On the Splinter World of Dascen Elur...
A naval battle engaged through deception and shadow burns one brigantine from Karthan, at the damaging cost of all but one warship of Amroth's fleet. Arithon, Master of Shadow and last survivor of Karthan's pirates is taken captive from the wreckage. Since his trained mastery as the High Mage's grandson makes him too dangerous, he is bound, drugged, and forced to survive to stand trial to satisfy the vengeance of a longstanding blood-feud, and to publicly expiate the shame of a faithless Queen, who abandoned her marriage for carnal liaison with the kingdom's worst enemy.
Amidst the trial, Arithon's royal half-brother Lysaer, son of the Queen's legitimate royal marriage, incurs his father the King's displeasure. This debacle ends with both Lysaer and Arithon sentenced to permanent exile through the Worldsend Gate.
Beyond the Gate lies the Red Desert, a desolate wasteland in a broken world. As antagonists divided by a vicious enmity, Arithon and Lysaer are forced to strike a truce to survive. An encounter with an enchanted well built by a powerful Sorcerer extends their life-spans by five hundred years. When they reach the ancient ruin that holds their only hope of escape, they must fight side by side against a hostile remnant of ancient spellcraft. Their birth-gifts of Light and Shadow, used together, let them reach and cross through the gateway that leads to Athera.
On the World of Athera...
The half brothers Arithon s'Ffalenn, Master of Shadow, and Lysaer s'Ilessid, gifted with Light, exiled through West Gate, are met as they arrive on Athera by the Fellowship Sorcerer Asandir and Dakar, the Mad Prophet, whose West Gate Prophecy forecast the defeat of the Mistwraith, Desh-thiere, and return of the sunlight that had been lost to Athera for five hundred years.
Due to a prophecy of Dakar's that the half-brothers are destined to fight, the decision is made to travel to the Fellowship of Seven's headquarters at Althain Tower, there to determine their destiny. The Sorcerers must decide whether the half brothers should inherit the Atheran titles due them by the fact they descend from two established, but heirless, crown bloodlines.
Kept ignorant of his lineage, Lysaer despairs over the loss of his ruler's status, since everything he knew, and all he was raised to become, involved statecraft and his succession to his father's throne. Arithon, on the contrary, is secretly relieved to be spared from his past obligation, since his experience as his father's bastard heir has profoundly reinforced his dearest desire to pursue his talent for music.
On the journey to Althain Tower, caught in the cut-throat political tension between townborn factions and the persecuted clansmen who inhabit the free wilds, Arithon meets his beloved, Elaira, who is under a life vow of service to the celibate order of the enchantresses of the Koriathain.
An outbreak of venomous meth-spawn is put down by the Sorcerers at Althain Tower.
In the aftermath, Dakar visions the Black Rose Prophecy, which forecasts that the Fellowship of Seven will never be restored to full strength unless Arithon accepts the royal birthright of his ancestry. Though that destiny runs against Arithon's wishes, the Fellowship's primary directive – to ensure survival of the vanished Paravian races – forces their choice to proceed with his coronation, provided the Mistwraith is defeated beforehand.
The Mistwraith is contained at Ithamon by Lysaer and Arithon and driven into captivity through their combined powers of Light and Shadow.
Both princes are escorted to Etarra for Arithon's formal accession, both against Arithon's preference, and in the face of adamant, even deadly resistance from the town's Mayor, its guilds and high council.
Lysaer meets Talith, sister of a prominent townsman.
The Fellowship Sorcerers' effort to crown Arithon as High King, and reinstate Rathain's monarchy fails when the Mistwraith places the half brothers under its curse: they will be enemies, bent upon each other's destruction until one or the other lies dead.
War follows. Lysaer, whose cardinal virtue is the s'Ilessid gift of justice, leads a war host ten thousand strong from Etarra against Arithon, who is backed by the liege-driven loyalty of the clansmen in Strakewood Forest. Lysaer and Etarra lose eight thousand men, and the clans suffer the Massacre at Tal Quorin, when Etarran headhunters destroy their women and children to draw the clan fighting men into the open. To spare his allies, Arithon is forced to use his mage talent to kill. And in the aftermath of this massive insult to his royal gift of compassion, he loses access to all facets of his trained mastery. Survivors of the debacle made possible by his sacrifice include fourteen young boys, named as Companions, and Earl Jieret, twelve years of age, who becomes Arithon's "shadow behind the throne"—or caithdein.
