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book notes: Night of Knives by Ian C. Esslemont (Malazan)

There are at least 15 books in the Malazan world. From all I have heard, they are quite complex. So that I do not forget plot points or people, these are the reading notes for the Malazan novels by Steve Erikson and Ian Esslemont. I am somewhat following the reading order at this link.

I read the prologue for Gardens of the Moon (Steve Erikson’s first novel in his series) and saw that it had the same timestamp as this novel…so I switched over. The writing style between Erikson and Esslemont is quite a contrast. There are points in this novel by Esslemont that are vague; at first I thought that was because I was new to the series and names/places/plot points were many. But after re-reading some passages, it is actually vague. I’m not certain if this is on purpose, but it is another good reason to take notes.

Timeframe: 1154th year of Burn’s Sleep, 96th year of the Malazan Empire, last year of Emperor Kellanved’s reign

Location: Malaz Isle (at this point I have no clue if this is important or not, but, since it is called the Malazan Empire…CLUE!)

Same timeframe and location as the prologue of GARDENS OF THE MOON.

Prologue

Captain Murl’s ship, Rheni’s Dream, is getting stuck in ice south of Malaz Isle and his men are freezing to death. Ice riders pass them riding the sea and the ice, apparently heading for the Isle.

A Path Within Shadow

A creature named Edgewalker is walking along sand dunes. He comes across a creature he knows as Jhedel and asks him if anyone has passed. Jhedel is being held here against his will, and Edgewalker feels some type of change is coming (a disturbance in the force, Luke?). Apparently Jhedel slew his predecessors to take a throne, and then was bound by some who overthrew him in turn.

Edgewalker continued on. He was late, and time and the celestial dance of realms waited for no one. Not even entities as insane and portent as the one pinned behind him. When they conversed during more lucid moments, it could remember its full name, Jhe’ Delekaaran, and that it had once commanded this entire realm as King. Liege to the Que’tezani, inhabitants of the most distant regions of Shadow. And mad though he may be, Jhedel was right in one thing: it had been long since the Throne last held an occupant. With the coming of each Conjunction, this absence worried Edgewalker. But this time what intrigued him most was something so rare he’d almost failed to recognize it…the coiled potential for change. (pg 11)

Chapter One – Portents and Arrivals

We meet Temper, who from the get-go is obviously more than he seems. He thinks about previous battles and injuries, and the fact that the arrival of an Imperial Official couldn’t have anything to do with him. Temper gets off guard duty around Mock’s Hold, and beats the crap out of some pretender named Larkin. Temper is a bad man, but he holds his temper pretty well…get it?

Kiska is a young lady who knows the town and spies on people, hoping it will get her somewhere, raise her station in life. She’s stalking the Imperial Official’s group that Temper saw when on guard duty. They don’t jive with her either. She gets caught by a “Claw” (“Imperial intelligence officers, mages, enforcers of the Emperor’s will!”), but let go, after she begs for a job. She continues to watch, and just as she’s about to follow the party, a grey-cloaked man she didn’t see comes out of hiding in front of her, following the same quarry.

Temper is heading home, stops to help a known acquaintance named Rengel, who tells him of the Shadow Moon…which is the event that will apparently affect this entire book. And Rengel mentions the “Return.”

“Return stank of the cult that worshipped Kellanved, the man who along with his partner, Dancer, had founded the Imperium. They’d been missing for years. Some thought both dead, others that they’d vanished into some kind of thaumaturgic seclusion.” (pg. 38)

Temper thinks about a house across from the Hanged Man Inn, called the Deadhouse.

“Rumour also held that it was there that Kellanved and Dancer, along with others including Dassem and the current Regent, Surly, had live and plotted everything that followed. ….locals called it the Deadhouse.” (pg 39)

Interesting since book two from Erikson is titled Deadhouse Gates.

There’s a different crowd at Temper’s local bar (called Coop’s Inn, after the bar keep), and Coop warns Temper away from them.

I have no clue if Temper and Kiska come up again anywhere in the Malazan books. After the prologue of Gardens of the Moon the timeline skips forward a few decades, so my assumption is that they are just being used as story telling vehicles. But I’ve been wrong before.

Chapter Two – Assignations

This chapter ends up with more re-read notes that I had intended, but a lot goes on here that I assume is background for the entire series.

A quick para on the “Fisherman” who apparently has to head out in inclement weather. Must be important, or they wouldn’t have mentioned him.

Kiska lost track of the guy she was following (“She smelled the warrens on him”).  She follows on, through to an estate, climbs a wall and see two men on a bench.

The one on her right  was the man she’d followed, hood back, shaved scalp dark as rich loam, a long queue draped forward over one shoulder. The other was an old man, ghostly pale, white haired, thin shoulders hunched like folded wings. (page. 53)

She watches them for a while, one leaves. Kiska is about to leave when she hears something, jumps back up on the wall and see the “intruder from the wharf” (the other gent she did not see) standing over the form of the old man. She thinks him adept (that’s what Warrens are – a type of magic!). After a while, the magic man leaves and Kiska goes to rifle through the dead old man’s clothes to see who he is…only he isn’t dead, grabs her, she stabs him, but he still talks to her.

Temper heads to his room upstairs at Coop’s. Corinn (a lady he was hoping to see) waves Temper to her room, trying apparently to protect him. She reveals to him that she is a Brdgeburner…”once of the Third Army. An army that Daseem, with Temper at his side, had led in Falar and the Seven Cities.” (Pg. 58)

Corinn tells him that she knows who he is.

“I was at Y’Ghatan. I saw the Sword broken. I know.” (Pg. 58)

Soldiers barge in and take Temper back down stairs, seating him with Coop the bar owner, Trenech the bouncer who seems not all there, and an old man named Faro.

Kiska finds herself in an alternate world. A Realm – the Path of Shadow….with the dead guy who just grabbed her. He provides some education in what is going on.

“You’re still on your wretched little isle. And at the same time, you are here. Two realms overlapping. Two places at once. What is called a Convergence.” (pg. 63)

“My name is Oleg. Many years ago a man came to me. He claimed to be interested in the arcanum of my research. We worked together. We shared knowledge. His prowess and grasp of Warren manipulation astounded me. I, who admit no peer in such mastery. He -He betrayed me. He stole my work and left me for dead.

That man was Kellanved, Emperor of Malaz. He returns tonight to this island. The Claws and their mistress no doubt think he returns to reclaim the throne, but all who believe such things are fools. He returns to atempt to re-enter the Deadhouse. They are after another, far greater prize. He and Dancer.” (pg 63-64)

And, just like that, we have the summary of the conflict in this book, and what are in the Prologue of Gardens of the Moon.

Oleg tells Kiska that “transubstatiation must be the time of striking. Entombment is the way”. Then Kiska is back in Malaz, in the garden with the dead man (apparently Oleg). The other man who she had seen with him (the one she originally followed) comes back and tries to kill her (she shoots a crossbow but it goes right through where he was). Oleg rises up and puts some serious hurt on the assassin, freeing Kiska before she is garroted.

Sergeant Ash (the Bridgeburner) and Corinn after some planning, take most of the men away, leaving four to guard the Temper, Coop, Trenech and Faro. Temper feels Warrens (magic?) growing, and Trenech responds to a threat by killing all four guards barehanded. Faro and Trenech are more than what they seem, telling Temper to leave, as Shadow and Others come.

Chapter Three – Hounds of Shadow

The fisherman is in his boat, rowing and chanting. The same riders who froze out the boat in the prologue keep trying to approach, but are unable to because of the chant.

Kiska is walking around Malaz, and then flips into another realm. There she meets Edgewalker, (who she describes as a walking corpse) who tells her that he “…walks the borders of Kurald Emurlahn. What you call Shadow.” So, Edgewalker walks the edges of Shadow, eh? He tells he she was swept there by a shadow storm, and that he will send her back. She asks Edgewalker if he knows Oleg, or if Shadow has a ruler. Edgewalker does not know Oleg, and says that many including he have tried to take the throne of Shadow. Kiska asks him what is entombment, and he tells here “the price of failure. Eternal enslavement to Shadow House.” (pg 81).

Then they hear a Hound. Edgewalker tells Kiska it has caught her scent, and she must seek protection in Obo’s tower. Obo is a myth, but so were the Hounds! She reaches the tower and finds a “doddering oldster” who does indeed turn out to be Obo. He somehow gets her back to her Realm on Malaz, and she bolts for the house of Agayla, her friend and caretaker who apparently is also a powerful mage.

Agayla warms her up, treats her wounds while Kiska tells her about her adventures (leaving out Edgewalker and Obo, for some reason). Apparently Agayla knows Oleg. While they are talking, something (one of the Hounds?) comes sniffing and scratching at their door, scaring them both; Agayla somehow makes it leave.

