Luck in the Shadows (Lynn Flewelling, 1996) Study Guide: Chapters 3-5
Summary: Chapter 3 "Seregil Makes an Offer"
On the final day of the journey, Seregil asks Alec to be his apprentice, although he is still vague about what he actually does; he is some combination of bard, thief, and spy, although he objects to the latter term and insists that "the goal is noble--even if my methods don't always seem so." (36) He woos Alec with tales of all the amazing adventures he has already had. Alec is impressed, but hesitant, and asks questions; he learns that Seregil is on the Skalan side in the war, and that after Wolde he plans to go "home to Rhìminee" (which Alec identifies as "the city where the wizards are") and that Alec reminds him of "someone I used to be." Alec finally agrees. They agree that, in town, Alec will pose as Aren Windover's bard apprentice. They stay overnight at the home of a blind man, where Seregil changes into his Aren Windover costume and bids Alec dress in yet another of his outfits. Alec eavesdrops on Seregil's conversation with the blind man; they're discussing a man called Boraneus, someone called "Overlord," and a man with a scar under his left eye, whom Seregil identifies as Mardus, and calls "more demon than..." As they leave, the blind man and Seregil wish each other "luck in the shadows."
Summary: Chapter 4 "Wolde"
When Alec and Seregil arrive in the prosperous town of Wolde, security measures are more stringent than they remember, but they are quickly admitted on the strength of Aren Windover's name. Seregil learns from the sentry that a trade envoy, Lord Boraneus, is in town with a troop of Plenimaran soldiers. Seregil apologizes in advance for Aren's rude treatment of Alec ("it's his way, not mine"). Whilst haggling down the price of the tavern room, Alec claims that Aren is set to sing for the mayor, and promises wildly to bring in more business by attracting the visiting soldiers to Aren's show. Seregil, amused, warns him about the sexual appetites of Plenimaran marines. As Aren, Seregil claims to have a sore throat, and has Alec sing in his place while he accompanies on the harp. During a break in the show, Seregil slips into the audience to speak to a hooded man, and Alec notices Erisa, a drysian, or healer, selling prayers and charms on a sliding scale. After the show, Erisa comes to Seregil's room. Alec listens at the door and hears them discussing a force which was seen heading north.
Summary: Chapter 5 "Friends Met, Enemies Made"
The next morning Seregil leaves to arrange the singing engagement at the mayor's house--not only has Alec promised it, but it will provide Seregil with a chance to check out Lord Boraneus, who is staying with the mayor. Country boy Alec quickly gets lost in the town. He runs into a group of rowdy soldiers and tries to appease them by buying them drinks, but when they find the Skalan coin Seregil gave him, they accuse him of being a spy and attack him. The beating is interrupted by the arrival of Seregil's hooded contact from the previous night; his name is Micum Cavish, and he scolds the soldiers (calling one of them "Tildus") and informs them that Alec is his nephew. The soldiers leave, and Alec thanks Micum.
Alec finds Seregil, who buys him a complete set of fancy weapons, including a sword (even though Alec doesn't know how to wield it yet), a top-of-the-line bow (Alec's favored weapon; he impresses Seregil by shooting bullseyes with it), and a dagger, which he presents later as a gift. Seregil waves of Alec's gratitude, saying Alec will use the weapons to save his life.
That night at Seregil and Alec's show, they successfully catch sight of Lord Boraneus; Alec notices that he's remarkably handsome, and Seregil privately identifies him as Lord Mardus, whom he knows by reputation as the head of intelligence in Plenimar. By prior arrangement, Seregil breaks a string on his harp, and Alec leaves ostensibly to get a new string. Instead Seregil and Alec meet up out back and break into Boraneus's room together. While Alec stands watch, Seregil searches the room, finding some maps with strategic markings and two golden disks with a confusing design he wants to study further. When he finds a bag of wooden disks with the same design, he pockets one, assuming it won't be missed. Alec signals to him, and they sneak back to finish their show. Afterward at their own tavern, Micum Cavish rushes in to inform them that the soldiers are headed to arrest them, and the three men make a hasty escape.
