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Tad Williams

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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)!

The Witchwood Crown

The Witchwood Crown – Thoughts on the return to Osten Ard – Part 1

The Witchwood CrownMy personal wait for Tad Williams’ new Osten Ard novel, The Witchwood Crown, is finally over, thanks to my friend John D. who provided me the copy sent to him. I’m interrupting my goal (as I suspected I would) of reading the Malazan Book of the Fallen series straight through to read this. It’s a good stopping point, as I just finished the fifth of Steve Erikson’s books in the series (and it is a very good series, highly recommended).

The Last King of Osten Ard series (of which this is the first book) takes place thirty years after the original Memory, Sorrow and Thorn series. As readers we all carry our preconceived notions of what the characters were and what they would become. So there’s always the question of what happened to the characters in that series…who died, who lived, who changed.

I’m only about 50 pages in, but already have a couple of observations:

  • Thus far, the character transitions are handled not only with respect but with reality. One example is of a character from the original series (no names to prevent spoilage) who reflects upon what those of us readers who read the original series when we were young feel about aging:

I have become Time’s poppet, he thought sadly. She plays with me as a child with a doll, pulling off a piece here, another there, dragging me through the mud, then carrying me back to sit at some mock-banquet.

  • The other unexpected piece is a tie-in with The Heart of What Was Lost. I enjoyed this novel, set just after the events of To Green Angel Tower but was happily surprised by how early Williams tied those pieces and characters together with this new narrative.

So far I’m able to throttle the desire to speed through it, and enjoy it like a fine tequila…Only 900 or so more pages to go!

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).

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!

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!!!

Next 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 One – The Waiting Stone

To Green Angel Tower Part 1THE DOOR STOP COMETH!!! This is a big book. In the original hardback it was one of the longest novels ever written. Thus, in turn, this is the longest re-read post in the history of re-read posts. And, of course, it needs to be, since there is a lot to wrap up and a lot of questions to be answered:

  • Who is Simon really? Or, maybe better stated, what is his heritage? Hints no doubt pertain to the ring he wears that came from his mother.
  • What do the three swords do together (besides supposedly stop the Storm King)?
  • What happened in the Garden to make the Sithi, Norns and dwarrows/niskies travel across the sea to escape? What was this Unbeing? Did it have anything to do with them not sharing the secrets of near immortality with the dwarrows and niskies? This may be a subject for the next Osten Ard series.
  • Ineluiki’s brother, Hakatri, has to play a roll in this…or maybe not. May be another Last King of Osten Ard character.

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

The introductory post is here, if you are interested.

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

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

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

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

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

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

This third book (part 1) is 796 pages – paperback. Part One: The Waiting Stone goes from page 33 (after a good thorough “what has come before” section, which should be required of all authors of long series) to 512.

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

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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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Foreword: Guthwulf is in the King’s hall at a dinner. He feels the call of the King’s sword strongly. Sir Flurien is reporting back from a visit with Duke Benigaris, frustrating the King.

“I helped Benigaris to his throne, Aedon curse him! And I gave him a lector who would not interfere!”
This said, Elias paused. Guthwulf, alone of all the company, heard a sharp intake of breath from Pryrates, who was seated across from the blind earl.
<snip>
The King’s words about the lectorship and Pryrates’ gasp of alarm echoed over and over in his mind. The others would no doubt assume that Elias referred to influencing the selection of the pliable Escritor Velligis to succeed Ranessin as lector – but Guthwulf knew better. Pryrates discomfiture when it seemed the King might say to much confirmed what Guthwulf had already half-suspected: Pryrates had arranged Ranessin’s death. And now Guthwulf felt sure that Elias knew it too – perhaps had even ordered the killing. The king and the counselor had made bargains with demons and had murdered God’s highest priest. (pg 27)

Guthwulf decides he must leave, but when the blind earl attempts it, he gets lost in the Hayholt as it shimmers between the past and the present.

Chapter 1: Under Strange Skies - Simon is at the Stone of Farewell and is going through the ritual to become a knight, spending a purposefully sleepless night at “The Observatory”. Simon is introspective (again, as always) and  is thinking whether this is what it means to be a man:

Was that what growing up meant? Having lots of scars? He supposed it also meant learning from the wounds as well – but what could he learn from the sort of things that had happened to him during the last year? (pg. 36)

As always, he easily sees visions of the past, this time apparently of the breaking up of the Sithi and the Norns.

A Sitha woman in a sky blue robe leaned toward the table and deftly scribed in trails of finger-flame her own additions to the glowing thing. Her hair was blacker than shadow, blacker even than the night sky above Sesuad’ra, a great cloud of darkness around her head and shoulders. For a moment, Simon thought she might be a young Amerasu; but though there was much in this one that was like his memories of First Grandmother, there was much that was not.
Beside her stood a white-bearded man in a billowing crimson robe. Shapes that might have been pale antlers spouted from his brow, bringing Simon a pang of unease – he had seen something like that in other, more unpleasant dreams. The bearded man leaned forward and spoke to her, and she added a new swirl of fire to the design.
Although Simon could not see the dark woman’s face clearly, the one who stood across from her was all too plain. That face was hidden behind a mask of silver, the rest of her form beneath ice-white robes. As if in answer to the black-haired woman, the Norn Queen raised her arm and slashed a line of dull fire all the way across the construct, then waved her hand once more to lay a net of delicately smoking scarlet light over the outermost globe. A man stood beside her, calmly watching her every move. He was tall and seemed powerfully built, dressed all in spiky armor of obsidian black. He was not masked in silver or otherwise, but still Simon could see little of his features. (pg 41)

Simon is celebrated at a feast for Sir Seoman, and, among other gifts, his horse Homefinder is returned to him. Towards the end of the feast, it is announced that Count Eolair has arrived, and brings new information about the three swords.

