The Nightrunner Series
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An official logo for The Nightrunner Series.
Luck in the Shadows
The White Road
Casket of Souls
Shards of Time
|Published||August, 1996 – Current|
|Media type||Print (Paperback), (Kindle, only available in the United States of America and Canada), Audio (Cassette), (CD/MP3)|
|Followed by||The Tamír Triad|
‘Nightrunning’ refers to espionage, the principal occupation of the series’ two protagonists, Seregil and Alec. The books also explore sexuality and gender roles, presenting a world where bi- and homosexuality are as accepted as heterosexuality, as well as a realm (Skala) which is ruled by Queens rather than Kings, and in whose army women warriors have a major role.
Luck in the Shadows
Seregil stumbles into the rescue of Alec, a poor, orphaned hunter. After hiring Alec to guide him through the Northern Lands, Seregil notes Alec's quick learning ability and fast hands, and offers him a job as his apprentice. Alec, though wary of Seregil at first due to a distressing amount of secrecy and suspicion that he's becoming a thief or spy, accepts the offer. They fall into a mystery that involves the fast deterioration of Seregil's mind and sanity, and Alec must find a way to save his new teacher and friend. Alec manages to deliver Seregil into the hands of Nysander, a wizard of Skala, but the mystery seems to only deepen. At the same time, a traitorous plot against the Queen seems to be unfolding, and Seregil must solve it quickly; before he is found guilty of treason himself.
The seemingly harmless wooden disc that nearly caused Seregil's death and loss of sanity in Luck in the Shadows is revealed to be part of a broken, evil, helm belonging to the ‘Eater of Death’, a forsaken god named Seriamaius. A plan to retrieve all the pieces of the helm is attempted by a Plenimarine, Mardus, who wishes to use it to conquer Skala and Mycena and rule over the three lands. A prophecy long foretold takes place, and Seregil has to kill his mentor, Nysander, in order to destroy the helm. In the last paragraphs of the book, Seregil and Alec admit their feelings for one another.
Seregil and Alec are sent to Aurënen, Seregil's homeland, with Princess Klia, in a Skalan delegation to ask for open ports, warriors and supplies in the deepening war between Skala and Plenimar, but the attempted murder of the Princess means trouble. Seregil and Alec must unravel the mystery before all chance of a treaty is ruined. At the same time, Seregil must readjust himself to the country he was exiled from more than thirty years previously.
A collection of short stories including the story of how Seregil, Nysander, and Micum all meet.
Seregil and Alec are kidnapped by Zengati slave traders and bought by a Plenimaran alchemist. Using Alec's unique blood as a half-northerner, half-hâzadriëlfaie, the alchemist intends to create a creature called a rhekaro, who appears to be a young child, and yet is most definitely not human at all. Seregil eventually helps Alec and Sebrahn escape, coming to terms with his own past as he reunites with an old lover and enemy.
The White Road
Having escaped death and slavery in Plenimar, Seregil and Alec want nothing more than to go back to their nightrunning life in Rhíminee. Instead they find themselves saddled with Sebrahn, a strange, alchemically created creature—the prophesied "child of no woman". Its moon-white skin and frightening powers make it a danger to all whom Seregil and Alec come into contact with, leaving them no choice but to learn more about Sebrahn's true nature. But what then? With the help of old friends and Seregil's clan, the pair sets out to discover the truth about this living homunculus—a journey that can lead only to danger… or death. For Seregil's old nemesis Ulan í Sathil of Virèsse and Alec's own long-lost kin (Hâzadrielfaie) are after them, intent on possessing both Sebrahn and Alec. On the run and hunted, Alec and his friends must fight against time to accomplish their most personal mission ever.
Casket of Souls
More than the dissolute noblemen they appear to be, Alec and Seregil are skillful spies, dedicated to serving queen and country. But when they stumble across evidence of a plot pitting Queen Phoria against Princess Klia, the two Nightrunners will find their loyalties torn as never before. Even at the best of times, the royal court at Rhíminee is a serpents' nest of intrigue, but with the war against Plenimar dragging on interminably, treason simmers just below the surface. And that's not all that poses a threat: A mysterious plague is spreading through the crowded streets of the city, striking young and old alike. Now, as panic mounts and the body count rises, hidden secrets emerge. And as Seregil and Alec are about to learn, conspiracies and plagues have one thing in common: the cure can be as deadly as the disease.
Shards of Time
The last novel in the series. The governor of the sacred island of Kouros and his wife have been killed inside a locked and guarded room. The sole witnesses to the crime—guards who broke down the door, hearing the screams from within—have gone mad with terror, babbling about ghosts… and things worse than ghosts. Dispatched to Kouros by the queen, master spies Alec and Seregil find all the excitement and danger they could want—and more. For an ancient evil has been awakened there, a great power that will not rest until it has escaped its prison and taken revenge on all that lives. And our heroes must find a way to stop it and save those they hold most dear… or die trying.
Seregil í Korit Solun Meringil Bôkthersa
Seregil is one of the protagonists and a full-blooded Aurënfaie. He is 57 at the beginning of the series, but looks 25 because of his people's long lifespan. He is described as tall and fair-skinned with grey eyes and brown hair.
After being seduced by Ilar í Sontir into breaking atui during a treaty and having accidentally killed a man, he is exiled to Skala by the rhui'auros request where he becomes a Watcher, a spy in the queen's service. As a Watcher, he has many personas: Aren Windover, a bard known in the north; Lord Seregil of Rhíminee, a noble in Skalan court; the Rhíminee Cat, a burglar for nobles of the Skalan court in Luck in the Shadows.
