The third book of the Khaavren Romances. Or the first part of the third book. Whichever you prefer. Chronicles the events following Adron's Disaster, and during the last years of the Interregnum. Following 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 Paths of the Dead (book).
At the beginning of the novel, we are introduced to a young witch, who during a chance encounter in the easterner village of Blackchapel meets with a coachman, Miska, and learns his name: Morrolan. Shortly thereafter, he meets Arra a priestess of the Demon Goddess, Verra, and is convinced to dedicate his life to Verra's service.
Meanwhile, the Interregnum has continued for over 200 years, and a power hungry Dragonlord named Kâna and his scheming cousin Habil, begin an attempt to re-establish the empire with Kâna as emperor. The reader is also introduced to the mysterious figure of Orlaan, a sorceress with a serious chip on her shoulder.
At the final meeting of the Society of the Porker Poker, we learn that young Zivra has been called away for an unknown duty. Athough her friends Shant, Lewchin, and Piro, are in fear for their friend, it is not long before the last of these, the son of Khaavren and Daro, is also called away on a mission.
Piro, now in the company of his new lackey Lar and the young Dragonlord Kytraan, sets off to aid Sethra Lavode in a quest he does not yet know. Upon arriving at Dzur Mountain, they are greeted by Tazendra who has been learning sorcery under the tutelage of the grand lady herself.
As Kâna tries to drag other Houses into his plans, two parents are worried for the security of their children. The Tiassa Röaanac sends his daughter Röaana away to be safe in the company of Daro, and Dzur heir Sennya sends her daughter Ibronka to stay with her relatives in Adrilankha.
Pel, in the service of Kâna as head of the intelligence gathering wing of the would-be emperor's organization, is concerned with rumors he hears of Sethra's activities, and determined to find out, he sets out to discuss matters with Khaavren. After a somewhat awkward reunion, the two are in agreement over one thing: something big is about to happen. Pel communicates this with Aerich, and also relates the poor state in which he found Khaavren. (The noble Tiassa having ruminated on a perceived failure of duty for the last several hundred years.) Together they conceive a plan to stoke their friends fires with the help of Tevna.
Piro discovers his mission, he is to accompany the new Phoenix heir, Zerika the Fourth, revealed to be none other than his old friend Zivra, on her mission to retrieve the Orb from the Paths of the Dead.
As the novel heads towards its close, everyone in one way or another is headed in some direction:
- Piro, Zerika the Fourth, and their group head towards Deathgate Falls.
- Morrolan and his party, having learned of his heritage from Teldra, aim for a return to his homeland.
- Ibronka and Röaana, having met in their travels and become fast friends, and with Ibronka's servant Clari are approaching Adrilankha.
- Aerich, Pel, and Khaavren ready themselves for the future
Orlaan, not forgotten, as the above summary may imply, has learned of some of the events occurring around her and enlists the company of Wadre's bandits, intent of stopping Zerika. She fails, Zerika confronts the Lords of Judgment, reclaims the Orb and the novel ends with much still to be done.
- Sethra Lavode
- Zerika the Fourth
- Piro meets Tazendra
- Tevna the pyrologist
- Pel has a discussion with Sethra Lavode and records it in a letter
- The Necromancer arrives at Dzur Mountain
- Above the falls
- Paths of the Dead
- Conversing with Gods
(All copyrights Steven Brust, quotes for review and enjoyment only)
Miska gives Morrolan his name in exchange for a brandy
(Miska said,) "Your name is Dark Star."
"Yes, why is that my name?"
Miska looked at him, and it seemed to the young warlock that the other's black, black eyes were seeing deeply into him, and he said, "Because in the land of the Faerie all the stars are dark, but you will be the darkest. You will give light, but few will know it. Your rod will be black, your home will be darkness, but you will shine. You will be the Dark Star of Faerie."
"I am an elf?"
"But it is a mystery," added Piro. "That much is clear."
"If it is a mystery," said Shant, "then it is not clear."
Piro and Kytraan have met Wadre on the road
"Consider: Whom would you rather see prosper? Noble highwaymen, or fat merchants?"
"You think they are noble?"
"Perhaps not. I must consider this. They seemed noble."
"That, then, is the plan: we will have adventures, and then we'll meet girls."
Tevna has done his work
Khaavren appeared not to have heard this remark, but stared into the fire, thinking, the flames reflecting in his eyes as if, indeed, the fire were coming from within him.
The warlock has summoned a horse
(Morrolan said,) "What is his name"
"Well, I should think at least Prince for a horse like that."
"He is not presumptuous."
"It is good," said the Enchantress, "to find one's self in agreement with the gods."
"Yes. It shows that the gods have some wisdom."
These words produced an effect in the room similar to that a harlot might make walking into the Citadel of the Deniers; everyone sprang to his feet and began speaking at once, and for a moment, confusion reigned. But then the Enchantress cleared her throat, and such was her power that everyone stopped speaking, sat down once more, and awaited her words.
The Necromancer is questioned at Dzur Mountain
"Well, what is your opinion of death?" (Sethra)
"It is the limitation of one's ability to reach certain phases of reality."
"It can sometimes be inconvenient."
The whole of Zerika's discussion with the gods, far too long and brilliant to be quoted here.
Sethra talks to Zerika after she has traversed the Paths of the Dead, faced down the Gods, recovered the Orb, and returned to the world
"Now matters become difficult."
Five Hundred Years After
The Lord of Castle Black