Agayla repeats the story to Kiska the version of the Emperor’s story that we’ve mostly heard before: the Emperor and Dancer have been seen less and less, and Dassem, the Sword of the Empire and two others of the sword, who survived the battle where the Sword of the Empire was broken, were killed later that night, presumably by the Claw (who are loyal to Surly). Agayla also says that Oleg Vikat was an acolyte of Hood and a theurgical scholar who “claims to have discovered a foundations understanding of the Warrens.” The man in grey (who attacked Oleg and later Kiska) was a “cultist. A worshipper of the Warren of Shadow” and an assassin.

Kiska thinks Agayla is going to lock her in a room, like she did when there was a purge against all who are talented (possess knowledge of the Warrens…apparently Kiska has some talent). Agayla used her talents to disuade the soldiers from taking her on. But this time Agayla gives her a letter to take to the man Oleg wanted her to give a message to, and sends her out into the night.

Temper takes Coop to the house of Seal who is apparently a healer with a bit of an addiction to the poppy plant. Temper gets his old armor and gear (which Seal was apparently storing for him), borrows some really old stuff that Seal kept of his father’s dumps Coop and heads out.

Kiska has also headed out into the night of Shadows, and is at once disoriented. She remembers the last time, when there was a purge against those with talent, which she had dropped down to the street to save an old man, had almost gotten raped but ended up fighting and knocking out two of three men and scaring off the third. Kiska has some skilz as well as talent! She also apparently has a crossbow this evening. She spies some more grey clad “cultist” figures, and follows them. She comes across a dead girl, with the mark of a Talon, and then spies the gent she was following (this is described a bit vaguely, IMHO) with four bodyguards. She sees more than 50 cultists sneaking in with three tall grey-clad cultists (obviously in charge and bad mama-jammas), and a fight ensues, with two of the man’s bodyguards kills. Just as the man she is following and on of the grey-clad cultists are about to have a magic battle royale (Kiska can sense it) she is grabbed from behind, bound, gagged, hooded and taken.

Kiska hood is taken off and she is in a inn she recognizes as the Southern Crescent. Turns out that she has been taken by the group that Corrin, Temper’s lady friend is part of. She is questioned, slapped, and apparently on the list to be killed (leave no witnesses) when scratching is heard at the door. Long story, short – a Hound comes in, Corrin and the leader and some others bail, and the Hound feasts on most everyone else. Kiska slips under a table, uses her one remaining hidden knife to slice her bonds, and, when the lone survivor pulls out some kind of magic grenade, dives down the stairs and out the door before the place explodes in magic and light.

Back to Temper, who is running around the city. He is drawn by a girl’s cries, and when he picks her up she wraps herself around him, and turns into something with more than two legs and starts to attack him. Just when he is down and it looks like she/it is going to bite his neck off, someone grabs the creature by the head and chops its neck off. That someone turns out to be Edgewalker, who departs after introducing himself as quickly as he came.

Temper cleans himself off in a fountain, then gets the Shadow treatment as the city starts to shift. He heads up – and finds one of the guards he met back at Coop’s Inn walking toward him with his entrails in hand, saying the Hound was behind him. Temper takes off running. A Hound eventually catches him, and though he fights back and hurts it, the Hound leaves Temper with a broken arm, mauled.

Kiska is hiding after her own encounter with a Hound but pulls herself together and takes off again to deliver her message. She takes a shortcut she knows up to Rampart Way, by way of climbing. She reaches a hole, a cave she has hidden in before, but is surprised by someone already hiding there, whom she fights and loses. She recognizes her opponent of the bodyguard of the man she is trying to get the message to. She convinces the bodyguard, who is called Hattar, and she speaks with a man who identifies himself as Artan. She gives him the scroll from Agayla, and Artan asks for her real name (“Kiskatia Silamon Tenesh”). Kiska tells Artan what Oleg said (about conjunction and transubstantiation). He thanks her for the information, then leaves her tied up as Artan and Hattar climb out. Kiska frees herself and follows.

Ch5OldEnemiesChapter Four (though it is labeled Five in my book) – Old Enemies, Old Friends

Who’s the editor that let two chapter five’s out the door in a Malazan series? Oy vey!

The fisherman who was rowing gets overrun by the boat from the intro (Rheni’s Dream) which was encased in an iceberg. An unknown woman goes into a hut where Agayla was knitting, but as she “reached out to gather up the knitting the wool shattered into fragments.”(pg 147). Then Agayla is meeting with Obo, who she tells of the fisherman’s fate and of other things.

“And the fisherman?” Obo asked, cocking a brow at her.
“Overcome. He was out there all alone. They knew how naked we are. They could sense it.”
“That fool, Surly, trying to outlaw magery on the island. Why didn’t she stop to consider why this island should be such a hotbed of talent? Wind-whistlers, sea-soothers, wax-witches, warlocks, Dragons deck readers. You name it. The Riders dare not come within hundreds of leagues.”
“She didn’t know because no one knows, Obo, “Agayla observed. (pg. 148)

She tells him she has recruited someone to their side in the upcoming fight, but won’t tell him who.

Temper dreams of the siege of Y’Ghatan, where he is with Dassem. Dassem has faced and beaten all of the champions – except one.

As they advanced, Temper kept a look ahead for Surgen – Surgen Ress, the man who claimed to be the last of the Holy City’s patroned and anointed champions. Never mind there were only seven Holy Cities and that all seven champions had fallen to Dassem’s sword. He gave life to Y’Ghatan’s claim to be the eighth Holy City, hidden, but the eldest. (pg. 153)

With Temper and his other bodyguards, Dassem advances, easily defeating the normal soldiers (I am assuming here that “patroned” means something like blessed or backed by one of the gods in this world?) as they make their way to Surgen. As Dassem is fighting, Temper sees something flash in front of him and hit Dassem (an arrow or something), wounding him. The bodyguards surround him, each in turn standing between Dassem and Surgen. Temper gets his turn and somehow holds the anointed one off until a wave of Malazan soldiers rescues them. We readers already knew Temper was a baaaad man, but this really pushes home that point.

Temper awakens from his nightmare looking at a hooded man, who has apparently used healing magic. The healer says his people saw Temper’s “duel with Rood”, which is apparently the name of the Hound (in the dramatis personae in the front of Gardens of the Moon, it lists seven Hounds of shadow). Temper is not sure who they are, but there are a lot of these hooded men, who say “We control the island two or three nights every century.” They take Temper to the top of the ridge and show him a strange set of lights, what Temper thinks accompanies manipulations of the warrens. The robed man tells him they think it is a door.

“An entrance to the realm of Shadow. And he who passes through commands that Warren as a King. A stunning possibility, yes?” (pg. 161)

They ask Temper to help defend the door, but offer him safe passage if he refuses. He accepts their offer of safe passage and goes to Rampart Way.

Temper has another flash back, wakening in a medical tent after being healed with only one Dassem’s bodyguards  (Ferrule) alive with him. They are being held under guard by members of the Claw, Surly’s troops. They fight and kill them and go to find Dassem. When they do, he is barely alive, and Surly and three more Claw are in the tent. They “negotiate”, though Temper believes neither side will hold up their end of the bargain. Surly leaves with one of the Claw, leaving the others with reinforcements to to take care of Temper, Dassem and Ferrule. While Ferrule guards him, Temper pulls a blade and thrusts it at Dassem – thus awakening him (or his patron awakened him? The text is unclear). They easily beat the remaining guards and flee. Dassem leaves them to go do something “he must do.”

So Dassem, the sword of the empire, is alive somewhere! Surly covered up their escape, saying they died in a raid from the Holy City troops….which is why Temper has been trying to avoid the Claw. I’m pretty quick on the up-take here….except for those whose suspected this several chapters ago.

Back to Kiska, who has finished her climb to the top of Rampart Way. There are signs of fighting, the mercenaries who had captured her are dead here. The gatekeeper Lubben grabs her from a door and pulls her in. He’s hiding, she borrows a weapon and leaves again. She finds more of the mercenaries dead, but one alive, who tells her that Surly’s Claw had lain in wait and attacked them. She sees a man coming wearing lots of armor brandishing two swards (Temper, obviously) who has two Claw stalking him. He kills one and calls the other “Possum” which was the name of one of the Claw’s Temper fought with to free Dassem.

Kiska heads further up, into the rooms that used to be used by Sub-Fist Pell (who was over the fort until all hell broke loose). Of course she finds Artan and Hattar. She tells them of the crazy armored man, and Artan catches a glimpse of him, and acts like he knows him. They watch as Temper (the crazy armored man) begins talking to a cultist who appears, who Temper obviously knows (and Artan seems to as well). They negotiate and a woman appears on the floor, one whom Kiska recognizes as Corinn (though she doesn’t know her name). They seem Temper take Corinn and walk away.

