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

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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!

VII. Pass of Orlan

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

The morning after Arithon's escapade at the Four Ravens, Asandir, in the wake of Sethvir's advice, orders the party on the way again. Note that on the way, they stop for a night at a tavern that once had been a hospice tended by Ath's Adepts in the past. Ath's adepts' connection to the mysteries became sullied after the conquest of the Mistwraith. The link that preserved the connection was lost along with the Riathan Paravians, and the conclaves of the adepts are in decline.

Note how frustrated and troubled Lysaer still is; hating the fate that left him closeted at the whim of a sorcerer in the fusty lodgings of a second rate roadside tavern! Since too much quiet let him brood over the undermining losses of his banishment, he tries to entertain himself by keeping Arithon company. Notice here, that what Lysaer assumes about Arithon, the beliefs about his attitude and his past played as gambits to draw Arithon into sympathetic conversation - are wrong! Arithon's corrections are mild, understated, and true. He does in fact share confidences. But when Lysaer concludes his upbringing and setbacks must have made him cynical, Arithon is startled into surprise - and states otherwise. A great deal is said between the lines, here, about Arithon's inner self, and how he was seen by others, even in his past circumstances where people supposedly knew him. Take note of which questions he chooses to answer for Lysaer, and which he rejects. Why?

After two days of travel, the riders reach Standing Gate, a rock arch carved ages past by centaurs into the likeness of the twins who founded their royal dynasty. (this little 'detail' thrown into this book is, in fact, Janny's 'tribute' to Tolkien. It is the only one for this author - there are others, to other great authors' works) Standing Gate marked the upward ascent to the high valley Pass of Orlan, sole access through the mountains to the lands of the east.

Arithon discovers they are watched but Asandir isn't worried. He had expected them to be watched but feared no consequences as their party wasn't town-born.

Arithon connects the watchers to the clans of Tysan and, because he is wanting to test how greatly his fate is entangled, and in a ploy aimed to force the Fellowship's hand - he gets Asandir to confirm that the Camris clans were subject to the High King of Tysan. The old Earls of Erdane had sworn fealty to the high king and their descendants will follow the tradition. Too bad no one had informed Lysaer about it though – because he's in for big surprise!

Note how, at Arithon's warning that trouble is to come in the pass, Lysaer requests a sword but Asandir denies it. "When you have need of a weapon you shall be given one." - Why? Does Lysaer also have a sword like Alithiel waiting for him to claim it? Or is it something more? Perhaps Asandir is afraid of Lysaer's rashness?

Arithon decides to trigger the watchers and forges ahead, purposefully attracting attention to provoke. His ruse works and, while making himself an isolated target by cutting the ice from his mare's shoes, his ruse works too well. He is ambushed by Grithen, who had been laying in wait.

Why did he recklessly push on with aggression? Because he had to do something about Lysaer! The prince had too much character to meet any threat with complacency. He was too prideful to submit to a threat. His lack of fear before danger would force the clansmen to harm him before capture. Arithon counters the mounting problem he's created by allowing himself to be captured, allowing danger to himself to drive Lysaer to surrender without coming to harm, as well as smoking out the fact that the clans would discover Lysaer's connection to them, both granting Lysaer what he sorely wished to recover (sovereign rule) and also, testing the Fellowship's commitment to Arithon's posited connection to Rathain.

Note how angry Lysaer is. Driven to white-hot rage because he knows that, despite being infuriatingly obstinent and reticent, secretive and odd, Arithon is not evil. His motives before exile had likely not been founded in malice and he was kin after all. Kin and also "the only other in this mist-cursed world who recalled that Lysaer had been born a prince." He is both angered by the ambush of what looks like bandits, and worried about his half-brother's fate and when he sees that the barbarian clans had captured Arithon, bound him hand and foot and hung him upside down over a cliff, he forgets that he no longer holds any royal authority and challenges.

He demands a trial of single combat as settlement for honor and when he is denied, he even threatens to have everyone put to the sword. Every inch the prince despite having lost his kingdom, embarrassed to recall he has no honor guard to make good his threat to the clansmen, Lysaer relents at Asandir's urge and dismounts to negotiate with the barbarians.

Grithen resents it that his prisoners are not cowed and threatens them, but his hand is stayed by the clan elder, Lord Tashan. Asandir makes use of the moment and orders Lysaer to reveal his face, hidden under his hood. The masks come off: Recognizing the bloodline they were sworn to serve, the barbarians kneel before their Teir's'Ilessid, the scion of the high kings of Tysan.

Note Lysaer's shock at the reveal. – Asandir hadn't told him. Why? Astonished, Lysaer kept his feet and his bearing through unbending royal pride only. Once he recovered, he asked for his half-brother to be restored to him and surrendered his judgement over Grithen to Asandir, because anger might bias his opinion. – Important detail! Lysaer knows he may not be just in his judgement because of anger and he doesn't want to pass a wrong sentence.