Analysis, Chapters 3-5
Seregil jokingly hints at the prospect of making Alec his apprentice in chapter 2, but in chapter 3 the offer becomes serious so abruptly that Alec is alarmed, reminding Seregil that they hardly know each other. Alec, who has nothing else going on in his life, agrees to do it, but only after Seregil talks him into it. Why is Seregil suddenly so intent on keeping Alec with him? Indeed, Seregil seems quite invested in making it happen; after they agree,
Alec was surprised to catch a glimpse of what seemed like relief in his companion's eyes as they clasped hands. (ch. 3, p. 38)
As far as we know, nothing has changed since Seregil acknowledged Alec's physical attractiveness and quickness of hands and mind in chapter 2, so something else must be going on here. We're given a tantalizing hint in the beginning of chapter 3 that Seregil knows something about Alec which we and Alec don't:
Am I only seeing what I want to see? he wondered silently, feeling again the instinctual twinge of recognition. But there would be time for all that later; for now he had to concentrate on the Wolde. (ch. 3, p. 34)
What does Seregil "want to see" in Alec? This is phraseology that might be used my an amorous lover attempting to check his feelings, but it also jibes with Seregil's later explanation that he sees himself in Alec. This moment will also take on new significance when we later find out that Seregil has sensed that Alec possesses some mysterious special quality.
In the Wolde adventure, Alec gets his first taste of Seregil's life and work: he watches him don a disguise, slip in and out of character, meet with his contacts, and commit a B&E. Alec proves himself equal to all the tasks Seregil gives him, and displays curiosity and interest. Despite earlier hesitations about the sneaky nature of the work, Alec immediately begins eavesdropping on Seregil's private conversations; Seregil always seems to catch him, but never seems to mind. It's possible he set up the opportunities on purpose to see if Alec would choose to take them. If so, Alec has apparently chosen correctly.
Seregil tests Alec in a number of small ways throughout the adventure. First, he tells Alec not to pay more than one silver mark for the room, then reveals that he never expected him to get below two. His "sore throat" ruse also appears to be a test of some kind. He tells Alec "There are a few things I need to do tonight that don't allow me to be the center of attention for the whole evening" (ch. 3 p. 51), but presumably he has never had a problem juggling barding and spying before, or he would choose a more suitable fake profession. Furthermore, his ruse seems to buy him little if any time and anonymity; he is onstage playing for as long as Alec is singing. By sending him unprepared into the spotlight, though, Seregil gets a chance to evaluate Alec's ability to perform under pressure. (He might also want to give Alec a gentle comeuppance for his promises to the tavernkeeper to make the show a hit, although he certainly doesn't want to punish him; on the contrary, he seems delighted when Alec shows initiative in fabricating lies.)
Alec passes all of Seregil's tests with flying colors and apparently untroubled by the trickery involved. While he never guesses that this or that is one of Seregil's tests, he probably expects his new master to evaluate him, and he seems to appreciate the opportunity to prove himself. Alec begins to bask in Seregil's approval, and by the end of chapter 5, when Seregil praises him for quick thinking during the theft, he's delighted; by now, any scruples he might have had about the thieving trade are gone.
Important Quotations Explained
"Well, you stick by him, love. He'll make an honest fellow of you." (Tavern woman to Alec, ch. 5 p. 58)
The tavern cook who feeds Alec breakfast is speaking highly of Aren/Seregil largely because she has been well-paid by him to prepare a good meal for his apprentice, and because she seems maternally happy to see the gaunt teenager taken in by a generous master. The wording is amusing for a number of reasons, both because it hints at a sexual relationship culminating in marriage, and because Seregil is actually teaching the formerly mild-mannered, lawful Alec to lie and steal.
"I can't think of anything that means less to me than money; it's too easy to come by." (Seregil to Alec, ch. 5 p. 67)
Seregil's complete refusal to entertain the thought that Alec should someday repay him for the weapons he bought him, even to the point of calling the idea an insult, marks an important step in positioning himself, to Alec, as an ally rather than benefactor. His cavalier attitude about money is interesting for a thief, suggesting that he has either grown up with plenty of money, or gotten bored of stealing it long ago (or both), and reaffirming that, whatever his motives, avarice is not one of them.