Seregil is a very skilled lover and has had numerous sexual relations with both men and women—though with a clear preference for men. However, he did not find a real love until meeting Alec.
Alec is the son of Amasa and Ireya ä Shaar, He is a ya'shel because of his mother's Hâzadrielfaie blood. A boy of sixteen at the beginning of the series, he is described as tall, blond and blue-eyed. Because of his looks and his Dalnan conservative upbringing he is generally perceived as naive and innocent, though he shows great intelligence and cunning over the books.
He is captured and thrown in prison where he meets Seregil. After Seregil helps him escape he contracts Alec to guide him to Wolde. Being impressed by Alec's talent and intelligence he asks Alec to be his apprentice and learn "the acquisition of goods and information".
A master swordsman and dear friend of Seregil who meets Seregil years before the events of Luck in the Shadows. At the beginning of the series he is in his forties. Already settled down with a family of three, later four children and a foster son he does not always accompany Seregil on his adventures anymore. Micum himself is a Watcher too and father of Beka, Elsbet, Illia and Gherin. At the end of Stalking Darkness he and his wife Kari adopt Luthas.
She is the wife of Micum, mother of Beka, Elsbet, Illia, Gherin and later, Luthas. She runs the farm and house at Watermead since Micum is almost always away. She used to have a rivalry with Seregil since they were both in love with Micum at the same time and since he used to arrive and steal Micum away on Watcher business for months at a time, but Micum chose her. Seregil is like a brother to Micum now, and Kari like a sister, or sometimes a mother.
Beka ä Kari Thallia Grelenda of Watermead
Eldest daughter of Micum and Kari, she is an Commander in the Queen's Horse Guard, she is held in high regard by Commander Klia and the officers under her. A major love interest of hers is Nyal in Traitor's Moon—later her husband. She is skilled with a bow, a sword, close quarters combat, tracking and is a devious tactician, as she learned from her father. She becomes a Watcher in Traitor's Moon.
Second oldest daughter of the Cavish family, she is very interested in knowledge and literature. With Lord Seregil's help, she becomes an initiate studying at Illior's temple in Skala.
Youngest daughter of the Cavish family, she is the most "ladylike" and interested in marriage and running a home and the court, out of all the sisters. After her older sisters leave home, she helps her mother with Luthas and Gherin and running the household. She was named after Seregil's mother. In Casket of Souls, her life is in grave danger, and she is saved by her father and his companions with great effort and risk.
Born at the end of Stalking Darkness, he is named by Seregil Gherin which means 'early blessing' in Aurënfaie.
Nysander is the last disciple and heir of Arkoniel and guardian of the necromancer Helm. He is described as kind and eccentric. Thero is his apprentice—Nysander being disappointed with Thero's often cold and arrogant attitude, but nevertheless regarding him as having a great potential (which in fact would be realized only after Nysander's death).
He was the first to befriend Seregil after his exile from Aurënen and offered him an apprenticeship at the Orëska House. When that didn't work he hired him as a Watcher, one of the spies under his command.
In Stalking Darkness, Nysander requests (indeed demands and orders) Seregil to kill him—as that is the only way to finally destroy the evil Helm. After this he appears twice more in visions to offer guidance.
Thero í Procepios
Thero is a wizard who was Nysander's apprentice after Seregil. At first, he and Seregil are bitter rivals, but become more respectful of each other after the events of Stalking Darkness. Originally cold and arrogant, his character gradually changes and he strives to emulate the generous character of the dead Nysander. He becomes head of the Watchers after Nysander's death. He and Princess Klia fall in love with each other—the first ever relationship between a wizard and a member of the Skalan Royal family—and in the end of Shards of Time, they have a baby daughter, the first known case of a wizard having a child (made possible by a magical dragon biting Thero).
A powerful Wizard of the Third Oreska and once Nysander's love interest, and his soul mate, despite her being celibate and him taking other women as lovers. After Nysander's death, she takes over Thero's apprenticeship.
Skalan Royal Family
Queen Idrilain the Second
Mother of Klia and Phoria and Queen of Skala at the beginning of the series. Mortally wounded by a Plenimaran arrow, she holds on long enough to send Princess Klia on the vital mission to re-establish relations with Aurënen—since she does not trust Phoria, her elderst daughter and heir, to do it.
Eldest Princess of Skala, inherited the throne after Idrilain's passing. She managed to push back the Plenimarian's back into their homeland but died on the threshold of victory. She wanted to conquer Plenimar so that the land could see a peace that lasted without threat. Under her rule, even though Aurenen were allies, the style of the Aurenfaie went out of fashion. Tried to alienate all things not Skalan, including magic, seeing it do more harm than good.
Son of Idrilain, twin of Phoria to who he was greatly devoted. Was Seregil's first lover after he was exiled to Skala. While the Skalan system of having only Queens excluded him from the throne, he was appointed Viceregent, taking care of the Skalan home front while his mother and sister were busy on the front with Plenimar. One of the most powerful people in Skala.
Klia ä Idrilain Elesthera Klia Rhíminee
Klia is the only surviving child of Queen Idrilain and her last consort, the youngest princess of her generation. She is 23 years old at the beginning of the series. She is the Commander of the Queen's Horse Guard, respected by most as a competent tactician and fighter. Falling in love with Thero (and vice versa), she succeeds in convincing him to consummate their unprecedented love. Having no design on the throne, she does not use the occasion of being in command of the victorious army after Queen Phoria's death in battle to seize power for herself. Rather, she orderly hands power to her young niece Elani, Phoria's designated heir.
Designated at a young age to be heir to the throne of Queen Phoria. Her mother—and heir apparent—Aralain, was considered unsuitable to lead. Intensively trained by her aunt in both war and statecraft, she rises to the throne at the age of sixteen, following the death in battle of her aunt. She proves a capable and sensitive ruler; developing a strong friendship with Alec, due especially to their shared passion for archery.
