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Sorrow and Thorn

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The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown by Tad Williams (Book 1 of The Last King of Osten Ard)

The Witchwood CrownIt was with equal parts anticipation and trepidation that I began reading The Witchwood Crown, the first book in The Last King of Osten Ard series which follows the classic Memory, Sorrow and Thorn. The anticipation points are obvious: there is evidence all over this blog how deep I’ve gotten into Tad Williams’ Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, and how much I and many other readers were looking forward to continuing the story, revisiting the world of Osten Ard. And while I had no trepidation about whether it would be a good book (I’ve read almost everything Tad has written, and have enjoyed them all), my concerns were split between personal and magnanimous. Personal, in that as Tad is the GOD of Osten Ard he has the power and the right to not pursue characters and plot lines that I the self-absorbed reader would want to follow. Magnanimous, in that Tad deserves the kind of world-wide recognition and success that authors whose works came out in the Internet age of Reddit, HBO and You-Tube receive. When Memory, Sorrow and Thorn hit the presses between 1988 and 1993, an author’s legend was formed on word-of-mouth and newspaper reviews. The DAW flyer that was sent out with promotional copies described Tad Williams as a “California-based fantasy superstar.” This book, this series is and was the chance to show the world what those of us who are fans of MS&T knew was true.

I was also very interested to see how Tad’s writing experience would express itself. After thirty years of writing, plus some great collaborative editing with his wife Deb and with the experience of venturing outside of fantasy with other series, Tad’s had a lot of pages to hone his craft.

Happily, my worries on most of the above were all for naught. The Witchwood Crown is better than we could have hoped for – at times poetic in its philosophizing, blatant in its treachery, tear-jerking (no, Audrey, I didn’t cry reading this book either!) and exciting. My biggest issue was trying to slow down my reading at the end, knowing I’d be waiting twelve months for the next installment.

Though I do not believe a new reader would be lost starting here instead of reading MS&T (and the follow-on novel, The Heart of What Was Lost), I highly recommend riding the entire Osten Ard train, and then diving into this one. Or at least read the re-read eBook (shameless plug).

My reactions fall into several categories:

  • Past characters – who would be in the plot? who, after 30 years, were too old to continue? who would be left out? How many times would I cry out “No, Tad! Don’t do it!”?
  • New characters – how would they blend in? I’m including those characters that were introduced in The Heart of What Was Lost (THOWWL) as well here.
  • Motivation – Tad has spoken in many interviews about his motivation for getting back to Osten Ard. What would be the motivation for the story, what would keep the characters moving?
  • Repetition – in Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, Tad paid homage to and broke some of the (at the time) well-laid and well-worn fantasy tropes. And the story of a boy who turned into a man who turned into a hero with a to-be-revealed past played well with Simon. Would we see more of that, or a different plot line? Would this be Utuk’ku vs. mankind part deus (since we know she is only in the deep sleep)?
  • Differences in Tad’s writing - Tad’s older and has many pages under his belt. How would his writing show the changes?
  • Continuity – there are at least two more books planned in the Last King of Osten Ard series. What will be the reason for continuing?

I will mark each section if there are potential spoilers for those who have not yet read the book. If it is on the cover blurb and freely available, I’ll assume it is not a spoiler. The potential spoiler passages will be blurred out like this next section   this is a SPOILER  - just hover over to see it.

Past characters

One of the hardest challenges of The Witchwood Crown, of continuing a series such as Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, is how to handle the characters that Tad knew all of us had grown very attached to, while weaving in the new ones that will carry the story forward. I am totally enthralled in the way Tad is pursuing this.

Tad writes the reunions of his old characters like they are reunions between his readers and those same characters, as it should be:

But both the King and the wolf-riding apparition had stopped in the middle of the bridge and were climbing down from their mounts, paying little attention to nobody but each other.
“Binabik!” his grandfather shouted, then pulled the small figure into his arms like a father whose child had been returned to him after a long, frightening absence. (pg. 91)

While I wouldn’t call the time without Osten Ard frightening, it has certainly been long and arduous!

