bonds apart (Miri had cut them some) and stands ready to fight. Then one of the Norns is shot in the neck, while a “shadowy form” strikes the Norn holding Miri. Binabik and Qantaqa show up to save the day…of course. He has their horses that the Fire Dancers had left. They flee to a cave that Binabik had found and stored all of their supplies.

Chapter 10: A Wound in the World - Simon awakens as Binabik returns to the cave with ‘shrooms (now we’re talking). As always, Binabik puts life into his own kind of perspective.

The troll cocked an eyebrow. “You both did much to make your own rescuing, Simon – and that is a fortunate thing, since you seem to be flinging yourself constantly into odd troubles. You said once that your parents were being common folk. It is my thought that at least one of them was not a person at all, but a moth.” He smiled wryly and gestured toward the fire. “You are always heading toward the nearest burning flame.” (pg 239)

A little hint about Simon’s parentage? Or an infamous Tad Tease? Binabik has brought Simon his White Arrow, and then Binabik does his best Rush impression.

The bones say bad enough things that Binabik throws out a troll curse. Miri tells Binabik she will not be going back, and tells him her rationale for going to talk to her father.  Simon says he will go after Bright-Nail. Binabik tells them they are thinking like younglings, but says he will go with them. After they eat, Binabik catches them up on events, including Geloë’s death. He tells them how he followed them, but that he was not the skulking, Gollum-like person they have heard trailing them.

They make their way to King Prester John’s grave though dreary, now-empty country, with a strained distance between Simon and Miriamele. As they camp the night before reaching Swertclif, the hill where Prester John is buried,

Simon has a dream where an angel looking like Leleth comes to him and tells him he must “he must go very deep” and “the truth lies within.” Simon asks why she can’t just tell him, but she says the greatest truths cannot be given, they must be found (which would make a great t-shirt).

There are no guards on Swertclif. They dig open the grave, and find the boat Prester John was buried in, and then Prester John.

But no Bright-Nail.

Chapter 11: Heartbeats - Duke Benigaris is being measured for armor while being insulted by his mother the Duchess. His brother Varellan is trying to hold a pass against Josua’s army and not doing too well. They’ve heard rumors of Camaris leading the army, but dismiss it. Count Stráwe (who helped Miriamele on her escape many pages ago) arrives to meet with the Duke. Stráwe had promised boats and men, and both have been slow in coming. So Duke Benigaris insists that he stay with the Duke…until boats and men arrive.

Josua is distracted about the impending birth of his child by Vorzheva. He, Duke Isgrimnur and others talk of Camaris amazing fighting at the front. When someone says they’d heard that Camaris hated fighting, Josua says:

“The only thing he hates worse than warfare is unnecessary warfare – especially killings which could have been avoided by making a clean ending the first time. So once he is committed, Camaris makes sure he does not have to do the same thing twice.” (pg 275)

Aditu and Gutrun (Duke Isgrimnur’s wife, in case you forgot) are taking care of the very pregnant Vorzheva. Vorzheva allows Aditu to listen to her stomach (children for the Sithi being quite rare). Aditu hears two heartbeats. Prince Josua will have twins

Chapter 12: Sleepless in Darkness - Simon and Binabik argue briefly on who could have took the sword Bright-Nail. Binabik believes King Elias has taken it, and they will simply have to take two swords from him. Simon remembers King Elias’ aversion to the sword when his father Prester John was buried, and does not believe that.

Simon sees a hole on the other side of the ship the King was entombed upon. He (of course) goes to explore, sees something shiny…and Simon falls through into the tunnels…again. Something had grabbed him around the ankles and pulled him in before Binabik could get to him.

Miri hears Binabik calling for her and Qantaqa (who bowls her over in his haste). After fetching rope and torch, she goes into their digging, to find troll and wolf fighting boghanik/bukken (the little ankle-biter creatures that came up from the ground around Naglimund). Miri, Binabik and Qantaqa get out of the grave, but without Simon.

Brief segue to crazy ole King Elias, using Hengfish as his cup bearer. He hears “a change in the music…the great music of the dark.” (pg 291) He is not sure even Pryrates knows it, and the King tells himself he still has secrets, even from Pryrates. The King does not sleep.

