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

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V. Ride from West End

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

On the way to Althain Tower, the travellers stop near the town of West End. The princes are left in a glen at the edge of the forest next to the town with orders to wait there, while Asandir sets of on an errand of his own and Dakar goes to the town fair to purchase additional horses.

Dakar is late and the brothers grow bored of the wait. Curious to find out why they were specifically instructed to do nothing but wait, Arithon suggests a visit to the town's autumn fair. Despite being wary of Asandir's displeasure at the disobeyed order, Lysaer finds the new and unexpected prankster side of his half-brother infectious and decides to tag along.

Hedging bets on finding Dakar dead-drunk and face-down in a gutter as well as on how long it would take the prophet to get sober, the 2 princes venture into town. Note how wretched the town itself looks. Arithon instantly realizes West End was a seaport fallen into decline. With the Mistwraith covering the night sky, the great ships were no longer able to make port there.

Also note Lysaer's difficulty to adjust to his new station. Without valet and on foot, with no status, he tries to use the charm that had made the ladies on Dascen Elur fawn over him to obtain directions to the fair. His approach backfires though and instead of being fawned over, he gets threatened and called "sly-faced drifter scum".

Confused and wary because of the town-people's reaction to them, the brothers head towards the fair and encounter Dakar, drunk and snoring in a gutter, sprawled on his back and covered with garbage. Arithon steals Dakar's sack of coins (Dakar will not forget the slight!) and they resume their search of the fair with the intention of buying the horses Dakar was supposed to get.

Note that the town's people are speaking a with a different accent, while the people at the fair use one much closer to usage on Dascen Elur. The same language, one could even say, but evolved differently.

When Arithon asks for the price of a gelding he confuses the trader: "Daelion's hells!! What clan are you from brother, and is this some jest, you here bidding like a townsman?" So the "drifters" were clansmen. Their speech differs from that of the townspeople and is accented the way the princes were speaking.

The gelding Arithon had asked for, was not for sale. It was the personal mount of a clan lord. And that fact alone turned Arithon's inquiry into an insult. One clansman does not bid for the personal mount of another! And clansmen will never allow such an insult to pass.

Just when the situation is about to get out of control, Asandir arrives and soothes everything out. He buys the gelding with a way beyond generous amount, and it is accepted because of his status/not the coin. He then takes the princes out of the fair and instructs them to wait while he goes after another horse.

Note his warning: "You've already left an impression with the drifters. Don't cause more talk in West End, am I clear?" Followed by another: " this place, people associated with sorcerers very often wind up roasting in chains on a pile of oiled faggots."Why the warnings? – In the previous chapter, the Fellowship determined to let the princes receive their impressions of Athera through direct observation. Do people hate sorcerers? Townsfolk in particular!? And why would the brothers cause talk? Asandir is concerned that the folk who saw the brothers will talk. And "the result might brew up a curiosity far better left to bide until later." - We'll also come back to it later.

The party leaves West End after Asandir gets another horse for Arithon and collects Dakar from the gates (trussed and draped across the saddle – still drunk, stinking of garbage and snoring, despite being doused in cold water).

Note that Asandir takes special care to get Arithon a mare that will keep him busy. He has to use his every shred of attention to keep her on the road. – Why? Does Asandir want to keep Arithon preoccupied so that he doesn't think of his awaiting fate? Or is it something more? We'll come back to it later.

On the way, we are told who 'the drifters' are – people whose ancestors once ruled in West End and who had been nomads since the time of the rebellion which threw down the High Kings. – Remember Grithen's thought on that historical event in the previous chapter?

During the party's travel to Camris, there are a few things we should take notice of:

First the iyat who possesses Dakar's cloak and tries to apparently strangle him.

The Iyats are energy sprites native to Athera, not visible to the eye, who manifest in a poltergeist fashion by taking temporary possession of objects. They feed upon natural energy sources: fire, breaking waves, lightning, temperature change, etc. When you deal with iyats, you have to restrain your emotions. Anger and distress only goad them on to greater mischief. – They will appear often in our story.

Second, during the princes' conversation in the night, Arithon's answer to Lysaer's question: "If you could go anywhere, do anything, be anything you wanted, what would you choose?"
"Not to go back to Karthan." As well as his conviction that the fate that awaits him won't be pleasant.

The explanation for the carved standing stones in the forest: "In times past, creatures who were not human tended these forests. Attuned to the deepest pulses that bind land and soil to Ath's harmony, they left stones such as these to show what ground and which trees could be taken for man's use and which must stay whole to renew the mysteries. Once the protection of sacred ground was the province of High King's justice. Pastures and fields were cut only where the earth could gracefully support them. But now such knowledge is scarce."

In other words: - In the past the old races (Paravians) tended the forests - There is an universal energy binding the land and soil to exist in harmony - Some of the trees must stay whole to renew the mysteries (- these will be later explained) - The High Kings were responsible for the protection of the sacred ground where the protected trees were growing. - The knowledge of that past is almost lost at present We are also told that the last of the Paravians passed from the land when the Mistwraith swallowed the sunlight and no one knows where they have gone.

The minstrel met on the way. He had been waylaid by a caravan, beaten and left on foot without his horse. Note Asandir's outrage: "Who in this land has dared to abuse a free singer?" – In the previous chapter the caravan raid was called off because a bard was riding with it. And now Asandir's outrage! – music and those who bring it are highly valued on Athera!

