So they’re underground, basically in Moria.
At any rate, they eat dinner, find some bedrooms, and Vilmos’ pretty magic companion tells him that Xith will be fine in the morning. And we still don’t know her name.
The next morning Vilmos and Xith have a warm reunion and catch up on what we missed, which isn’t much.
He could not remember much except that for a long time he had existed only in blackness (page 134).
Anyway, eventually some bright light (the magic companion) came and rescued him.
A couple days pass. Xith and Vilmos sit around not talking. Xith wishes he could explain more:
He wished he could explain to Vilmos everything he knew about what had happened to him and what would happen to him in the future, but he could not; there was so much that was taboo to speak of and so much that could change at any moment (page 135).
I really, really, really fucking hate that trope in books. Especially given that we are two and a third books through this goddamn series. TELL US WHAT IS GOING ON. You don’t have to tell everything! Lord of the Rings, chapter two, The Shadow of the Past, Gandalf sits Frodo down and is like, here’s the deal, Ring bad, Sauron bad, we need to do some shit about it. Boom. Now we have our framework for the rest of the story, we know Frodo and Gandalf and Sauron’s motivations. It’s not that fucking hard, Stanek.
Finally Vilmos confesses he’s worried he’s lost his magical touch. Xith laughs and says he’ll be fine and they practise together for a few hours until Vilmos can free his mind and tap into the Force and ignite some sticks Xith is holding.
Meanwhile, Amir wanders around and tries to make small talk with The Magic Companion, but she’s not interested and says she’s only here to “re-affirm my faith and prove my worthiness” and then she’s going to die.
Amir’s confused by this, then abruptly says he’s falling in love with her (!!!), begs to know her name, and she storms off. Wait, how long have they even known each other? See, folks, this is why you don’t take an eight-year-gap during your sporking of the most confusing series ever written.
Okay. Yes, Stanek actually even notes that she’s a ‘new companion’. So Amir and The Magic Companion have known each other two, maybe three days, and he’s already confessing his love for her? What a fucking creep!
Later, Noman gathers the group together and delivers a page-long speech in the best Stanekian, but the gist is that they’re leaving soon, it’ll be dangerous, he wants to know if everyone is still willing to go, and they are. Vilmos asks where they’re going, and Xith will only say they’ll head in the direction of the sea, and Noman says they’ll have to cut through the Barrens. Quick consult of the map…
Okay, they’re up north, and presumably, traveling west.
Xith and Vilmos spend a few pages practicing magic and it’s super not interesting, so let’s skip ahead to the next day, they pack up and roll out Ywentir into the bright sunshine.
Chancellor Yi is wandering around doing nothing until Keeper Q’yer shows. He got a message, but won’t explain what the message was, because it is ‘so damned unclear’. Shocker. Anyway, the long and short of it is they’re waiting for Princess Calyin arrive to announce the death of the King, who as you may recall was poisoned to death. She arrives later that day with her husband Lord Serant.
Later, when Midori and Adrina and Calyin are hugging it out, Lord Serant goes to find Yi, and walks in on him talking to someone named Jasmine.
“You vile creature, leave my sight!” shouted Lord Serant as he saw the priestess in the room (page 148).
I genuinely appreciate that Stanek has a glossary of people in the back so I can look up who people are whenever a random character that was mentioned once 600 pages ago pops back into the story without rhyme or reason. Hilariously, her name is spelled ‘Jasmin’ in the glossary. Gun to my head, I couldn’t tell you what, if anything, she’s ever done, but she’s a priestess, and Lord Serant fucking hates priestesses.
Jasmine bails and Lord Serant questions Yi suspiciously because he wants to know if Yi was responsible for the king’s death.
We cut over to Sister Jasmine chatting with Father Francis, and I don’t know who he is, but he’s at least never been mentioned by me in this sporking before. I wish I had a searchable PDF of this series to look people up.
Jasmine suggests that she take Adrina away “for her protection” but Francis suspects ulterior motives and they scream at each other a bit and Jasmine calls dead King Andrew an “old buffoon” which I appreciate. She leaves, runs into Yi, and then a guard tells Yi that Captain Brodst thinks he may have found the assassin. They rush off to the east wing where there’s a commotion inside a room. Brodst and Francis go in, there’s multiple guards dead, and a couple more guards fighting a shadow that’s in the corner.
Father Francis realizes there’s a way to banish the creature.
“Shadow be gone,” he intoned (page 153).
It doesn’t work. The shadow grabs Francis by the throat and tackles him to the floor. Francis and the shadow are locked in a clash of good and evil. Literally.
Good and evil clashed (page 154).
Francis manages to summon the power of Great-Father and snuffs out the shadow. It’s very exciting.
Anyway, Father Francis says the shadow was a ‘dark assassin’ who definitely poisoned King Alder. How he knows that, I don’t know. Also, I’m more interested in who would have sent the assassin, and so is Yi, but Francis says they’ll have to “wait and see” which is not at all promising.
We’re back with Vilmos and company, and they’re walking. Vilmos is bored.
Behind him, Amir and Noman were deep in conversation and although he couldn’t fully hear what they discussed, he could guess. The two had been talking about the same topic since they had begun, the subject of which was beyond his comprehension (page 156).
Got it? Vilmos can’t hear them, but he can guess, and his guess is that he doesn’t understand it.
Robert Stanek. The American Tolkien.
Apparently they have to go back underground to take a tunnel through a mountain. Noman leads them with a magical flame. They walk for forever, and find a small chamber and stop for lunch. Xith finds some writing and realizes that many years ago people died here in terrible pain. I get it. This is the Chamber of Mazarbul from Lord of the Rings. Very original.
We jump forward – they’re out of the caves now – and they run into Ayrian, who’s found a bunch of horses for them. Everyone mounts and they ride, and it’s so. fucking. boring.
Vilmos sees a weird illusion and asks Xith about it. Xith mutters some cryptic bullshit, finally says he’ll tell Vilmos about it, tells Vilmos (off-screen), and at the end Vilmos admits that he wasn’t paying attention and didn’t hear anything. Great use of a page and a half of text.
Later, during another meal break, Noman gives a little history lesson. Long ago there were a bunch of clans (including Eagle Clan) and life was great. Then Man showed up and started causing problems, because they had Magic.
“But then you might also ask where does your own gift of magic come from? And I will tell you that that is another tale for another telling” (page 166).
We’re never going to find out, are we?
So Man used Magic to start enslaving people, which kicked off the Blood Wars, which we don’t know much about, but (I think) is why there aren’t any Elves or anything wandering around the Kingdoms.