Chapter 2: Chains of Many KindsI often do not pay much attention to the chapter titles in books I am reading. But most of the ones in this series are quite relevant and often clever, including this one. Miriamele on Aspitis ship, trapped and wrapped up in Aspitis’ charms. Cadrach gets the ship’s Niskie, Gan Itai to get a message to Miri warning her that A-spit-on-us is a creature of Pryrates…but there is nothing she can do.

Back in the Hayholt, Pryrates tries to talk King Elias out of sending Fengbald out after Josua, but the King insists. They have brief exchange as the King asks Pryrates what he gets out of all this…he gives the obvious answer “Power” , then tells the King the truth:

“I want to know everything. For that, I need power, which is a sort of permission. There are secrets so dark, so deep, that the only way to discover them is to tear open the Universe and root about in the very guts of Death and Unbeing.” (pg 67)

Maegwin, after sending Count Eolair away, tends to her people by judging disputes. She still feels finding the dwarrows in the underground city was a failure. She has a stone Count Eolair gave her that was a gift from Yis-fidri. One night she hears a message in her dreams, which tells her to Climb – Go to the High Place. Either gifted or nuttier that a Christmas fruit cake, she assumes this is a message from the Gods.

Miriamele goes to see Gan Itai, who explains that she knows Miri is the princess and not Lady Marya as she has claimed to be. She takes Miri through the sides of the ship to see chained-up Cadrach, who tells her to send a note to the inn called Pelippa’s Bowl. She learns a bit about the Niskies from Gan Itai, and returns to her room…only to have Aspitis come in, and proclaim that they will be married since they are already lovers.

“They bound Ruyan Ve’, did you know? The father of our people, the Great Navigator. When he would have taken the ships and set sail once more, they seized him in their anger and bound him in chains.” The Niskie rocked back and forth. “And then they burned the ships.” (pg 83)

Chapter 3: East of the World – The sword Thorn and Count Eolair have come to the Stone of Farewell. Simon, adjusting to being a knight, is included in the council. Eolair catches them up on what has been happening with Hernystir, and tells them of the dwarrows they have found. He also tells them what the dwarrows revealed: that King John’s sword Bright-nail is actually Minneyar (the third sword Memory).

“The passage that troubled Jarnauga so, the passage from Morgenes’ book! It told how John went down to face the dragon – but he carried a spear! A spear! Oh goodness, how blind we were!” The old priest giggled like a young boy. “But when he came out, it was with Bright-Nail!” (pg 101)

Eolair also brought them maps of the tunnels and burrows under the Hayholt, copied from the dwarrows’ stone walls.

Pryrates visits the water wheel and iron works, deep under the castle, guarded by Norns (Norns in the Hayholt!). The water wheel is connected to chains that go up in the darkness, toward Pryrates workroom. Inch is the foreman, and Pryrates gives him work to be completed.

A quick look-in on Duke Isgrimnur, still in Kwanitupul, with no luck in getting Camaris to speak, let alone remember who he is.

Simon, Jeremias and Leleth are searching for the source of a spring. Leleth still does not speak since her run in with the hounds, but hangs around Jeremias. Binabik comes to retrieve Simon as the council meeting resumes. Josua presents the council with three questions to answer, and Geloë adds a fourth:

  • What does King Elias plan to do?
  • How can they assemble a force to stop it?
  • How can they retrieve the other two swords to stop the Storm King?
  • And how much time do they have?

In the end, Josua sends Isorn and others with Count Eolair back to Hernystir. Simon proposes sending himself, Binabik and Sludig to sneak in and get Bright-Nail, but Josua shoots it down as too dangerous. As Binabik tries to comfort a frustrated Simon, Binabik lets loose with another quality Binabik-ism:

“Winter is not being the time for naked swimming.” (pg 122)

Chapter 4: The Silent Child – Miriamele sees the kilpa “pawing” at the ship, apparently trying to get on. She tells Aspitis this, but he says they will not board while Gan Itai is aboard to soothe them with singing. Miri tells Aspitis that she cannot marry him, that she is promised to another, but Aspitis starts laughing, tells her he knows she is the Princess, and that they will be married, so that he can be in line for King Elias’ throne. Sneaky and Cheeky bugger, ain’t he?

Tiamak is wondering around Kwanitupul, angry at being there as he did not follow his elders instructions, and upset that he cannot leave. Three Fire Walkers stalk him, taunt him, and when they start to attack him, Camaris shows up and beats the three of them unarmed…but still says nothing. That night, Tiamak dreams of Miri on the boat (the dream road appears to be still easily opened).

Maegwin takes her dream to Diawen the scryer. After having Maegwin concentrate her vision into a “worm glass” (maybe another Norn/Sitha stone?), Daiwen tells that, as her dream tells her, she should go to the “high place.” Maegwin, in spite of weather worthy of Lambeau Field in January (GO PACK GO), climbs to the top of the mountain and yells for the gods to come and talk to her.

Miri is in bed with Aspitis (tsk tsk), and a shipman knocks on the door. Miri is ashamed that the crew knows Aspitis is in her room, in her bed. She decides to take her own life, and goes to Aspitis quarters to look for a weapon to commit suicide with. She discovers that he has a Fire Dancer robe, and has been giving money to Fire Dancers at all of their ports to encourage them (the little wimp keeps records of this!). She takes the dagger back to her room, but Gan Itai the Niskie navigator comes to her, asking if the rumors of her impending marriage to Aspitis are true. Gan Itai sees the dagger, and Miri confesses her plan, and tells her that Aspitis is not only a Fire Dancer and instigator, but he knows Miri is the princess. Gan Itai say that Fire Dancers burned a Niskie village, and she asks Miri to give her some time to work on a way out.