Nyal í Nhekai Beritis of Ra'Basi
Nyal is introduced as the interpreter for the Skalan soldiers who are assigned as Klia's royal guard in her visit to Aurënen in Traitor's Moon. He is a traveler of many lands, knowing many languages and understanding the customs and cultures of many people. He is a capable fighter and is a soldier when he needs to be. He becomes a love interest of Beka's in Traitor's Moon, eventually her husband and fellow-fighter in the war with Plenimar.
Ilar í Sontir of Chyptaulos
Ilar, also known as Khenir, was introduced in Shadows Return, although often mentioned in the previous books.
Seregil's first lover, Ilar seduced him at Ulan í Sathil's bidding and betrayed him when Seregil was 22 years old. He was a reason of Seregil's downfall and his exile from Aurënen. After his escape, Ilar was caught by Ulan and sold into slavery in Plenimar. He spent 40 years under the a false name Khenir, coming to believe it all Seregil's fault. Seeking revenge, he helped his master, Yakhobin, to catch Seregil and Alec, but later he also helped them escape.
Found again by Ulan's men, he was taken back to Viresse in The White Road where the khirnari unravelled the story of the rhekaro. Ulan took him back to Plenimar to help him steal Yakhobin's books, but left him there when he helped Seregil instead.
Adzriel ä Illia
Adzriel ä Illia is Seregil's oldest sister and has acted as a mother figure for him. After her father she becomes the khirnari of the Bôkthersa. Though he is officially no longer a member of the clan, Adzriel offers him (and Alec) a very warm welcome in his ancestral home.
Ulan í Sathil
Ulan í Sathil is the khirnari of the Virèsse clan. Until the events of Traitor's Moon, his clan held monopoly over trading with Skala and as a result holds a grudge against Seregil and Alec for enabling the opening of Gedre. He is two hundred seventy years old and suffers from a sickness of the lungs and severe arthritis. Involved in extensive secret dealings with the Plenimarans, including a tacit complicity with the enslavement of Aurënfaie from other clans—while striving to ransom and repatriate enslaved members of his own clan. He is described as cunning, ruthless and devoted to his clan's welfare. He dies in Riga at the end of The White Road—Seregil and Alec deciding not to reveal what they know of his dark deeds.
Riagil í Molan Uras Illien Gedre
The Khirnari of Gedre. Knew Seregil when he was very young.
Rekharos or tayan'gil (silver blood) are humanoid creatures created from the blood of the Hâzadrielfaie. They can heal though no one except Sebrahn can speak or bring back the dead.
A rhekaro, Sebrahn is described as very pale with silver-colored eyes and shining white hair. Because of his appearance, Alec named him moonlight in Aurënfaie.
The prophesied child of no woman, Sebrahn was created in Shadows Return by the Plenimaran alchemist Yhakobin for Ulan í Satil in hopes of distilling a healing elixir to prolong his life. He was created using Alec's Hâzadrielfaie blood and as a result is only able to feed by drink Hâzadrielfaie blood. Alec took him along when he escaped the alchemist's house.
Later he let him be taken in the care of the Hâzadrielfaie in The White Road when he realised that couldn't continue his lifestyle and still care for Sebrahn.
Another rhekaro, he was made from the blood of Hâzadriël herself and has since hunted with the Ebrados by her wish. He is pale and silver-haired like Sebrahn, though he doesn't speak and has wings.
Capital: Rhíminee. Ruled by: Queen Idrilain, then Queen Phoria and finally Queen Elani.
Location: to the north is the Inner Sea and Mycena, to the east is Plenimar and The Strait of Bal, to the south is Aurënen and to the west is the Oisiat Sea and Zangat.
Significant Cities: Ero (former capital) Cirna, Ardinlee and Tes.
The capital of Skala, it holds the Royal Palace, the Skalan Court and the Orëska. It is also where The Cockerel Inn and Wheel Street are located. Rhíminee was founded by Queen Tamir the Great (who was personally involved in the details of city planning) after the earlier capital Ero was destroyed by the Plenimarans. Rhíminee has very strong defenses, to make sure that this would not happen again, and in some earlier wars they were severely tested. There are the double walls forming a ring around the city, plentiful supplies ready for the possibility of a siege, and streets designed for defense against any attacker who might breach the outer defences. Rhíminee also has very sophisticated sewage system—a lesson from the bad sewage of the earlier capital which had been nicknamed "Stinking Ero". In peacetime, Rhíminee is a major trading port through which enormous wealth is daily passing. This wealth is divided very unequally—there is an enormous disparity between the rich quarters at the northern part and the slums to the south; Alec and Seregill are at home in both, with some preference to the poorer areas.
The Orëska House
Technically The Third Orëska House, it is commonly referred to simply as ″the Orëska″ and is the home of all wizards. Though some choose not to live there, like Magyana who travels a lot, most do, choosing to be among their own kind, with all the resources and amenities that are provided. It has many libraries and rooms filled with books in numerous languages, a vault of ancient and magical artifacts, state of the art baths and rooms for master wizards, their students, apprentices and servants. The garden within the Orëska grounds is constantly in a sunny summer state through magical means. When Nysander was alive, he inhabited one of the towers, using up several rooms and floors, along with his apprentice Thero and his servant Wethis.
