Well, lookie what we got here! If I don’t be mistaken, that thar is a Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn re-read!
Yeah, it’s me, and I’m back. It’s been a long time – almost a year. A lot of things have happened since then, and absolutely none of those things are going to be discussed here, because they matter not! You’re here (if you’re here) to read about MS&T, not hear my excuses. So let’s just do that.
First of all, you should notice a change in format. The summaries are much shorter now, with no block quotes filling them. I will be attempting to cover the important plot points in the summaries, and will be leaving anything else to the commentaries, which you may see soon, are just as long as they ever were. Sorry about that, hope you’ll read anyway!
And, as usual, if you have never read this series before, and have somehow found this site by accident, there WILL BE MASSIVE SERIES-BREAKING SPOILERS throughout this re-read and analysis. I do not believe I can stress this enough. DO NOT read this if you have never read the series before, unless you just don’t mind knowing how a many-thousand-page epic series concludes. There will be Spoilers. The will be MANY Spoilers. You have been warned.
The Raven and the Cauldron
Maegwin and three of her maids are working hard to close a cattle gate, since all the men of Hernystir are out fighting, or planning to fight. Rhynn’s Cauldron, a massive warning bell, is being rung to warn outlying towns of danger from the battles being fought. She then visits her father in the Taig just as Eolair joins Lluth as well, and discussion begins on the attacks and scouting parties of Skali Sharpnose. Some strategy is discussed, including the fact that Gwythinn may return from Naglimund and help the rest of Hernystir’s men create a pincer attack with Skali in the middle. Lluth seems very troubled, and Maegwin attempts to comfort him, while Eolair in turn attempts to comfort the princess.
At Naglimund, Duke Isgrimnur and Prince Josua are visiting with Baron Devasalles of Nabban to ask for Leobardis’ and Nabban’s aid in the upcoming struggle, only to find that Devasalles had sent word two nights previously for Leobardis to come to Naglimund’s aid. Devasalles then warns the prince and duke that Leobardis’ wife Nessalanta, and eldest son Benigaris, do not side with Josua, so politics are currently tense in Nabban. Josua and Isgrimnur leave in much higher spirits, and decide to let Miriamele know the good news that her family will join the struggle on their side.
Tiamak is pondering a message he had received from Morgenes weeks ago, which warned of dire events to come. He also thinks of his treasure, a page from “Du Svardenwyrd,” and wonders if Morgenes had known he was in possession of such a relic. He wonders if he should travel to visit Morgenes, but then decides to wait for the doctor’s next message before making such a rash decision.
Josua, with Isgrimnur in tow, storms into Vorzheva’s room and demands to know what she has done with Princess Miriamele. Vorzheva admits to having forged Josua’s seal and sent Miriamele to Nabban to ask for Leobardis’ help, not knowing that word had already been sent of their aid to come. On top of this, they find that the “monk” Cadrach was sent along with Miriamele as protection, but Sangfugol speaks up to warn them of Simon’s dealings with Cadrach, and that the princess could be in danger. Josua and Isgrimnur rush to send out a search party at once.
Lluth, in full armor, visits his sleeping daughter Maegwin to let her know he is riding out shortly to engage Skali Sharpnose’s men. Afterward, Maegwin cries herself to sleep.
After so long an absence, I had hoped my first post upon my return would be filled with a bit more splendor than this. I had forgotten about this chapter though. Not that it’s a bad chapter by any stretch of the imagination, I just feel that it does very little to move the plot along, and doesn’t really even provide a lot of extremely useful insights for the readers. There are a few items to discuss though.
During Maegwin’s section, we see for the first time the two recurring elements that seem to haunt Maegwin throughout the series. The first of which is the fact that she is tall and strong for a woman; these facts are often commented on by those around her, much to her emotional and psychological detriment. The second is her thoughts on how Eolair perceives here. It is obvious that she cares for him, and seemingly obvious to her that he thinks of her as nothing but the princess, and provides her simple courtesies for that reason alone. Of course, as we find out through POVs with the count over the course of the series, that is not quite the case, but alas, their love and the various hurdles in their way are part of what is possibly the saddest arc in the entire story.
Those of us who have read the story also know that the Hernystiri hopes of Gwythinn coming to their aid to help fight Skali is unfortunately not how things will play out. But we’ll talk about that later.
Josua and Isgrimnur’s scene with Devasalles struck me on this reading of being pretty insignificant, other than for it setting up their following scene with Vorzheva and Sangfugol. We do get to hear a bit about Leobardis’ problems with his wife and son however, which will prove to be extremely significant later on. Isgrimnur doesn’t seem to think much of Devasalles (despite the stories of him being a pretty good swordsman). Is it Devasalles who later becomes a bit of a hero during the seige on Naglimund for holding one doorway against countless enemies before finally being cut down? I can’t remember…
Anyhoo, during their confrontation with Vorzheva, Isgrimnur plays a bit of the role of “the guy holding the prince back,” but you can tell even he is baffled at Vorzheva’s actions, especially when he must inform her that a conman such as Cadrach could have memorized priestly lines just for the sake of conning, and not because he was a priest. Which is wrong in regards to Cadrach – he was a priest of course, but it’s still pretty goofy of Vorzheva, someone who keeps the company of a prince, and has been involved in his councils, to be so easily fooled by someone – especially since we saw the scene where she paid him, and he was drunk, but used a pretty inadequate excuse to deter her line of questioning on the subject.
