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Disaster has been sown in the aftermath of the Mistwraith's defeat: Its vanquishers, Lysaer the Lord of Light and Arithon the Master of Shadows, are now driven to unstoppable hatred for each other by the cursed geas it placed on them.
Five years have passed since the ferocious battle in Strakewood Forest, between the army of headhunters from Rathain and the barbarian tribes of Deshir. In this time, Lysaer the Lord of Light has resurrected his kingdom from its own ashes, negotiating alliances between rival factions until some semblance of peace has settled. He cannot rest on his laurels, though, for he has vowed to destroy his half-brother Arithon, the Master of Shadows, and all who ally with him.
To prevent further suffering amongst his allies, Arithon flees to Merior and the familiar element of the sea, hoping to escape Lysaer and avoid further tragedy on his account, while his half-brother, driven by his twisted geas of justice to destroy him, amasses the army of Rathain in hot pursuit. Arithon's only ally on his voyage is Dakar, sworn to defend his life but determined to wreck his cause...
This book contains examples of:
- Arrows on Fire: Used by clan archers during the battle at Werpoint to torch Lysaer's ships.
- Bad End: After the incident at Jaelot, Asandir reveals that its Mayor "will end his life badly, in pain of his own devising." This is not to say that this end will some soon, though, as Word of God confirms that he is still the Mayor of Jaelot in The Alliance of Light.
- Batman Gambit: Arithon's plan to hire the Black Drake hinges on Dakar, not knowing said plan, trying to wreck everything by starting a bar brawl.
- Bound and Gagged: Happens twice to Dakar. The first time a strip of cloth is bound across his mouth to prevent his raucous singing while in jail, and he manages to work the gag out of his mouth and continue singing. The second time, on the Black Drake a dish sponge is crammed into his mouth, which he manages to swallow.
- Catapult Nightmare
- Chekhov's Skill: While not a skill by the usual definition, it is established in Curse of the Mistwraith that Dakar tends to attract iyats due to his inexpert skills at magic. In Ships of Merior he uses this tendency to annoy his way out of a jail sentence involving hard labor.
- In the wake of the attack on Werpoint, Lysaer realizes far too late that the brigantines seen to attack the harbor were nothing more than wrecked hulks cloaked in shadowy illusions to perfectly resemble intact ships. He then recalls seeing Arithon crafting miniature ships out of shadows to amuse the children of Etarra - ships that were flawless in every detail.
- Crowning Moment of Awesome / Magic Music / The Power of Rock: Arithon plays a particularly epic form of this in Jaelot, managing to reawaken his own stunted sorcery, awaken a point of power under the city, invoke the Paravian mysteries that were once revered there, and destroy much of the city completely by accident. Naturally it causes massive panic in the townsfolk who had, deliberately or otherwise, been decently successful in muffling the the node up till then, and he, his mentor, and Dakar must beat feet very quickly afterwards, mainly because Arithon's magical disguise as Medlir has dropped while he was playing.
- Defeat Means Friendship: When Arithon first requests Erlien's aid in defending against Lysaer, Erlien challenges him to a duel and harries him to the point that Arithon thinks the clansman means to kill him. After disarming Erlien, Arithon learns that the fight had two purposes: a test to see if Arithon would use his powers to save himself (he didn't), and a response to the s'Brydion call for justice, related to their armory explosion. Afterwards, of course, Erlien is quite happy to help.
- The Dog Bites Back: Never piss off a bard.
- Funbag Airbag: Arithon narrowly avoids colliding facefirst with a prostitute's cleavage in the Kittiwake Tavern.
- Go Seduce My Arch-Nemesis: Morriel sends Elaira to Merior to get close to Arithon so the Koriani can monitor him more closely.
- Half-Identical Twins: Fiark and Feylind.
- Hilarity Ensues / Stuff Blowing Up: Arithon is sent to find evidence that the s'Brydions have found the secret to black powder, and he decides to do so without their permission. The resultant merry chase around the armory leaves it disarranged and partially destroyed, and then Arithon sends a flaming arrow too near the black powder stores he'd found...
- Info Dump: The s'Brydion brothers get a brief (but thorough) history of the more violent and bloodstained events in Paravia's past, in order to help them decide their own fate regarding their recent research into black powder weaponry.
- Jack Bauer Interrogation Technique: Dakar finds himself the target of the s'Brydion brothers' collective wrath after their armory gets blown up.
- Laser-Guided Amnesia: Asandir magically removes all memories (and all evidence) of the culverin, a simple black-powder musket, from the minds and records of the s'Brydion brothers, foreseeing that continuing down this particular path of warfare will cause untold destruction.