In the Upper City on the edge of the Noble's Quartet, Lord Seregil owns a house on Wheel Street that is referred to simply as “Wheel Street”. He and Alec live and host court events there when they're in the city or if it makes practical sense for them as Watchers. Runcer is a full-time butler who lives in and cares for the house. After he passes on, Runcer the younger, his grandson takes over. He also covers for Lord Seregil and Lord Alec when he needs to, never asking questions. During Sakor Festival or when they're in the city, the Cavish family stays here. There are two large white Zangeti hounds named Mârag and Tir that lives here.
The Cockerel Inn
When in Rhíminee, Seregil and Alec usually stay here in the Lower City since they can come and go at all hours, unobserved. There is a full-time staff who run the Inn a family. They operate efficiently and are always helpful to Seregil and Alec, never asking questions about their eccentricities and never shocked at the strange things they require. Up the back staircase that leads to the attic, where the managing family lives, there is a secret door and a secret apartment concealed by magic from both the outside and inside and with magic security codes in Aurënfaie, set in place by Nysander. Inside are a huge living room with a dining room area and a study area and many books and tools, filled with nicknacks Seregil has picked up throughout his travels and a large bedroom. Before Seregil and Alec were involved, Alec had a bed in the main living room. Towards the end of Stalking Darkness the managing family is murdered by Planimaran spies who tracked down Seregil. Upon discovering their bodies in his inner sanctum, he finds Luthas then burns the whole place down as their funeral pyre. Originally intending never to return to a place with such painful memories, at the end of Traitor's Moon, Alec and Seregil decide they really do miss and need this home so they're going to rebuild it—calling the new one "The Stag and Otter" inspired by what Seregil and Alec transform into from Nysander's intrinsic nature spell. Linking the old and new inns is the surviving cat Ruatha.
Less than a day's ride north of Rhíminee, it is the land Micum Cavish has been given by the royal family in gratitude for his work as a Watcher for Skala. Seregil and Alec come here often to get away from busy city life and are part of the family.
Location: north of the Inner Sea and Skala and west of Plenimar. Significant Cities and Towns: Isil, Wyvern Dug, Nanta, Keston, Wolde, Boersby, Stook and Kerry. Parts of the war between Planimar and Skala are fought there. Alec spent most of his youth in towns and villages north of or in Mycena, he usually says he's from Kerry. Mycena is militarily much weaker than Skala and Plenimar, and depends on Skalan help during the frequent wars. Wars between Skala and Plenimar usually take place mainly on Mycenan soil, causing great hardship to the country's civilian population. Mycenans and Skalans speak essentially the same language and can understand each other—while Plenimarans speak a completely different language.
The Golden Road
Location: north of Mycena. "The Golden Road" is the unofficial collective name for a cluster of towns and minor principalities which have no central government and which are scattered to the north of Mycena, up to the mountains behind which lies the forbidden land of the Hâzadrielfaie. Inhabitants have many linguistic and cultural similarities with the Mycenans and indeed there is some ambiguity as whether or not it should count as part of Mycena. Much of this area is thinly inhabited and there are many wild parts where the only humans are itinerant hunters such as Alec's father (and Alec himself in his early years). Kerry, Alec's hometown, is part of this region. So is the Domain of Asengai, where Alec and Seregil were imprisoned and met for the first time. The most important part is the rich and prosperous city-state of Wolde. The Golden Road gets its name from the gold—as well as other commodities (wine, wool)—which is going southwards, mainly by river, through this trade route. This makes The Golden Road a valuable economic and strategic asset, a regular bone of contention in the wars between Skala and Plenimar. In the period of Luck in the Shadows, the Plenimarans are well on their way to secure effective control of The Golden Road—using more diplomacy and less blunt force than their normal habit, and especially working hard to woo the Mayor of Wolde. Later books mention heavy fighting at The Golden Road, but it takes place offstage and not described in detail. The war ends with Plenimar forced to cede any possessions beyond its own borders, which means that Skala gained effective control of The Golden Road—though Plenimar is sooner or later likely to dispute that in a new war.
Capital: Benshâl. Ruled by: Ashnazai family, who bear the title "Overlord" rather than "King". Location: a peninsula east of Skala and the Inner Sea, south-east of Mycena, only the Gatchwayd Ocean lies to the east and south. Repeatedly at war with Skala, it is the home to a harsh people who keep slaves and among whom necromancers practice dark rites. Much of Plenimar is arid—which is given as part explanation why its inhabitants try to conquer other lands. Plenimar is a major naval power, its ships often dominating the seas in times of war and conducting massive raids on Skalan shores. Plenimarans have extensive contacts with lands across the Gatchwayd Ocean to their east—of which other peoples know only little. In the early books of The Nightrunner Series, the depiction of the Plenimarans is wholly negative—its soldiers habitually perpetrating atrocities and civilians at home maintaining extensive slave markets. In later books, there is some effort at creating a more nuanced picture: Some Plenimarans greatly dislike the necromancers employed by their Overlord, Princess Klia is heard speaking of some honorable Plenimaran officers. In Casket of Souls, the Plenimarans sue for peace and it is the Skalan Queen Phoria who rejects these overtures and prolongs the fighting. In the final book, Shards of Time is introduced a wholly positive Plenimaran character, the woman doctor who is humane and dedicated to healing people and who is opposed to slavery and descended from a like-minded family. From the glimpse of history given in Shards of Time, it seems that originally, when Skala and Plenimar were parts of the old Hierophantic realm, there were no great cultural differences between them. However, the cataclysmic appearance of the monstrous Rhazat, "Mother of Necromancy", precipitated a civil war. Though Rhazat herself was trapped in a "shard of time" through the self-sacrifice of the last Hierophant, Rhazat's sinister disciples eventually took over firm control of the province of Plenimar, while being decisively repelled from Skala and Mycena. The opposing parties to the civil war eventually congealed into the separate, mutually-hostile realms seen in later times.