Chapter 5:  Wasteland of Dreams – Simon, now a knight, continues his training with Sludig. His brain is obviously wired differently, through experiences and through heritage (still not revealed!):

As they sparred, he thought of shent, the intricate game of the Sithi, with its feints and puzzling strikes, and wondered if the same things might work in swordplay. He allowed his next few strikes to carry him farther and farther off-balance, until Sludig could not help but notice; then, when the Rimmersman swept in on the heels of one of Simon’s flailing misses with the aim of catching him leaning too far and smacking him on the ribs, Simon let his swing carry him all the way forward into a tumbling roll. The Rimmersman’s sword hissed over him. Simon then righted himself and whacked Sludig neatly on the side of the knee. The Northerner dropped his blade and hopped up and down, cursing. (pg 156)

Geloë gathers Simon, Binabik and Father Strangeyeard to join her and Leleth on a quest through the Road of Dreams, to see if they can reach Tiamak and Miriamele before “another Storm comes”, as Geloë says. They are able to reach Tiamak in his dreams, and he tries to tell them of Camaris, and of the Duke, but cannot…but he does communicate “Nisses book” to them. They are stumped trying to reach Miriamele, running into a barrier. Leleth, who moves most freely in the dreamworld, pushes hard with Simon but they cannot penetrate whatever is keeping them out. Simon almost gets lost in the dream world by continuing to push.

Geloeë meets with Josua and tells him what they learned on the Dream Road, but also tells him she has been talking to the birds and discovered that a large force of men has left the Hayholt heading in their direction. After the initial shock of the fact that she can talk to birds, Josua and Deneroth start planning for defense.

Simon has a dream where he was “seated on a massive throne made of smooth white stone.” Some foreshadowing of who Simon really is, perhaps? He awakens from his dream and finds Josua come to see how he is feeling. Josua tells him Geloë’s news about an army coming. Josua also expresses worry for his future child, if Josua does win the throne from his brother:

…one day I would have to send my son off to do something I could not do – something dangerous and glorious. That is the way of kings and their sons. And I would never sleep again, waiting to hear that he had been killed.” (pg 175)

Simon reminds him that daughters are no safer, citing Miriamele and Vorzheva’s perils. A bit of foreshadowing on Josua’s desire to not put his children through that…LAST KING OF OSTEN ARD, where are you when we need you?

Simon, frustrated by not being able to reach Miri, takes the dragon mirror that Jiriki gave him (while noticing the package that Aditu gave him at the end of the previous book to give to Josua, and having an “oh crap, I forgot moment“). As usual, Simon goes in with bluster and confidence, but is quickly grabbed by something more powerful than he (most likely the Storm King). He asks for “help” and Jiriki comes to him on the Dream Road and pulls him away from the big baddies, admonishing Simon for traveling the Dream Road alone. Jiriki says his father is dying, and all of the house of the Sithi are gathering, but he cannot promise to help. He shows Simon a glimpse through the mirror.

“Look. The members of all the Houses are joined at Jao é-Tinukai’i. Cheka-’iso Amber Locks is here, as is Zinjadu, Lore-Mistress of Lost Kementari, and Yizashi Grayspear. Even Kuroyi the tall horseman has come, who has not joined with the House of Year-Dancing since Shi’iki and Senditu’s day. The exiles have returned, and we will fight as one people, as we have not done since Asu’a fell. In this anyway, Amerasu’s death and my father’s sacrifice will not be in vain.” (pg 183)

Any of these characters going to be in The Last King of Osten Ard?

Jiriki helps Simon off the dream road.

Chapter 6: The Sea-Grave – Gan Itai hatches a plan to get Miriamele and Cadrach off of Aspitis ship…at much risk to Gan Itai. The Niskie tells the Princess to sneak some bags into the landing boat, and to find tools Gan Itai has hidden and break Cadrach’s chains…and then to make for the landing boat that evening, making sure nobody bolts her into her room.

Tiamak tells Duke Isgrimnur of the message he received from Geloë on the Dream Road. They argue about going to the Stone of Farewell now (Tiamak’s desire, as he carries the copy of Nisses’ lost book) vs. waiting for Miri (as the Duke wishes). Tiamak packs, as though to head out on his own, and reads a piece of the Nisses book he carries:

“…Bringe from Nuanni’s Rock Garden
The Man who tho’ blinded canne see
Discover the Blade that Delivers the Rose
At the foote of the Rimmer’s great tree
Find the Call whose lowde Claim
Speaks the Call-bearer’s name
In a Shippe on the Shallowest Sea
- When Blayde, Call and Man
Come to Prince’s right Hande
Then the Prisoned shall once more go Free…

A nice little prophecy on Camaris and one of the swords. Tiamak describes hypothetically how he alone or with the Duke and company would make it to the Stone.

Maegwin’s people find the crazy lady on the mountain freezing in the snow and leaning off the mountain like she was ready to jump. Apparently they had been looking for her for three days. She believes her vision from the gods told her they are coming, but she does not know what to do next. After coming down from the mountain, she talks to the scryer Diawen, who tells her “The gods help those who are bold”. Maegwin thinks this means she should take her very small army and take up arms against Skali, but she goes off to think on it.

Miri sneaks the supplies into the boat undetected, then goes down to free Cadrach. She finds tools where Gan Itai said they would be, and works with Cadrach to free his arms and legs. They tie the chains back together to give the appearance of them still be in working order, then Miri leaves, asking Cadrach to work the blood back into his legs. Feigning sea sickness in the storm to keep Aspitis out of her bed (or her in his), at the appointed time Miri dons her monk traveling clothes and sets out.