I enjoy the circularity with Hengfish, who was somewhat uppity when Simon and Binabik first met him outside the slaughter at St. Hoderund back in The Dragonbone Chair, Part 2, chapter 19. And now he is a cup bearer! Karma, baby!

Simon falls through the dirt quite a ways, into another tunnel. Somehow an ember of one of his torches survives, so he can see that the shiny thing he chased was a belt buckle (what a prize!). He tries to dig back up the way he came, but causes landslides. Then the bukken come after him, six of them. He fights them off, then scrambles deeper into the tunnels.

Chapter 13: The Fallen Sun - Count Eolair and his men, along with the Sithi, have had Naglimund under siege for a fortnight. Of the hundred men who came with him, a little more than two score remain. The Norns had retreated into the inner castle. The Norns had established their defenses by the means of what sounded, when Jiriki described it to him, like pure magic. They had “sung a Hesitancy,” Jiriki explained. There was “Shadow mastery” at work. Until the magic was understood and the shadows untangled, the castle would not fall. (pg 299).

Maegwin is wandering, Isorn calls her mad, much to Eolair’s chagrin. She believes she is dead and walking amongst the gods. Jiriki awakens Eolair and calls him to council with Likimeya and other Sithi. They want to know if Naglimund has secrets. Since Zinjadu the lore-master was slain, a Sithi called Kuroyi gives Eolair background. He asks if there is a Witness (like the Shard) in Naglimund. Kuroyi says that there is a Witness under the Hayholt called the Pool of Three Depths.

“There have always been in Osten Ard certain places,” Kuroyi resumed, “which act much like Master Witnesses… but in which no Master Witness seems to be present. That is, many of the effects are there – in fact sometimes these places exhibit more powerful results that any Witness – but no object can be found which is responsible. Since we first came to this land long ago, we have studied such places, thinking they might answer questions we have about the Witnesses and why they do what they do, about Death itself even about the Unbeing that made us flee our native land and come here.” (pg 305)

There is a lot to digest in this paragraph. Witnesses with no objects could be like ley lines (lines of power that criss cross the land). And there’s that Unbeing that made them flee. And what does this have to do with Death? Eolair asks the obvious question: “Could they be trying to bring the Storm King back to life?”

“It is indeed confusing, Count Eolair,” Jiriki replied. “Ineluki – although he is not truly Ineluki any more – has no more existence than a sort of dream. He is an evil and vengeful dream, one that possesses all the craftiness that the Storm King had in life, as well as knowledge of the ultimate darkness no living thing has ever had…but he is only a dream, for all of that. Trust that I speak truly. As we can travel on the Road of Dreams and see and feel things there, so Ineluki can speak to his followers in Nakkiga through the Breathing Harp – which is one of the greatest of the Master Witnesses – although I would guess that Utuk’ku alone has the skill even to understand him. So he is not a thing, Eolair, with an existence in this world.” (pg 309)

Do they really know?

Josua and company are fighting at a pass held by Benigaris brother Varellan. Camaris is, of course, the star. During a charge, Duke Isgrimnur’s horse takes an arrow, falls on him and he blacks out.

Chapter 14: Empires of Dust - This is a long chapter in the tunnels with Simon again, very similar to chapter 13 way back in the first part of  The Dragonbone Chair. The two chapters are somewhat tied together; in the earlier chapter, a very young Simon is escaping up through the tunnels, and is encountering what he feels are old ghosts of a Hayholt time long ago. In this chapter, older (but still a teenager) Simon is encountering similar things going down, but he’s had enough experience with the Sithi to get some glimpses.

Simon wanders about, chasing voices, getting thirsty. He finds a pool which he thinks is water, but his torch lights it on fire. “Perdruinese Fire” he says. He shreds his shirt, dipping them in the oil to save them so he will have light later. He decides to keeps going left, finds some moss to eat (yummy!) and finds stairs to go down.

All throughout, he finds marks of the Sithi who lived in the Hayholt before – their writings on the wall. He walks through a hallway with waterfalls on either side, yet when he throws his shirt out to capture some of the water, when he pulls it in, the water is dust. The boundaries between the past Sithi world and Simon’s present appear to be fading…or the mooncalf is going full-goose bozo.

