The Dragonbone Chair
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US Hardcover Edition
|Cover artist||Michael Whelan|
|Series||Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn|
|October 25, 1988|
|Media type||Print (Hardback and Paperback)|
|ISBN||0-8099-0003-3 (US Hardback)|
|LC Class||PS3573.I45563 D7 1988|
|Followed by||Stone of Farewell|
The Dragonbone Chair is a fantasy novel by American writer Tad Williams, the first in his Memory, Sorrow, and Thorn trilogy. The saga follows a young man named Simon as he is caught up in an epic adventure.
The story takes place on the fictional fantasy world of Osten Ard. The history of the world and the races present in Osten Ard have a great impact on the current events in the books. Thousands of years ago the long-lived Gardenborn arrived in the land, fleeing a cataclysm. They were three tribes, the Zida'ya (commonly called Sithi), the Hikeda'ya (also called Norns) and the Tinukeda'ya (known as Dwarrows and Niskies). In Osten Ard the Gardenborn prospered and they built nine great cities of tremendous beauty. The first two tribes had ruled the third in their ancestral home called the Garden, but in Osten Ard the Tinukeda'ya went their own way, developing into two separate tribes, the seafaring Niskies and the earth-dwelling Dwarrows. The other two tribes also split ways, making a pact at Sesuad'ra, the Stone of Farewell. Their main subject of argument was the appearance of Men or mortals in Osten Ard. The Zida'ya were content to leave Men alone to go their own way, as long as they didn't trespass in Sithi lands. The Hikeda'ya were of the opinion that the mortals had to be wiped out or driven from Osten Ard. The Norns and their fell queen Utuk'u, eldest and most powerful of the Gardenborn, removed to the north of the world, taking the two northern-most cities for their own. Three cities were also given to the Tinukeda'ya, one was sea-bound Jhina't'senei which went to the Niskies and the other two were deep under the earth which went to the Dwarrows, the smaller tribe of the Tinukeda'ya. In the greatest of them all, Asu'a, the High King ruled.
But Men began to prosper and advance and the sea empire of Nabban rose and fell without it disturbing the Gardenborn. The Sithi also had great friendship with the Hernystiri of the west. Then the Rimmersmen came with iron and to them the Gardenborn were devils and demons, to be killed on sight. Unfortunately the Gardenborn suffer from a severe allergy to iron and even with their magics and their own iron-hard witchwood weapons, they were beaten back, one after the other. The Hernystiri were the only ones who stood by the Sithi in the final battle where both armies were destroyed. The remaining Sithi withdrew to Asu'a and there awaited the end. Ineluki, the King's younger son, wove terrible magic at the end with five of his servants and there they and Asu'a were destroyed. However, the spell gave the remaining Sithi time to flee to Aldheorte forest, where they continued to live in secrecy.
During the five hundred years that follows the fall of Asu'a, six different kings ruled in the castle built on the Sithi ruins, called Hayholt. The latest of these is king John Presbyter, who is dying as the story opens.
Simon is an ordinary scullery boy who is taken under the tutelage of Morgenes. When King John Presbyter dies and his son Elias ascends the throne, the way opens for a long-dormant evil to enter the realm. Elias, driven by his evil advisor, moves to eliminate his brother Josua. Caught in the struggle, Simon is forced to flee as best he can, and the young man soon finds himself taking part in adventures he had only dreamed of.
Simon, a fourteen-year-old kitchen boy and servant in the great castle Hayholt, muddles his way through the daily routines of castle drudgery in the last days of the long reign of King John Presbyter. Simon is thrilled when luck turns his way and he finds himself apprenticed to the good Doctor Morgenes, the castle's healer and wizard, after which Simon alternates his time between his menial chores and learning to read and write, under instruction by the doctor. Shortly after the death of the great King John, his son Elias, whom many say is a pawn of the evil cleric Pryrates, takes the throne. Shortly afterwards, King Elias's brother Josua mysteriously disappears, and the new reign begins to curdle in suspicion and discontent. Elias, blinded by his desire for power, creates a pact with the undead Sithi ruler, the Storm King, who himself seeks to regain his lost realm through a pact with one of human royal blood.
When Simon accidentally stumbles into the castle dungeons, he discovers that Prince Josua is being held captive, so he and Morgenes conspire to rescue the prince. Simon and Morgenes are successful, and Josua is able to flee the castle. Soon after, Elias's soldiers, led by Pryrates, storm Morgenes's office. Morgenes is slain by a dark magic, and Simon is able to flee the castle through a secret passage at the back of the doctor's office. Armed only with his mentor's biography of the good King John, Simon is lost and despondent.
