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

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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!

This Chapter is again very dense and contains a lot of information that will set the course for the rest of this volume, as well as for the rest of the series as a whole. You need to pay attention here!

IX. Althain Tower

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

The morning after the royal feast, Asandir and his party are getting ready for departure. Note Lysaer's relief at being quit of the company of subjects he found disturbing, relief covered under flawless manners. And note how those manners are impressing the clansmen who believe him a worthy prince because he is pleasant to serve even after roused at dawn on the heels of a celebration. Also take note of Maien (Maenol s'Gannley), Maenalle's grandson who serves Lysaer as a page here. – He'll play an important part later.

Arithon is furious. He wanted to seek an audience with Maenalle to speak in Grithen's behalf. He feels responsible, having baited the man for his own objective, and Grithen's punishment is heavy for an offense not entirely of his own making. During Maenalle's approach to say farewell, he takes the opportunity to plead the man's case but is rebuffed by the lady because: "Tysan's scouts do not act for personal vengeance. No matter what the provocation, they are forbidden to take hostages. We are not like Rathain's clans, to extort coin and cattle for human lives. For breaking honor Grithen must answer... The code than condemns him is one that upholds clan survival."

At her answer Arithon presses for an explanation for the lady's disapproval of the clans of Rathain, Arithon's future subjects. He is told that the trade city of Etarra rules, in Rathain. "Feud between clanborn and townsman is pitiless there. In the eastlands the governor's council can execute a man for the offense of singing the wrong ballad."

Nettled Arithon declares he may never lay claim to his title and lands and Maenalle asks him: "Would you risk the perception that inspires your talent, by hardening your heart against need?"Important! By hardening his heart Arithon may risk the perception inspiring his talent! What does it mean? We'll come back to it.

Maenalle's last advice to the future prince of Rathain is very important to understand the plight that Arithon is supposed to solve: "there can be no remedy for Etarra, except to raze it clean to the ground."

In a hurry to reach the destination, Asandir sets a grueling pace normal horses could not have withstood. He is using magecraft to sustain the animals' strength by depleting himself. Note Lysaer's irritation because he is the only one who didn't notice the magecraft, as well as his jealousy at the fact that his half-brother perhaps might be able to do the same. At Lysaer's concern that Asandir won't be able to keep it up much longer, Dakar explains that the limits of a Fellowship sorcerer are unknown. He himself has studied with them for centuries and doesn't know. – Important detail about Dakar's age: he is centuries old.

The journey from Camris to Althain Tower should take 6 full days of hard riding, but as the night falls, that very same day, Asandir brings his charges to a power focus within a grove. "We stand at the center of the Great Circle of Isaer, build in the First Age to channel earthforce to guard the halls of the earliest Paravian kings. Those defenseworks are long vanished, yet the circle itself was maintained, at least until the conquest of Desh-thiere."

Important detail to notice: These Power Circles are found in different places on Athera. They are used to channel the energy of the lanes for different purposes, including travel from one circle to another. Althain Tower is also build above such a power point.

Travel through the energy lanes from one circle to another is disorienting, so Asandir gives the princes spelled wine: to ease Lysaer from the upset of passage, and to prevent Arithon's trained sensitivity from perceiving too deeply. Arithon is unconscious throughout the transfer, and unaware of his arrival. Afterward, immersed in spell-wrought sleep, his enchanter's sensitivity starts to reawaken, and by training, his semi-conscious awareness aligns to the etheric energy of his surroundings. In the dream state, he has a vision of Mirthlvain Swamp and Verrain, and his awareness picks up the connection to the Sorcerers gathered at Althain Tower. Before he can see more, or immerse in the energy flow of the Seven's working, Sethvir's gentle touch to gathers his consciousness back in.

Arithon snaps awake. Too stressed for sleep, too aware of the peril ongoing at Mirthlvain Swamp, he seeks Sethvir, Traithe, Asandir and Dakar deep in council., where the sorcerers were channeling the earthforce of the Third Lane through the focus point of the brazier. Given warning of the danger posed by the meth-snakes migrating to escape, he offers his help. The sorcerers are shorthanded, and the combined strength required to eradicate the threat is daunting, so they accept.

The prince is asked to lend support to Dakar, from trance and unconditionally; and despite the risk of having the life wrung out of him in an instant if the conjury goes wrong, Arithon accepts.

Note Sethvir's dismay at Arithon's reaction: it gives the first clear cut insight into Arithon's determination: both his willingness to test Asandir's promise that his free will is his own, and also hints at some underlying traits in his nature, that forcefully drives his choices. "Our Teir's'Ffalenn has the sensitivity imbued in his forefather's line, but none of the protections. His maternal inheritance of farsightedness lets him take no step without guilt, for he sees the consequences of his every act, and equally keenly feels them."

Arithon is farsighted. He sees the consequences of his actions (trait from his mother's side) and he FEELS the consequences of his actions (trait from his father's side). – More will be added to the explanation later on.