Then we see the same thing from Temper’s perspective. He passes Lubben’s quarters, kills a Claw who tries to raise a Warren, and keeps going. He fights Possum and the other Claw (killing that one), and heads further up. He meets the one Kiska thought was a cultist – it is Dancer, “Kellanved’s co-conspirator, bodyguard and the top assassin in the empire.” Temper asks for Corinn, and Dancer asks for something in return.

“One last first, Temper. One last service from the last shard of the shattered Sword.”
The last? Something stabbed at Temper’s chest. Truly the last? He seemed unable to breathe. Then Ferrule – even Dassem – dead? (pg. 191)

Dancer wants Temper to fight and send him back to Pralt, the cultist he had met before in the lower city. Temper takes Corrin, but asks Dancer a question, which I’m guessing may be want the entire series ends up being about:

“You two mean to retake the throne?”
The hooded head tilted to one side. Temper imagined a teasing smile. “We’re not here for a lark; you know that. But even from the beginning we didn’t want such an unwieldy entity. A kingdom, an Empire. There are just symbols. Kellanved and I see much further. We’ve always been after greater things.” (pg 192)

Temper takes Corinn back to Lubben’s, and heads back out.

Night of Knives Chapter 5Chapter Five (the real Five) – Feints and Fates

See? Two chapter 5s!!

Dancer has seen Artan, Kiska and Hattar and comes to confront them, calling Artan “Tay.” He suggests they stay where they are, as everyone upstairs is a “participant” (i.e., possible dead meat). They do as he suggests…for a while. Kiska asks and has confirmed that Artan is actually Tayschrenn, Imperial High Mage. He in turn asks her about her background and Kiska finds out that Tayschrenn considers Agayla a “colleague.”

After a while, she asks him what he is thinking:

“I am wondering,” he began, his voice low, puzzled, “just who is trapping whom. Surly has set a trap above for Kellanved. But he picked the time and place long ago – who knows how long – and has been preparing all the while. So perhaps this trap is for her. One she likely recognizes but cannot avoid. She had to come. They both had to come.” Then he frowned. The lines bracketing his mouth deepened into furrows. “And what could he and Dancer hope to gain? Their followers have been killed or scattered. No organized support remains but for Dancer’s Shadow cult, and they gone to ground and so few. Their authority would not be accepted by the Claws – or the governing Fists – should they return.”
“And Oleg. What of his message?”
The magus actually grimaced, touched one temple as if to still a throbbing vein. “Yes. Oleg. Our hermit mystic. A self-mortifier and flagellant. Drive insane, perhaps, by his own blind ambition? Or a prophet foolishly ignored?” He sighed. “If I follow the lines of his reasoning accurately, they lead to suicide for Kellanved and Dancer. That I simply cannot accept. I know those two and neither would allow that.” (pg 202)

They hear something on the floor above them – pacing, then a battle and screams. The three go upstairs (reluctantly taking Kiska with them).

Surly is there, with a bandaged hand and many bodes strewn around (including Ash, the Bridgeburner from the inn). Surly’s surviving claw, Possum and Topper are there. The balcony is destroyed, the impression is that Kellanved and Dancer lost the battle and were blasted off the balcony. Tayschrenn says he was there for a different reason but Surly does not believe him. Surly declares herself Imperial Regent, says she and Tay must plan. He sends Hattar and Kiska away, back down the stairs…where Kiska falls asleep.

Two cultists meet Temper after he has dropped off Corinn. One gets mouthy, threatens Temper, Temper hits him, the cultist pulls a knife and ends up with it in his stomach. The remaining cultist escorts him into Shadow, to the Deadhouse, surrounded by cultists. The one called Pralt tells him what he traded for – a “simple assault” on the Deadhouse.  When Temper says “I ain’t no stalking horse,” Pralt replies “That’s all you’ve ever been.” So Temper’s assault is to be a diversion for Dancer?

Faro and Trenech show up, telling Temper and the cultists not to enter the gate to the Deadhouse. “By crossing the barriers, you weaken them. And that is not to our liking.” (pg. 217). Temper goes in with Pralt and one other cultist…who magically vanish behind the gate, leaving Temper alone.

Agayla and Obo are holding back the forces attacking Malazan Island, when Tayschrenn arrives (he was the assistance that Agayla had talked about at the beginning of Chapter 4). Agayla is obviously exhausted. She tells him that before the dawn they will fail without Tayschrenn’s help.

“Yet some force was forestalling this. Where are they?”
“He has been overcome.”
“He? One against all of this? There is no one. Osserc, perhaps -”
Obo snorted again.
Agayla merely massaged her fingers across her brow. “Really, Tay. You, above all, should know there are ancient powers, those that see past your and Kellanved’s empire-building as just another pass of season. The paths of Ascendancy are far more varied that you image.” Sighing, Agayla straightened. “But now is not the time for that. Surly’s campaign against magery had left him sorely diminished. A fraction of talent remained to draw upon and so he was overwhelmed.” (pg. 220)

Paths to Ascendancy? Sounds like a huge motivation for the entire series, don’t it?

Tayschrenn uses his Thyr Warren (which I’m sure we’ll learn about in the series) and probes the power behind the Stormriders, called the Wandweilders. He senses a power similar to his old master, D’rel, the Worm of Autumn. Agayla asks him what if their goal was not just to get past the barrier at Malaz island, but to get to the House. Could the house withstand that force? With this thought, Tayschrenn joins them to contain the Riders.

Kiska awakens, Corinn the mercenary mage above her, and Lubben with her, but Tayschrenn and Hattar gone. She tells them what she thinks has happened. They decide to go to the House (isn’t everybody?), and Kiska convinces them to take her. Corinn uses the Thyr Warren (the Path of Light), and Kiska steps in after her. Kiska sees images, and Corinn comments that she must be a “natural.” Kiska thinks of Agayla, and then sees her, exhausted by the sea, and warning her away. Somehow (the writing is a bit vague) Kiska again ends up in Shadow, and finds Edgewalker. She sees the House in Shadow (which looks alive) but also sees a glacier (which we assume is the shadow parallel of the Stormriders force/attack against the isle). Edgewalker says that is the more deadly threat in this “Conjunction”. Edgewalker sends her back…right near an assassin, who Kiska kills…but also near a Hound, who Kiska charges but trips and is knocked out.

Temper see a giant stepping out of the house, a giant that Faro calls the Jaghut (whom Edgewalker has also referred to). He tries to leave, but Faro, Trenech, Cultists and Claws prevent it. The Jaghut calls forth skeletons from the ground, and marches toward the gate, flinging Temper out of the way. Temper fights to get out, fighting Cultists, his old Claw ‘pal’ Possum, skeletons and a tree that wraps its tendrils around him.

Kiska wakes up yet again, this time in the Deadhouse with Oleg. Oleg asks about Edgewalker, then he spies a place over the wall where the vines move, smoke and die. Kiska watches as Oleg jumps over the wall and finds a man near the vines who he attacks. Kiska spies his face and believe it is Kellanved. A third figure – “in rags, scarecrow thin with elongated, oddly proportioned limbs” – grabs Kellanved, much to Oleg’s delight. Another person, Dancer appears, grabbing Oleg and throwing him onto Kellanved and the creature who he struggled with. The creature grabs Oleg, and Kellanved and Dancer proceed into the house, and in through a door in the back of it.

Kiska then runs into Tayschrenn, supported by Hattar. She tells them what she saw, and Tayschrenn forcefully tells her that she must be mistaken, as he and Surly have agreed that Kellanved and Hattar are dead and gone. Tayschrenn goes to talk to “the Guardian”, and a battle erupts with the Jaghut trying to escape with Faro, Trenech, and Tayschrenn trying to stop it. Hattar runs in and rescues Tayschrenn, who is unconscious and Kiska and Hattar take him to be healed.

Temper survives, and Corinn finds him. Lubben and Corinn want him to leave, but they see that magic battle at the gate. Temper finds Faro, a smoldering ruin, and Faro tells him to “step into the gap, soldier.” Temper realizes that the Jaghut cannot be allowed to get through the gate. He “receives the Guardianship” from Faro as he dies. Temper asks Corinn if she can shield him from the magic energies surrounding the Jaghut. She responds “for a heartbeat.”