The Niskie’s song, rising above the storm noises, had a weird, unsettling quality, far less pleasant to the ear than usual. Perhaps it was the Niskie’s obvious unhappiness coming out in her song, Miriamele thought. (pg 209)

Gan Itai singing draws the kilpa up to the deck of the boat, instead of keeping them away as usual, thus revealing her plan to help Miri and Cadrach escape. After fighting off their own kilpa, they get to the boat. Miri goes back for Gan Itai, who tells her she is not coming, that she must save the boat after Miri and Cadrach have made their escape. Miri gets back to the landing boat and Aspitis arrives as they are leaving. He threatens her with his sword, so Miri tosses his dagger at his feet. When he bends to pick it up, she hits him in the stomach with the oar, and then whacks his pretty face with it. Cadrach and she jump over board toward the landing boat, and, they hope, a kilpa-less freedom.

Chapter 7: Storm King’s Anvil – The storm, after a bit of a layoff, has started again in earnest.

Like a tide moving toward some unimaginable high water mark, the storm spread further than ever before, bringing frost to southern lands that had never felt its touch and draping a great cold shroud over all of Osten Ard. It was a storm that numbed hearts and crushed spirits. (pg 223)

Fengbald and his army, along with some Thirthing mercenaries, have captured all of the folks who stayed at old Gadrinsett and have torched the town. Fengbald has designs on King Elias’s crown (who doesn’t?), noting that Elias is obviously sick. He interrogates the “Lord Mayor of Gadrinsett” for information about Josua and how many folks he has on the Stone of Farewell. The Thirthing leader is irritated by his delay, but Fengbald tries to teach him how to be treacherous.

Rachael is moving about the castle using the passageways behind the walls (Now I know where that rascal Simon used to disappear to!) While searching for food, she overhears King Elias looking for his cupbearer, and suffering…and then hears Pryrates. She is almost discovered. Pryrates assures the King that his suffering is worth “the greatest gift.” They leave without seeing Rachael.

Guthwulf is blind and thinks he is going mad (and he is probably right). He hears and feels the ghost-like presence of “others”, most likely either the dream road barriers falling down, or Pryrates experiments making the barriers between time and space transparent. A cat finds him, and returns a bit of his sanity.

The Queen of the Norns awakens sensing an uncertainty that has entered into the pattern of events she has crafted over centuries.

Chapter 8: Nights of Fire – Sir Seoman (or Simon, as I like to call him), at Josua’s request, leads a party (which includes Sludig and Hotvig) to determine the size of Fengbald’s army (folks fleeing from Old Gadrinsett have come to the Stone of Farewell bearing tales of this army). Simon’s first command gets him excited, even though he believes Josua sent Hotvig along to keep an eye on him. The storm is fierce and covers their approach. They count campfires, then sneak closer and count bodies around campfires to do the math. As an act of defiance, Simon borrows one of the Thirthing men’s bows and sends a flaming arrow into one of the tents.

Josua is worrying about the pregnant Vorzheva whilst she is trying to get him to stop worrying (this could go on for a while!). Apologies to Tad for turning five pages of prose into a one-liner.

Simon is introspective on his way back to the camp on the Stone, thinking about what knights do, warring or ruling over their fiefdoms.

So which was better? To flee war, or to try to make yourself so strong that no one could hurt you? Morgenes had told him that such problems were the stuff of kingship, the sort of questions that kept goodhearted monarchs awake at night when all their subjects were sleeping. (pg 259)

Binabik meets them at the shores of their “moat” and tell them the lake is mostly frozen, a hit to their defensive plans. As they make their way on the flatboats across the un-frozen parts, Sludig thinks he sees lights on the far shore.

Sir Deornoth admires the way Simon gives his report to Josua. Freosel, who was the constable of Old Gadrinsett, informs Josua the the Lord Mayor (whom Fengbald was just coincidently interrogating) has escaped and says he knows Fengbald’s attack plans. Geloë warns that she sees a “shadow” in the eyes of Helgrim, the Lord Mayor. Josua decides to speak with him. Feosel also informs the group that they are running out of food, and that folks are leaving for fear of starvation.

Simon dreams (that boy is always asleep) of Morgenes, who tells him once again “beware of the false messenger” and “you must fight for something…hate is not enough.” Binabik awakens him, asks him to get dressed and leads him toward the lights that Sludig was seeing. It is a group of trolls led by Binabik’s girl friend Sisqi. Simon and Binabik dance the night way with them, forgetting about war for a bit.

Chapter 9: Pages in an Old Book – Miriamele and Cadrach are in the landing boat, slowly rowing to shore. Cadrach tells his tale to Miri, slowly but surely. Cadrach says he overheard Dinivan saying they should make for Kwanitupul.

Cadrach tells how he met Morgenes in a library in the town Cadrach grew up, and how Morgenes put him forward as a member of the League of the Scroll and how he met the other Scrollbearers.

This is one of those chapters where the entire chapter should be recorded, as Cadrach’s story tells the story of Pryrates’ origin and of the League. But in the interests of brevity I will only enter snippets.

“…he told me of the League of the Scroll, which was formed long ago by Saint Eahlstan Fiskerne, the Hayholt’s Fisher King. Eahlstan inherited Fingil’s castle and his sword Minneyar but he wanted nothing to do with the Rimmersman’s heritage of destruction – especially the destruction of learning. Eahlstan wanted instead to conserve knowledge that otherwise might vanish into shadow – and to use that knowledge when it seemed necessary.” (pg. 289)

He is introduced to Xorastra, one of the other Scrollbearers, who has two candidates of her own (like Cadrach is Morgenes’ candidate).