He starts seeing Sithi, starting with a woman. Is he hallucinating? He tries to talk to her, but she says simply “Go back, little one. Go back and live.” (pg 334). He finds the Tan’ja stairs, the ones Morgenes had told him to find and he had escaped up in his first encounter with the tunnels. Yet he gets part way up and finds them unpassable, damaged due to falling rocks. He finally finds water, and sleeps. When he wakes, he sees a figure with antlers on its head (remember the drawing Simon had at the beginning, from one of Morgenes books if I recall). The figure says “Jingizu. So much sorrow.” into Simon’s mind. The vision recedes and Simon rises to venture on.

Chapter 15: A Meandering of Ink - Binabik and Miri give up on looking for Simon. Miri had copied the maps that Count Eolair brought, and, since she saw Simon emerge from the tunnels (recall, he thought she was a ghost), she believes they can find an entrance to a tunnel.

A quick cut to Rachael the Dragon, who gets misty eyed thinking of Simon, and worries about Guthwulf. She makes plans to go and find him.

Miri and Binabik cannot find the tunnel Simon came out of. That night they look at the maps for another entrance, and find that there is a tunnel that comes out somewhere in the town of Erchester. They disguise themselves (Binabik as a child?!?) and enter the town. In the middle of town is the cathedral of Saint Sutrin’s, where the map says the entrance to the tunnels may be. The church is occupied by a pastor and some homeless people. The pastor is quite mad and preaches to ravens (the pastor turns out to be Bishop Domitis). After he passes out (preaching to Ravens is hard work), they find the entrance to the catacombs, and thence the tunnels. They are still followed (shades of Gollum; is it Cadrach?)

Chapter 16: Roots of the White Tree - Simon comes across a plate with an apple, an onion, bread and water. He thinks it is an illusion (of course it is the food Rachael left for Guthwulf). After several false starts, he takes the food and resumes his trek in the tunnels.

He comes to a huge cavernous room with a large pool and a “shadow tree”, whose leaves he can hear rustling. Could this be the Pool of Three Depths, mentioned most recently in Chapter 13?

After this encounter he hears more voices. “The Conqueror is coming. Soon all will be ready.” Lights are flashing and he thinks he sees a spiral staircase that goes all the way to heaven. When the lights finally die down, he thinks he may be blind. He moves on, then see a bit of light through a crack. He makes his way to the crack, climbs up and into a storeroom…where he can see the sky. He sleeps and dreams of Morgenes, who also tells him to go deeper. The dream road is trying to tell Simon something. “Watch for the angel. She will show you things, both in the ground and far above it.” (pg 377) He walks outside for the first time in a while, but the weirdness of the underworld follows him.

Simon stood uncertainly in the shadows outside Green Angel Tower. The Inner Bailey’s haphazard roofs made a familiar jumble against the night sky, but Simon did not feel at all comfortable. It was not just that he was an outlaw in his childhood home, although that was disconcerting enough; there was also something strange in the air that he could not name, but which he nevertheless could sense quite clearly. The maddening slipperiness of the world belowground had somehow seeped up into the everyday stones of the castle itself. When he tilted his head to one side, he could almost see the buildings ripple and change at the edge of his sight. Faint blurs of light, like phantom flames, seemed to flicker along the edges of walls, then quickly vanish. (pg 377-378)

He finds an army camped in the Inner Bailey, and sees Norns (who aren’t supposed to be able to come back to the Hayholt). He also spies a company of horsemen heading out of the Hayholt, with Pryrates in their midst. Simon entertains the idea of trying to kill Pryrates, but is worried about capture. Since Pryrates is gone, he assumes Bright Nail must be hidden in Pryrates rooms (who would take it if not the sorcerer?). He waits for darkness, and slips into Hjeldin’s tower (the door is unlocked, surprising him). He climbs up through the levels, searching, and ends up in the room with the red windows. He suddenly feels nauseous and stumbles…only to be grabbed by King Elias who had been silently sitting in a chair in Pryrates’ study.