The returning mortal characters are 30-or-so years older, and King Simon and Queen Miri have been working to rebuild a war-torn kingdom in that time, while Simon learns what it is to rule. The interplay between these two 50-somethings is one of the best characterizations of the writing. Tad lets us see glimpses of the people that they were (Simon referring to himself as “mooncalf”, Miri telling stories about him) while showing us the people and couple that they are now. They should be enjoying the twilight of their lives, but their kingdom is under siege from forces within and outside.

He didn’t mean to sound like a hurt child, but he knew that he did. At the moment though, hidden by the darkness, he did not care. “When we argued earlier, you all but called me a ‘kitchen boy.’ As if, despite more than thirty years of being a king, of ruling at your side, I was still a child you thought you had to instruct.”
“No, no. That’s not true. It’s not even fair.” He heard her bare feet pad across the floor, felt the bed sag slightly as she climbed back in. “It’s just…sometimes I lose patience.”
“As you would lose patience with a child. Or a simpleton.”
“Simon, please. It isn’t like that. Not truly.” Her hand found his in the darkness and curled within it, like an exhausted animal looking for shelter. “I love you so much that is sometimes makes me think I would go mad without you. But sometimes you don’t seem to think beyond what you can see, what you can reach. If someone tells you the mean well, you believe them. If someone fails you but tried hard, you never punish them or even dismiss them.” (pg 590)

This occurred after the oldsters had just made mad, passionate love. Relationships are complex, even after 30 years of marriage. Tad knows this, and his depiction of their relationship is complicated and engaging. I’ve never been a big fan of Miriamele, but I am a fan of her vivid depiction: a spoiled former princess who has maintained some of her airs as Queen. She is balanced out by Simon, who she constantly chides for being too nice and naive.

As noted above Binabik is back, as are Tiamak, Count Eolair, Jerimias and others. Alas, age affects mortal men and mortal beasts. Duke Isgrimnur, a key figure in both the original trilogy and THOWWL, was old in those books and barely makes it to this one. Also, Qantaqa, Binabik’s wolf partner, has went to that great wolf home in the sky. He will be sorely missed.

Josua, Miri’s uncle, has not been heard from in quite some time, along with his wife and his twin children (who were the subject of Aditu’s prophecy – see below). This is from the book cover blurb.

Utuk’ku was, at the end of MS&T (and in THOWWL as well) in a deep recovery sleep after her defeat in To Green Angel Tower. As the book cover blurb states, she has awakened.

The Sithi are back as well, though the ones we know and love do not make their presence known until the very end of the novel.

New characters

There are two vectors here: how would the new characters introduced in The Heart of What Was Lost influence this new series? And how would new characters be integrated amongst the Simon, Miriamele, Binabik, Tikmak core group of players?

On my first reading of The Heart of What Was Lost my impression of it was that it was a nice vignette (short by Tad standards!), a standalone novel if you will, the main purpose of which was to get readers back into the world of Osten Ard and get them primed for the series. Au contraire! There are major plot points and characters that were introduced in that lovely bridge novel that highly impact The Witchwood Crown.

From The Heart of What Was Lost, the characters of Porto the misplaced warrior, Viyeki the Norn High Magister of the Order of Builders and and several half-breed Norn-mortals (which was excellently setup by THOWWL) play a roll in The Witchwood Crown, with  Viyeki and his half-breed daughter Nezeru  acting as point-of-view characters in several chapters. With The Heart of What Was Lost, we were able to see a Norn’s point of view, and luckily this continues even more so in The Witchwood Crown. There is no black and white/good and evil, lots of shades of grey on all sides.

Tad always has written strong female characters, and the new characters introduced here are no exception. Viyeki’s half-breed daughter Nezeru is a central character, strong but conflicted between her human and Norn selves. She is my favorite of all of the new characters introduced.