“Both of them were younger than I was. Dinivan was a mere youth at the time, studying with the Usirean brothers. Sharp-eyed Xorastra had seen the spark in him, and thought that if he were brought into contact with Morgenes and the others, that spark might become a great and warming fire by which the church she still loved could greatly benefit. The other that she put forward was a clever young priest, just ordained, who came from a poor island family, but who had made his way into a small sort of prominence by the swiftness of his mind.” (pg 290)

This second candidate is Pryrates. Cadrach says that he made him the man he is today. The fact that Pryrates and Dinivan were candidates together makes Pryrates murder of Dinivan all the more despicable, doesn’t it?

Cadrach descended into drunkenness, and left the order, taking with him some treasures, including a copy of Nisses’ rare book. Miriamele asks about Nisses.

“He was a man who came out of the North beyond Elvritshalla, from the land of the Black Rimmermen who live below Stormspike, and presented himself to Fingil, King of Rimmersgard. He was no court conjurer, but it is said that he gave Fingil the power that enabled him to conquer half of Osten Ard. That power may have been wisdom, for Nisses knew the facts of things that no one else even dreamed existed. After Asu’a was conquered and Fingil died at last, Nisses served Fingil’s son Hjeldin. It was during those years that he wrote his book – a book that contained part of the dreadful knowledge that he had brought with him when he appeared in a murderous snowstorm outside Fingil’s gates. He and Hjeldin both dies in Asu’a – the young king by throwing himself out the window of the tower that bears his name. Nisses was found dead in the room from which Hjeldin leapt, with no mark upon him. There was a smile on his face, and the book was clutched in his hands.” (pg 296)

Cadrach is affected when he reads Nisses’ book and it drives him to “oblivion” and drink. He doesn’t sell it to Pryrates, for he knew him to be evil, but sells it for money to buy more drink. But Pryrates knew he had a copy, finds Cadrach and tortures him into telling him the parts that he remembers, and then into to telling Pryrates who he sold the pages to.

Cadrach thinks Miriamele will no longer wants his company, but she tells him to rest and they will row to shore in the morning.

Chapter 10: Riders of the Dawn – A welcoming party is given for the trolls that have come to the Stone of Farewell. There is much drink and talk, and Binabik and Sisqui have a nice reunion. As one point, talking about Josua, Towser says “He is his father’s child, that’s for certain.” and it is obvious he is not talking about Prester John (oh the foreshadowing of it all).

Simon helps Binabik take the rafts apart so that pieces of them (nails) can be used to help in the defense against Fengbald. Binabik also teaches Simon the Qanuc language so that Simon can communicate with Sisqi’s troll army during the battle.

Simon is dreaming of the three swords when Sludig awakens him with news that Fengbald is preparing to attack. As he is looking for his gloves he find the bundle that Aditu had given him to give to Josua (which he had forgotten to do!) in the last chapter of the previous book (which means it was quite a while ago) and remembered again in Chapter 5 of this book…but this time he takes it to Josua. Josua, surrounded by a war council of sorts, listens to Simon’s story. Though the horn has runes on it which are Sithi, there is a letter with the horn, written by Amerasu, which is in Westerling. It reads “May this horn be given to its rightful owner when all seems lost.”

Of course, they all try a blow (some of them several) but none of them are “its rightful owner.” Even though they are certainly in a time of need, they set the horn aside.

Binabik gives Simon a shield hand-painted with his coat of arms. Josua gives a speech that is very much like the one below (both groups have a drunk at least! and if you replace “Earth” with “New Gadrinsett“), and then they are off to get ready for battle.

Josua and Fengbald meet on the ice, exchange a few threats. Geloë throws out the threat of the Sithi coming to protect their rock. Then Fengbald’s army pushes forward a sledge, perfect for the ice. Simon watches with his troll army, and waits.

Far from Sesua’dra, Jiriki calls the Sithi to ride to war. Are they coming to the aide of Simon and friends?

Chapter 11: The Road Back – Miriamele and Cadrach after another three weeks “living like beggars” finally make their way to Kwanitupul, and make their way to the Inn called Pelippa’s Bowl (which used to be owned by Soria Xorastra of the League). They finally meet up with Duke Isgrimnur.

Tiamak comes back to the Inn, and warns them that he saw soldiers, including Aspitis, looking for them and the Inn. They decide to bug out quickly and follow Tiamak’s suggestion to go through the Wran to get to Josua (who, much to Miriamele’s surprise and relief, is rumored to be alive north of the Thirthings). They set about patching a boat, gathering food and water from the inkeeper, who they take with them as they paddle away just in advance of Aspitis and his men.

Eolair, Isorn and four Thirthings men, traveling back with Eolair have met a Rimmersman “from Skoggey” who takes them into a camp of a few dozen men. Isorn rallies them to their cause.

Maegwin shares her plan, based on what the gods told her on top of the mountain. She has one of the scribes who was under the mountain describe the wonders he saw, and has Crohban, her fathers counselor, describe her being found on the frozen mountain where she had been for three days, unharmed and in a deep dream state talking to the gods. She whips her people into a fervor, and then says she will tell them what to do…and then we fade to another scene.

Isgrimner, Miriamele and the rest drop off the captive innkeeper and head for the Wran, with Tiamak warning them of dangers ahead.

Chapter 12: Raven’s Dance – The battle for Sesua’dra begins, with Simon awaiting patiently while Deornoth leads the defender’s first sally. Josua exclaims that he hopes “Fengbald will take the feint” and, in the absence of Binabik, uses Jerimiasas a runner to Freosel and his archers and to ready Hotvig and his riders. Deornoth has his remaining men retreat.

