Curse of the Mistwraith - Summary with Highlights - Chapter Set II

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"Summary with Highlights" pages combine an in-depth plot summary with additional commentary about key details and language subtleties a reader might overlook. They are designed for readers who need a bit more direction in this challenging story, and have been reprinted here with the author's permission and Janny Wurts's blessing.

Spoiler warning: These pages are based on one person's reading experience and are not intended to be a purely impartial plot synopsis. Please be aware that the extra highlights might foreshadow events that happen later in the story or pull your eye towards a detail you'd prefer to discover on your own. Proceed with caution if you would rather have a completely unguided reading experience!

II. Sentence

Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from Curse of the Mistwraith.

After 20 days of sail, the warship Briane drops anchor in the harbour of Amroth's capital and the word of the s'Ffalenn's capture causes the nobles to start celebrating. Briane's first officer is rewarded generously with jewels and a dukedom and "the bastard sorcerer" is taken to the south keep's dungeons.

Arithon regains consciousness in the dungeon, as the drug he had been given for over two fortnights gradually weakens and he is overwhelmed by pain. Having received a master's training under the sorcerers at Rauven, he automatically reaches inward to assess his condition.

And here we are given a few details about a mage's training and the way magecraft is engaged. "Even small tricks of illusion required perfect integration of body and mind; a sorcerer held influence only over forces of lesser self-awareness." And "A mage who attempted to manipulate a superior force would incur backlash upon himself at the closing moment of contact."important details for our understanding of magecraft engaged in the future.

In his self-assessment, Arithon realises with horror that despite the fact he had sought to die, he has been brought to Amroth alive. "Instead of granting death, his captors had poisoned him, drugged him with a herb that ruined body and mind just to salve their king's demand for vengeance."

Making use of the training received at Rauven, he tries to dissolve the poison from his bloodstream, but the quantity is too high and Arithon collapses under the bodily torment of drug withdrawal and his thoughts unravel into delirium, engulfing him into past memories.

The first memory – five years prior to the present moment – the day the High Mage of Rauven, informed him that his father, Avar, King of Karthan, asked leave to name Arithon his successor. With a boy's exuberance and wild ambitions, Arithon dreams that day of going to Karthan and using magecraft to free the waters beneath the sand and help the land be green again, thus putting an end to the feud between the s'Ffalenn and s'Ilessid. Because, "with grain growing in the fields, the need for piracy and bloodshed will be ended."

The grandfather commends the boy's worthy ambition but warns him too. "Your talents are music and sorcery. Consider these for you have great potential. A king has no time for such arts. As a man who holds judgement over others, his life belongs wholly to his subjects." And all the while the raving Arithon rages at his younger self: "Fool!...you'll go only to fail."

The second memory – three years prior to the present moment – the day Arithon knelt before his grandfather's feet and renounced the mage training and the only home he had known and loved for 20 years, in favour of kingship and his father's inheritance. The boy's exuberance had toned down and wisdom was starting to grace the young man. This time he didn't really want to leave but HAD TO. "How dare I ignore such need? I might bring Karthan hope of lasting peace".

"Heed your heart, his present drug-tortured awareness pleaded. Karthan might be made fertile from shore to shore but Amroth will never be weaned from hatred. Would you suffer s'Ilessid vengeance for your mother's broken marriage vows?"

The third memory – same time three years prior – when Arithon accepted Avar's sword as token for his heirship and laid it down at the High Mage's feet pledging to go and restore peace in Karthan. And his granfather's last parting words: "My grandson, you chose responsibility above your inner talents. That is a difficult turning. Although men might be inspired by a bard or enchanter, they cannot be led by one. The master's mysteries you have learned at Rauven must never be used for political expedience, however pressing the temptation..."

And in the end, the last – the memory of Karthan's spoiled farmlands that were transformed much too slow and a last voyage undertaken to Rauven to beg the aid of another mage. The final battle that claimed King Avar's life and took Arithon's freedom and on the heels of it, the wrenching guilt because: "I used sorcery, as Ath is my witness. But never directly to murder. Not even to spare my liege lord."

This last scream of Arithon, in the throes of delirium, we can connect to the question in Chapter Set 1 (the discussion between the brothers in the sail hold - the provocation) and perhaps get an answer. – What guilt? For not using sorcery to kill even to save his father? For using sorcery and killing even if indirectly? We'll come back to it.

These memories are all important! They stand at the core of Arithon's behaviour and development as a character. And they are very easy to miss because the story in itself will make you want to rush reading. I missed them too at first read, and that did affect my understanding. There will come a time, in the future chapters, when Arithon's behaviour may seem to not make sense. At that time, you may need to return here.

The prison guards notice Arithon is raving and summon the king's healer. The healer realises the prisoner's life is in grave danger because of severe drug addiction and extremely high overdose and interrupts the King's banquet to inform his majesty. Angry because he may be cheated of the long-awaited revenge, the King demands the head of the one responsible for the administration of the drug.

Lysaer assumes responsibility arguing that the drug was the only way to prevent the prisoner from using his gift and, as the King cannot have the head of his own firstborn, he orders the healer to cure the prisoner's drug addiction and preserve his mind intact within a fortnight or answer with his life as well as that of Briane's healer, for the failure.

For 2 days the healer and his apprentices struggle to wean Arithon from the drug. After 2 days of suffering and agony, the drug is no longer necessary and Arithon, despite looking more dead than alive, is out of danger. From the drug that is, but not from the King's need of vengeance!