Sangfugol gets somewhat thrown into the middle of this argument/discussion, and has a few humorous lines and thoughts as is his way, but other than that, this section is still just setup for what will eventually become Isgrimnur’s major story arc throughout the series.
Tiamak’s scene is another that provides us just a bit of information about something important, without really giving us enough information to know what’s going on. We, as readers, know that Morgenes’ message to him was not specifically about his piece of Nisses’ parchment, but rather as a warning to him as a friend and potential future member of the League. Of course, this piece of parchment becomes extremely important later, and we (being savvy genre readers and all) can assume a lot from a passage from “Du Svardenvyrd,” especially since we just heard about it in the story for the first time a few chapters back. It’s a method authors use of enlightening the readers to let us know something the characters don’t know. That way, we can always be asking the characters in frustration, “Why are you doing this action?!?” only to shortly thereafter say to ourselves, “Oh yeah, it’s because you don’t know what I know.” Williams really excels in this type of – I don’t think the proper word is “foreshadowing” for this type of technique, but it’s what I’m going to use – to amp up the anticipation and anxiety in his stories.
And that’s about it for now. Let’s move on, shall we?
Chapter 36 – Fresh Wounds and Old Scars
The first night after Simon, Binabik, and their friends leave Naglimund is uneventful. They take a short break close to morning for sleeping and eating, and Binabik, Simon, and Sludig have a quick (and somewhat tense) discussion on where they are going and why. The next day and night are also uneventful, except that when Simon wakes up that morning, it is snowing, and he is in pain from riding a horse for several days now.
Simon dreams that night that he is yet again snagged in the great wheel, rolling along the earth. At the pinnacle, he sees a great white tree in the distance, then falls off the wheel…
Simon’s party comes across the deserted town of Hullnir, where it appears all the Rimmersmen have fled from “Skali and his ravens,” and the northern snows and slows have claimed the buildings. They can see Aldheorte to the south as they move through the ruins.
Princess Miriamele and Cadrach have been riding for a day and a half when they come to the site of where a grisly battle has recently taken place. Even the princess and Cadrach can tell that the battle, which took place between Hernystiri and Rimmersmen at the Inniscrich, went very poorly for the Hernystiri – most of the dead are their own. Miriamele asks Cadrach to say some prayers for the dead, but the “priest” will not do it, and attempts to hurry them on. Miriamele stops them though when she sees a living man against a tree. The two investigate and Cadrach recognizes the man as Count Arthpreas of Cuimhne in Hernystir. The man awakens long enough to question where he saved Lluth, then calls Cadrach “Paedric” before dying. Miriamele is curious about this, but Cadrach dismisses it as the delusions of a dying man, then the two bury him.
Simon and his companions circle the lake Drorshull on their way to the mountains. After another day of traveling, they make camp and discuss whether or not someone may be following, especially with Qantaqa acting funny. Grimmric sings a song that worries Sludig, but that gives Binabik a clue as to what they may actually be searching for – not the “Rhymer’s Tree,” but rather the “Rimer’s Tree,” or the Uduntree, a legendary tree made entirely of ice.
The next day, the group comes across the burned ruins of Haethstad, and are attacked by nine men, one of whom – man wearing a hound-shaped helmet – Sludig says was involved in the attack on Hoderund’s Abbey. The group runs into the trees on their horses, with the armored men chasing them. Simon gets separated from the others, then is knocked off his horse. The man in the dog helmet finds Simon and dares Simon to shoot him. The man’s horse is shot by someone not Simon, and when he turns to investigate, three Sithi are standing behind him, one with an arrow knocked and pointed at Simon’s head.
So this chapter starts as just one of those typical “traveling from point A to point B” chapters that authors sometimes have to use to get their protagonists from one place to another, but turns into something much more intriguing by the end. It is interesting that this chapter is divided the way it is between Simon’s and Miriamele’s travels – there is almost something poetic in the way they are both traveling at the same time in almost opposite directions, both heading on the journey that will bring both of them to their end-series’ level of maturity by the time they meet again. Both of them are going to go through some pretty horrific things, and have their own adventures, and neither thinks of each other yet – but as we will see during the next few dozen chapters about them, both will start thinking of each other much more often. But that is for later.
For now, there are a few interesting things that happen in this chapter. In Miriamele’s section, the most important two things are that A – we learn of the off-scene battle which took place between Hernystir’s and Skali’s forces, which I believe is where Lluth receives his mortal wound, and B – we learn that Cadrach has even more of a secretive past than we previously thought.