Temper and Lubben attack the Jaghut, with Lubben quickly thrown aside. Temper defends, not attacking, with something giving him strength (maybe a patronage? the gods choosing sides?). Soon, the Jaghut stops fighting, and starts talking. It’s name is Jhenna, a name it expects Temper to know. It says it was a teacher of humans long ago, defending them from the K’Chain. Then it asks Temper to name his price to stand aside. He declines. The Jaghut says it has brought Temper to its Warren, where his battle would go on forever. As the Jaghut is taunting Temper, Edgewalker walks up. Edgewalker announces that the Riders have been repulsed, and the Shadow cultists have withdrawn. The Jaghut continues to push Temper to stand aside, and Temper asks Edgewalker to tell him what is truth in what the Jaghut says. The Jaghut finally realizes that Temper is the Temper of the Sword, and tells him that Daseem Ultor is alive. But the Jaghut had been stalling, Temper finds his legs and torso encased in ice. Some energy allows him to explode the ice and fend off the sudden resumption of attacks of the Jaghut. The Jaghut attacks furiously, then is hit by weapons thrown from behind Temper. The House sucks the Jaghut back into the ground, as Corinn and Lubben grab Temper who has passed out. It is dawn. The Conjunction appears to be over.

Chapter Six – Resolutions

Kiska awakens to find herself in Coop’s tavern and healed by Seal. She gets a message that the men who she came in with (Hattar and Tayschrenn) are down at the wharf. She runs down to the wharf, finds them and is taken as an apprentice. She runs and tell Agayla and her mother good bye.

Temper is back at guard duty the next day, acting like nothing happened. The guards and his officer only know that there was an assassination attempt, but nobody saw anything.

Epilogue

Edgewalker comes across two prone figures, encountering an old man he calls “Lord” and Cotillion. Based on how the plot has gone, I assume these are Kellavaned and Dancer, now rulers of Shadow. Edgewalker says to himself that this could “continue the possibility of…progression.”

Some of the folks of the island find a body washed up, that of an injured Rider. The Rider speaks to the old man, asking him “Why are you killing us?” before the old man does just that, slicing the Rider’s throat, surprised by the red blood.

 

the-heart-of-what-was-lost

book notes: The Heart of What Was Lost by Tad Williams

The long wait for the return to Osten Ard is almost over. I was grateful to be given an opportunity by Tad Williams and his wife Deborah Beale to read an advanced copy of The Heart of What Was Lost (available at the beginning of January). Returning there was indeed the sweet breath of cold fresh icy Nakkiga mountain air that Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (MSantT) fans have been waiting for. And, since it made me want more, luckily the three books in the new series, The Last King of Osten Ard, are not far behind.

Full disclosure: this is based on an advanced copy. Slight spoilers may be below. If you don’t want to read further, the TL;DR of this review is…it sure as hell was worth the wait…but makes the months until The Witchwood Crown seem like an eternity.

I normally include snippets from the book in my notes to emphasize certain thoughts, but in deference to the author and readers of this unreleased book, I will forego that practice here.

After wars there is hatred. If you’ve ever talked to an American veteran of World War 2 who experienced the Pacific battles, many of them had an undying hatred of the Japanese. And that hatred was reciprocated. It may heal over time, but directly after the conflict it is fierce.

Tad Williams captures this (and other points) scarily well in this novel that takes place shortly after the battle at the Hayholt at the end of To Green Angel Tower. Duke Isgrimnur, whose son Isorn was killed by Pryrates and Norns in that battle, leads an army of Rimmersmen and others to chase the Norns as they retreat north, all the way back to Nakkiga. The Duke’s men’s increasingly fervent goal is genocide, to completely exterminate the Norns. Though tired of war, they are propelled by a hatred and an “it’s us or them” mentality (as it was the Norn’s intention to end the human race with The Storm King and Utuk’ku’s plans).

The Norns return the harsh sentiment. In MSandT the reader saw little of the Norn viewpoint, save for small vignettes from Utuk’ku. In The Heart of What Was Lost, as hoped for, the curtain is pulled back to reveal a very complex and developed Norn society, as one would expect from a people who had been around for many human lifetimes. The Norns believe, rightly so, that they are fighting for their very existence. With their Queen Utuk’ku in a deep sleep of recovery after her part in the battle, they are on their own. And their is “court intrigue” as those leaders who would normally bow to Utuk’ku vie for leadership roles and influence in what remains of the Norm kingdom.

There are dark parts of this novel, parts that remind me of Williams’ writing in Happy Hour in Hell (reviewed here on the archived and Hugo-award winning SFSignal) from his Bobby Dollar series (a series I highly recommend, and hope Williams continues to write…AFTER he’s finished The Last King of Osten Ard, of course). There is a viciousness to the battle scenes and tactics not seen in MSandT but appropriate for the enmity of these two armies. In MSandT, when a long-lived Sitha was killed, there was an almost palpable sorrow in the writing…that one who had lived so long and had so long yet to live would perish. In this novel, perhaps because there is so much death for the Norns, that sentiment is different; it is the blasphemy of genocide that permeates each Norn death. 

There is not much character development in the humans (we’ve known the Duke and Sludig through thousands of pages, so not much is needed), other than the view of a Pedruin named Porto who gives the common soldier’s perspective. This is well played, as in any war the common soldier normally wants nothing more than to survive and return home, and desires the same for his brothers-in-arms. Porto portrays this well, as the hatred of the Norns is left mostly for others (save when the Norn violence hits close to him), and Porto stays, committed to his fellow men but constantly pining for distant, warmer places…and survival.

I admit that after the mysteriousness of the Norns in MSanT (which fed their mystique), as a reader I was apprehensive about seeing them as real characters, and losing that veil of unknowing. But that apprehension faded the as the story moved. The Norns are paraded out for all to see, with their family histories and specialities: Singers, Builders, Sacrifices. Simply put – Singers work with magic, Builders build and Sacrifices are soldiers – an interesting but appropriate name for the riskiest job of a long-lived people. Family histories are hinted at and in some cases revealed. The Norns have human slaves as well, unlike the Sithi. One wonders if this was another of the reasons for the split between the two (Sithi and Norn), or if the Sithi learned to survive without the Dwarrows (the other part of the Gardenborn who were used mostly as slaves) better than the Norns. It would be interesting (and perhaps will be revealed?) to learn if the Norn builders learned from the dwarrows how to do their craft of bending stone to will. And, though hinted at here (no spoilers), it will be interesting to see how the Norns and their slaves change in the The Last King of Osten Ard. There are several great new characters to follow into the forthcoming series.  

There is a building suspense in the question of whether the Norns would survive, fed by notes interspersed amongst the novel from a Chronicler of the Norns (Lady Miga). With The Last King of Osten Ard series looming, and the Norns set to play a roll in those tomes, there is little room for such suspense of whether the Norns would be wiped out. But there is uncertainty on which of the long-lived Norns will survive and how the Norns will be changed; and how, if at all, the humans like the Duke will be changed from this last ordeal. One assumes this book would be the Duke’s last hurrah, as the Last King series is said to be set 30-40 years after these events. The Duke is already an old man, and one would assume he would not make an appearance. From my standpoint, he will certainly be missed; his characterization was outstanding throughout the entire MSanT series, as well as in this addition to the canon.

With MSandT there were some glimpses of the Garden, of the time before the Gardenborn (Norns, Sitha and Dwarrows) were driven out by “Unbeing.” And there is a bit more of that in The Heart of What Was Lost. As we are shown a more complete vision of the Norns world in this novel, I hope we see more of the history of the “Garden” and what really drove them out in the next series..

One note on the setting, the descriptions of which show the effort Williams puts into such things: much of the latter half of MSandT took place in the cold, in winter-like conditions, and this book has more of the same. As the locale moves further north, the weather grows colder. It is amazing how Cali-based Williams can write the cold so much that the reader knows, even feels, how much the characters abhor it.

This is a novel that requires an extensive background in Osten Ard (or at least of the events of To Green Angel Tower), but given Mr. Williams’ tendencies in all of his series, this book will be prefaced by a “What had gone before” section to catch up old and new readers. This practice should be the norm among writers on long works and series, other than expecting readers to re-read or catch-up via Internet scraps. There are already (as of December 1) photos around the InterWebs of some spectacular maps that will be included in the book. Hopefully this will be accompanied by “previous events in the series” blurb for new readers…and there should be a lot of new readers. This series influenced the legion of great fantasy writers that are being published today (for more background on this, see this SFSignal article).

It’s been more than two decades since To Green Angel Tower, the last book in MSandT, was released. The 1990s were a different world, or so they seem. But Tad’s books have remained timeless. I, like many, have so been looking forward to this continuation, so much that I hope, in typical Tad fashion, he turns The Last King of Osten Ard “trilogy” into a 4 or 5 book set! (or at least a record setting length for the books).

