The Gift / The Naming
For several years, Maerad and her mother lived at Gilman's Cot as slaves. Weakened by her broken spirit, Milana died before Maerad reached puberty, and she lived alone, fulfilling her duties from then onwards. Though she was a vulnerable girl, she appears to have managed to avoid the more harsh and degrading punishments meted out to female slaves; even as an untrained Bard she was considered to be witch-like and capable of placing the "evil eye" on those who sought to treat her roughly. When Cadvan of Lirigon came through the Cot, ensorcelled in a glimmerspell to hide him, Maerad saw him through his disguise, and he realised that she was an untrained Bard. He agreed to assist her escape from Gilman and took her to the School of Innail, where Maerad learns of her heritage for the first time and begins her training in Bardic studies. She is there loved by Dernhil of Gent, a scholar, who subsequently voluntarily sacrifices his life to ensure Hulls in the service of Enkir are unable to pursue Cadvan and Maerad.
During Cadvan and Maerad's journey to the Annaren capital, Norloch, they enter the realm of Ardina, an Elemental (faerie) being who rules the idyllic forest-realm of Rachida, and learn that Maerad's ancestry includes Elemental blood. Upon their exit from Rachida, they rescue a small boy named Hem as he seeks to hide from Hulls in the Valverras waste who had murdered the Pilani travellers who had rescued him. After much talk, Hem and Maerad realise they are brother and sister, and that they belong to the illustrious house of Pellinor.
With the assistance of Dernhil's research, Cadvan uncovers Maerad's destiny as the Foretold One: she who will wrest the mystery called Treesong back into the Light and defeat the Nameless One in his greatest uprising. In the city of Norloch, Cadvan's mentor Nelac confirms this to be the case as he initiates Maerad as a full Bard, whereupon her truename is revealed to be that which was prophecised; Elednor, the Fire-Lily of Edil-Amarandh. It is here that Maerad also encounters Enkir, now first bard of Norloch, and is forced to flee with Cadvan to the Island nation of Thorold. During her journey, Maerad comes into the Speech which allows her to converse fully with other Bards and animals, including her horse Imi and Cadvan's stallion Darsor.
Maerad is a strongwilled character and strives for her best. She is a little wary of Cadvan to begin with, but soon realises he helps her for her own good. Her and Cadvan make a great team together and soon realise it, but the journey isn't without its fair share of quarrels and arguments!
Further signs are given in Thorold that something is wrong at the heart of the Light, when the Rite of Renewal nearly fails and is only completed at the timely intervention of Cadvan. Evidence suggests that Maerad's role in this is more complicated than that of a normal Bard. Readers are also given the first indication that she is susceptible to the temptations of the Dark and that the Treesong was split by Sharma, the Nameless One, in his attempt to become immortal in a similar manner to the Elementals, who owned the Treesong. In order to prevail against the Dark and the Nameless, Cadvan and Maerad must journey north to uncover the secret of the Treesong. It is also implied that she has developed romantic feelings towards Cadvan but these are hindered by her fear of men.
Surviving an attack at sea by a Stormdog, a weather creature created by the Winterking Arkan, Maerad and Cadvan make the journey North. Thereafter the reader sees a deterioration in the relationship between Cadvan and Maerad. This is further exacerbated when she mistakenly kills Ilar of Desor, a Bard who attempts to take them into custody after they are named as outlaws by Enkir. This is taken by Cadvan to be a sign of Maerad's inner, human darkness and a result of her wild, amoral elemental powers. When they are attacked in the mountain passes by servants of the Winterking, Maerad is distressed to find she is unable to join her own power to that of Cadvan, which seemingly results in his death in an avalanche. In fact, the horse Darsor had saved both Cadvan and himself by bolting into a cave in the side of the mountain.