Location: south of Skala and the Osiat Sea, east of Zengat, to the south and east lies only Gatchwayd Ocean.
Significant Clans/Territories: Bôkthersa, Silmai, Haman, Datsia, Lhapnos, Akhendi, Gedre, Khatme, Goliníl, Virésse, Bry'kha.
Aurënen has no true central government, its inhabitants divided into numerous clans, each of which is self-governing and which have divergent economic interests and considerable social and cultural differences with each other. (For example, the Khatme tend to be fanatic in religious matters and to consider Skalans blasphemous for combining the worship of Aura/Illior with that of other gods; other clans are more tolerant). They have no aristocracy other than the khirnari heading each clan, who is elected for life (which might be a very long time). The closest to a central government which they have is the Ia'sidra, a council of the eleven most powerful khirnari which meets at the holy city of Sarikali, a city fully intact and abandoned by an ancient race—serving as neutral ground for settling disputes between the clans and for celebrations. Deliberations of the Ia'sidra can be long and cumbersome before a decision is reached—which is the main theme of Traitor's Moon. When the Is'sidra is not in town, Sarikali is deserted save for ghosts of the ancients and omniscient priests.
All magic is commonly considered to come from Aurënen, which is considered as "The First Orëska" (a view which ignores the little-known—and no less potent—Retha'noi magic). All Skalan wizards have some Aurënfaie ancestry—and since wizards cannot have children, in order to have new wizards Skala needs Aurënfaie to continue having relations with Skalans (with or without a formal marriage) and have Skalan children. However, some in Aurënen dislike and distrust the Skalan wizards and the variations which they have made in the original Aurënen magic—which was an underlying reason for the "Edict of Separation".
Traditionally, Aurënen (in particular, the clan of Bôkthers—nor coincidentally, Seregil's clan) were considered as allies of Skala in its wars with Plenimar, and often this alliance was crucial for Skala's survival. As depicted in the Tamir Triad, help from Aurënen was also crucial in helping Tamir the Great gain her throne. The alliance was tightened with Queen Idrilain the First taking an Aurënfaie Consort. This, however, precipitated a reaction by Skalan bigots who after the Queen's death assassinated her Consort—which in turn led to a counter-reaction by those in Aurënen who frowned at the close relations with Skala. This led to 200 years of the "Edict of Separation", when relations between Aurënen and the outside world were almost completely cut off—only Virésse remaining open to foreign traders. With the renewal of major warfare with Plenimar, changing this situation was vital for Skala's survival—and Princess Klia managed to change this (despite considerable difficulties, and with the great help of Seregil and Alec). The clan of Gedre—far more friendly to Skala than Virésse—was able to open its port to Sklan ships, at least for the duration of the war, and Aurënfaie wanting to volunteer for service in the Skalan army were allowed to do so. That was a turning point in the war, where a Plenimaran victory seemed in the offing, and greatly facilitated the eventual victory of Skala.
The Hâzadrielfaie are descended from a group of Aurënfaie who very long ago (even by the standards of these long-lived people) embarked on a mass migration under the leadership of a woman called Hâzadriël (for whom they named themselves), settling in the mountains far north of Mycena and severing all contact with their Aurënfaie kin. Other Aurënfaie had no idea of the reasons for this migration—just that Hâzadriël gathered people from various clans and took them away, never to return. The Hâzadrielfaie keep many Aurënfaie customs, such as being led by an elected khirnari who might be either a man or a woman, wearing the distinctive Aurënfaie headdress, and speaking a dialect of the Aurënfaie language. However, the Hâzadrielfaie all constitute one clan and have none of the constant competition and rivalry between clans which are central to Aurënen life. More important, in complete contrast to the customary hospitality of Aurënfaie society, the Hâzadrielfaie are intensely hostile to any strangers straying into their territory, often killing them out of hand (including Aurënfaie who tried to make contact). They have a very strong taboo against intermarriage or interbreeding with outsiders, any such act punishable by death and any offspring of such a relationship being ruthlessly pursued and killed. The only exception are the Retha'noi who live in the mountains near the Hâzadrielfaie, who have their own good reasons to distrust outsiders and with whom intermarriage is permitted. In the early books, the Hâzadrielfaie appear totally negative, a completely bigoted and xenophobic society—particularly in Glimpses where the tragic story of Alec's parents is told: how his Hâzadrielfaie mother was killed by her own brothers, how the Hâzadrielfaie sought to kill the baby Alec as well and how Alec's father exacted a terrible revenge. Later on, the Hâzadrielfaie's own point of view is given and the reason for their behavior is revealed: their blood could be used to make the creatures called Rekharos, who have enormous healing power. The process of making them is extremely painful and humiliating; Hâzadriël, who had undergone it herself, was determined not to let it happen again, gathering all possessors of that kind of blood, taking them away, and ensuring that there will be no possessors of it available to alcehmists. Though determined to prevent new Rekharos from being created, the Hâzadrielfaie take good care of those who already came into being. In The White Road a band of Hâzadrielfaie come into greater contact with the outside world than they had for many generations, and are forced into alliance with Seregil, Alec and Mikum—which at least to some degree lessens their prejudice.
A desert country located to the west of Aurënen, it is inhabited by clans of nomadic barbarians, some of whom get along with some Aurëfaie clans but who are just as likely to ally themselves with Planimar in a war. Some Zengatis are slavers, involved in constant kidnapping of Aurëfaie and others and selling then in the Plenimaran slave markets. Serengil's father had made a considerable effort to establish peace between Aurëfaie and Zengat. This was foiled by the provocation organized secretly by Ulan í Sathil, which caused Seregil's exile. When starting the war with Skala, the Plenimarans tried to get the Zengati to attack Aurënen, in order to prevent the Aurëfaie helping Skala—but this was prevented due to civil war breaking out among the Zengati clans themselves.