When Arithon triumphs over the drug and wakes, the healer, impressed with his patient's strength of character and resilience, wants to grant him TIME before the trial so that he can restore his strength as much as possible. But Arithon refuses and points out that if he's healed, it will only give the king more - he will be resilient enough to suffer longer. Weak, just out of his addiction - he can make an end of it faster. And here we get the answer to the previous questions (Arithon's scream, in the throes of delirium as well as that in Chapter Set 1)

"Arithon turned his head towards the wall, too fraught to frame his deepest fear: that grief and despair had unbalanced him. That his fragile grip on self-restraint might snap under further provocation and tempt him to an unprincipled attack through magecraft."

He is terrified of slipping and using his greater abilities to cause harm! He'd rather perish than live with that. This terror of causing harm is again another stone at the base of Arithon's build-up as a character. It will be better explained later on and we'll come back to it several times over during the series.

On the day appointed for his trial, Arithon is taken in front of the king. Despite being chained and almost skin and bones, Arithon taunts the king from the very first moment he faces him. He refuses to kneel and despite being beaten by guards he openly calls him a coward and reminds him about the wife that had deserted him in favour of his enemy. As the king's rage grows, so do the blows of the guardsmen on Arithon's already abused body increase in both number and ferocity. And Arithon doesn't defend himself. When asked why, he gives the reason: "I could talk the fish from the sea, your Royal Grace. You would hear nothing but the reflection of your own spite."

As the guards' mistreatment turns particularly cruel, Lysaer, who was observing from the margins, realises that Arithon was likely using his Rauven training to separate his mind from his body, which meant he must have felt no pain at all. Ashamed of the animal savagery exhibited in the court, Lysaer wants to leave. But just before he can duck through the door, a shadow appears in the empty air, in the middle of the court. A sending from Rauven, in the form of Talera, the king's former wife. Through her, the king is informed that, the same fate that befalls Arithon will be given in kind to Lysaer. Kill one and murder the other. Maim one and cripple the other.

Enraged, to appease Rauven and still get his revenge, the king sentences Arithon to exile through the Gate on the isle of Worldsend and brushes off the worry of his first-born son who suddenly fears that he may have to share the ordered exile.

Prelude

Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from Curse of the Mistwraith.

Do not miss the intro:
Ocean World Dascen Elur
Left unwatched for five score years
Shall shape from High Kings of Men
Untried arts in unborn hands.
This shall bring the Mistwraith's bane,
Free Athera's sun again.

Dakar's West Gate Prophecy - is revealing the beginning of our story. It is not a spoiler for the end because in this case, the end is only the beginning.

At Rauven, the clairvoyant informs the High Mage that the King of Amroth has chosen to banish Arithon through the Worldsend gate. The High Mage is clutching Avar's sword in his hands filled with inconsolable grief.

On Athera, a world far away, Sethvir of the Fellowship keeps the records at Althain Tower, listening to pretty much everything happening on Athera and beyond (thoughts, images, facts and occurrences) and penning stuff down, as the fancy strikes him, into documents to be archived.

He hears the clairvoyant's report and instantly focuses his attention on Rauven. "Power great enough to shatter mountains answered Sethvir's will. Faultlessly directed, it bridged the unimaginable gulf between worlds and retrieved the vision" of the High Mage clutching the sword. – That should tell us the kind of power Sethvir has at his disposal and may easily wield.

Sethvir knows the blade and remembers past events; pairs fact with circumstance and reaches a conclusion that makes him whoop like a boy and race to deliver it to his colleagues in the Fellowship of the Seven. Note that he does it by thought, not pen and paper.

In the time before the Mistwraith, three royal heirs from Athera had fled through the western Worldsend gate, seeking sanctuary from a rebellion which threatened their lives. That blade had been carried by one of the princes, who had been abandoned to their fate as their exile became permanent. After their flight, the Mistwraith's conquest banished all sunlight, covering the skies in fog, and the gates were directionally sealed on the promise of a madman's prophecy (see intro).

Sethvir recognised the High Mage of Rauven. He himself had trained the man's ancestor in the foundational arts of power. So he kept two and two together and reached the conclusion that Dakar's West Gate Prophecy was just being born.

Interlude

Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from Curse of the Mistwraith.

Meet Dakar everyone! Dakar the Mad Prophet and author of the West Gate Prophecy, delivered 500 years before the present day events.

A mixture between Kruppe and Pust with a lot more extra to top it off, Dakar is one of the most controversial characters ever written. I don't think you'll find 2 readers that share the same opinion when this particular character is involved. The only question is how you will feel about him.

Drunk and soaked to the skin, Dakar is collected in tow for a swift departure by Asandir of the Fellowship of the Seven. Asandir informs him that the prophecy is about to bear fruit, and they must reach the West Gate in time for the arrival of the prince(s – implied, since no number is specified, Dakar jumps to a hasty conslusion) destined to be the Mistwraith's bane.

The prophesied prince was sent through the Worldsend gate on Dascen Elur that very morning and was expected to pass through the West Gate on Athera in 5 days time, after crossing the Red Desert, the buffer world for this particular gate.

Dakar is wondering which of the royal princes is bound to arrive and bets on s'Ilessid. So now is the time to fill in the details regarding 'Athera's royal lines.

Three Worlds

Spoiler warning: Contains plot elements from Curse of the Mistwraith.

In this triplet again pay attention:

  1. The King of Amroth celebrates the exile of Arithon but fails to notice the absence of his own son
  2. A fountain in a desert
  3. An enchantress watching