In turn, Asandir relinquishes the claim, because the Fellowship pass no judgement upon men, assuring Lysaer that Lady Maenalle, Steward of Tysan, who had been dispensing the King's justice in the absence of her liege through the last two decades, would be more than qualified to adjudicate.

Important detail to note: In the absence of the High Kings, the clans appointed Stewards (who are much more than second in command, wait for it), to uphold the high king's law and preserve the old tradition in the absence of their sovereign. Lady Maenalle is Steward of Tysan and you will get to know the others also as we go.

An Arrival

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

Lady Maenalle herself greets the party at the head of the valley. She rides to meet Asandir in full state finery, holding a spring briar in her hand, a thorn branch that symbolized the centuries of royal absence and the clans' bitter exile into the wilds. Asandir accepts the branch and engages his arts, bringing the branch to life until it sprouts a flawless summer rose – the symbol of a renewal.

Introductions are made and Lysaer expects shock and hostility because Lady Maenalle's office would be now supplanted by his kingship, he cannot imagine anyone choosing to relinquish that sovereign power. Instead, he is greeted with relief and hailed as "light of our hope made real". And then he is swept from the saddle, embraced and pummeled on the back with rough cut camaraderie by every single clansman around.

Note how flustered Lysaer is and how bruised in dignity. He was accustomed with royal property maintained even between friends and didn't know how to deal with the absolute abandonment of decorum exhibited by the clansmen.

Once the company reaches the clan lord's west outpost, Lady Maenalle asks to speak to Asandir alone. She wants to know if she can shed her office along with her tabard, now that her Liege Lord has arrived. But Asandir advises against it. "The Seven have not yet formally sanctioned Lysaer's accession to Tysan's crown."Important detail! The Fellowship sanction the high kings!

Lysaer's official sanction for royal succession must be withheld until full sunlight is restored. And no guarantee can be given that the half-brothers will emerge from the battle with the Mistwraith unscathed. After all, one of Asandir's Fellowship colleagues, who barred South Gate against the mist first invasion, was left broken and lame by his act.

Another important detail! – The Mistwraith invaded through the South Gate and one of the Fellowship sorcerers managed to seal that gate before more horrors than the already existing ones came through.

"The Seven will guard the safety of both princes to the limit of their power and diligence", but cannot guarantee the outcome itself. Why? Are they not powerful enough, or, if they hold the power, what restraint prevents them?

A Return

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

Elaira returns to the Order and is informed by a novice initiate that "The Prime Enchantress is displeased" and is awaiting her. She enters the Council Chamber where Morriel Prime holds audience and discovers she was not to be submitted to an inquiry for her escapade. Instead, she will face the formal closed trial reserved for enchantresses who broke their vows of obedience.

First Enchantress Lirenda, clad in judiciary black and veiled in muslin, stood in attendance as Ceremonial Inquisitor. This type of judgement was called only for initiates who had committed a major offense and Elaira cannot understand the reason for it. She is accused of having disgraced the Order by stooping to scour brothels and taprooms for knowledge of events and forsaking all ethics. She is Ordered to submit for questioning by the Skyron Focus. This crystal, although nowhere near the power of the lost Great Waystone, would make any inquiry directed through its matrix impossible to defy. The initiates judged guilty would be stripped of the self-awareness that defined their individuality.

The scenes from the hayloft are pried out of her memory through the focus of the Skyron jewel and picked through in embarrassing detail. Every word and every line was replayed and dissected to underlying nuance and then cross-checked again against her reflections on the return journey. Luckily, the initiate on watch had not noticed Elaira's visit to the seeress' house, but the First Enchantress Lirenda suspects more. In an attempt to thwart Lirenda's invasive probe, knowing that she wouldn't withstand a second interrogation without revealing the conversation with Asandir, Elaira rebels and asks for her judgement to be passed and her punishment to be given without delay, arguing that her doings in Erdane had been prompted by "nothing beyond an ill-advised quest after knowledge."

The Prime relents and sends Elaira off with a warning. She is now in disgrace and must dissociate herself from the Prince of Rathain and dedicate herself to the Order. Her actions will be weighted from that moment onward until the Prime sees fit to issue a verdict. In other words, she is declared on probation. Deeply worried by the ramifications of Morriel's suspended verdict, Elaira remembers the warning Enithen Tuer gave her: 'You don't need a seer to tell your future's just branched into darkness.' – Was this what she meant? Or is more coming?

Portents

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

Meth-snakes are escaping Mirthlvain Swamp.

Far in the North-West, under a tent pitched in a forest, a scar-faced barbarian chieftain tosses under a prescient dream in which he sees the face of his king, as well as the blood of his own death.

Four tall towers stand on a wild stretch of grassland, next to the ruins of a shattered fifth one.