To the above observations Sethvir makes, we have another added by Asandir: "A prior conflict between ruling power and trained awareness of the mysteries has already broken Arithon's peace of mind." So the mages consider setting him free from the obligation of kingship, allowing him to pursue his gifts and seek Rathain's prince among his heirs.

To have a clear image of the consequences of such a choice, they decide to cast an augury to examine the matter after the meth-snakes have been dealt with. Note Dakar's dismay at having been given Arithon's complete trust and surrender; his anger because the prince had so carelessly set everything that he was in danger; and ultimately his gall because Sethvir chose to lay extra protective wards on Arithon's awareness to make sure he will pass unscathed through the trial. "It's not as if he gave a whistle for the land or the people, or even a spit over principles." Note how his opinion once formed doesn't change even at Sethvir's gentle rebuke: "You misunderstand the man gravely."Important to see how it plays out later.

The three sorcerers in Althain Tower use Dakar, and by extension Arithon, as a bridge to channel the raw force of the Third Lane into the power focus at Meth Isle, where the spellbinder Verrain recaptures it and sends it forward to the remaining two Fellowship sorcerers to stabilize and strengthen the defense wards laid around the swamp to stop the meth-snakes.

The trick is to do it in such a way that the Third Lane energies don't disturb those of the Fifth Lane in the area of the swamp, as energy will inevitably react to energy, and at the same time, retain enough awareness to not be swept within the channeled raw energy flow. Once the wards are strengthened and stable, they are passed into the care of only one of the two sorcerers on site, Luhaine once called the Defender, while the other, Kharadmon, engages his powers and burns the meth-snakes trying to escape the warded circle.

The energy flow is too strong and Verrain falters, due to exhaustion and over-extension. Dakar, being in close connection with Verrain, notices and gives warning just in time for Asandir to snap the flow and divert the Third Lane energy back into its normal channel, before it can collide with that of the Fifth Lane and bring disaster. The defense wards around the swamp also fail as the energy flow is cut, but Kharadmon had managed to destroy most of the meth-snakes by that time and should be able to track down and eradicate the remaining ones.

The crisis is averted and both prophet and prince need to be carried to their beds. Arithon is not bound to wake for a few days until he recovers.

Strands

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

The evening of that very same day, all the remaining sorcerers of the Fellowship of Seven gather in the upper chamber of Althain Tower: Sethvir, Asandir, Traithe and the two discorporate sorcerers who had held the wards at Meth Isle, Luhaine and Kharadmon. Two of the Seven are not present; Davien is in exile, and Ciladis remains lost since his failed search for the vanished Paravians.

They summon Dakar with the intent of setting him into a drug induced trance, then letting his native gift of prescience divine the strands of all possible futures determined by the conquest of Desh-thiere by the brothers.

The Fellowship sorcerers interpret the strands, which are charged energetically to map future probability, at a glance. They instantaneously measure the mathematical patterns to assess changes that spring from alternate sets of events, with even the tiniest nuance made plain. Dakar enters into trance, the sorcerers raise their power, imbue the strands with the properties of everything that will be in play, major force to minor detail, then call forth the projection of the events that may occur.

For those of you who want to know the how, here is the exact method the Seven used to enable the Strands. NOTICE this sequence:

- First, they draw a clean line of pure energy: "Power gathered in the hands of Asandir. Above the dark velvet he spun a rod of energy, a glimmer like a line of veiled starlight. To this he added a second then a third, ach for the triad of mysteries that embodied Prime Power and underlay all Athera's theeming life."

- they INFLECT it with Name so the 'essence and energy' is imprinted: "Next he added two score lesser lengths, to which Sethvir assigned names in a Paravian ritual that summoned the essence of the ruler, place, or power and stamped it's quickened current on the spell. The strands assumed identity and altered, each according to assigned nature."

- they refine these, layer on layer: "To cities, human consciousness and natural forces were added individuals, and After this plants, animals and natural elements until a geometric lattice glimmered above the velvet backdrop, an entire world's interlinked complexity recorded in precise proportion and line."

- and then the mathematical proportion and line creates PATTERNS that will change if any single energy is shifted - course, direction, depth of power, degree of change - all interpreted in mathematical proportion and line. "The strands were superlatively sensitive. Each would react as its nature dictated, mapping even minute shifts of balance with pinpoint accuracy."

And the Fellowship interpret it ALL at a glance....

Here are the three main paths they see:

  1. Desh-thiere is conquered; Lysaer unites the towns, makes war to claim all the wild lands for the mayors and finally eradicates all the barbarian clans; while Arithon flows from place to place dedicated only to music and under the shade of persecution.
  2. The Fellowship kills the princes to preserve peace, the Mistwraith remains and there is no war, but the Paravians will perish.
  3. Arithon is charged to accept Rathain's crown, coronation takes place in Etarra, Arithon's futures develops into a jagged line of anguish that peaks repeatedly but endures, Lysaer STILL rouses the townborn to war; a great schism tears the width of the continent with strife predominant; and the Paravians survive.