Chapter 17: An Ember in the Night SkyLeaving Simon in the clutches of the evil-yet-misunderstood King Elias….we return to Josua’s gang.

Benigaris brother surrenders to Camaris (not to Josua, not to a foreign army) who then frees the men if they will fight with him to free Nabban. Tiamak then interrupts Josua to tell him Vorzheva is giving birth.

Count Eolair, Isorn and their remaining men join the final charge into the keep at Naglimund, fighting Norns, giants and all sorts of wonderful creatures. The battle is close to won, and Eoliar goes back to look for Isorn, who he finds knocked out from a giant’s blow. When awakened, Isorn says he was following Maegwin, who should not have been part of the battle. Eolair goes back to search for her, and finds her curled up in the snow, barely breathing.

The Sithi find Maegwin close to death. Jiriki tells Eolair that the Red Hand have sealed the inner keep to where the Norns cannot get out but Jiriki and his people cannot get in. Eolair rails at Jiriki about the lose of life for naught, but Jiriki tells him that they may have delayed the Red Hand’s plans. Jiriki points out the Conqueror Star in the sky, and says it is a omen that signifies that the Sithi must return to Asu’a. Eolair says that he will not go to the Hayholt, that he will take Maegwin back to her home.

Prince Josua’s twins are born. Duke Isgrimnur gets out of bed from his injuries to see them. Aditu holds them, and pronounces the prophecy that should be a large part of THE LAST KING OF OSTEN ARD:

“They will be as close as brother and sister can be,” Aditu intoned, her voice suddenly solemn and powerful, “although they will live many years apart. She will travel in lands that have never known a mortal woman’s step, and will lose what she loves best, but find happiness with what she once despised. He will be given another name. He will never have a throne, but kingdoms will rise and fall by his hand.” The Sitha’s eyes opened wide, but seemed to gaze far beyond the confines of the room. “Their steps will carry them into mystery.” (pg. 411-412)

Chapter 18: The Shadow King – King Elias maintains his hold literally and figuratively on Simon. The King believes Simon is Pryrates’ spy, keeps a hold on him, and rambles on about Pryrates and other things. He talks about loyalty (which Pryrates doesn’t have), needing a son but getting a daughter, Pryrates errand (which Simon saw him leave on), and the swords.

“I should have known that there was something wrong when he told me about the swords,” the King grated. “I am no fool, to be frightened with such kitchen tales, but that sword of my father’s – it burned me! Like it was cursed. And then I was given…the other one.” Although it hung at his hip a few scant inches away, the King did not look at Sorrow, but instead turned his haunted stare up towards the ceiling. “It has…changed me. Pryrates says for the best. Said that I will not gained what he promised unless the bargain is kept. But it is inside me like my own blood, this sorcerous thing. It sings to me all through the night hours. Even in the daytime it is like a demon crouched beside me. Cursed blade!” (pg. 420)

Simon manages to ask the King about his Father’s blade, but the King says it is still in his father’s grave (i.e., he don’t have it and don’t know where it is). The King, convinced Simon knows nothing, lets him go and tells him to find his cupbearer. Simon slowly slides out, dashes down the stairs, out the door…straight into the hands of Norns.

Segue to Rachael, who is in the tunnels looking for Guthwulf but is having to dodge patrols of soldiers. She returns to her hiding place, and finds the plate of food that she set out for Guthwulf empty (we know Simon ate it, but she doesn’t). Thinking Guthwulf has returned, she refills the water and goes back to her hiding place.

Simon is disarmed (he briefly considers suicide, remembers it is an Aedonite sin, and that he has no weapons) and taken deep under the Hayholt and thrown into a cage with a deep hole, inside some sort of cavern. He is surprised to see Pryrates (whom he and the other prisoners hide from) who he’d seen ride out and who the King had also thought gone. One of the other prisoners, named Stanhelm, talks to Simon, gives him some dirty clothes and a mask to wear so that he won’t look like “fresh meat” for the “Doctor”, who apparently is working these prisoners to death.

The Doctor turns out to be Inch (who ratted out Simon and Morgenes for helping Josua and got his face burned in the ensuing fire way back in book one, and who has been supervising Pryrates’ construction projects).