Prince Morgan, grandson of Simon and Miri, is a central character. There are some similarities with Simon from the first book; they both have some growing up to do. But there the similarities end. Morgan drinks and cavorts his way through his first chapters. Will he be able to grow out of that and be able to lead the Kingdom? Is he the titular Last King of Osten Ard? Tad writes spoiled rotten kid roles very well (see above comment about Miri), but Morgan is very  complex depiction of that personality.

Motivation

In my article on where MS&T fit in the history of fantasy, I wrote “From a certain perspective, Williams’ MS&T is at once an homage to LOTR and a commentary on those parts that seem a bit ‘black and white.’ I still believe this was the motivation for the series – to take the success Tolkein had with his imageries of pure good vs. pure evil, and make them more grey. I was very interested in trying to discern what Williams’ motivation for diving back into the world was…but even after devouring this first book, I do not yet know. Anticipation is a GOOD thing.

All of the characters that we followed in the first series are 30 years older. For the immortal ones, that is a minor blip; but for the mortals, many of them have reached the advanced ages of life; Simon and Miri would be in their 50s if my math is correct. There are certainly the plot points of ruling a kingdom, of lands whose rulers are less that subservient or whose rulers are in danger of being usurped. However, this is certainly not motivation enough to extend the classic MS&T.

The prophecy that Aditu foretold in MS&T about Josua and Vorzheva’s twins was seen by many as motivation. For those that don’t have it memorized (I had to go back and find it) it is:

“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 of To Green Angel Tower)

The twins are in this book, not quite in the way I’ve imagined them. I’ll leave no spoilers here because I thought the reveal was pretty sweet. But I do not think this is Tad’s main motivation for restarting the series.

Nor do I think a second battle with Utuk’ku (though with her awakening that certainly seems likely) is Tad’s motivating factor either.

I was hoping for a view into the Norns’ perspective. That came with THOWWL and increases here.  The breeding of Norns with mortals, and the pursuant issues of prejudice and judgement of the pure bloods vs. half-breeds that comes with that, are a central part of the Norns story in this series, central to their survival and a major change in their culture. Williams writes scenes involving these characters very well, showing the  full blood Norns disdain for their less than pure brethren.

I do not think the reason for the series has been revealed by the end of this first book, although the search for the item that is indeed The Witchwood Crown (though we readers still do not know what it is) leads me to believe that it, its backstory and its usage will provide us the answer for Tad’s return to Osten Ard.

Repetition

There are several themes and plot lines that are similar between MS&T and this new novel.

MS&T can be described as a coming-of-age story of a boy that grows up to challenge dark forces led by a vengeful immortal Queen (with a Storm King side-kick, plus a mad mortal King). And that one line description could be used to describe the basis of The Witchwood Crown as well, as a lot centers on Prince Morgan who indeed has quite a bit of growing up to do.

MS&T could also be described as a treatise on love…and not just Simon’s and Miri’s. The motivation for King Elias to do the evil things he did, though it was never explicitly stated, was to go back in time to when his dear wife was alive. And let’s not forget about the love between Binabik and Qantaqa!!! The Witchwood Crown richly explores the love of Simon and Miri, but it does not seem to be as deep a theme as the first series.

There’s also a bit of familiarity of Simon and Binabik’s friendship with the one between Morgan and the Qanuc Snenneq.

I’m not pointing these out as bad things, and certainly not laziness on the writer’s part. These tie ins of familiarity are actually stimulating for readers of the first series, reminding us of what happened and how it felt to make that journey.