The holy Island of Kouros, in the Inner Sea, was the place where the Hierophantic people—ancestors of the Skalans, Plenimarans and Mycenians alike—originally settled, arriving from somewhere across the sea to the south, some 1500 years before the time of Alec and Seregil. They were drawn there by an oracle and the strong aura of magic clinging to the island. At the time, the island's soil was very fertile (later becoming eroded) and it had extensive forests. From there, the migrants later spread to the lands all around the Inner Sea, but Kouros remained the center of Hierophantic government until it collapsed. The documents describing this cataclysmic event were mostly lost in later wars, and only in the events of Shards of Time is revealed the major role played by the monstrous Rhazat, "Mother of Necromancy". In later times, after the Three Kingdoms went their own divergent and contradictory ways, Kouros was a highly sought-after prize in the wars between Skala and Plenimar—as a prestige object, since both kingdoms claimed the heritage of the lost Hierophantic realm, but also because of Kouros' rich gold mines, not exhausted even after being continually worked for more than a thousand years. Queen Phoria prolonged a war with Plenimar, for a whole year after the Plenimarans already sued for peace, mainly in order to force them to cede Kouros—which was eventually achieved, but only at the price of Phoria's own life. Whatever the outcome of a war, at its conclusion it is customary for Skalans and Plenimarans to conduct the final negotiations on Kouros. No less than eighteen successive Treaties of Kouros are mentioned as having been signed between Skala and Plenimar—each eventually violated, leading to a new war which would be concluded by yet another treaty. There is a permanent population of Kouros, mostly sticking to the island and adapting to whatever rule. Peasants on Kouros still speak a form of Middle Konic—an archaic language, long extinct in other places and only studied by scholars. Plenimaran rule on Kouros involves the introduction of slavery and the importation of a new slave population, while Skalan rule brings about the emancipation of slaves. Seregil made considerable efforts to help the Aurënfae former slaves which he found on the island and encourage them to organize into a new clan. Deep Harbor, Kouros' modern capital, is some distance from the ruins of the old Hierophantic capital. The attempt of the newly installed Skalan governor to renovate these ruins resulted in waking up the still secretly present Rhazat, leading to the death of the governor and of many other people, and only with great effort and sacrifice is the monstrous being finally overcome.
The Retha'noi are the indigenous inhabitants of what became Skala, Mycena and Plenimar. Prior to the arrival of the settlers whom the Retha'noi called "Southlanders", the Retha'noi were intrepid sailors and fishermen, many of their holy places located on the sea-shore. The settlers arrived about 1500 years before the time of Serengil and Alec, first establishing themselves on the island of Kuoros and then spreading in all directions, forcibly uprooting the Retha'noi and driving them off the sea and deep inland. Some of the Retha'noi were assimilated by the conquerors and completely lost their identity; Skalans were not eager to acknowledge having such an ancestry. Those Retha'noi who stubbornly retained their identity ended up living deep in the mountains, where they were able to maintain themselves over the centuries. This was due both to their isolated mountain valleys being easily defended and not particularly desirable real estate, and to the Retha'noi having developed a potent magic of their own, very different from that of the Skalan wizards. Retha'noi's magic is clearly divided between men's magic and women's. Male Retha'noi witches practice their magic mainly through the oo'lu, a nearly body-length horn created in a very complicated and meticulous ritual process. The oo'lu is not magical in itself, its function being to focus and amplify the user's inherent magic. Oo'lu music, emulating the sounds made by various animals and birds, can be used for a very through healing. Using the oo'lu, a witch can send an ill person's soul out of the body—preferably on a night of the Full Moon, whose light is considered to be healing and soothing—while the witch can minutely perceive the inside of the patient's body and magically heal many (though not all) diseases and wounds, whereupon the soul is returned to the healed body. The same oo'lu music, however, can be turned into a deadly weapon by the addition of a single sharp note, cutting off the soul's link to the body and instantly killing an enemy. Another application of oo'lu music is to hide the witch himself and people he wants to protect and render them effectively invisible to pursuing enemies. Female witches do not use the oo'lu. They have their own elaborate magic connected especially with sex and birth, and which might also be turned at need into an offensive weapon. Retha'noi in the mountains of Skala are self-governing, their communities effectively independent of the Skalan Queens' power—a situation tacitly tolerated by the Queens and their officials. The career of Tamir The Great was very greatly helped by Retha'noi. It was the female witch Lhel who performed the magic by which the young Tamir was disguised as a boy and saved her from her murderous usurping uncle, and the male witch Mahti saved the lives of several of Tamir's followers—particularly, he saved Tamir's beloved companion Ki, who would become her consort and the ancestor of all later Skalan royalty. The Retha'noi also pointed out the secret route through the mountains by whose use Tamir's army gained its victory, and pointed out the location where Tamir would build her new capital. Indeed, the name "Rhíminee" itself was originally derived from the Retha'noi language. Moreover, Lhel had been the lover and teacher of the Skalan wizard Arkoniel, and several spells later used by the Oreska—particularly translocation—were derived from Retha'noi magic. Being greatly beholden to them, it was Tamir's wish—not only to cease any harassment and persecution of the Retha'noi, but also to more closely integrate them in Skalan society. That, however, did not happen. In later generations, the Retha'noi in fact withdrew even deeper into their mountains, and by the time of Serengil and Alec Skalans were hardly aware of their existence. A second cluster of Retha'noi communities were located in the mountains north of Mycena, where they formed an alliance with the Hâzadrielfaie—both groups having their own reasons to distrust and avoid outsiders. Though cut off from each other for centuries, Retha'noi from Mycena and Skala were easily able to interact when coming in contact with each other, speaking the same language and having the same magic and customs. There is no reference to any Retha'noi surviving in Plenimar. Plenimaran necromancers sometimes appropriated and abused Retha'noi sacred sites for their own dark rites, as described in Stalking Darkness. Along the Sklan seashore, former Retha'noi sacred sites were simply abandoned and not recognized for what they were.