Lysaer returns to Etarra to begin to forge the alliance of town forces and take arms against Arithon, and to court his beloved, Talith.
Arithon leaves Rathain's clans on their own for recovery to deny the directive of the Mistwraith's curse a fixed target, then takes solace in his true heart's desire – an apprenticeship to the Masterbard, Halliron, to develop his gifted talent.
Arithon apprentices himself to the Masterbard, Halliron, and takes on the disguised persona of Medlir to deny his half brother, and the directive of the curse, a fixed target.
Five years have elapsed since the Massacre at Tal Quorin. The Fellowship Sorcerers reinstate crown rule in Havish, under High King Eldir.
In redress for irresponsible conduct, Dakar the Mad Prophet is assigned to Arithon's protection.
Dakar tries to escape his charge and links up with Halliron and "Medlir" on the eastshore, whereupon his scapegrace behavior with town authorities in Jaelot leads to Halliron's death and Arithon's breaking his disguise as Medlir, then achieving the title of Masterbard of Athera.
Arithon relocates down the eastshore enroute to the southcoast, with Dakar's escapades earning him the enmity of the powerful clan family of Duke Bransian s'Brydion of Alestron.
Elaira receives her longevity from the Koriani Order for the purpose of keeping track of Arithon, since the sisterhood considers him a danger.
Lysaer solidifies his alliance of town interests, rebuilds the ruined citadel at Avenor, marries Talith, and begins his maneuvers to claim ancestral title to rulership of Tysan through town law, which inflames the clan council against him.
Faced by the muster for a massive war, Arithon founds a shipyard in the fishing village of Merior, where he constructs blue-water sailing vessels with intent to escape to sea. He meets and befriends two fatherless twin children, Fiark and Feylind. He encounters Elaira, under orders from her Prime to involve herself in Arithon's affairs. Their affection deepens when a joint attempt to heal an injured fisherman creates an empathic link between them.
Lysaer leads a war host to Rathain, with intent to sail south and crush Arithon in the fishing village of Merior. But Arithon intercepts Lysaer's allied troops at Minderl Bay and through wiles and shadow, triggers the Mistwraith's curse beforetime. Inflamed to insane rage, Lysaer burns the fleet he intended to transport his war host, leaving his campaign stranded and delaying his assault through the onset of winter.
Arithon's escape plan suffers a setback when a rancorous, displaced field captain from Alestron burns his shipyard at Merior, with only one vessel left fit to be salvaged.
Lysaer forges an alliance with the belligerent s'Brydion duke, with intent to rout Arithon with a reduced force.
Set on the run with a large-scale war at his heels, Arithon takes refuge in the strategically difficult terrain in Vastmark. There, with a rancorous Dakar in tow, he allies with the nomadic shepherds with intent to recruit their bowmen. Faced by a war host and impossible odds, he takes Lysaer's wife Talith captive to stall the onset of bloodshed.
Talith is ransomed by Lysaer, under auspice of the Fellowship Sorcerers and High King Eldir. Although she is safely returned, the experience leaves an irreparable rift in her marriage.
Lysaer masses his war host, thirty-five thousand strong, and marches on Arithon's smaller force in Vastmark. Arithon resorts to desperate measures to turn them, including the Massacre at the Havens, in which five hundred of Lysaer's men are killed outright. The tactic fails, and is followed by the main engagement at Dier Kenton Vale, in which twenty thousand Alliance troops die in one day in a shale slide.
The campaign fails at the onset of winter, with Duke Bransian s'Brydion of Alestron changing sides and forging a covert alliance with Arithon.
Faced with a ruinous defeat, Lysaer decides to create a faith-based following and cast Arithon as evil incarnate.
Arithon escapes to sea to search for the lost Paravian races, who, as Ath's gift to redeem the world, offer hope he might break the Mistwraith's curse. He takes two young twins from Merior under his wing: Feylind sails as his navigator, and Fiark is apprenticed with a merchant factor in the town of Innish.
The Prime Matriarch of the Koriani Order casts an augury showing that Arithon will cause her downfall. Since she is aging and has only one flawed candidate in line for her succession, and her death will cause an irreparable loss of the sisterhood's knowledge, she becomes Arithon's inveterate enemy.