Binabik is missing, and Simon discovers Sisqi is missing as well. Jerimias takes Josua’s message to Simon to have him wait a bit after the horn blows. Simon wants to run off and look for Sisqi, but Jerimias reminds him that he is a “trollish war chieftain now” (which is a very cool title).

Binabik returns, stating he dislodged several of Fengbald’s men from the cliffs by rolling stones upon them. He and the others with Josua think they see Fengbald’s red cape behind his men. Josua has Sangfugol blow on his horn the signal for Freosel, whose men loose arrows from hidden places at Fengbald’s forces. Then he gives the signal for Hotvig’s riders.

Hotvig’s riders have better traction on the ice than Fengbald’s, thanks to Binabik’s innovation with the nail and the horses hooves. Fengbald and Lehzdraka, the mercenary Thirthings leader, see this, and attack with greater numbers. Fengbald says to kill everyone, while the mercenary tells his people in their language that a live prince will bring a better ransom.

Josua comes down to the front to Deornoth, putting the iron shoes on his horse. He will joint the battle over Deornoth and everyone else’s objections.

Sisqi rejoins Simon, and he leads his troll horde down into the battle, them on rams, him on his horse Homefinder.

Hotvig’s initial attack had split Fengbald’s line and scattered it away from the safety of the sledge-scrapped track. Deornoth’s soldier – all but a few on foot – had then surged our from behind the barricade and flung themselves on those Erkyngaurd who had been cutoff from their own rearguard by Hotvig’s action…Simon’s troop struck the mercenaries from the blind side; those closest to the on-coming Qanuc had only a moment to look around in amazement before being skewered by the short spears of the trolls. A few of the Thirthings-men seemed to regard the onrushing Qanuc with a shock that seemed closer to superstitious terror than mere surprise. (pg 388).

Simon kills his first man in combat, then another. Then gets into a sword fight with a third.

It was only as he and this other were hacking at each other that Simon abruptly realized that to these enemies he was no child. He was taller than this particular mercenary, and in his helmet and mail shirt, he doubtless seemed a large and fearsome fighter. Abruptly heartened, he renewed his attack, driving the Thirthings-man backward. Then, as the man stopped, and his horse came breast-to-breast with Homefinder, Simon remembered his lessons from Sludig. He feinted a clumsy swing and the mercenary seized the bait, leaning too far forward with his return stroke. Simon let the man’s sword carry him well off-balance, then slammed his shield against the man’s leather helm and followed with a sword thrust that slide between the tow halves of the man’s chest armor and into his unprotected side. The mercenary stayed in his saddle as Simon pulled Homefinder back, tugging loose his sword, but before Simon turned away his opponent had already fallen awkwardly to the bloody ice.

Panting, Simon looked around him and wondered who was winning. (pg 391-392)

Williams does an excellent job in this chapter of telling the strategy of the battle, but making us realize it is only about individual conflicts in the midst of the chaos. And Simon finally realizes that he is large!

Josua calls everyone back behind the barricade as the sun goes down. Simon sees Sisqi looking over her dead ram, and grabs her. They see a knot of their own surrounded, unable to retreat, and go back for them, rescuing a few and retreating behind the barricade.

Fengbald is not pleased with the outcome of the day’s fight. But Helfgrim, the old Lord Mayor of Gadrinsett, comes back from Josua’s camp. With his daugther’s threatened by Fengbald, he tells them of another way up the Stone, through on old poorly guarded Sithi trail. Fengbald says he will take Helfgrim with him to show the way.

Chapter 13: The Nest Builders – Miriamele, Tiamak and company are making their way through the Wran. Miri draws Tiamak out a bit by asking him about the local plants, and adding them to their cook pot. Tiamak shares his fears with the company: their best route is through his village but since he went to Kwanitupul instead of doing as his elders wished, he is concerned that he will be detained. After much debate, they decide they must proceed to his village.

They pass the pool of Sekob, who is a croc or gator or dinosaur(!) as long as ten men. Isgrimnur was skeptical before, but now he be a believer!

Tiamak tells them of the ways of the Wran, a people without a king where a man can become an elder by providing feasts for others. Duke Isgrimnur is again skeptical, and Cadrach sarcastically says that “passing lands down to sons” or “winning lands by hitting people with axes” is just as daft. Sometimes Cadrach is insightful and funny.

Miri watches Camaris.

Miriamele could stare without embarrassment: the tall man seemed quite uncaring, no more interested in the business of his fellows than a horse in a paddock might be with traders talking by the fence. Observing his bland but certainly not stupid face, it was almost impossible to believe that she was in the presence of a legend. The name of Camaris-sá-Vinita was nearly as famous as that of her grandfather Prester John, and both of them, she felt sure, would be remembered by generations yet unborn. Yet here he was, old and witless, when all the world had thought him dead. How could such a thing have come to pass? What secrets hid behind his guileless exterior? (pg 416)

They enter Village Grove, Tiamak’s home city. They stay the night and have a sleepover at Tiamak’s place, as he checks in on his birds (ably assisted by Camaris). In the morning, he finds some old buried flour (!) to cook with. Miri has him take her to a freshwater pond where she can bathe. On the way back, she sees her first ghant.

They get to the center of Village Grove and everyone is gone. Tiamak takes a boat and goes off by himself to look for Old Mogahib, the village elder…but Tiamak does not return. They go after him, find his boat and find not Tiamak but an old Wranman, assumably Old Mogahib.

The group travels aways while Old Mogahib sleeps (not unlike Simon’s snoozing). When the round a bend and see a giant ghants nest capable of holding hundreds of the critters, Old Mogahib is awake enough to yell something in Wran-lang akin to “Tiamak is in there.”