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book notes: Fires of Eden by Dan Simmons

I honestly thought I had read all of Dan Simmons works, but was proved wrong when I stumbled upon Fires of Eden. Written in 1994 (just before Endymion was released, the third book in the Hyperion cantos, if that helps to place it in a timeline), it is, as many of Mr. Simmons novels are, an interweaving a some historical facts, some myths and lots of imagination. There are two timelines running in parallel:

  • an 1866 timeline involving Samuel Clemens (yes, Mark Twain) and Lorena Stewart (who appears to be based on the travel writer Isabella Bird, based on some of the titles that Simmons attributes to Ms. Stewart, and who wrote a travelogue about the Hawaiian Islands (source));
  • and a modern timeline following one of Ms. Stewarts modern day relatives Eleanor, her new friend Cordie Stumpf, and Byron Trumbo, a bombastic billionaire real-estate mogul who I would say was based on Donald Trump had not Mr. Simmons mentioned Trump as a rival of Trumbo’s.

The main conflict in both timelines is the eruption of the volcanoes on the big island of Hawai’i, caused by the on-going fight between the goddess Pele and her enemies (of which there are many) brought about to some extent by kahuna (Hawaiian shaman) invoking her name to get the haoles (non-Hawaiians) kicked out of Hawai’i.

This myth is discussed in several texts. From Fundamentals of Hawaiian Mysticism:

In one well-known myth, Pele, the volcano goddess, engages in a colossal battle with her would-be lover, Kamapua’a, the hog god, during which she tries to annihilate him with fiery lava and he tries to quench her fires with ocean waves. (pg. 27).

Simmons description of this is much more entertaining, told by Eleanor to Cordie while they are drinking an adult beverage called “Pele’s Fires” at the resort owned by Trumbo. It is interesting and effective author choice that has two haole are explaining Hawaiian mythos while drinking adult beverages. I’ve edited out Cordie’s non-essential rejoinders (sorry, Dan):

Eleanor took a sip of Pele’s Fire, cleared her throat and started again. “Pele is not one of the older gods, but she comes from the best family. Her father was said to be Moe-moea-au-lii, literally “the Chief Who Dreamed of Trouble,” but he disappeared early on and doesn’t figure into any of Pele’s later tales…”
“Typical male,” muttered Cordie, and sipped her drink. “Go on.”
“Yes…well, Pele’s mother was Maumea, sometimes known as Hina or La’ila’i. In her various forms, Haumea is the supreme female spirit, goddess of women’s work and fertility, the mother of all the lesser gods and of all of humankind, and and generally the female counterpart to all the male power in the universe.”
“Right on,” said Cordie, and lifted a clenched fist.

“Pele’s powers were created out of the womb of the Earth Mother the ancient Hawaiians called Papa,” said Eleanor.

“The ancients saw the universe balanced only in the embrace of opposites,” said Eleanor. “Male light penetrating female darkness , begetting a universe of opposites.

“Pele came late to these islands,” continued Eleanor, regaining her storyteller voice. “Her canoe was guided by Ka-moho-ali’i…”
“Hey, that’s the shark king you were talking about earlier,” said Cordie. “The old man of the brat who tried to eat me today. Sorry…I’ll keep my mouth shut.”
“You’re right,” said Eleanor. “Ka-moho-ali’i was Pele’s brother. Back in Bora-Bora, where the both came from, he was also known as the king of the dragons. Anyway, he helped lead Pele’s canoe to Hawaii. She landed first at Niihau and then moved on to Kauai. Being the goddess of fire, Pele had a magic digging tool – I think it was called Paoa. She used Paoa to dig fire pits in which she could live, but the sea kept rolling in and quenching her flames. Pele moved down the island chain until she came here to the Big Island, where she eventually found Kilauea to be just right. That’s been her home for thousand’s of years.”

“Anyway, before she settled here, Pele got in a huge battle of Maui with her older sister, Na-maka-o-Kaha’i, the goddess of the sea…”
….
“Pele and her sister slugged it out until Pele was killed,” said Eleanor.
“Killed?” Cordie looked confused.
“The gods have mortal sides,” said Eleanor. “When Pele lost hers, she became even more powerful as a goddess. And because she died here in Hawaii, her spirit could be free to fly to the volcanoes of Mauna Loa and Kilauea, where she lives to this day.”
Cordie was frowning. “I thought that Pele could appear as a mortal…”
“She can,” said Eleanor. “It’s just that she’s not mortal anymore.”

“It get’s complicated,” agreed Eleanor. “For instance, Pele is the goddess of fire, but she can’t make fire…that’s a male perogative. But she can control it, and she does on these islands. She has several brothers, also gods, who control thunder, explosions, fountains of lava, the so-called rain of fire…all the noisier and more dramatic but less powerful aspects of fire.” (pg 289-291)

 The Samuel Clemens/Mark Twain historical fact integration follows Clemens’ adventures in Hawaii somewhat. In Clemens autobiography (have you not yet read this? egads!) there is a section entitled “My Debut as a Literary Person” where he talks about chatting with the survivors of the U.S. S. Hornet and being in the “Sandwich Islands” (as Hawai’i was called by some) in the 1860s:

I had been in the Islands several months when the survivors arrived. I was laid up in my room at the time, and unable to walk. Here was a great occasion to serve my journal, and I not able to take advantage of it. Necessarily I was in deep trouble. But by good luck his Excellency Anson Burlingame was there at the time, on his way to take up his post in China where he did such good work for the United States. He came and put me on a stretcher and had me carried to the hospital where the shipwrecked men were, and I never needed to ask a question. He attended to all of that himself, and I had nothing to do but make the notes. It was like him to take that trouble. He was a great man, and a great American; and it was in his fine nature to come down from his high office and do a friendly turn whenever he could. We got through with this work at six in the evening. I took
Twain, Mark; Smith, Harriet E.; Griffin, Benjamin; Fischer, Victor; Frank, Michael B. (2010-11-15). Autobiography of Mark Twain: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, Volume 1 (p. 128). University of California Press. Kindle Edition.

Thus the timeline is set for Mr. Simmons’ purposes. Both the past and current timeline participants first try to comprehend the Hawaiian mysticism that they find themselves in, and then they participate in ancient rituals as if they are believers. While this transformation of belief has neither the slow downward spiral of drug-induced belief of Drood (still one of my favorite books) or the reality scariness of The Terror, the book relates well the unrepentant belief of a native peoples in their gods…even a peoples trod on and trampled like the Hawaiians. There is a bit of foreshadowing of Black Hills in this novel, of native americans getting trod on and seeking a type of revenge of their own making.

Overall, yet another enjoyable read…but one that makes me question my memory and forces a review of Dan Simmons’ bibliography!

Dan Simmons And Me

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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).

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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.).
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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!

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That time my wife and I saw Prince live at the Super Bowl

We didn’t think he’d come out. I sure wouldn’t have. The “It never rains at the Super Bowl” adage had come crashing down like so many gallons of sticky, cool moisture. We were enjoying the game, but we were freezing in the rain and the wind…freezing in southern Florida

My wife had won tickets to the Super Bowl (if you like, you can read about that trip here). Audrey was pulling for Peyton. As a lifetime Packers fan, I was pulling against the Bears. But we were mainly there for the experience.

And the halftime show, the only one I’ve seen line and one of the best I’ve ever seen, was a great part of that experience.

There was grumblings around us that Prince was going to play superstar and play his set from the tunnel. Folks were claiming to be “in the know”… and of course, they weren’t. Prince not only came out, he nailed it. And, like they say in this video, when he started singing Purple Rain, we got even more drenched. He must have used some of that Prince Purple Rain magic for special effects.

And he looked great, soaking wet in his whatever-the-heck color of suit that was (it wasn’t Packers Green or San Jose Sharks teal!). He certainly looked better than me in my rain trash bag ensemble (but not better than Audrey, who rocked hers).

57 is too young.

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!

To Green Angel Tower Part 1

To Green Angel Tower Part 1 re-read: Part Two: The Winding Road

To Green Angel Tower Part 1THE DOOR STOP KEEP ON COMETHing!!!

This is the second and last part of the re-read of To Green Angel Tower, Part 1, the third book in Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series.

The introductory post is here, if you are interested.

The re-read post for The Dragonbone Chair part I, Simon Mooncalf is here.

The re-read post for The Dragonbone Chair  part II, Simon Pilgrim is here.

The re-read post for The Dragonbone Chair part III, Simon Snowlock is here.

The re-read post for Stone of Farewell part I, Storm’s Eye is here.

The re-read post for Stone of Farewell part II, Storm’s Hand is here.

The re-read post for Stone of Farewell part III, Storm’s Heart is here.

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

This third book (part 1) is 796 pages – paperback. Part Two: The Winding Road goes from page 523 to 796 (making this second part of a very large book a lot shorter than the first part).