Chapter 19: Cunning as Time – Miri and Binabik are in the tunnels, with Miri feeling guilty about the way she has treated Simon. She also wonders about the Sithi and Ineluki, and whether the Storm King is truly bad or not. They also feel the restlessness of Asu’a.

Binabik nodded. “We Qanuc have a believing that the spirit of a murdered man cannot rest, and stays on in the body of an animal. Sometimes it is following the one who killed him, sometimes it is staying in the place he was loving most. Either way, there is no rest for it until the truth has been discovered and the crime has been given its punishment.” (pg 433)

Miri says “that’s what the Storm King is, isn’t he? A murdered soul looking for vengeance.” As they wander deeper into the tunnels they continue their philosophical thoughts and discourse, from Miri stating that “God isn’t here” (questioning the Aedon belief that God is everywhere, but he ain’t in Asu’a), continuing to wonder about the Storm King (if he was “bad”, then was her father “bad”?), and realizing that she probably loved Simon but may have screwed that all up.

Binabik sees someone else on the stairs, and recognizes Hengfisk (the King’s cupbearer). Hengfisk, still in the stupor he has whilst attending the King, attacks Binabik, and while they struggle, Miri is pulled away by some unknown persons.

Benigaris knows his time is drawing short with Camaris knocking at his gate. The astrologer who predicted victory meets with an untimely end, as Benigaris introduces him to the ground (from the top of the palace), to his mother’s consternation.

Binabik still wrestles with Hengfisk, but briefly breaks free. The struggle awakens Hengfisk from his stupor, and he seems to recognize what has happened to him, what evil has possessed him. He runs away. Binabik looks for Miri with no success.

Benigaris has challenged Camaris to man-to-man combat, where if Camaris wins he gets the city and if Benigaris wins his family gets to go free. In a match closer than anyone thought, Camaris wins in the end. As he is dying, Benigaris tells Josua that his mother poisoned her self, and that hordes of ghants are overrunning the south, while the kilpa will not let anyone travel the seas.

Chapter 20: Prisoned on the Wheel – Simon is doing his best Devo impression.

Simon hides his presence from Inch for a fortnight, while Inch does his best to work the men to death. Simon’s friend Stanhelm stumbles, and Inch starts to beat him. Simon (being Simon) cannot keep his mouth shut, and goads Inch into chasing him. Inch discovers Simon’s identity, and lashes him to the forge’s big waterwheel in the chamber. Inch starts the wheel again, with Simon attached to it.

Simon is starving and in pain and drifts into delirium. He slips over to the dream road, where someone (Leleth? Geloë? the angel his other dreams have told him about?) shows him images of the pool and the shadow tree he saw while lost in the tunnels. Someone comes and gives him water, and Simon dreams more, seeing a man with a spear, where he guide says “Here is a part of your own story…”.

He has a visitor, who feels his face and determines he is a man. Simon asks his name, and the stranger eventually identifies himself as Guthwulf.

This ends Part 1 of the re-read of TO GREEN ANGEL TOWER, PART 2 (say that five times fast). On to PART 2 of PART 2 and the last re-read post of Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (with a few months to spare before the new books in the series are published)!!!

Next and FINAL re-read post is here.

These re-read posts and other essays have been collected into an eBook, available by clicking on the image below. Please consider supporting this blog by purchasing this eBook. Thank you!

FirstViewOfPikesPeak

Race Report: Barr Trail Mountain Race

This race report is a week late, been a busy week (both business and pleasure) since last Sunday’s race (July 19, 2015).

Barr TrailDescription: I am using this race as a tune-up and track education (it runs the same trail) for next month’s Pikes Peak Ascent. The description of the Barr Trail Mountain Race from their website:

  • The race starts at 7:00am on Ruxton Ave directly in front of the Cog Railway Station at an elevation of 6,570 feet.
  • The route proceeds 6.3 miles up Barr Trail, gaining 3,630 feet before turning around at Barr Camp (10,200 feet).
  • Runners return back down Barr Trail to the finish at Hydro Street for a total of 12.6 miles.