Chapter 14: Dark Corridors – Rachael is roaming through the Hayholt, gathering provisions for the hiding place she has found and made her home. She barely avoids some Norns/White Foxes, and runs into Guthwulf, who she realizes is blind and mostly mad.

Guthwulf is roaming, trying to keep his sanity, and he feels the sword that Elias made him touch, always drawing him. He feels the fires of the forge.

Inch is in the forges, explaining delays to King Elias (obviously the source of the sword Guthwulf senses). Inch tells the King that they only see parts of the plans…just as Pryrates shows up. After a bit of back and forth (“we don’t have it all”, “it is secret, you don’t need it all”), Pryrates spell seems to fall on the King and he leaves, after giving a lackadasical order of when everything should be done.

Back to Rachael, who is making her way back to her hiding place and runs into Hengfish. Hengfish (who, you may recall, has appeared and disappeared in several chapters; he was originally a monk but stumbled into Naglimund after the Norns had taken it, and now serves the King as one possessed) appears to be dazed and lets loose with some foreign words. Rachael escapes him, and runs back to her hidey hole.

Chapter 15: Lake of Glass – The Sithi were riding.

Long the Peaceful Ones had hidden from the eyes of the world, nursing their sadness, living only in the memories of other days. Today the rode in armor as brilliant as the plumage of birds, their spears shining like frozen lightning. They sang, for the Sithi had always sung. They rode, and the old ways unfolded before them, forest glades echoing to their horses’ hoofbeats for the first time since the tallest trees were seedlings. After a sleep of centuries, a giant had awakened.  (pg 456-457)

What a tease! The Sithi are not coming to help the 2nd day of the battle at the Stone of Farewell.

Simon cannot sleep, and wanders over to where Josua and the others are discussing the upcoming battle. Freosel informs them that Helfgrim, Gradinsett’s mayor, is gone. They hope he is not hurt (if you recall, dear reader, that he went to Fengbald in Chapter 12 to trade information for his daughters).

Freosel hopes that Simon can summon the Sithi. Sludig hears this, and says “God gives a man what he deserves, no more, no less.” After Sludig leaves, Simon asks Binabik and Strangeyeard if they believe this is true.

“Because my friends Morgenes and Haestan certainly didn’t get what they deserved – one burned, and one crushed from a giant’s club.” Simon could not keep the bitterness from his voice.

Strangeyeard tells him God has plans, which Simon says that is what priests always say.

“He may have chosen to forget the more painful things,” Strangeyeard said gently. “If you lived forever and experienced every pain in the world as though it were your own – died with every soldier, cried with every widow and orphan, shared every mother’s grief at the passing of a beloved child – would you perhaps not yearn to forget to?” (pg 460)

Binabik asks why Sludig’s words struck him so.

Simon shook his head. “I just don’t know how to… to be. These men have come to kill us – I want them all to die painfully, horribly…But Binabik, these are the Erkynguard! I knew them at the castle. Some of them used to give me sweets, or life me up on their horses and tell me I reminded them of their own sons.” He fidgeted with a stick, scuffing at the muddy soil. “Which is right? How could they do these things to us, who never did them any harm? But the King is making them, so why should they be killed, any more than us?”

Binabik says

“The questions you are asking are important ones, but they are also questions without answers. This is what being a man or woman means, I am thinking, instead of a boy or girl child. You must be finding your own solutions to questions that have no true answers.” (pg 461)

They read a bit of Morgenes book, which says Camaris had similar questions, then try to sleep before the battle.

The battle starts again:

Those who survived this battle would call it by many names: t Josua and his closest company, it was the Siege of Sesua’dra. For the captains of Fengbald’s Erkynlandish troop, it was Stefflod Valley. To the mercenary Thirthings-men, it was the Battle of the Stone. But for most who remembered it, and few did without a shudder, the name that was most evocative was Lake of Glass. (p 467)

Helms’ Deep, anyone?

Simon fights, and begins to feel his oats a bit, seeing fear in his opponents eyes. He cleaves a man’s head nearly off after seeing one of his troll friends run through. Sisqi finds him and says his “Crohook friend” is in trouble, and they rush in and save a surrounded Sludig. Sludig asks where Deornoth is, says he slew the mercenary leader. They find Deornoth nearly dead. Simon helps Sludig put Deornoth on this horse, then Simon sees the red cloak of Fengbald. Thinking to end it all, he rushes him, captures him and lifts his helm…to find it is not Fengbald.

And then we cut out of the excitement to Maegwin, who is leading her people (mostly the old, the young and the unable to fight, singing uplifting Hernystir national songs) out of the mountains. They encounter Skali’s men, who say they are too many to surrender. Maegwin says they are there to take back their homes, with the gods help of course, and they keep walking (now with a north Rimmersmen escort). When they get to the Hernysadharc, and make their way to the former King’s residence the Taig, Skali waits them on the steps. He listens to Maegwin’s demands from the gods that they leave, then tells his men to put them into pens. Maegwin despairs, and calls for the gods.

And then we cut back to the big battle.

Simon has the false Fengbald, but the real Fengbald is being lead up a back trail by Helfgrim, the ex-Lord Mayor of Gadrinsett. As they approach the top, Helfgrim asks that the men carrying his daughters be allowed to ride next to him.

At the top of the trail, they are stopped by a handful of men. One of them, Freosel, Freobeorn’s son, hails them, offering to let them live if they retreat. He says they are from the village of Falshire, which Fengbald burned to the ground (along with these men’s wives and children, way back in Book 1, The Dragonbone Chair). Fengbald orders his troops forward. Freosel and his group draw heavy mallets and start pounding the ice. They, along with Helfgrim (whose brother was mayor of Falshire and killed by Fengbald) had prepared this trap for Fengbald. The ice cracks and Fenbald, Helfgrim, his daughters and the majority of Fengbald’s troops, fall in and drown.