The Dravinians live in the mountains of north Aurënen. They are physically similar to the Retha'noi and can be mistaken for them, and they share with the Retha'noi the way of life of small, self-sustaining communities in mountain valleys—as well as having the same unique sexual mores as the Retha'noi, whereby women are actively encouraged to mate with strangers and the children born of such unions are treasured and cherished. However, the Dravinian language is quite different to that of the Retha'noi, and the Dravinians have neither the Retha'noi magic nor the Retha'noi worship of The Mother. Rather, they have a quite different and complicated religious system of their own. Geographically, the configuration of the Dravinians vis-a-vis the Aurënfaie is similar that of the Retha'noi vis-à-vis the Skalans—i.e., the Dravinians live in valleys among the mountains while the Aurënfaie inhabit the lowlands around. However, in the case of the Dravinians there are no bitter historical memories of conquest and dispossession. Aurënfaie who wander into the mountains—which does not often happen—can count on a most warm and friendly welcome in whatever Dravinian village they encounter. As noted by Serengil, "Dravinian hospitality was legendary among those few who knew of it. Members of a neighboring village were greeted as family, which they often were. Anyone from beyond the limiting peaks was regarded as a veritable marvel. Seeing from afar such a rare visitor approaching would be enough for the villagers to start slaughtering goats, to have a feast ready for their guest". Nowhere is the history of the Dravinians and the relationship between them and the Retha'noi explained.
The series' two main male protagonists fall in love during the course of the story. This is not the main point of the story, and in fact, their relationship does not become established until the end of the second book, Stalking Darkness. There are hints throughout the first two books of a more romantic nature their relationship could take, but the fantasy adventure plots take up much more of the readers' attention. In Lynn Flewelling's words: "I wanted to handle it the way I would with a straight character—an important part of who [Seregil] is and how he functions in society, but not the sum of who he is. I also created a culture where homosexuality is more accepted, if not universally so." Two of the stories in Glimpses include detailed homo-erotic scenes.
Flewelling created a unique world in Luck in the Shadows, continued throughout the rest of the series, and expanded upon in her sister series', The Tamír Triad. The main setting takes place in a country called Skala, which is part of the Three Lands: Skala, Mycena, and Plenimar. She gives the land a history that is deep with detail and realistic happenings, from war, trade and racism to natural corrosion. The politics are easy to understand, yet still rich with intrigue and, if you know where to look for them, falsities.
Flewelling's world is described similarly to medieval-Europe in setting, with farming and hunting being the primary occupations of the populace. Horses and ships are the only real modes of transportation, and the country is ruled by a Queen put there by her mother's bloodline and a prophecy from Afra: "So long as a daughter of Thelátimos’ line defends and rules, Skala shall never be subjugated." Flewelling also added in religious aspects, as well as magical ones. She created an entire new society known as the Third Oreska: wizards, and combined them with the rest of her setting seamlessly.
At the time of the Tamir Triad, Skala has a clearly feudal society, with nobles living in castles and maintaining their own armed forces—those of the bigger nobles nearly rivaling in power the Royal Army. The winning of a civil war, such as takes place in "The Oracle's Queen", depends on winning the support of enough nobles who bring their own feudal levies to support one of the contending parties. This situation has changed fundamentally by the time of The Nightrunner Series, six hundred years later. While some things have not changed from Tamir's time (e.g. Skala's perennial enmity with Plenimar), the Skala where Alec and Seregil live is no longer feudal. The only army is the Royal Army, completely under the Queen's control. The nobility lives mainly in urban villas or at the Royal court, drawing on the income of their estates for a life of luxury, but no longer have their own armed forces—a situation reminiscent of Western Europe in the 17th or 18th Century.
Flewelling wrote a religion into her stories that goes deep into her characters backgrounds, influencing the entire series as religion does in the real world. From language usage to prayer and magic, the religious aspects slide their way into every book. In Skala, most citizens believe in four notable deities, although depending on the part of the country, special attention may be provided to certain deities. There is Illior, the Lightbearer or the Lightbringer. In Aurënen, he is called Aura. He is the god of the moon, wisdom and insanity, whose priests maintain oracles and to whom is attributed Skala's tradition of being ruled by Queens rather than Kings. There is Sakor, the Flamebringer, god of the Sun, war and victory; a devoted soldier is said to be "Sakor-touched". There is Dalna, the Maker, goddess of fertility, land and hearth; the Drysians, healers on whom Skalans depend for their medical services, are priests of Dalna, and when witnessing a horrifying scene, people are apt to exclaim "Maker's Mercy!". And there is Astellus, the Traveller, god of the sea and death, nicknamed "The Old Sailor". The gods can be male or female depending on region and perspective and share a dual nature; however, most often characters speaking of one of the gods use the word "he".
Officially, "The Four" are referred to as co-equals and any Skalan community—from the capital Rhíminee down to the smallest village—has at its center a square flanked by their four temples. However, the reality is far less harmonious. Illior and Sakor are the main gods of Skala, and the Skalans' coat of arms is composed of Sakor's flame surmounted by Illior's sickle moon. The Tamir Triad relates a period where Illior and Sakor (or at least, their human devotees) were in conflict and the Sakorans actively persecuted the Illiorans; by the time of The Nightrunner Series this breach is long forgotten.