Differences in Tad’s Writing

It’s easy to forget that, as legendary as Memory, Sorrow and Thorn is in the annals of fantasy (see my article on SFSignal), it was the second piece of writing Tad Williams did (after Tailchaser’s Song if my history is correct). Like the characters in his book, Tad is older (though the shaved head hides it well!) and wiser…and certainly a more experienced writer. With Otherland, ShadowMarch, Bobby Dollar and other works under his belt, the pacing in The Witchwood Crown feels more natural, the characterizations more defined, the plot tighter. Some of this may be attributed to the familiarity of the world, much could be the editing of Tad’s lovely wife Deborah. It feels like a runner hitting his stride, and I can’t help but wonder if this is why Tad picked up the thread of the story…like a runner who’s feeling it and signs up for a race with confidence.

One of the knocks on The Dragonbone Chair is that it starts off slowly. There are a couple of chapters in that first book where I would agree with that sentiment – though I do enjoy the setup, the surrounding of the reader with the normalcy of Simon’s everyday life before all heck breaks loose. I personally experienced no such slowness of pace in The Witchwood Crown. I was told that I would speed through the last 200 pages – and the temptation and motivation was certainly there (though I resisted to make it last).

There are some situations here that are much more adult than the previous series, which I welcome…as they are a specific part of either the plot, or, more importantly of characterizations (especially of Simon and Miri, Pasevalles and Nezeru (not together). ).

Continuation

I do not recall reading any of Tad’s books that possess more cliff hangers than this one. Perhaps the fact that I could re-read the first trilogy back-to-back-to-back made any cliff hangers seem less significant.

In this novel, it seems that almost every major character was left hanging in one form or another – or revealed something about themselves that made us wonder how they were motivated to do that. On the one hand, I’d like to poke Mr. Williams in the ribs and shout “what the hell, Tad?” for doing that to us loyal readers. On the other hand, that might slow him down from completing the 2nd book in the saga.

There are certainly more than enough plot lines and secrets to be revealed to keep this series barreling along through the inevitable fourth book (a large third book split in two equals four)!

Things I wish would have happened

These have nothing to do with anything, just random thoughts. These contain MAJOR spoilers, so tread lightly.

  •  Aditu’s child was Simon’s. C’mon, we’re all thinking it, I just wrote it out loud!
  • Qantaqa, Binabik’s first wolf, was still alive. Maybe the wolf could have had an injection of Sithi blood or DNA to make the wolf immortal.

In Conclusion

If DAW, the publisher of this series, does a year between books, then there’s only 11 months until Empire of Grass. At least I’ve got a Packers season and the rest of the Malazan Book of the Fallen series to tide me over. Tad recently posted on Facebook that he was cleaning out the garage. If that was in any way slowing down the writing/publishing of the next novel, he could have found ample volunteers for the chore!

Tad’s trophy chest, though full of awards for bass playing, garage cleaning and promoting clowns, is empty of Hugo and Nebula awards. This books is a great story, a great start to a new series. We’ll see what else comes out this year, but The Witchwood Crown should certainly be in consideration.

Tad Williams Osten Ard

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 5

As much as I tried to make the return to Osten Ard in The Witchwood Crown last, for there is a wait of at least a year before The Empire of Grass arrives, it had to end at some point. Similar to the binge watching Netflix crowd who like to feast on entire seasons of a show in a few (or one!) sittings, I like to line up the books in a series and plow right through them. This is not just for continuity, but also for the freshness that comes with the characters. I’m in the midst (interrupted only by Tad’s latest) of a straight read through of Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen, which is a march through ten massive novels (with some of his cohort Ian Esselmont’s stories thrown in as well).

But for an Osten Ard novel, I will make an exception.

It will take me a while to get my thoughts together, but I would certainly agree with the job title attributed to Mr. Williams in the DAW promotional note that accompanied the book I received (thanks John!)….Tad Williams is indeed a  California-based fantasy superstar. He may not get paid as much as that other California-based fantasy superstar (who plays for Tad’s hometown Warriors)…a deeper conversation on the compensation differences between those who write prose that will last several lifetimes, and those who entertain us with skill in sports.