A conclusion is drawn: that the Mistwraith itself lies at the root of the future conflict, but ONLY that future holds the assurance of Paravian survival. The nature of the Mistwraith (it emerged from offworld) and the unknown extent of it blinds the Seven to the knowledge required to prevent that dark turn from happening. In the end, the Fellowship inclines toward freeing Arithon from crown obligation, as the powers of sovereignty are best not involved in the oncoming probability of strife, But as they frame that decision, Dakar, under the expansive influence of narcotic herb, has another prophecy that alters the impact of EVERYTHING (This is the Black Rose Prophecy and it will affect the entire series):

"Davien the Betrayer shall hear no reason, nor bow to the Law of the Major Balance; neither shall the Fellowship be restored to Seven until the Black Rose grows wild in the vales of Daon Ramon."

"Black Rose! But none exists,"

"There will be one. The briar will take root on the day that Arithon s'Ffalenn embraces kingship."

It is here that we get the first insight into the Fellowship's buildup. The Seven cannot be replaced! Even if they take apprentices, those would never be able to replace one of the original Seven. Why? - The explanation will come!

Dakar's prophecy, added to the viable destiny of the Paravians, seals Arithon's fate. The Fellowship are compelled to take option 3. They will charge Arithon with Rathain's kingship and set every possible safeguard to minimize the upcoming conflict.

Since four of the five realms of Athera will lie under threat of dissent, the Seven take steps to see that the 5th, the Kingdom of Havish, will maintain stability against the upcoming disaster.

If Lysaer chooses to claim sovereignty of Tysan, he must do so without Fellowship sanction. Maenalle will be informed and, as Tysan's steward, charged with upholding the safety of the clans, for whom redoubled bloodshed has been foreseen.

The meeting concluded Asandir and Sethvir attend the task of spellwarding the crown jewels of Rathain to ensure that their endowed powers would not augment Arithon's gifts to the point of becoming unmanageable. The crown jewels for each kingdom, had been cut by the Paravian artisans of Imarn Adaer, each one as a power focus tuned to the descendants of their respective royal lines. But the master's training given Arithon by the Dascen Elur mages has already enabled his finer perceptions, without need of such focus to enable him.

At the last, the Sorcerers are not concerned the wards over the jewels' properties would fail, but that their prince dislikes baubles, and may unwittingly trade them for something inherently more practical! The subchapter ends with the sorcerers' impasse, given the expected headache of dealing with Dari s'Ahelas' descendants, who had herself been difficult the entire time Sethvir tutored her.

Artifacts

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

Lysaer wakes from the spelled sleep the next day after the strand casting and is welcomed to Althain Tower by Traithe, who was waiting in the princes' room, mending a broken bridle. Note how Lysaer still feels out of place, and how his self pity for the loss of his previous life.

Unsettled to find his half-brother is still asleep, then resentful he hadn't been called upon also during the past night's crisis, and once more bitter not to have been granted training to further his mastery over light; Lysaer welcomes Traithe's invitation to assist with a search in the storerooms, and pushes his dark thoughts aside.

Traithe is looking for the regalia of the Kings of Havish, to entrust to that realm's surviving heir, soon to be crowned under the necessity unveiled by the strand casting. Presently, Dakar joins them in search for food. His meddling mistakenly disturbs a wrapped package on a shelf. The contents prove to be the long lost Great Waystone of the Koriathain, sought by the Prime Matriarch and her witches for centuries. Stashed on the quiet at Althain Tower, the Stone's location has not been volunteered the Order. Sethvir would return it if asked to, but the Fellowship prefer the request never came. – Note: Lysaer witnesses the Waystone's location, and knows Dakar was aware of this, prior.

One last detail of note is Lysaer's reaction to the jewels of Havish. He is humbled by how very ancient the kingdoms on Athera are and muses upon the gravity of the royal accession awaiting him in comparison to the realm left behind on Dascen Elur. After humility, he is shamed to have dared to place judgment on the Camris barbarians without understanding their plight. He resolves, going forward, to rebuild trust with his half-brother, and do right by the Kingdom of Tysan by embracing a more nuanced concept of justice.

We are shown Traithe's deep sorrow because, due to the Mistwraith, the admirable quality of Lysaer's character may never come to flower.

Harbingers

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

Traithe rides out to look for the hidden heir to the Crown of Havish.

Kharadmon arrows east to measure and map the power base of the governor's council of Etarra.

Luhaine drifts west to bring dire warning of future events to Maenalle, steward of Tysan.

Please note: These books work ONLY if the reader does not skim or pass over stuff - the nuance is all there... and having the reader examine it at this early stage REALLY makes the volumes to come a truly explosive experience...