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

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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 17: Bonfire Night - The battle is over, the dead have been counted and the Prince mourns his friend Deornoth. As Simon is walking to join Prince Josua, he thinks of the Storm King:

Why hadn’t the Storm King sent help to Fengbald as he had to Elias at the siege at Naglimund? Survivors’ stories of the horror of the Norns’ attack were almost as vivid in Simon’s mind as the memories of his own strange adventures. If the swords were so important, and Josua was known by the Hikeda’ya to have one of them – which according to the Prince and Deornoth was almost certainly the case – why hadn’t Sasuad’ra’s defenders found themselves staring down an army of ice giants and armored Norns? Was it something about the Stone itself? (pg 525)

Simon goes with Josua to pay his respects to Deornoth, and then has the Prince tell him stories of his dead friend as they walk to confront the prisoners. Josua asks Simon if he thinks the Sithi would mind if they buried their battle dead on the Stone. Simon remembers that Jiriki buried his kinsman An’nai with Grimmric. Josua asks Simon what Jao é Tinukai’i was like.

They play a bit of good cop-bad cop with the Erkyguard prisoners that were fighting for Fengbald, and end up setting them free, perhaps with them joining Josua’s army. Simon voices his opinion about not treating the mercenaries so lightly, and Josua tells him he appreciates the counsel.

Simon is admired by three young girls while he is trimming his beard in Jiriki’s mirror (and shows his naïveté by not understanding what they are asking). They ask if he will be at the bonfire celebration and if he has a lady.  This causes him to daydream and moon over the absent Miriamele.

Josua mentions to Vorzheva that they must strike Elias now, to keep their momentum going.

Then, the dead are buried, and the living celebrate their victory, Simon with much wine. I do believe the young knight gets hammered …trashed …loopy.

Simon is snogging (yes, snogging) with Ulca, one of the girls from the party, which a voice interrupts them, eventually saying “I am a fairy woman. What are you doing with my husband to be?” Of course, it is Aditu. Ulca runs away screaming, and Aditu gives greetings from Jiriki.

Chapter 18: The Fox’s Bargain - Eolair and Isorn are camped with their growing company of men, when they hear a great commotion and singing. Venturing out, they see it is the mounted Sithi, riding fast in the same direction Eolair and company were heading – toward Hernysadharc. They give chase, and Eolair laughingly remembers “The Fox’s Bargain”:

“We will never forget” the Fair ones said,
‘Though time may ancient run,
You will hear our horns beneath the moon,
You will see our spears shine in the sun…” (pg 558)

They stop short of the town, so they can approach during the day, and find Skali and his men gone, and colorful Sithi tents everywhere. Eolair finally finds Craobhan, the old advisor, who finds them food and brings Eoliar to Maegwin. Maegwin has a bruise on her head, and tells Eolair that she “made the gods come” (and her caretaker agrees with her). They let her rest, and, as Eolair leaves her room to rejoin Isorn, Jiriki walks in, introduces himself,

“I am Jiriki-i-Sa’onserei. At this moment, I speak for the Zidya. We have come to repay our debt to Prince Sinnach of Hernystir.” (pg 567)

and asks to speak with whoever is in charge. After regaining their kool, Eolair determines that he is in charge, and follows Jiriki to the Sithi tent-city. As they are following, Eolair and Isron ask questions:

“Do you mind my asking,” Eolair ventured, “what happened to the wall that Skali built around the city?”
Jiriki seemed to ponder for a moment. “Ah, that,” he said at least and smiled. “I think you are probably speaking of the handiwork of my mother, Likimeya. We were in a hurry. The wall was in our way.” (pg 568)

Jiriki predicts many harsher battles and many more lives lost than were lost surprising Skali.

Then the story moves to mad King Elias. He has had a bad dream, in fact of the Sithi driving out Skali, and goes to see Pryrates. Pryrates tells him this is true, and that Elias is having these dreams because he is close to the Storm King, having accepted his gift. The King and Pryrates almost come to blows, with the King saying he would not have accepted this bargain if he would have known the changes he had to go through.

Eolair, Isorn and Ule are brought before Likimeya, Queen of the Dawn Children. After teasing Eolair with the idea that there was some Sithi-human wango tango in his past bloodline, and determining that the two Rimmersmen were indeed not enemies, they eat and talk about next steps. Those next steps are to not join Josua in his fight against Elias, as Eolair entreats, but to turn to Naglimund, now a lair of the Storm King, and bring it down.

Chapter 19: A Broken Smile - Cadrach has been trying to revive Tiamak and the other Wrannman after their escape from the Ghant’s nest (last chapter in the previous part). After a while, Tiamak finally awakens, thanks them for rescuing him and tells them of his time as a captive in the ghant’s nest.

The ghants had let the other Wrannman go, and, after covering Tiamak with “ooze”, they put a mirror in his hand (probably like the other shards to the dream road). He started having “words” and “visions” in his head that were not human. He began speaking like a ghant, and the visions showed him the ghants rising up out of the swamp and swarming the cities (no doubt the Storm King trying to use the ghants).

They decide they need to leave the Wran with all haste. Tiamak’s fellow Warnnman dies, and he provides a semi-formal ceremony.

As they are leaving the Wran, Cadrach believes he understands some of what happened to Tiamak.

“…there were once things called Witnesses, which were made by the Sithi in the depths of time. These things allowed them to speak to each other over great distances, and perhaps let them show dreams and visions to each other. They came in many forms – ‘Stones and Scales, Pools and Pyres,’ as the old books say. ‘Scales’ are what the Sithi call mirrors. I do not know why.” (pg 598)

We know what they are called ‘Scales’ thanks to Sir Seoman the dragon slayer.

Miri speaks to Cadrach, asks him if he “knows magic”, and about helping Josua against Pryrates and the Storm King when they get to Josua. This scares the crap out of Cadrach. Tiamak, visibly nervous about what he has hidden in his pack (Nisses’ manuscript), falls back into a fever. Miri, and then Tiamak, catch Cadrach sneaking into Tiamak’s pack.

They finally emerge from the Wran, only to be surprised and surrounded by Aspitis Previtis, whose land they are now traveling through. Aspitis is horribly deformed, and tells Miri she will wake up next to his hideous face everyday. Miri begins to taunt him, telling him he is a weakling who takes advantage of women. She goads him into a sword fight, and gets Isgrimnur to throw the sword in front of Camaris. Camaris fights unwillingly, and then shows skill, ultimately defeating Aspitis and knocking him out. Miri demands horses from Aspitis men as she holds him at sword point.

They camp for the night, and Cadrach runs off with a horse, leaving a note for Miri that says he does not belong with Josua, and that things are worse than she knows.

Chapter 20: Travelers and Messengers - Aditu and Simon are at the “Observatory”, a place Aditu says she has not visited for a “very long time.” Simon asks her a bit about the place. Aditu says “This was the place of the Rhao iye-Sama’an – the Master Witness.” She explains further:

“You know what a Witness is, Simon. Jiriki gave you his mirror. That is a minor Witness, and there are many of those still in existence. There are only a few Master Witnesses, each more or less bound to a place – the Pool of Three Depths in Asu’a, the Speakfire in Hikehikayo, the Green Column in Jhiná-T’seneí – and most of those are broken or ruined or lost. Here at Sesuad’ra it was a great stone beneath the ground, a stone called the Earth-Drake’s Eye. Earth-Drake is another name – it is difficult to explain the differences between the two in your tongue – for the Greater Worm who bites at his own tail,” she explained. “We built this entire place on top of that stone. It was not quite a Master Witness – in fact, it was not even a witness by itself, but such was its potency that a minor Witness like my brother’s mirror would be a Master Witness if used here.”
…”What does that mean, Aditu?” he asked…
“A minor Witness will lead you onto the Road of Dreams, but will usually show you only those you know, or those who are looking for you…A Master Witness, if used by someone who knew the ways of it, could look on anyone or anything, and sometimes into other times and…other places.” (pg 624-625)

So, there is a Master Witness in Asu’a, probably near where Pryrates is messing around with things he shouldn’t be messing around with. And there is a large tail-eating dragon (or the magic or remains of one) buried underground, but providing ley lines of power for those who know where to look. More on this in The Last King of Osten Ard, Mr. Williams.

Aditu, as playful as ever, teases Simon about being kissed and then gives him a nice passionate one….just to addle his brains over females a bit more. Simon asks about the Norn Queen, and Aditu tells him that Utuk’ku is the Eldest, the oldest living one of them, and that she desires oblivion for her and everyone else. Then Simon asks why the Norns went north. When Aditu tells him of the parting, Simon tells her that he saw that during his overnight vigil to become a knight (way back in Chapter 1 of this book). Aditu asks him questions, alarmed that he could have such a vision without the use of a Witness like Jiriki’s mirror.

Cut to Josua’s tent the next morning, where Geloë brings him a message that came from one of Dinivan’s birds…suspicious since Dinivan is dead. The message suggests it is time for Josua to march on Nabban, and tells him a messenger will come to him in a fortnight. Then…Simon walks in with Aditu, surprising most everyone.