After endless hours in the tunnels beneath Hayholt, which is actually the remains of the Sithi castle, Asu'a, Simon stumbles back into the open beyond the castle and town. There, he accidentally witnesses a scene of evil magic involving the king, Pryrates and a few white-faced and white-haired demons. Horrified, he stumbles through the woods on the road north towards Naglimund, the seat of Prince Josua. About halfway to Naglimund, he stumbles upon a strange creature, caught in a cotsman's trap. Simon realizes it must be one of the Sithi, an elven-like folk who was thought to have disappeared from the lands. He rescues him from the trap and in answer is shot at with a white arrow. At that moment, he encounters a troll by the name of Binabik. Binabik tells Simon that the white arrow is a symbol of an obligation towards Simon, and together they travel further towards Naglimund.
While traveling through the Aldheorte forest, they save a young servant girl and her sister from vicious hounds. They travel to Geloë, a witch who helps them escape the soldiers pursuing them. While in her house, Simon, Binabik and Geloë also walk the Dreamroad to try to find answers but only find enemies waiting. They finally reach Naglimund, where they meet with Prince Josua. Simon begins training to be a soldier, as it is common knowledge that Elias is leading an army towards Naglimund. Whilst having a raed [council], an old man appears: Jarnauga. There, the travelers learn of the existence of three legendary swords by the names of Minneyar (or "Year of Memory"), Sorrow, and Thorn. The magic of these swords are the only hope against the combined power of the two High Kings, the ancient Sithi and the new-crowned human, who already have possession of at least one of the swords. They also learn the history of the Sithi and the Storm King, and of the existence of Utuk'u, Queen of the Norns, who are the northern cousins of the Sithi. It is then that Simon realizes that his vision of the dark magic just after his escape from Hayhold was no vision at all but an actual event, and that the white-faced demons were actually Norns. In Naglimund, Simon also learns of a small group of scholars known as the League of the Scroll, of which Morgenes was a member and of which Jarnauga and Binabik are also members. Binabik is only a recent member, after the death of his master Ookequk. Recognizing the true danger facing the land of Osten Ard, only the League holds the knowledge of times past, which may be the only hope of salvation for young Simon and his friends. To Simon's dismay he also finds out that Marya the serving girl whom they saved is actually Miriamele, only child and daughter of King Elias, who had fled her father's madness to join her uncle's cause.
They learn then that the black sword Thorn, once belonging to Camaris the greatest knight of history, is not lost in the depths of the sea, as once thought. It may still exist in the frozen heights to the north, near Binabik's ancestral home.
Simon and Binabik join a group of soldiers to go to the far north to recover the magical blade. Along the way they run into Sithi and the one that Simon saved turns out to be the son of the ruling House named Jiriki. Together with An'nai, one of his kinsman, the Sitha prince joins their quest to the north and helps them survive several dangers. Eventually, Simon and his small company reach the icy mountains which are home to the powerful sword. Simon discovers the blade but shortly afterwards the troupe is attacked by a fierce iceworm, Igjarjuk. Simon, despite his fears, bravely tries to fight it off, suffering a wound in the process.
As the novel progresses, the narrative widens, giving the reader secondary viewpoints besides those of Simon. Some of the side stories, which have great importance nonetheless, include those of Isgrimnur, Duke of Rimmersgard; Maegwin, the daughter of the Hernystiri client king; and Tiamak, a scribe in the marshes of the distant South.
Miriamele, the king's daughter, fled to her uncle in Naglimund. His protectiveness of her frustrates her however, so she flees Naglimund before its fall towards her kin in Nabban, intending to win their allegiance. A drunken monk named Cadrach travels with her; he has lots of secrets and a mysterious past. Isgrimmnur is sent after Miriamele to ensure her safety and return her to Josua.
In Hernystir, the king and his son are slain and their people driven into hiding in the mountains. There, Count Eolair attempts to assist Maegwin the king's daughter but she is sinking into madness while trying to find a way to save her people.
The book ends with the fall of Naglimund: after King Elias accepted the Storm King's terms and bargain, a host of Norns, giants, and undead servants of the Storm King arrive and utterly destroy the castle. Josua escapes with only 11 other people, amongst them Deornoth, his sworn sword, and Gutrun and Isorn, wife and son of Isgrimmnur. Simon opens his eyes after the dragon to find his face bearing a long burn scar and swath of hair turned white.