Still in love with Arithon, and living solitary as an herbalist/healer as a wandering independent of the Koriani Order, Elaira saves the life of an infant during childbirth in the grasslands of Araethura. Named Fionn Areth, he owes her a life debt, and a prophecy entangles him with Arithon's fate.
Returned to Avenor to rebuild his following, Lysaer convenes a council to found the Alliance of Light. Charges are leveled against Arithon for black sorcery, ostensibly used in Vastmark. An disruptive protest against Lysaer's claim to Tysan's kingship sent by the realm's caithdein, Lord Maenol, sets the clanborn who refuse to join his alliance to eradicate the Master of Shadow under a s'Ilessid decree of slavery. More, his awkward estrangement with Princess Talith leads to her incarceration.
For endorsing slave labor, Lysaer is formally called to trial, then cast out of the Fellowship's compact, which allows Mankind the right to inhabit Athera.
The Prime Matriarch of the Koriathain confronts the Fellowship Sorcerers to lift restrictions imposed on her sisterhood and correct what she perceives as malignment of the focus afflicting their Great Waystone. Her petition presented at Althain Tower meets with refusal, sealing her determination to take Arithon captive and use him as leverage to compel the Sorcerers to accede to her order's demands.
Arithon fails in his ocean bound search to locate the lost Paravians. When he learns at last that his effort had been foredoomed from the start, and that effectively his absence bought nothing but time, Dakar's remorse drives an attempt at augury that opens a chilling sequence of dire predictions. Arithon disregards their import and returns to the continent to discover that Lysaer is seizing captive clanborn for galley slaves. This leads him to recall select craftsmen from his prior, defunct shipworks at Merior and bend their expertise to infiltrate Lysaer's new shipyard at Riverton, his aim to hijack the completed vessels and use the prizes to assist free the chained clan oarsmen and assist their escape from the Alliance persecution by fleeing to sanctuary under King Eldir's old law reign in Havish.
The Prime Matriarch of the Koriathain sets a trap to take Arithon by using a past oath of debt to his shipwright to arrange his betrayal, and see his covert colleagues at the Riverton shipworks arrainged by the Alliance. She accomplishes this by engineering a fetch infused with Lysaer's auric signature, then applies the effect in close proximity to trigger the onset of Deshthiere's Curse. Her dastardly plan succeeds all too well: Arithon succumbs to murderous madness, and an honest effort to stay him from disaster provokes his liegeman Caolle's fatal wounding at his own hand. But the careful forevision of the Prime's intricate plot becomes undone by ambitious meddling executed by her sole candidate for succession, Lirenda. Driven by hate and resentful ambition, she foolishly opts to save Caolle from extremis as her personal lever to humiliate Arithon. The Prime's trap, successfully spun, is derailed when Caolle's desperate, last ditch strategy upsets the outcome. His tactical gamble wrestes the fleet of ships and the shipwrights away from Alliance retribution, while Arithon, under Dakar's care, bids for his escape into a Paravian grimward, chased at the heels by a company of men allied with Lysaer, under the captaincy of Sulfin Evend.
Months pass and an arcane trial arranged with Fellowship help through Earl Jieret effects Arithon's safe recall from the grimward's limbo. Lysaer, also, returns emptyhanded from his high handed conspiracy with the Koriathain. His new fleet is a total loss. News of his wife Talith's suicide meets him at the dock. Stricken with grief, he remains unaware that her death was in fact an assassination, done to avert the scandalous birth that would smear his strategic assertion of divinity. Ignorant the murder was arranged in covert conspiracy from within his own council, he rides in haste to pursue the fate of the Hanshire company gone missing in the failed course of Arithon's pursuit.
One of the doomed company of Hanshire cavalry is recovered alive: the captain, Sulfin Evend, survives the grimward, unaware his deliverance was a Fellowship Sorcerer's intervention. In belief he was 'rescued' by Lysaer's divine light, he accepts the dedicated post of Alliance Commander at Arms.
The Koriathain's hope of alliance with Lysaer to weaken the Fellowship's ascendant power is in ruins. For her catastrophic meddling, Lirenda is cast from her rank as First Senior in disgrace. Under sentence to redeem her mistake, she resolves to suborn the life debt owed by the herder's get, Fionn Areth to Elaira, then wield the boy's innocent fate as her personal lever to bait Arithon's downfall.
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