Either the fourth book of the Khaavren Romances, or the second volume of the third (The Viscount of Adrilankha) — whichever you prefer — this book chronicles the events occurring after the reappearance of Zerika the Fourth with the Orb from the Paths of the Dead. Continuing to follow several different major characters, the novel weaves together the various stories that led to the re-establishment of the Dragaeran Empire.
- See also Meta:The Lord of Castle Black.
As the story (re)starts, Pel is still serving Skinter e’Terics, the Duke of Kâna, is his rôle as an intelligence agent. He encounters Wadre and convinces the bandit to help him. Meanwhile Khaavren, now restored to his old fitness and passion, sets out to meet his old friend Aerich, taking with him young Ibronka, Röaana, and Ibronka’s servant, Clari.
Morrolan, travelling with Arra, the Warlock, and Teldra, finally reaches his homeland (Southmoor County, later Duchy), where he decides to stay. His decision puts him directly in the path of the accumulating forces of Kâna and Habil, who have not ceased to envision a new empire with Kâna as emperor.
Our hero, Piro, along with his companions Kytraan and Tazendra and their servants Mica and Lar, have been led on a not-so-merry chase by Grita. The latter has been simultaneously trying to avoid Piro’s group while also setting a trap for them.
In a great moment of geographic luck, most of the major actors find themselves at roughly the same place at the same time: South Mountain at the end of the Interregnum. A skirmish follows between a few of Kâna’s troops (who are given directions by Grita) and our group of heroes. Our heroes are victorious in driving away their attackers, but realize they will remain in danger until and unless they can reach the protection of Sethra Lavode and Dzur Mountain.
Oddly, Morrolan is on the same path (although much closer), but for entirely different reasons: he has discovered that Dzur Mountain lies within his ancestral domain of Southmoor, and goes to claim his tribute from its ruler. There he is given, whether in tribute or perhaps in lieu of tribute, Blackwand.
The second portion of the book deals with the Ninth (or Tenth) Battle of Dzur Mountain. With the aid of the Necromancer and the Warlock, Morrolan battles Kâna’s forces. Although initially successful, Morrolan remains greatly outnumbered by his enemies. As Zerika the Fourth and her group are trying to reach Dzur Mountain, they observe the battle and calculate, correctly in this instance, that the young Dragonlord would be an ally, so breach his force’s defences and introduce themselves.
With all major characters gathered together and facing an overwhelming enemy, things seem to favor Kâna despite the work of Tazendra, the Orb, The Necromancer, the Warlock, an army, and many witches. A novel solution is hit upon: retreat. Although retreat is not itself a novel solution, what was novel was the direction: up. Castle Black thus becomes the first floating castle post-Interregnum.
Finding himself unable to use his army against a floating castle and facing forces beyond his abilities, the demoralized Kâna must himself retreat and put his alternate plans (as plotted by Habil, Illista, and Grita) into action. His subsequent actions are both archaic and puzzling, even to the Gods.
Zerika takes her newly formed imperial army (or Morrolan’s army; precisely whose army it actually is, is not entirely clear) to Adrilankha to re-establish the Empire in a new capital city.
While events seemed to be shaping up happily for Zerika and company, matters are otherwise for Piro, our young Tiassa, for he has found love — but with Ibronka, a Dzur. Khaavren strongly disapproves of any such cross-House relations, and Piro is forced from his home. He then embarks — thankfully not alone — on a career of banditry, and all problems are not solved.
- Kytraan e’Lanya
- Sethra Lavode
- Morrolan e’Drien
- Zerika the Fourth
- The Necromancer
- The Warlock
- Fentor e’Mondaar
- Morrolan comes home
- The Interregnum ends
- Morrolan listens to a messenger, who can’t possibly be related to The Necromancer
- Kana's opponents are gone
- Dzur Mountain: not an expected place for romance
- Reunion and banditry
(All copyrights Steven Brust, quotes for review and enjoyment only)
Mica prepares for a dangerous mission
As he made these preparations, Lar said, "I wish you good fortune upon your journey, my friend."
"I thank you for your kind wishes."
"Does the mission frighten you?"
"Frighten me? You ask if it frightens me?"
"Yes, I do, because I am curious."
"Well, I nearly think it does!" said Mica with great enthusiasm.
"It would frighten me," said Lar.
"Yes," said Mica.
"In addition to bandits, there are various beasts, after all."
"Or dangers of simple accidents, which are an inconvenience when traveling with a group, but can be fatal when alone."
"Or starvation, on such a long trip."
"Even dying of thirst is possible."
"Or you might become ill—"
"Will you have done?"
Lar paused. "Ah. I beg your pardon. I perceive I have discomposed you."
Kana learns that Sethra Lavode is still opposing his efforts
"Blood of the Horse! Her again!"
Morrolan discusses the hopeless situation with Fentor
"I do not wish us to die gallantly, I wish us to win!"
Wadre meets his unfortunate end
"So you are going to kill me?"
"Exactly and this instant, too."
"I should like to find a way to change your mind."
"Alas," said Grita. "That is unlikely."
"It has returned, or I'm a norska."
Piro and Kytraan prepare for the battle of South Mountain
"Who are the girls?"
"I do not know, yet they came with your father."
"That is true. Can they get above us, do you think?"
"No, the enemy. I beg your pardon, but I changed the subject of my discourse without informing you of my intentions."
"What should I tell her?"
"You must have known girls before."
"And you must have known one with whom you desired to have conversation.'
"Oh, without doubt."
"What did you tell her?"
"That I should like to get to know her better."
"That I have never before met another with whom I could speak so freely."
"I must remember that one."
"That it would be a great honor to be able to escort her for an evening of entertainment."
"And this has worked for you, has it not?"
"Then what more is there to say?"
"My dear Kytraan—"
"I do not understand what you do me the honor of telling me."
"Merely, that, if it worked before—"
"Shards! Those things? I cannot tell those things to Ibronka."
"The Gods! Why not?"
"Why not? You ask me why not?"
"Indeed, I ask you why not. And if that is not enough, I ask you again. Why not?"
"Because, well because with Ibronka, they are true!"
"Ah!" said Kytraan after a moment. "I had not understood this circumstance."
"Well, but you understand now, do you not?"
"Oh, entirely, my poor friend. But then, speak to her of other things."
"What other things?"
"Oh, the usual things. Speak of her family, or talk about food, or about philosophy. You know she is interested in philosophy."
"Oh, I cannot. When I try to speak to her, my breath fails, and my throat closes."
"Ah, my poor friend. I understand entirely."
(originally excerpted by Frieda on the dragaera.info mailing list)
Khaavren unleashes the snark
"I ought to have noticed the back of my neck itching. My mother always said that if the back of your neck itches, someone is speaking ill of you."
"Yes?" said Kytraan. "I had not heard this. What if the back of your neck, rather than itching, hurts?"
"That means someone has stuck a knife into your neck."
"For some reason, Morrolan, I am loath to destroy you. And yet, you seem insistent..."
- Sethra Lavode: "I begin to believe that you truly have no notion of with whom you are conversing."
- Morrolan shrugged. "Well, you have given me your name."
- Morrolan was now, without doubt, truly amazed. "How could you know—?"
- "I am," she said, "the Enchantress of Dzur Mountain."
- "But, madam, how is it that being the Enchantress of Dzur Mountain gives you this knowledge?"
- "I read a great deal," said Sethra.
"It is hardly fair."
The Paths of the Dead