- Last Request: When his hand suffers nerve damage in Jaelot, precluding him from playing the lyranthe ever again, Halliron asks Arithon, his newly graduated apprentice, to go to Halliron's family in Innish and tell them, through the medium of a special ballad that he had written just for this purpose, how much he had loved them.
- The Load: Deliberately invoked. Upon discovering that his every attempt at active sabotage keeps playing into Arithon's plans, Dakar attempts passive sabotage by drinking himself further into oblivion than usual.
- Magically-Binding Contract: Dakar flippantly makes a promise to ferry the dying Halliron to Innish, in order to ease the latter's anxiety, but fully plans to ditch him and Arithon at the earliest opportunity. Asandir makes sure he keeps his word to Halliron and follows the charge he received to guard Arithon, by binding Dakar with a geas that prevents him from enjoying any of the pleasures of the flesh if he runs off again. That means the finest beer takes like cough medicine, the tastiest food tastes like shit, and the thought of getting with a woman causes sharp pains in his groin, until he catches up with Arithon.
- Manly Tears
- Marked Bullet: Captain Mayor Pesquil is fatally shot with a clan vengeance arrow whose four-bladed head is inscribed, "From the son of the Earl of the North,/ for my lady mother, and four sisters,/ for the slaughtered innocents by Tal Quorin", with the fourth inscribed with Pesquil's own name.
- Memento MacGuffin: In Merior, Arithon gives Jinesse his royal signet ring as a token of his promise to keep Fiark and Feylind safe.
- Morton's Fork: Asandir presents the s'Brydion brothers with a choice: either consent to having your memories and records of the culverin erased, or be sealed in this room for the rest of your natural life and we destroy your notes anyway. Either way, you don't get to keep your gun, and nobody else gets the chance to follow your research.
- My God, What Have I Done?: When Arithon learns that Elaira has set up shop in Merior, he is convinced that Morriel sent her as a ploy to compromise him, and is largely cold towards her. When he subsequently learns how wrong he is through their empathic link in the wake of a major healing, he is horrified by his earlier behavior.
- Nailed to the Wagon: The result of Dakar's Magically-Binding Contract, described above. Naturally, Dakar is Not Happy about it.
- Nice to the Waiter: There are certain rules of engagement to be followed when requesting a bard play at an event. When the Mayor of Jaelot violates pretty much all of them simply because
he's a pompous overinflated jerkhe can, Halliron Masterbard retaliates with a satirical ballad airing out all the dirty laundry he and his apprentice have been able to compile during their stay. The Mayor retaliates by having Halliron arrested and demanding that his apprentice Medlir play for them instead. Medlir's song nearly destroys the city.
- The Nondescript: After the fateful performance in Jaelot, the guards are flummoxed to find that no two people can agree on what Medlir looked like.
- Paranoia Fuel: The journey of Lysaer's forces through Valleygap is delayed for hours to check for clan scouts (which could be in any of several hundred hiding places) and thereafter moves at a crawl in order for the caravan scouts to investigate every noise and rockslide to prevent heavy losses from snipers or investigate the path for pit traps, deadfalls, snares, blockages, and any number of hazards. Due to the unfriendly terrain, they can't be sure if enemy forces are even there at any given time.
- Playing Sick: When Dakar is stabbed in a barfight, he is able to heal himself with ease, but continues malingering to gain the sympathy of the girl he kissed by mistake, starting it all. Asandir is Not Happy when he finds out.
- Pride Before a Fall: Our first impression of the Mayor of Jaelot is that he's a massive jerk. So naturally the concert he orders from a couple of traveling bards goes spectacularly badly for him.
- Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Averted. When Kharadmon sets out to explore the Mistwraith's world of origin without the associated South Gate (which had been deactivated), the rest of the Fellowship is quite aware that is will be a very long, very dangerous journey even for a discorporate sorcerer.
- Screw the Rules, I Have Money: The Mayor of Jaelot. Then he encounters Arithon and Halliron...
- Stay in the Kitchen: When Lysaer sets out for Avenor to raise his army, he insists that Lady Talith remain behind in Erdane for her own safety. She is not happy about this and arranges passage with Pesquil's men to join Lysaer anyway.
- Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Lysaer manages to forge at least this level of alliance in the many bickering factions of Rathain and Avenor in order to fund his army. Then he gets pwned at Werpoint.
- You Are Not Alone: Jieret has to remind Arithon that the blood-oath Jieret swore means he suffers exactly the same mental and emotional strain as Arithon during the battle at Werpoint.
- Correspondingly, Lord Diegan reminds Lysaer that, whatever the setbacks and failures wrought in Werpoint, Diegan himself at least will remain beside him in his quest to destroy the Shadow Master