Tad Williams Osten Ard

In the mean time for my friend Ylva (who probably already has this memorized), here’s a list of the chapters (which I need to aid my memory as I write some notes). From my perspective after having read the book, there are no spoilers in reading these titles.

Foreword

Part 1 – Widows

  1. The Glorious
  2. The Finest Tent on the Frostmarch
  3. Conversation with a Corpse-Giant
  4. Brother Monarchs
  5. Awake
  6. An Aversion to Widows
  7. Island of Bones
  8. A Meeting on Lantern Bridge
  9. Heart of the Kynswood
  10. Hymns of the Lightless
  11. The Third Duke
  12. The Bloody Sand
  13. Lady Alva’s Tale
  14. Ghosts of the Garden
  15. Atop the Holy Tree
  16. A Layer of Fresh Snow
  17. White Hand
  18. A Bad Book
  19. The Moon’s Token
  20. His Bright Gem
  21. Crossroad
  22. Death Songs
  23. Testament of the White Hand

Part Two – Orphans

  1. Terrible Flame
  2. Example of a Dead Hedgehog
  3. The Inner Council
  4. Noontide at the Quarterly Maid
  5. Cradle Songs of Red Pig Lagoon
  6. Brown Bones and Black Statues
  7. The Slow Game
  8. A High, Dark Place
  9. Rosewater and Balsam
  10. Secrets and Promises
  11. Feeding the Familiar
  12. The Man with the Odd Smile
  13. A Foolish Dream
  14. Two Bedroom Conversations
  15. The Factor’s Ship
  16. A Grassland Wedding
  17. Watching Like God

Part Three – Exiles

  1. Hern’s Horde
  2. Forest Music
  3. Into Deeper Shadows
  4. Charms and Tokens
  5. A Nighttime Sun
  6. River Man
  7. Hidden Chambers
  8. The Little Boats
  9. Blood as Black as Night
  10. Several Matters of State
  11. Stolen Scales
  12. Homecoming
  13. Their Masters’ Folly
  14. Voices Unheard, Faces Unseen

Afterword

The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 4

As I sit on Chapter 28 of 54 chapters in The Witchwood Crown, a few random observations:

Chapter Names

I mentioned this in the re-read and commentary eBook that I put together, but I’ll bring it up again. I normally never read the Chapter names in a book. Some authors keep it simple by naming the chapter at the PoV character (looking at you, Mr. GRRM!); some do not even bother with naming their chapters (guilty!). But I noticed during the re-read that Tad’s chapter names had either foreshadowing, humor or serious sarcasm in them.

The name of Chapter 28 made me think Tad was laughing when he pulled that one out of his…head. It conjures up many different images at once, and somehow made me think of the WerePig from the Bobby Dollar series!

The Witchwood Crown chapter name

 

The Appendix of The Witchwood Crown

There is a 15 page Appendix in To Green Angel Tower (which is 1,066 pages in hardback) versus a 25 page Appendix in The Witchwood Crown (which is 694 pages in hardback). Obviously the world of Osten And has grown, and/or Mr. Williams marching band of personal Scrollbearers did great research (perhaps a bit of both, and kudos to Ylva and Ron, great mentions in the Acknowledgements!). I’ve tried hard to stay out of the Appendix, for the same reason I’ve tried hard to stay away from other people’s reviews…no spoilers please!

The Back Cover Flap

To Green Angel Tower and The Witchwood Crown back cover flaps, side by side…I’ll just leave this image here. The Dogly one ages well!

The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 3

Binabik-isms

The Witchwood Crown is set some 30-odd years after the end of To Green Angel Tower. This implies that some of the mortal characters will be around in the new series, and some will not. It should not be a spoiler (and I apologize if it is) to anyone that Binabik is around.