Training: I’ve been following Hanson’s Half-Marathon training program, and as time allows jumping the mileage up to those described in the Hanson Full-Marathon training program. I used the Hanson Half-Marathon training program before, most recently to achieve a PR in last December’s San Antonio half marathon. It appears that the only differences in the training program are longer Sunday easy runs and longer Thursday tempo runs.

For those readers that I do not know, to level set: I’m 53 years old. My half marathon PR is 1:47. I am a “flatlander”, so much of my training (the first 12 weeks of the 18 week Hanson program) was done in Houston in very high humidity, very high temps and almost no altitude. I temporarily relocated to Denver around the 4th of July, to get a bit more used to the altitude. I’ve had ACL replacement in the right knee and have a bit of arthritis in my left knee (or so my ortho keeps trying to tell me) but have mitigated that by changing to Newtons and changing my gait to a short, choppy one with much more mid-foot than the heel-toe I was doing in my mis-spent youth. I sometimes run with a knee brace; sometimes this is to help the arthritis, sometimes it is to help with my imagination.

With the Hanson program as a my guide, my training was 153 miles in May, 165 miles in June. Though pace didn’t really matter in this race, my target pace for training was the same as my half-marathon PR (an 8:15 pace).

Upon arriving at higher altitudes, as instructed by several more experiences runners, I reduced the mileage for the first week to let me body adjust to the higher altitude. I did feel out of breath at the first, but dehydration was more of a problem. After the first week it was not an issue. But I did apparently aggravate my left knee, either from running speed runs the 2nd week in Denver or trying to keep up with my wife in yoga (pigeon pose? really?). After that, the knee brace was a constant companion.

Race: Except for brief parts of the start and finish, the course follows the Barr Trail up and back. As mentioned, this is the same trail as the Pikes Peak Ascent and Pikes Peak Marathon…with the notable exception that runners only go up to Barr Camp instead of the top.

For a very detailed description of the course, see this article on the SkyRunner website.

And, yes, I did take a tumble and earn some road rash on the way down.

Cog RailwayWe were concerned about parking, as they asked racers not to park on Ruxton Rd (where the start is). But we found very in-expensive street parking right across from the park where the post-race beer would be served. The walk up Ruxton served as a decent warm-up (as some of the runners ran up it for a warm-up).

Going up: The race started at the Cog Railway station and immediately headed up on a road. Adrenalin had everyone running; tried really hard to keep a slower pace. As Matt Carpenter says in the afore-linked-to description of the course:

The hill that starts at Hydro Street is the steepest on the course and it is silly to take the chance of blowing your race on such a short section. Indeed, this one section has probably been the cause of more poor performances than any other on the course. If people pass you here ignore them because you’ll most certainly see these runners further up the trail when they pay for their indiscretion.”

At times, this hill turned into a “fast hike” pace rather than a run, due to the crowd of people. I found out very quickly that this was the norm for this race; there were several spots, especially on the switchbacks where you cannot pass and it is a steep climb. Therefore you either save you strength and just follow in line, or try to pass. I did a bit of both as we went through the “W”s, the 13 or so switchbacks as you climb up the trail. My tracker told me I was doing between a 16-18 minute pace at this point.

Great video by a local reporter going up the “Ws” below. I’m about 4:08 in the video, greenish-yellow shirt with grey cap (and yes, my wife buys my clothes so they match)

To say this was “tough” would be putting it mildly. The elevation gain is about 2,150 feet to No-Name Creek, for a grade of about 13%. There were definitely parts where the voices in my head said I would not make it. But the mantra on this race and the Pikes Peak Ascent to come is “Keep on Moving” so we did.

FirstViewOfPikesPeakEventually, I rounded a corner a saw Pikes Peak. It was a clear day, it was beautiful…and looked a long way away.

In between we hit two aid stations, one manned by kids dressed in Christmas attire (including one in a wrapped box, but he wasn’t Justin Timberlake) and one where one kid was holding back another wearing a Triceratops hat. I actually had enough oxygen to laugh.

The next part was the flattest part of the course, approximately two miles (the grade here was 8% but there was a lot of flat and downhill parts mixed in). The trail here was wide enough to pass safely, for the first time. It was here that I starting running slightly behind Phil, who had a yellow “Marmot” runners shirt on, and had obviously done this run many times. We chatted a bit, and I fell into his rhythm, which was a steady pace, same effort uphill as on flat and downhill.