Rescued by Ardina, the dying Maerad is tended by Mirka, a reclusive, mountain-dwelling woman who is a member of the Pilani. Upon her recovery Maerad journeys to the Pilani capital, Murask, where she is introduced to her father's twin sister Sirkana and to a cousin named Dharin. Dharin is tasked with taking Maerad to the Fire Islands to consult the Wise Kindred, an Inuit-like nation living far to the north, regarding the Treesong. Following her meeting with their Singer, a necromancer named Inka-Reb, Maerad is captured by Jussack raiders in the service of the Winterking Arkan and taken to his stronghold, Arkan-da. There, she is enchanted and kept beneath his sway, as he thinks to keep her with him, to be his Queen. Though he is in some ways cold and cruel, Maerad finds herself attracted to Arkan, and her hatred of him is tempered when she discovers he has been betrayed by the Nameless and does not consider himself Sharma's ally. In her conversations with the Winterking she learns that her lyre, which belonged to her mother Milana, bears runes which form one half of the Treesong. Although Arkan can tell her what they mean, he is unable to reveal the music of the Treesong itself. It is believed that Sharma, the Nameless, has the other half of the song in his domain of Den Raven in the south.
Ardina helps Maerad to escape Arkan by assuming the form of a Wolf while simultaneously creating a semblance of herself to confuse the Winterking. Together they escape the fury of Arkan, who unleashes a terrible storm upon them, and journey with a wolf pack to the Annaren border. Still in wolf form, Maerad is intuitively drawn to her birthplace, the now destroyed city of Pellinor, where she finds Cadvan and Darsor camping among the ruins, having been told by Ardina to await her return there. She assumes human form again - much to Cadvan's surprise – and they resume their quest.
Her story resumes in the fourth book, The Singing, having been interrupted by the third book's focus on her younger brother, Hem.
Maerad is of average height. Unlike her brother, Hem/Cai, she is more Annaren than Pilani in appearance. She has pale skin, long black hair, a large strong nose and blue eyes. She is roughly 16–17 years old.
Since her kidnap and capture by the Winterking in the events of The Riddle, she has only one and a half fingers and a slightly large swollen thumb on her left hand, as a result of frostbite in the frozen wastes of Zmarkan.
Powers and abilities
Some members of the House of Karn have Elidhu blood, and as such their skill, proficiency, and raw power at Bardic Magic and Magery is extremely high. Therefore Maerad has immense magical strength, which she has used in several feats, as listed below:
- Created a living lion from a rock (never before done by a mortal);
- Changed a Hull into a rabbit when attacked;
- Held up against an attack from a pureblood Elidhu, the Landrost;
- Sang a stormdog to tranquility (technically not magic, but remarkable for its rarity);
- Aided in the creation of powerful magics that were impossible before her arrival;
- Seen through the Illusory Veil cast by Arkan the Winterking;
- Located her brother Hem in the Valverras Waste;
- Killed a Kulag, which is a large, monstrous beast;
- Simultaneously defeated several Hulls, wers, and a Wight of the Abyss single-handedly;
- Can speak Annaren, the Bardic Speech, and the language of the Elidhu;
- Under the encouragement of Ardina, has learned to alter her shape, spending several days as a member of a wolf pack in order to escape from the Winterking.
Due to her period as a slave, Maerad owns very few possessions. What she does have are kept in her travelling pack and include:
- A mystical Lyre, thought to have been created by Nelsor of Afinil. This is inscribed with ancient Runes which form one half of the Treesong. A leather case for the Lyre was also given to her by Cadvan. It appears to be made by the ancient Dhyllin people.
- A book of poems given to her by Dernhil of Gent;
- Ring given to her by Ardina;
- Prior to her imprisonment in Arkan-da, her sword (called Irigan) and helm;
- A coat of chainmail;
- A set of Elidhu-made pipes, used to make music;
- A healing stone given to her by Silvia, a Bard of the School Innail;
- A small statue of a cat she found among the wreckage of the Pilanel travelling group where she first found her brother, Hem;
- After Chapter Two of The Singing, a new sword.