In the re-read and commentary eBook that I put together on Memory, Sorrow and Thorn (on Amazon here), I tried to call out every saying that Binabik mentioned, every Binabik-ism. Given that they were translated from his native language into Simon’s Erkynlandish, they had a very roundabout but wise-sounding way of getting to the point. As the “Singing Man” of his people, perhaps cataloging these phrases is part of the job?

The first Binabik-ism that I came across in The Witchwood Crown reads like a parallel to getting back into Osten And:

“My people are saying that to meet an old friend is like the finding of a welcoming campfire in the dark,” the little man said.

The Witchwood Crown

And, one page later, yet another:

“As we also say on Mintahoq, hanna via mo siqsiq, chahu naha! – as easily be trying to catch an avalanche in a thimble as to make the seasons stand still.”

I’m sure there will be many more

The Witchwood Crown maps

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 2

Maps

I like maps. And I’m not referring to Google Maps, Waze or Apple Maps. I’m talking about paper maps. I still have the Texaco maps of states we drove through on camping trips with my parents in a Jayco Pop-Up camper, with my own felt-tip pen lines showing the roads and the stops along the way. Thus I’m quite content with the maps in The Witchwood Crown.

As an aside, if you also like maps, you should really subscribe to the MapPorn Reddit subgroup.

In the original Memory, Sorrow and Thorn, our hero (not Simon – the author, Tad Williams) not only played the role of writer but also of cartographer. He’s listed on the credits page, and in the bottom right of the maps is a “TW” set of initials.

In The Witchwood Crown, the maps are by Isaac Stewart. Using my google-fu, I found out that he is THE Isaac Stewart who has done the maps for Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn and Stormlight Archives series…and now he has added The Witchwood Crown to an impressive portfolio.

Below is an image of the map in the first pages of To Green Angel Tower (on the right) with the map from the first pages of The Witchwood Crown on the left. Clicking on the image will take you to a mo’ bigger one.

The Witchwood Crown maps

The new map is excellently similar to Tad’s original map. Stewart’s has more detail, more names of places that were visited and discovered in MS&T. But I like the way it carries on the old tradition while embellishing on the original.

In typical Tad fashion, The Witchwood Crown has three parts (no names as thar be no spoilers here) and each part has one of Mr. Stewart’s maps at the beginning (in addition to the map pictured above which is at the beginning of the book). Each of the maps show additional detail of particular areas of the first overall map.

8 chapters in (out of 54 chapters)!

To Green Angel Tower Part 2

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

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

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

This is the second and last part of the re-read of To Green Angel Tower Part 2, the final book in Tad William’s Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series.

The introductory post is here, if you are interested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Even after you read the re-read, I highly recommend reading the books and Tad’s words. Click on the covers below to find them on Amazon.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

TheFiveHousesMST

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He chose…poorly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE RE-READ DOTH ENDETH!

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

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Two Komen runs = double the support

There are so many double entendres I could use, but I leave that for the comments.rftc_nav_hdr_rftc_logo

We’ve had a team (Komen Get It) for four years in the Houston Komen run. My wife started it with Sue whose lost her mother and a cousin to breast cancer, and my son has run it with me for the last three.

Times change. Sue moved to Denver, my son is off to college (but still doing work for two charities at UTA), and Audrey is out of town.

Solution: my wife says it is simple:
- Larry runs 5K Houston Komen run with running buddy Bert (should be dog slow since we’ve been training for the SA half marathon);
- Larry flies to Denver, meets beautiful wife;
- Larry and Lee do 5K Denver Komen run (should be dog slow since they have like mountains and stuff up there), Audrey, Sue and a cast of others do 5K Denver walk and gab;
- Larry et al celebrate with many adult bevvies.

I signed up too late to have an online Houston Komen page (perhaps it wasn’t as simple as originally planned, but if you would like to donate, Click here to visit my Denver Komen page or you can donate to the Houston Komen at running buddy Bert’s page.

Re-reading MSandT

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

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Dusk Before the Dawn

Dusk Before the Dawn

Software By the Kilo

Software by the Kilo

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