Aditu gives the message from her mother that the Sithi have ridden to Hernystir, and from there plan to go to Naglimund to drive out the Norns and the rest of the Storm King’s forces. Other than the fact that Naglimund is too close to their homeland, Aditu will not divulge the full reasons for going there. She tells them the Storm King cannot enter Asu’a, but his minions can….and that it seems that Ineluki desires to rule the humans through Elias, and give his ex-family grief at the same time.

Vorzheva befriends Aditu, and they spend quite a bit of time together. Aditu, whose people have few children, is fascinated with Vorzheva’s pregnancy. The rest of the folks there are fascinated with Aditu, and, because of her association with Simon, lots of stories and fantasies about Simon spread.

The messenger referred to in the message Dinivan’s bird carried arrives. It is Lenti, and the message is from Count Streáwe of Perdruin, saying that he can deliver Nabban to Josua. Josua decides to call his council soon to discuss.

Simon and Aditu are playing shent, when Jerimias rushes in to tell them Duke Isgrimnur and Princess Miriamele, and others, have come.

Chapter 21:  Answered Prayers - The story flashes back a bit to track Miriamele and company’s journey back to Josua and company. Tiamak reveals that he believes he has Nisses book in his bag. One night while camping, when Isgrimnur talks about how he will greet his wife, and how she is a part of him, Miri has a ‘eureka’ moment, and decides that the reason her father is doing these heinous things with Pryrates is to somehow get back with his dearly departed dead wife, Miri’s mom Hylissa.

They finally make it to Sesuad’ra, and are greeted by all.

Another who stood silently by seemed oddly familiar. He was bearded, and streak of white marred his red hair and capped the pale scar on his cheek. He looked at her as though he would memorize her, as though someday he might carve her in stone. (pg 663)

Chapter 22: Whispers in Stone - Utuk’ku sees a problem with her long-laid plans. Jegger is dead, so she sends out three minions to take care of this problem. Then she sees another problem, one “from Amerasu’s line” messing with one of the Master Witnesses. She almost smiles as she plans to take care of him.

It is, of course, Jiriki, the most impetuous of the Sithi (if there is such a thing as an impetuous Sithi). He has gone down with Eolair into the caves of the dwarrows, a place Jiriki calls “Mezutu’a – the Silverhome.” He tells Eolair a bit about their past:

“When the Tinukeda’ya severed their fates from ours, Jenjiyana of the Nightingales declared in her wisdom that we should give this place to the Navigator’s Children, in partial payment of the debt we owed them.” He frowned and shook his head, hair moving loosely about his shoulders. “Year Dancing-House, at least, remembered something of honor. She also gave to them Hikehikayo in the North, and sea-collared Jhiná-T seneí, which has long disappeared beneath the waves.” (pg 669)

Jiriki also tells Eolair that the folks Eolair knows as dwarrows and niskies are all Tinukeda’ya, the Ocean Children, that they can “change themselves over time to fit better into the place that they lived; there is a certain mutability in their blood and bones.” (p670). Lots of fertile ground here for the next series, including several questions around the Garden Born, their treatment of the Tinukeda’ya and these other places with Master Witnesses that are supposedly lost.

They come upon the other Master Witness, the Shard of Mezutu’a, which Eolair and Maegwin on their first visit heard the voice of Amerasu coming through to the dwarrows. Upon somewhat communing with it, Jiriki states that another Master Witness, the “Speakfire of Hikehikayo”, is close. Jiriki decides he needs to reach this to use it to determine what is going on (he doesn’t actually say what he hopes to find out, but one would assume to see if he can determine Utuk’ku and the Storm King’s plans.

At this point, this comes to mind:

Of course, Jiriki gets stuck in the trap. He told Eolair not to touch him while he was communing with the Shard, but Eolair determines that something is wrong, and pull Jiriki away…and then blacks out. He does revive, and Jiriki says he should give Eolair his white arrow, but he already gave it to Simon, so…he just gets thanks.

A quick aside to Rachael feeding a cat in the Hayholt, which I suspect is the author’s small ploy to get me to read his cat book, the only one I have not read. It will not work. Dogs rule.

Eolair and Jiriki are coming down from the mountains after being in the caves of the dwarrows, and they find Maegwin, planting flowers. She believes she is dead and in heaven, and that Jiriki is one of the gods. Jiriki says he may have a healer that can help.

And…back to Rachael. She’d fed the cat, and, as she wanted, the cat leads blind Earl Guthwulf (who saved her from Pryrates when she attacked him) back. She tells him there will be food there for him if he returns.

Chapter 23: The Sounding of the Horn - Lenti the messenger, still afraid of Duke Isgrimnur who smacked him around on Perdruin, leaves with Josua’s message. Towser the Jester passes away. Simon moons over Miri, but she leaves him abruptly when she finds he has kept the scarf she gave him when he left Naglimund long long ago (their conversation reminds us readers that they are both only 16 years old).

Tiamak and Father Strangeyeard take oaths as Scrollbearers, and then they, Binabik and Geloë try to solve the riddle of the three swords. Tiamak presents his copy of Nisses’ book, which gives them more clues. After much discussion, they believe this passage holds some keys:

“…Bring from Nuanne’s Rocke Garden,
The Man who tho’ Blinded canne See
Discover the Blayde that delivers the Rose
At the foote of the Rimmer’s great Tree
Find the Call whose lowde Claime
Speak’s the call-bearer’s name
In a Shippe on the Shallowest Sea -
– When Blade, Call and Man
Come to the Prince’s right Hande
Then the Prisoned shall once more go Free...” (pg 697)

They deduce that this involves Camaris, the horn Simon brought from Aditu, and the sword Thorn (found near the Rimmersman’s tree). After re-finding the horn (Sangfugol had taken it as a reminder of Towser, who had stole it), they all gather with Camaris and the items. At first, he will not touch them, even pushing Josua away with force. But, after a passionate plea from Josua where he described Deornoth’s sacrifice, Camaris blows the horn, and his awareness returns…along with some despair.

In an interlude, Miri asks Josua to promise him that she can see her father King Elias alone when the eventually lay siege to the castle…but she will not tell him why. He denies this request as much too dangerous.

Chapter 24: A Sky Full of Beasts - Count Streáwe (he of the bird message to Prince Joshua) is in Nabban meeting with Nessalanta (the Dowager Duchess (which sounds like something from Downton Abbey), mother of Benigaris. Nessalanta has an astrologer on the roof, and Benigaris joins them, cursing the future of feeding his people and slipping out “I should never have trusted Pryrates.” (which Streáwe pretends not to hear). After some reading of the stars, Steáwe says he wants to impart some things he has heard about Elias and Joshua (playing both sides against each other, eh?).

Eolair is summoned to the Sithi camp. A Sithi healer is with Maegwin but says he body is healthy, her soul is sick from seeing too much death. As Eolair head to the Sithi, Maegwin rises and goes with him. As they walk, she asks him how he died; she is convinced she is dead and with the gods, so since she sees Eolair he must be dead as well. When they get to the Sithi tent, Likimeya shows them Skali’s head – and with that defeat, they entreat Eoliar to join them with a troop of his men to fight at Naglimund. Eolair agrees, and Maegwin tells him she will come too…as she cannot die a second time.

Simon and Miri are off having wine, trying to celebrate the birthdays they missed. Simon tries to give Miri his White Arrow from Jiriki as a present, and when she refuses, he goes and gets his sword and, as a knight, pledges his life and sword to her.

Prince Josua calls his Raed, his war council, and they argue and discuss. It comes down to this:

“Here are my choices. To remain here – to build up this place, New Gadrinsett, and hold out against my brother until his misrule turns the tide in our favor. That is one possibility.” Josua ran his hand though his short hair, then held up two fingers. “The second is to go to Nabban, where with Camaris to march at the head of our army, we may quickly gain adherents, and this eventually field an army capable of bringing down the High King.” The prince raised a third finger. “The third, as Miriamele and Freosel and others have suggested, is to move directly to Erkynland, gambling that we can find enough supporters to overcome Elias’ defenses. There is also a possibility that Isorn and Count Eolair of Nad Mullach may be able to join us with men recruited  in the Frostmarch and Hernystir.” (pg 744).

Josua decided to march to Nabban, much to the dismay of Miriamele.

Cut to King Elias, who tell Pryrates he has heard of Fengbald’s defeat, and believes his brother Josua will come against him…not knowing what he truly faces. “I have friends, now – powerful friends.” he says, even taking Pryrates aback with his forcefulness.

Chapter 25: The Semblance of Heaven - The Talons of Utuk’ku ride out from Stormspike “bearing death for Utuk’ku’s enemies” (remember, she had a vision of something screwing with her plans in chapter 22), similar to Ingen Jegger (which somehow reminds me of Mark Twain’s villain Injun’ Joe).