Still, Sakorans are sometimes heard to express preference for their "straightforward god" who can be counted on to reward bravery on the battlefield—as compared with the countless subtleties and ambiguities of Illior and his priesthood.
In Skala, the worship of Dalna is of lesser importance and there are few Dalnans to be found in Skala. Conversely, Dalna is the chief god of the northern Mycena, where Illior and Sakor are not much regarded. In Mycena, Illior is mainly regarded as the patron god of thieves. Astellus seems to be the specific god of only a minority everywhere—mainly the patron god of sailors and fishermen. Most especially the Heralds, who in time of war go between warring camps to deliver messages, are totally devoted to Astellus, and anyone harming a Herald risks this god's revenge.
In general there is no Animal sacrifice. The only things burned on the various gods' altars are incense, and in the case of Illior, owl's feathers—the owl being the bird sacred to Illior. The only exception is the mid-winter Mourning Night, a central date in Skalan calendar, when the death of the old Sakor is mourned and on the following day the birth of the new Sakor is celebrated (similar to the historical Tammuz/Adonis religion). On that occasion a single black bull is sacrificed by the Queen in person, in a major ceremony involving all of Sakala's civic and religious dignitaries.
There are also minor deities, acknowledged throughout the country, but not worshiped at the same level as The Four. One of the more popular deities is Bilairy, said to guard the gate of the afterlife. While there is no mention of temples or priests of Bilairy, dying (especially in battle) is often referred to as "going to Bilairy's Gate". The most common expletives, frequently used by everybody from nobles down to beggars, are "Bilairy's Balls!", "Bilairy's Guts!", "Bilairy's Stinking Codpiece!" and the like. Both Astellus and Bilairy are associated with death; Astellus is said to be ferrying the souls of the departed up to Bilairy's Gate, which seems like an effort to harmonize gods derived from different pantheons. There is no mention of any detailed belief in afterlife and no reference to what happens after a soul had crossed Bilairy's Gate.
The Retha'noi—indigenous inhabitants of Skala who had been displaced and pushed into the mountains—worship a goddess known as "The Mother". They call her that both in their own language and when speaking Skalan, and she does not seem to have any other name; the Retha'noi appear not to have any other gods. The Mother is a Fertility Goddess and sex is part of her worship—in particular, making love in the open fields under the Full Moon, a practice which contributes to Skalan prejudice against the Retha'noi. Worship of The Mother is restricted to the Retha'noi; she is offended by any attempt of Skalans to call upon her, due to their harsh treatment of the Retha'noi. The Mother and Illior are both Moon deities, but are clearly not identical: The Mother is unquestionably female while Illior is usually depicted as a male; Illior's emblem is the Crescent Moon while The Mother's most propitious time is the Full Moon; most significant, the wizards who are Illior's followers are barren and unable to have children, while the witches who follow The Mother are incredibly fertile, male witches remaining virile even after being a hundred years old and each of them might sire hundreds of children in a lifetime (which is greatly encouraged by the Retha'noi society's sexual mores).
Distinct and antithetical to other gods is Serimaius, worshiped in Plenimar. Serimaius is a harsh and cruel god who requires human sacrifice and who encourages his followers to acts of cruelty and the perpetration of atrocities; such ruthless acts, for example by Plenimaran troops in wartime, might serve concrete political and strategic aims, but are pleasing to Serimaius in themselves. Necromancers are Serimaius' followers as wizards are those of Illior; the two gods and their respective followers are mortal enemies. Those who don't follow Serimaius consider the uttering of his name as unlucky and dangerous, and various euphemisms are used instead: "The Empty God", "The Dark One", "The Evil One". Serimaius' followers sometimes call him "The Beautiful One"; when under the malignant influence of a fragment of Serimaius' helmet, Seregil heard a deceptively beautiful singing which apparently came from Serimaius. In early books of the series is given the impression that Serimaius is the sole god of Plenimar, but with the closer glimpse of Plenimaran society in Shadows Return and The White Road it is shown that in fact worship of Serimaius is mainly concentrated at the Overlord's court where necromancers are very active, and many other Plenimarans frown at it. Ordinary Plenimarans are mentioned as sometimes worshipping Sakor (which would be natural in a warlike nation) though probably not Illior.
Books & Other Media
In September 2009, the independent film company C-Squared Productions optioned the rights to the first two books, Luck in the Shadows and Stalking Darkness, with the intention of adapting the text to film. Due to budget concerns, the project has since been called off.
|1.||Luck in the Shadows||496||17h, 52m||August 1, 1996|
|2.||Stalking Darkness||512||19h, 15m||February 3, 1997|
|3.||Traitor's Moon||560||21h, 58m||July 6, 1999|
|4.||Shadows Return||544||12h, 2m||June 24, 2008|
|5.||The White Road||400||12h, 9m||May 25, 2010|
|6.||Casket of Souls||476||14h, 7m||May 29, 2012|
|Glimpses||128||x||September 19, 2010|
|7.||Shards of Time||409||12h, 55m||April 1, 2014|
Concept & Publication
Lynn Flewelling originally wrote Luck in the Shadows and Stalking Darkness as one book. The editor proposed splitting it in two due to the length and “so a series was born”.
- Traitor's Moon, page 75
- The Aurënen "Edict of Separation" is reminiscent of the historical case of Japan's three centuries of self-isolation during the Tokugawa shogunate.
- Stalking Darkness, Ch. 3.
- The name of Illior might be related to the Hebrew name "Elior" (אליאור)—"My God is Light", which is used a male first name in contemporary Israel