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

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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!

IV. Mistwraith's Bane

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

Asandir and Dakar are already waiting in front of the West Gate when Arithon and Lysaer come through. Asandir realises the princes had been touched by the shadows of Mearth and are now in grave peril. "The shadows' geas bound the mind to madness."

They take the princes to an abandoned woodcutter's cottage and Asandir immediately attends to Arithon - to Dakar's dismay, who believes Arithon to be a criminal or an outcast, because of the evidence of recent and brutal captivity clearly shown on his body. Despite being told to look at the blade Arithon carries, Dakar refuses to acknowledge it, sticking to his already made opinion of a peasant carrying a Paravian blade and tends to Lysaer who had suffered nothing worse than desert exposure.

We have a mention over here, of the Paravian races.

Athera's oldest races were called The Paravians. They were 3: the unicorns, the centaurs and the sun children. And they all had vanished after the Mistwraith's conquest of Athera's skies. They play an important role in the series so we need to remember them.

Saddened by the obvious abuse a royal son of s'Ffalenn had been subjected to because the sight itself "was an offence", and wanting to know why it came to be, Asandir first asked forgiveness for the past, then attempted to probe Arithon's mind with his own. He realised that Arithon was mage trained and his strength was considerable, if his defences extended beyond waking perception (while passed out cold).

Note the name here: Arithon – the Paravian root of meaning was "‘forger', not of metals but of destiny". Important because it also foreshadows what will come.

Also note that Asandir attacks Arithon's defences with the force he would have accorded a near equal. – Again a hint of how strong Arithon really is.

Once he breaches the defences, Asandir recognises the geas of Mearth's curse. It bent the mind into endless circles around a man's most painful memory, until the victim was either driven insane or into amnesia. Arithon's most painful memory represented the death of his father.

Pay attention here and you will see that this neatly connects with the memories pulled forward during the delirium, as well as the discussion with healer before his trial.

King Avar is dying and regrets calling his son away from Rauven. And Arithon denies it: "Fate witness, you were right to call me!" But deep inside, under that denial is a whole cartload of self-doubt. If he hadn't been called, he would have never needed "to face the anguished choice: to withhold from misuse of master conjury and to count that scruple's cost in lives his unrestricted powers could have spared."

He could have used sorcery and destroyed the Amroth fleet, but he didn't! He didn't use his power directly to harm. And the result was the death of everything he held most dear!

All these fragments of the past scattered within the first few chapters will need to be picked up and placed together the same way you'd make a huge puzzle. Only after gathering them all will you be able to get a complete picture.

After Asandir snapped off the cycle provoked by Mearth's curse, he sorted through Arithon's memories to see what he has to work with. And here we get another good insight into the prince's character makeup as well as the first hint to the inborn powers he had been gifted with.

"Arithon was a man multiply gifted, a mage-trained spirit tailored by grief to abjure all desire for ruling power." (The why of it should be already clear by now.) "Scarred by his severe s'Ffalenn conscience and haunted past healing by his mother's s'Ahelas foresight, Arithon would never again risk the anguish of having to choose between the binding restraints of arcane knowledge and the responsibilities of true sovereignty."

Simply put, Arithon is:

  1. A gifted mage
  2. Has a severe s'Ffalenn conscience
  3. Is haunted by s'Ahelas foresight (from his mother's side)

All of these added to his mastery of shadow.

To note: 2 different traits from 2 different royal lines. Do all the royal lines come with specific traits? We'll come back to it. Also, as the s'Ahelas foresight came from Arithon's mother – has Lysaer also been gifted with it? We'll come back to it.

Arithon was the last living heir to the Kingship of Rathain, a land divided in strife since the Mistwraith had drowned the sky. The hopes of generations filled with sorrow were resting on Arithon stepping up and accepting the crown for his people. The balance of an age was resting on the prince's choice and Asandir didn't want to take chances. He could not release the prince from Kingship so he tried to at least grant piece of mind and a chance for acceptance. For this purpose only, he blocked all of Arithon's memories that were making kingship incompatible with magecraft. A temporary block only as The Law of the Major Balance which founded his power didn't allow him to interfere directly into mortal lives.

Note the fine line Asandir walked here: he didn't fully block the memories, so he didn't interfere directly. He controlled only the recognition and allowed Arithon to not be aware in full of his awaiting fate until he could be offered the guidance to manage his gifts by the Fellowship of the Seven. – Why would he need help managing those gifts so that he can accept the kingship? – We'll come back to it later. And was Asandir right to do it?

Note how Dakar had already formed an opinion of Arithon and doesn't want to change it even when he is holding Alithiel in his hands as proof.

It is here that we get the first good look at Alithiel: "Ath! That's Alithiel, one of the twelve swords forged at Isaer from the cinder of a fallen star." So Alithiel is one of 12 particular swords forged from the cinder of a fallen star. More to come about her in the next chapter!

Asandir tries to explain to a confused Dakar what unexpected tangle the prophecy had spun, by bringing to Athera 2 princes instead of one. And here we get another clue to the inborn powers of the brothers as well as their connection to the Fellowship, through their ancestors.