Josua and company are on the move toward Nabban. Binabik and Sisqui share some time, talking what they will do after “this” is all over.

Simon and Jeremias spar, with Jeremias teasing Simon about mooning over Miriamele. Sir Camaris comes upon them, and asks Simon about his training (or lack thereof) towards being a knight. Camaris lectures them on what knighthood means (with quite a Christian leaning), and then leads them through some basic sword exercises.

Afterwards, with Carmaris’ words about a knight taking care of his horse as if it were a part of him, Simon proceeds to the stables, where he catches Miri acting guiltily around the horses. He convinces her to accompany him back to the camp to hear singing.

Meanwhile, the three Talons of Utuk’ku are watching the camp, waiting for an opportunity.

Chapter 26: A Gift for the Queen - The great company of Josua camps at old Gradrinsett, where most of them were before moving to Sesua’dra. They decide to stay for three nights. Josua, Duke Isgrminur, Camaris and others debate the path they will take to Nabban, citing needs for food and water.

Meanwhile the Talons of Utuk’ku decide they will attack “tomorrow night” when the clouds hide the moon.

Aditu and Simon are playing shent, which usually means Aditu will tease Simon or teach him. This time, as he tells her about Miriamele and his worry that he is not worthy, that he comes from a low house, Aditu tells him the story of why the Sithi and the Norns broke apart, which is why she does not believe any one is beneath another…a good lesson. This is a long excerpt, but important not only for this story, but I believe for the one to come (The Last King of Osten Ard).

“A…bad house?” Aditu looked at him carefully. “Do you ask whether I would consider another of my folk to be beneath me? We have long been too few for that, Seoman. And why must you marry her? Do your people never make love without being married?”
Simon was speechless for a moment. Make love to the king’s daughter without a thought of marrying her? “I am a knight,” he said stiffly. “I have to be honorable.”
“Loving someone is not honorable?” She shook her head, mocking smile now returned. “And you say you do not understand me, Seoman!”
Simon rested his elbows on his knees and covered his face with his hands. “You mean that your people don’t care who marries who? I don’t believe it.”
“That is what tore asunder the Zida’ya and the Hikeda’ya,” she said. Where he looked up, her gold-flecked gaze had become hard. “We have learned from that terrible lesson.”
“What do you mean?”
“It was the death of Drukhi, the son of Utuk’ku and her husband Ekimeniso Blackstaff, that drove the families apart. Drukhi loved and marries Nanais’u, the Nightingale’s daughter.” She raised her hand and made a gesture like a book being closed. “She was killed by mortals in the years before Tumet’ai was swallowed by the ice. It was an accident. She was dancing in the forest when a mortal huntsman was drawn to the glimmer of her bright dress. Thinking he saw a bird’s plumage, he loosed an arrow. When her husband Drukhi found her, he went mad.” Aidtu bent her head, as though it had happened only a short while before.
After she had gone some moments without speaking, Simon asked: “But how did that drive the families apart? And what does that have to do with marrying whoever you want?”
“It is a very long story, Seoman – perhaps the longest that our people tell, excepting only the flight from the Garden and our coming across the black seas to this land.” She pushed at one of the shent-stones with her fingers. “At that time, Utuk’ku and her husband ruled all of the Gardenborn – they were the keepers of the Year-Dancing groves. When their son fell in love with Nenais’u, daughter of Jenjiyana and her mate Initiri, Utuk’ku furiously opposed it. Nenais’u’s parents were of our Zida’ya clan – although it had a different name in those long-ago days. They were also of the belief that the mortals, who had come to this land after the Gardenborn had arrived, should be permitted to live as they would, as long as they did not make war on our people.”
She made another, more intricate arrangement of the stones on the board before her. “Utuk’ku and her clan felt that the mortals should be pushed back across the ocean, and that those who would not leave should be killed, as some mortal farmers crush the insects they find on their crops. But since the two great clans and the other smaller clans allied with one or the other were so evenly divided, even Utuk’ku’s position as Mistress of Year-Dancing House did not permit her to force her will on the rest. You see, Seoman, we have never had ‘kings’ and ‘queens’ as you mortals have.
“In any case, Utuk’ku and her husband were fiercely angry that their son had married a woman of what they considered to be the traitorous, mortal-loving clan that opposed them. When Nenais’u was slain, Drukhi went mad and swore he would kill every mortal he could find. The men of Nenais’u’s clan restrained him, although they were, in their own way, as bitterly angry and horrified as he. When the Yásira was called, the Gardenborn could come to no decision, but enough feared what might happen if Drukhi was free that they decided he must be confined – something that had never happened this side of the Ocean.” She sighed. “It was too much for him, too much for his madness, to be held prisoner by his own people while those he deemed his wife’s murderers were free. Drukhi made himself die.”
…”So you can see,” Aditu finished, “why we of the Dawn Children are careful to say that someone is above someone else. Those are words that mean tragedy to us.” (pg 778-781)

Aditu goes to Vorzheva’s tent, to give the pregnant woman something to help her rest. Geloë, Gertrun and Miri are there, with Miri thinking herself ugly next to Vorzheva and Aditu. Miri thinks of Simon and her heart goes flutter.

Aditu leaves with Geloë to  speak with her. Aditu believes that Camaris was in the presence of Amerasu and with the Sithi (Amerasu did say, when Jiriki brought Simon to her, that Simon was not the first mortal to have been there). Aditu also believe that Camaris knows more that he will tell, but she cannot get him to come clean.

As they are walking, Aditu says that she smells Kei-vishaa. With no time to explain, she rushes toward something, with Geloë in owl-form following her.

Simon, once again tending his horse, once again finds Miri, who this time confesses that she is leaving (though she will not say where she is going). Simon declares that he will go with her, and makes her wait (under threat of revealing her leaving) while Simon goes and gets his sword and other things. The two leave that camp, seeing a fire that is more than a cook fire, and hoping everyone is all right. This is no doubt what Aditu and Geloë were running toward.

 This ends Part 2, and ends TO GREEN ANGEL TOWER, PART 1. On to PART 2!!!

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Review of THE UNREMEMBERED by Peter Orullian posted at SFSignal

Review of THE UNREMEMBERED by Peter Orullian posted at SFSignal


I enjoy writing reviews but I admit I am something of a wimp in doing so. Writing a book is a difficult task, despite what the proliferation of self-published tomes indicates. Each of the ones I’ve written is an exercise in perseverance, self-discipline and repetition. I applaud anyone who has successfully gone through that process.

Which is why I really dislike writing negative reviews.

For the most part, if I usually read a book if I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy it. Most readers are like this, no doubt, as we are all influenced by what we have read before, and our time is precious so we do not want to invest it in reading something that may not bring us satisfaction, wonder and enjoyment (or knowledge, if reading non-fiction).

This brings us to the review just posted on SFSignal of The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, the first in the Vault of Heavens trilogy.

It is probably the most lukewarm, middle-of-the-road review I’ve written…and, in spite of it, I am plowing through and thoroughly enjoying the second book in the series, Trial of Intentions.

The version of the book I reviewed is labeled “Author’s Definitive Edition.” I have no idea what changed, though I have read in other places that the original book was a lot like The Wheel of Time series. Though I admire what Robert Jordan (and after him, Brandon Sanderson) have accomplished with that series, I could not finish it – it just got too boring and convoluted in the middle. I saw some similarities, but they were the same fantasy tropes that you find in all fantasy series.

An excerpt from the review:

It’s a bit of a rocky start, with a lot of jumping around, and references to characteristics of the world that are undefined and confusing (e.g., the creatures that are being held back by the veil (and sometime breaking through) are called “the Quiet”; I may be slow, cause I didn’t get it for a while). And I have the unfortunate vice of being a map hound…and, even with reading glasses, it looked to me like distances were not making any sense in the group’s travels.

At this point I almost gave up on the book. Life’s too short to have to force your way through a book that is meant to entertain.

And yet…there were intriguing characters with interesting problems and a complex world that was developing and deepening. The main character, Tahn, has forgotten a large part of his past, and is limited by the power of the chant he must says before he uses his bow. The Sheason can use “the Will”, the life-energy of this world, as a weapon at the cost of draining his own life energy. And the concept of the Veil, which is failing (as evidenced by the Bar’dyn from the other side that they encounter) and which would launch a third all-out war, sets up much of the impetus of the plot. Political intrigue is added by introducing a faction bent on modernization, believing that old stories of the Veil, the creatures beyond it and the first two wars are mere fairy tales, and that all who believe in them should be subdued to make way for progress.

The story follows some oft-used tropes: a forgotten past; an unlikely hero who is more than he seems; music as power. But, each unwinds in interesting ways:

 If you’ve read it, I’d appreciate your comments.

 

Re-reading MSandT

Re-reading Tad William's Memory, Sorrow and Thorn

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