Cadrach brings up some very interesting points when he discusses why he will not pray for his fallen countrymen’s or the Rimmersmen’s souls. Does he pray for the pagan Hernystiri, who are his countrymen but do not believe in or worship the Aedonite god? Does he pray for the Rimmersmen, who culturally are Aedonites, but are obviously in the wrong for this particular atrocity? It creates an interesting disharmony if I do say so myself – I mean, I’m not going to talk about Real World Politics here or anything, but I’m pretty sure there are at least a few modern-day examples of similar-type conflicts that human beings should at least think about once in awhile. And while I personally believe Cadrach’s digression into the philosophy of mourning is more of an excuse for him not to get down on his knees and say a prayer to a god he no longer believes in, it is worth Miriamele thinking about, I should say – after all, she is relatively naive in a worldly sense, and could probably use some lessons in Ethics 101.
In the more northerly part of the world, Simon’s group has a few interesting philosophical discussions as well, though possibly not quite as enlightening as the one above. Sludig, upon finding the ruins of Hullnir, wants to hunt down Storfot, one of Skali’s men, and the likely perpetrator of the crimes against the various ruined villages they come across. Binabik, however, forces Sludig to remember his pledge to Isgrimnur, his liege lord, and recognize that there are greater atrocities afoot, even than the destruction of Rimmersgard and northern villages. Sludig doesn’t like having this pointed out to him, but understands the troll is right, and leaves the argument alone for now. We will learn over the course of the series that Sludig is a bit of a hothead, and is constantly trying to avenge some horror, fight some bully, and right some wrong. It’s very good of him (in the ethical sense), and I actually do believe there is room in our world (and especially in fantasy worlds) for justified vengeance and capital punishment. For instance, even setting aside the emotional reasons behind vengeance (the “he deserves it” argument), there can also be logical reasons, such as the argument that you may be (and likely are) stopping future crimes. Obviously, at the car-jacking or pick-pocketing level, such punishments do not hold water, but at the more genocidal level (such as burning and destroying an entire village, and likely killing people within if they are there), I personal don’t have much of a problem with it. Especially since you cannot really say Sharpnose or Storfot are engaging in specific acts of war – they are not even at war with anyone right now – they are making preemptive strikes. Hell, they’re not even doing that – preemptive strikes usually at least are part of some sort of assumed tactical advantage – take out a military base, take out food reserves, etc, etc. Why would they be making preemptive strikes against these back-ass snowy country towns? They’re not – they’re just committing “crimes against humanity.” So yeah, don’t really have much of a problem with Sludig’s notion of vengeance here, and his ideas of hunting Storfot down and slitting his throat (thought that’s probably not how I would do it).
However, at the end of the day, as Binabik points out, we’re very much talking about the “greater good” here – and murdering Storfot in the middle of the night isn’t going to help prevent the Storm King from killing all the humans on the planet. So yeah… not really sure where I was going with that?
So, Grimmric’s song makes Sludig upset, which in turn gets Sludig ranting about Udun, the Rimmer, etc, which gets Binabik to realize that they are not looking for the “Rhymer’s Tree,” but the Uduntree. The conversation between the two lists at least four different names for the tree all in one sentence, along with a bit of confusing yick-yack about Udun himself. It’s an instance of showing the loss in translation which happens between different languages, and thus adds a bit of realism to the world (all the different nations/cultures with different languages don’t happen to just all call something the same name, which is realistic). Them talking about this tree leads to a somewhat weird scene with Simon going into somewhat of a trance. I always thought this scene was supposed to be relevant in somewhat, but other than it just being about Simon thinking about the White Tree (which he does anyways), I don’t really know what it’s meant to signify, and thus the scene just seems… well, I’ve already said “weird,” I guess I don’t need to go any further on that.
When Simon eventually curled up that evening between the humped and mossy roots of a nearly leafless oak tree he was feeling a little better, although the wine made him think he heard voices singing strange songs on the wind.
I always took that sentence to mean exactly what it said – he thought he heard voices, possibly as a trick of the weather, wind whistling through the trees, all that stuff. However, going by what happens later in the chapter, does he actually hear Sithi singing?
Which leads us to the crux of this chapter, the attack of Ingen Jegger on Simon and his party. We get a tense few pages of Simon fleeing through the trees, dodging arrows, being saved at least once by Qantaqa, then confronting Jegger himself (not that he knows who it is yet). This is their first confrontation, and while Jegger doesn’t actually start monologuing per se, he does make a pretty stupid decision to dare Simon to shoot him – after all, by the laws of just rewards, the fact that he stood there with an arrow pointed at him, daring someone to shoot him, means that he will get shot, whether or not by the person he is daring. Of course, it is not him that is shot, it is his horse, which means that he’ll be back to bother us again later. Which is fine, since as I’ve said before, I think he makes for a suitable nemesis for Simon.
Hello An’nai! We’ll talk with you more later!
And, that’ll do for now. Welcome back folks, hope to see you again!