There was a stretch of wet rocks on the trail, then an ascent into Barr Camp, and the turnaround. Barr Camp is at 10,200 feet elevation, a bit over halfway to the top of Pikes Peak.

Going down: After carefully stepping over some of the wet rocks, I said farewell to my new running buddy Phil and let gravity assist me. I had been practicing downhill running in a parking garage, keeping the short, choppy gait but leaning in a bit so as to keep perpendicular to the ground. And I kept my hands out and down for balance instead of swinging them.

After the hard slog up, the feeling of going down, at times greater than an 8:00 pace, was euphoric. I tried to keep the level of effort the same (my strategy for the entire race), and gravity did indeed help. There was a group of four ladies in front of me who obviously knew each other, and they were having a good time. They talked like they knew the trail well, so I followed them down.

The race spread out quite a bit. One of the gents about five in front of me took a tumble, and we helped him up and continued down. The group of ladies slowly peeled off until there was just one of them and me. For a long time, there was no one around us. Her name was Sheryl, and she’d done this course many times. I followed her lead, and stayed on the sides of the trail that she did.

I came around a bend, probably a bit too fast. There was a couple hiking up the trail in front of me, and I looked at them instead of the trail. My right foot caught a root, and at that speed, I was down. Scraped my right hand, and (though I didn’t know it at the time) splatted my last GU pack all over the pocket of my shorts. A small pine tree kept me from rolling off the trail, and I was up and heading down again quickly. Another hiked who saw me fall said “warrior wounds”, and I told him the last thing my wife said to me before the race was “please don’t fall”….I think she meant “off the mountain” so I’m still good there. A lot of blood on my hand and arm, but they were only scrapes.

I had lost contact with Sheryl, but tried to keep the same pace. Close to the end my right hamstring (same leg that caught the root; same hamstring that gave up part of its tendon for my rebuilt ACL) decided to remind me that it didn’t sign up for this race. I slowed a bit, though I was still passing some folks on the way down.

As I got off Barr Trail (and was told there was another half mile) my hamstring basically told me to piss off, it was done. I stopped for a bit to stretch and massage it, and was passed by one lady. Unbeknownst to me, she would end up being the first Texan to cross the finish line, and I would be the second. After running 6-plus miles downhill, the finish line was up a very steep road…I assume to get us out of the way of the Cog Railway traffic. I hate hills at the end….

My line for the race: 1:42:47 up to Barr Camp, 1:00:02 down, clock time 2:43:00, chip time 2:42:50. 9th out of 26 in my age group. 121st out of 219 finishers.Barr Trail Mountain Race

Nutrition: There was water and gatorade at several stops on the way, manned by local schools cross country teams. The race had us vote at the end of the race for which of support stations was our favorite. The Jurassic Park dinosaur team got my vote.

I did one GU or Stinger pack on the way up (around the one hour mark) and one on the way down. I was thirsty some, but never got hungry.

Afterwards: The first finishers had a bit of confusion, as apparently a volunteer had set the sign up wrong, sending them the wrong way. To further complicate matters, eventual winner Andy Wacker started seven minutes behind everyone after an alarm clock SNAFU…but still managed to be one of the co-winners. Nice interview with Andy below:

I have a twice-broken pinkie on my right hand, which is where all of the scrapes from my fall were. When the little first aid girl washed off all the blood and saw my finger, she kinda freaked out. “Oh my god, I’m not sure I’m equipped to fix that!” My wife was cracking up, and I told the girl that it would indeed be miraculous if she could fix that.

The after race party and awards ceremony was well done, featuring local beer and BBQ. All race organizers, please pay attention – Michelob Ultra sucks as a post-race bevvie. This race had a Pinneap-Ale Wheat from local Manitou Brewing Company. Both of the pints I had were excellent. There was also BBQ.

I was told the downhill would be a “quad-killer”…and those who told me so were spot on. It didn’t hit me Monday, but I was hobbling around a lot Tuesday. But now, a week later, I’m back to the training program, aiming for the August 15th Pikes Peak Ascent.

ViewOfPikesPeak

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