I read your last letter, and I’ve got to say, I’m impressed that you could pull it off. I mean, I know you do impossible things every day, but actually hearing about what you’ve done always leaves me in a state of amazement. I just wish I could’ve seen it! But, why worry about what could’ve been? On to the reason I’m writing to you.
As you might have guessed, I’ve finished the book from last time, and I’m well into another one. It’s written by the same author (Mercedes Lackey, if you’ve forgotten) and it’s called Magic’s Pawn. I’m on page 208, and I’m perilously close to tears. I’d forgotten how sad this book was! (I’ve read the book before, but it was awhile ago, and I’ve forgotten the particulars so I wanted to read it again.)
Here’s the gist of it: The story starts when Vanyel Ashkevron is sixteen. He was brought up on his family’s estate (they breed horses for a living, and have a huge family, even excluding all the children fostered there) and was alternately coddled by his frivolous mother Treesa, and emotionally abused by his homophobic father Withen, who despairs of Vanyel’s love for fine clothing and music. Because of this fear, he sends Vanyel to live with his estranged sister, Herald-Mage Savil Ashkevron in Haven (Haven is the capital of Valdemar, and Savil lives in the Heralds Wing of the Heraldic Collegium. There are three Collegiums in total, one for Bards, one for Healers and one for, of course, Heralds. All are situated in Haven.) in hopes that she might be able to “make a man” out him. It is there, ironically, that Vanyel realizes that he is attracted to other men when he falls for Savil’s openly shay’a’chern protégé Tylendel Frelennye (Shay’a’chern is a word in the outland tongue of the Tayledras that is used to refer to those that prefer their own sex. It translates roughly to “one whose lover is like self” with a sexual connotation to the word “self” that makes it clear that they aren’t talking about incest or similar interests.) Eventually, Tylendel finds out that his attraction to Vanyel is reciprocated and they become romantically involved. Later it’s discovered that they share a lifebond. (A lifebond is essentially the same thing as a soul mate in modern terms with a few additions, such as a partner will seldom outlive the other, though it isn’t completely unheard of.) They spend a blissful fortnight or so before it all changes drastically. Tylendel’s twin brother Staven, whom he had always been especially close with, is murdered because he was the head of a family involved in a blood feud (long standing fight between two families.) Tylendel, who was mentally linked in with Staven at the time of his death, goes temporarily insane with grief, and never quite recovers from it. Around a day later the Herald-Trainee wakes up from his shock-induced sleep; revenge the only thing on his mind. The bereaved brother attempts to get Vanyel to steal a book of high level spells from Savil’s study and Vanyel, eager to return his lover to his former cheerful state, even at the cost of vengeance, agrees and takes the book. The protégé learns two spells, one of summoning and one for Gating, and they set off into the night. Tylendel uses Vanyel’s energy (The lifebond is an actual and tangible bond between the two and Tylendel uses this bond to draw the energy from his lover.) to weave a Gate spell. (The concept of Gating is a lot like Teleportation, you build a “gateway” from one place to another without touching the land in between.) They Gate to where the Lesharas’ (They are the family opposing the Frelennyes in the blood feud.) mansion is located, only to find them celebrating. This only heightens Tylendel’s rage and he summons five wyrsa. (The wyrsa are about the size of a horse, with a body vaguely resembling a greyhound. They’re black in color and have scaly skin. Also incredibly swift of foot.) Gala, Tylendel’s Companion (A Companion is a sort of Guardian Spirit residing in the body of a white horse with deep blue eyes and silver hooves if you don’t remember.) comes charging out of the still open Gate and confronts the wyrsa after repudiating her Chosen. It’s a suicidal attack, and Gala soon lies dead, two wyrsa unharmed. Tylendel snaps mentally at the loss of his Companion. (The bond between a Companion and their Chosen is similar to, though not on as deep of a level as a lifebond and as with the lifebond, the two seldom outlive each other though it is again, not unheard of. The loss of either part of the bond would be completely and utterly devastating to the other member.) Heralds appear through the Gate, Savil at their head, and take care of the remaining wyrsa before they can harm anyone. Savil redirects the Gate’s destination to Companion’s field, near the bell tower and ushers the two teenagers through. After arriving, Savil feeds the energy back through Vanyel in the painful process of dismantling the Gate. During the insinuating confusion, Tylendel slips into the bell tower and climbs it. He jumps from the top, killing himself in the process. The Death Bell rings. (The Death Bell always rings when a Herald dies.) Vanyel disappears into the woods with the knowledge that his love and other half is gone forever.
Heart wrenching is it not? Despite being dark enough to make even the most cheerful and hard-hearted of people cry, I love it. I think quite a bit of it has to do with the setting. Reading about Haven is especially delightful. It has multiple walls from the inner wall surrounding the Palace, to the outermost ring that surrounds the entire city. Each wall was built as Haven outgrew its borders and as you go further from the center, the districts grow poorer. Another key fact of Haven is that there is no direct route to the Palace from the outside. It’s a veritable maze of alleys and roadways, designed to be practical and defensible in times of siege. You can probably tell by all the old defenses, that this book was modeled after a time long gone. In the official timeline the book is set 750 years after Baron Valdemar escaped the oppressive clutches on his home country with the rest of his estate and founded a new country (Later the country is named Valdemar in recognition of the Baron, who was their first King and the first Herald.) that he hoped would live up to the motto “There is no one true way.”
Despite King Valdemar’s initial efforts and his Heralds continued efforts to uphold this motto, the country remains in a state of tension due to the lack of Heralds in present times. As Valdemar’s protectors they are extremely valued so with their currently dwindling numbers, people are beginning to feel uneasy. Not surprising, considering that the Heralds (and the Monarchy by extension for he or she must be a Herald) are all that stand between them and a possible war with other countries. (Namely Karse, which I talked about quite a bit in my last letter. They’re the main enemies of Valdemar, if you recall.) I think the author could have made more mention of those facts, because in the story it’s just an oppressive sort of atmosphere, because you know that it’s there but the reason for it is only mentioned by a few Heralds, such as Savil. I think greater mention would’ve greatly improved the story and given it more depth, though at the same time it might’ve just made it even more depressing.
Speaking of depressing, I think things might just be going downhill for Vanyel. But given what Mercedes Lackey has said about her characters: “Drop a mountain on them. Recover them, make them happy again. Then drop another mountain on them.” I’m not sure what I should believe. She might just make him happy again, only for it to all break apart in the end. I do hope that he makes it through this though as I’ve grown rather fond of him.
Anyways, I’ve taken up enough of your time. Hopefully you didn’t get too depressed with all this talk of death. Mind you, I suppose you’re used to it, being friends with so many detectives, especially Shin-chan. And since I’m on the subject, how is your latest “Heist” going? Have you made any headway? I know how stubborn he is, so you can’t be having an easy time of it. But since it’s you (and as I’ve said above, you do impossible things every day) I’m sure you’ll think of some way to get through that thick skull of his! I have the utmost confidence in your abilities. But still, good luck!
Love & light,