"Our princes are half-brothers through s'Ahelas on the distaff side. The affinity for power Sethvir once nurtured in that line has evolved unselectively on Dascen Elur, to the point where direct elemental mastery was granted to unborn children, all for a bride's dowry... Elemental mastery of Light and Shadow granted intact upon conception."

Note: Sethvir nurtured the affinity for power in the s'Ahelas line!! Did Sethvir grant that line the powers? Or is there more behind it? And what about the s'Ahelas foresight? – More to come!

Also, Asandir remarks that only one of the princes understands his gifts and that "Athera's sunlight might be perilously bought." And note that "Man's meddling created the Mistwraith. And by the tenets of Law of the Major Balance, mortal hands must achieve its defeat." Pay attention to these details! Mortal hands and lack of understanding – Important!

As soon as Arithon awakes, he recognises the presence of Asandir as a "power greater than any he had ever known... One strong enough to found a Worldsend gate or bind added lifespan arcanely into water" and warns Lysaer that he's expecting their benefactors to have a reason for their kindness.

Note here the difference between the brothers: Arithon - sure of himself and instantly taking charge, Lysaer – shoved in beyond his depth and resentful of having to rely on charity and a former enemy's judgement. Note: former enemy!! – Is he starting to trust or admitting he may have been wrong in his assumptions?

The first meeting of Asandir with the brothers allows another glimpse at the 'level of power' wielded by Asandir, and the Fellowship by extension: "the blinding presence of the infinite".

Important: When Asandir rebukes Arithon's thanks for the hospitality, Arithon kneels and begs forgiveness assuring he didn't want to slight - fact which causes Lysaer's outrage and Dakar's shock. Why? Is it because a prince doesn't kneel before a sorcerer? Or something else?

Everyone tries to make Lysaer feel included by switching from the Paravian language they initially used (language known on Dascen Elur as the Old Tongue) to the common tongue (on both worlds) and he eases up, while Arithon tenses. By now he had already decided: "his magecraft and his music will not be sacrificed to the constraints of duty a second time." To cover his intent with distraction he keeps the initiative and provokes. He wants to know who Davien is and he is making it clear to Asandir that he is aware his memories had been gone through.

We are told that Davien was once a sorcerer of Athera's Fellowship of Seven who opposed his fellow sorcerers and overthrew the Order of the High Kings because he had judged mortal men unfit to reign in dynastic succession. – Important detail! To remember for later!

Unsatisfied with the answer, Arithon demands more by provoking again, driving Lysaer to outright anger because of his lack of diplomacy. Lysaer's accusation, of Arithon not having learned any diplomacy whatsoever as heir of Karthan, drives Arithon in turn to remember his past suffering, but in doing so, he encounters the memory block set by Asandir. Puzzled and angry at having his self-command stolen from him, he fights the block (without result) till he passes out.

Note that Arithon realises he is being lied to and is angry at not being given a choice. He now has to accompany Asandir to Althain Tower to meet the rest of the Fellowship of Seven and see for himself the ruin caused by the Mistwraith.

Also note that the realisation that Asandir had placed Arithon under mind block because "he had an excellent reason" only hammers down Dakar's already formed opinion that the s'Ffalenn is not to be trusted. He adds this detail to an almost formed prophecy he had been driven to while holding Alithiel and makes up his mind. – Important to see how this will play out later.

Overview

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

Grithen, a clansman and the 14th heir of a deposed earl, huddles in a cleft overlooking a mountain pass in the wilds of Camris.

Survival there came dear for the clans, hedged by storm and starvation, a contrast to the comfortable life of the townspeople in Erdane, led by the Mayor who now ruled the former Earl's castle.

500 years ago, an uprising had swept Erdane in the wake of the High King's fall. The earl was slaughtered in his bed and his people fled looking for refuge in the wilds struggling to survive while haunted by both winter storms and the headhunter's horns.

Hunted like animals with bounties on their heads, the clansmen allowed their hearts to fill with hatred and turned to ambushing and raiding caravans heading to town as a means of survival. They would defend clan honour with their lives and await the prophesized return of their long lost s'Ilessid High King. Because there lay the true measure of their birthright!

Note that Grithen is ordered to hold back the raid because a bard rides with the caravan. And the bard is friend to the clan protected by guest oath. – Important detail! Honour and oaths! They are important to the clans.

Preview

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

The half-brothers are working together and fighting the Mistwraith. Training for what's to come, under Asandir's supervision. They are all on the way to Althain Tower, where Sethvir awaits and the Fellowship of Seven will convene.

Note that Asandir and his colleague are hoping the princes will be able to "mend the rift between townsman and barbarian" – but risk is involved because of Dakar's newest prophecy foreshadowing future trouble.

Remember: Dakar didn't want to have that prophecy! He refused it by breaking contact with the sword! – Important. What if he hadn't?

Envoys

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

Elaira is sent to Erdane as messenger.

A raven is sent from Althain Tower and the raven is guided by a geas.

Asandir receives warning from a colleague that one pack of Khadrim has escaped.

Khadrim – flying fire-breathing reptiles that were the scourge of the Second Age. By the Third Age they had been driven back and confined in a warded preserve in the volcanic peaks in North Tysan.

Note: Khadrim are flying fire-breathing reptiles, NOT dragons.