And back to Maegwin.

Maegwin screams for the gods, Skali says her gods are dead and makes to grab her. Then a horn sounds and a troop comes riding in with various colors of armor (must be the Sithi). Skali’s men scramble and one of them konks Maegwin on the head.

And back to Simon.

Binabik, Qantaqa and Sisqi find Simon, sitting beside the guy who was pretending to be Fengbald. Simon is spent, physically, emotionally, spiritually. Binabik tells him it is over, the real Fengbald is dead, “though the price was high” and they get Simon up to walk him back. Simon says “I want to go home.”

Chapter 16: Torches in the Mud – Duke Isgrimnuer and Miriamele plan to rescue Tiamak from the ghants nest. Cadrach says he cannot go into the nest, that in reminds him too much of a place he has been before. They have Cadrach pole their boat out toward the nest where they capture and kill one, examining its armor to see how they can defend themselves against an entire nest of them.  They find that the shells can be pierced, and that ghants have no stingers or pincers. Instructing Cadrach to pole the boat to the middle and wait for them (with lots of threats from the Duke about hunting Cadrach down if he abandons them), Isgrimnur, Camaris (who I’d forgotten about, he hadn’t been mentioned in this chapter until this point) and Miri find an entrance big enough and they enter.

It stinks.

They go through tunnels that seem to loop back on each other, kill one ghant, and then get stuck and un-stuck in the ooze. They scare and follow a group of ghants, and come to a vast center chamber with hundreds and hundreds of ghants, humming. And in the middle is Tiamak, in some kind of trance with strange words coming out of his mouth.

As Isgrimnur tries to think up a plan, Camaris heads toward Tiamak, swinging his torch. Isgrimnur goes after him, telling Miri to stay near the tunnel with her torch held high so that they can find their way back. But of course, MIRI NEVER LISTENS. She puts two torches near the entrance and heads after the Duke, nearly getting overwhelmed by ghants before Isgrimnur grabs her on the way back, Camaris trailing him with Tiamak in tow.

They are pursued, lose their way, and then are surrounded by ghants. Isgrimnur decides to go through the walls, and kicks a hole through the nest. Miri gets the Duke and Camaris’ shirts, lights them from their torches and sticks them in the hole, which scares the ghants from following them.

The group follows tunnels that lead up, kick a few more walls in, and then find daylight and are out. Cadrach and the boat are nowhere to be found. The ghants surround them again, and, just as they are about to fight, fiery balls shoot toward the ghants. Cadrach used some of his alchemy skilz and made weapons out of the palm oil leaves. After a few well places missiles, the crew jumps down, gets into the boat and escapes, leaving the flaming nest behind.

This ends Part 1, the longest re-read post in the series (as this part has more pages than any other). The re-read for Part 2 of this book starts here.

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!

Review of SLEEPING LATE ON JUDGEMENT DAY posted on SFSignal

Review of SLEEPING LATE ON JUDGEMENT DAY posted on SFSignal

My review of Sleeping Late on Judgement Day, the third novel in Tad Williams’ Bobby Dollar series, was posted at SFSignal on Christmas Eve. Does that make it a Christmas miracle?

An excerpt:

In this the third (but doubtfully final) novel in the Bobby Dollar series, Williams has propped up many questions to be answered:

  • Who in Heaven has it in for Dollar and why?
  • Who is Bobby? Or rather who was he when he was alive? And does who he was in real life have anything to do with Why these things keep happening to him?
  • Who is Clarence really and who is he spying for?
  • Why don’t the all knowing powers of Heaven smite him down for his recent trip to Hell.

It is difficult to do world building in a known world. The tropes of Heaven and Hell are well known and have been written to death (poor pun intended). But Williams does create a unique vision where Heaven is not all knowing, is certainly not perfect and is prone to insurgencies just like any other Kingdom.

He’s built this world around a rouge angel who is now an advocate for the dead but used to be in the Navy Seal part of the angel corps. Dollar curses, drinks, is sometimes irreverent and always sarcastic.

“That’s not an excuse, or rather it is an excuse. Yes, I drink more than I should, and if I didn’t have a very fit angel’s body which could heal a deep wound in twenty-four hours or less, I’m sure my liver would be in a jar somewhere in a medical museum, next to Rasputin’s famous kielbasa and Einstein’s deli-sliced brain.” (pg 197)

The rules of this world and the character of Dollar are what makes this series interesting. The closest character that I’ve seen to Dollar is Constantine though there are some marked differences. Both are irreverent but Dollar shows a certain respect and fear for what those in charge in Heaven would do to him if he’s caught breaking the rules. Their motivations are different as well, as Dollar gets in trouble just trying to save his demon girlfriend, and trying to have more hot demon sex (can I say that out loud here on SFSignal?)

Henceforth details of the first two books will be included, thus noted for spoiler avoidance.

Dollar has survived Hell only to have lord of Hell Eligor trick him and keep both his girlfriend and the angel feather. The angel feather was part of a pact with some unknown angel and Eligor to create a “Third Way”, a place outside of Heaven and Hell for souls. And Dollar’s best friend Sam, who has made himself scarce as of late due to his own involvement in the “Third Way”, could have the answers that Bobby seeks.

After a drunken stupor, Dollar realizes that Eligor must have exchanged something to the angel for the feather and that whoever the angel is that is Eligor’s partner in crime has been sending nasty things Bobby’s way to try and kill him. Dollar tries to figure out both mysteries: who is the powerful angel doing these things behind Heaven’s back and where is the item Eligor traded for the feather? And can Dollar use it to get his girlfriend back?

Click here for the entire review.

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