THE DARKEST ROAD by Guy Gavriel Kay

THE DARKEST ROAD by Guy Gavriel Kay

THE DARKEST ROAD by Guy Gavriel Kay

Summary of Books One and Two

In The Summer Tree it was told how Loren Silvercloak and Matt Sören, a mage and his magical source from the High Kingdom of Brennin in the world of Fionavar, induced five people from our own world to “cross” with them to Fionavar. Their ostensible purpose was to have the five participate in the festivities attendant on the celebration of the fiftieth year of the reign of Ailell, the High King. In fact, there were darker premonitions underlying the mage’s actions.

In Brennin, a brutal drought was afflicting the kingdom. Ailell’s older son, Aileron, had already been exiled for cursing his father’s refusal to allow him to sacrifice himself on the Summer Tree in an effort to end the drought.

In Fionavar, the five strangers quickly found themselves drawn into the complex tapestry of events. Kim Ford was recognized by the aged Seer, Ysanne, as the successor she had prophetically dreamt. Kim was initiated into the knowledge of the Seers by the water spirit, Eilathen, and presented with the Baelrath, the “Warstone” that Ysanne had been guarding. Kim was also shown the Circlet of Lisen, a gem that shone with its own light. The beautiful Lisen, a power of Pendaran Wood, had been the magical source and the beloved companion of Amairgen Whitebranch, the first of the mages. She had killed herself, leaping into the sea from her Tower, upon learning that Amairgen had died. Ysanne told Kim the prophecy that accompanied the Circlet: “Who shall wear this next, after Lisen, shall have the darkest road to walk of any child of earth or stars.” Later, as a last gesture of ultimate sacrifice on the eve of war, Ysanne, knowing Kim would have need of the old Seer’s power in the days to come, used Lokdal, the magic dagger of the Dwarves, to kill herself—but not before tracing a symbol on the brow of the sleeping Kim, which action enabled her to make of her own soul a gift for Kimberly.

Meanwhile, Paul Schafer and Kevin Laine were initiated in quite a different way. Paul played—and lost—a night game of chess with the High King in the palace of Paras Derval, during which an unexpected bond of sympathy was forged between the two. The next morning he and Kevin joined the band of the reckless Prince Diarmuid, Ailell’s younger son, in a raid across the River Saeren to Cathal, the Garden Country. There, Diarmuid achieved his intended seduction of Sharra, the Princess of Cathal. After the company’s return to Brennin, they passed a wild night in the Black Boar tavern. Late at night a song Kevin sang reminded Paul too acutely of the death in a car accident of Rachel Kincaid, the woman he had loved. Paul, blaming himself for the accident, which had occurred moments after Rachel had announced she was going to wed someone else, took a drastic step: he approached the High King and received Ailell’s sanction to sacrifice himself in the King’s stead on the Summer Tree.

The next night, the glade of the Summer Tree in the Godwood saw an epic battle. As Paul, bound on the Tree, watched helplessly, Galadan the Wolflord, who had come to claim Paul’s life, was opposed and driven back by a mysterious grey dog. The following night—Paul’s third on the Tree—a red full moon shone in the sky on a new moon night, as Dana, the Mother Goddess, granted Paul release from his guilt, by showing that he had not, in fact, subconsciously willed the accident that had killed Rachel. As Paul wept, rain finally fell over Brennin. Paul, though, did not die. He was taken down from the Tree alive by Jaelle, the High Priestess of Dana. Henceforth Paul would carry another name: Pwyll Twiceborn, Lord of the Summer Tree.

By now it was clear that an epochal confrontation was at hand: Rakoth Maugrim, the Unraveller, defeated a thousand years before and bound under the great mountain, Rangat, had freed himself and had caused the mountain to explode with a hand of fire to proclaim that fact.

His freedom was to have immediate consequences for Jennifer Lowell, the fourth of the strangers. In Paras Derval she had witnessed an unsettling incident during a children’s counting game. A young girl, Leila, had “called” a boy named Finn to “take the Longest Road” for the third time that summer. No one, not even Jaelle, who had also been watching, knew exactly what that meant, though Jaelle was quick to enlist Leila as an acolyte in the Temple. The next day, riding outside the town walls, Jennifer met Brendel of the lios alfar—the Children of Light—and a party of his people. She spent the night in the woods with them, and in the darkness they were attacked. Concerned about the arrival of the five strangers, Rakoth Maugrim had Galadan and Metran—the traitorous First Mage of Brennin—abduct Jennifer. She was bound to the back of the black swan, Avaia, and borne north to Rakoth’s fortress of Starkadh.

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Categories: Kay, Guy Gavriel