Peaks of Tornir

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

Felirin the bard travels with the princes' party and entertains everyone in the evenings with songs and ballads accompanied by the lyranthe. Day after day he watches Arithon and suspects him of a bard's talent or at least predisposition. He makes repeated attempts to entice Arithon out of his shell and make him sing but without success. Until one night when he uses Dakar and places a bet. Unable to resist the chance to humble Dakar, Arithon accepts the lyranthe and plays, astonishing everyone, including Felirin, who is now convinced the brooding young man has a Masterbard's talent. Angry because Arithon rejects his praise, Felirin scolds him: "How dare you waste such great talent! Can't you accept your true calling?"

Note the longing and sorrow in Arithon's reply: "Daelion turns the wheel. One cannot always have the choice." And Asandir's clarification: "These are troubled times for all of us my friend. Arithon has the gift, none can doubt. But music cannot be his first calling."And there you go again! The prince will again be forced to do what needs to be done and keep his dreams and desires aside.

While approaching the Tornir pass, the travellers encounter the remains of the caravan who had waylaid Felirin. Everyone was dead – killed by a pack of Khadrim who are still ahead, in the pass. Asandir urges everyone forward and warns Arithon that he will have to draw his sword when told to. At Dakar's confusion he clarifies: the sword "was forged ten and a half thousand years past, expressly for war against the Khadrim."

Note that the nature of Alithiel had escaped all mages on Dascen Elur and note how Arithon resents having to carry it, because he views it as only another symbol to tie him to an unwanted duty. See how envious Lysaer is of his brother's possession! He would treasure the chance to bear such a great talisman. Arithon sees it and wants to give the sword to his brother as a gift. But Asandir forbids it. "You can never relinquish that sword except to your own blood heir."

As they attempt to cross the pass, Arithon takes the lead and is attacked by a Khadrim. In an effort to keep his spooked mare under control, he reacts too late and the Khadrim engulfs him in fire. When the flames clear, both Arithon and the mare are untouched in the middle of a seared circle of carbon. – Was that Arithon who raised shields? How strong is he then to resist such a fire?

Once Alithiel is drawn, she gives off a peal of perfect harmony vibrating upon the air. She rings a perfect pure timbre and comes alive. "Light ripped along the silvered lines of inlay, blindingly intense, a shimmer like harmony distilled to an exultation of universal creation."

The Khadrim shrieks in pain and crashes against the mountainside. Once it is dead, Alithiel's light fades to a glimmer and dies away, leaving only plain black steel behind. Note that the runes inscribed on the steel were no longer familiar to Arithon after the sword stilled. – He had known them while she was in use.

Here we get the first glimpse at Alithiel's power. "Asandir's great powers seemed a brute statement" compared with the energies of the sword. After wielding it, Arithon felt "bereft, as if the world where he stood had grown coarser, more drab, somehow clumsy and lacking in a manner that defeated reason". – Why? – We'll come back to it later.

Note Lysaer's envy and desire! – Important!

Alithiel's Story

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

Continuing their way to Camris, the travellers make camp in a cave on the far slopes of Tornir Peaks. Around the fire, they complain about roads gone wild and winters coming early, all effects of the Mistwraith covering the sun. Asandir reveals to an astonished Felirin that the two princes are the ones promised by Dakar's prophecy and tells the story of Alithiel in the bargain.

Over eighteen thousand years in the past, 12 blades were forged at Isaer by the Paravian armourer, Ffereton s'Darian, from the cinder of a fallen star.

Ffereton was Ilitharis, a centaur. The Isaervian swords were his finest most famous creation, wrought at need to battle the vast packs of Khadrim that were the scourge of the Second Age. Each blade took five years' labour, a full decade if one were to count the sorceries that went into the sharpening. The steel holds an edge that neither time nor battle can blunt.

The swords were given over to the fair folk, called sunchildren, for finishing. They made the hilt, chased the channels for the inlay, no two patterns the same.

Riathan, the unicorns, sang the great spells of defence and infused the alloy with harmonics tuned to the primal chord of vibration used by Ath Creator to kindle the first stars with light. Legend holds that 21 masters took a decade to endow Alithiel alone.

Along the centuries, the blade passed from centaurs to sunchildren until it was rewarded as a gift to a human, an ancestor of Arithon. And from that time only, it remained in human hands.

Among the sunchildren, Alithiel was regarded as a symbol of kingship but wasn't considered a cherished possession. In fact, it was rumoured to carry a tragic reputation of seeing the end of every royal line it belonged to, so no one dared to claim it. Among humans however, it was a prized possession. The emerald in the hilt was cut by a sunchild's spells and the initial in the crest was changing according to the name of the bearer.

Note here a few more details about the old races: The Paravians were not mortal as man might define. And they can be expected to survive for even eighteen thousand years.

Shaken by Asandir's story and worried about his future, Arithon looks for solitude to try and sort out his thoughts. But he is cornered by Felirin who manages to extract an oath from him. There's a singer. A Masterbard named Halliron. Arithon vows to play for him if he meets him. And he also vows to accept the offer of apprenticeship if the Masterbard should make it. He longs for the vow to be fulfilled but fears that it will never happen.

Here we get again another little insight into the two brother's hopes and expectations. Athera's need to be released from the Mistwraith turns into Lysaer's purpose. His lifeline into an unknown world, completely different from his own! And on the other side, it drives Arithon to despair. Because here again he will be forced to choose what he must do, instead of what he longs to do. And what if here again he'll fail?


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

The news of the two princes speaking the old tongue is spreading among the drifters, who foresee war, as well as among the townsfolk who inform the mayor (all of a sudden sweating).

The Khadrim warn each other of a spell-cursed steel not seen for thousand years and retreat back to spell-warded sanctuary where they can be safe from it. Note: the Khadrim communicate and coordinate.