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Luck in the Shadows (Lynn Flewelling, 1996) Study Guide: Chapters 15-19

Summary: Chapter 15 "Rhìminee At Last"

In a carriage on the way to Orëska House, the wizard academy, Nysander asks Alec about Seregil's affliction, and Alec fills him in on the adventure so far. Nysander reveals he had a vision in which he caught a glimpse of Seregil's pain, but sensing he was in Alec's capable hands, did nothing except to meet Alec at the dock at the correct time. At Orëska House, Nysander introduces Alec to Thero, his humorless apprentice. Then Alec has to take a bath. Wethis, a page or serving-boy of some kind, shows Alec around, and refers to "Lord Seregil"; Alex is surprised at the title. Nysander has Alec deliver a message to Ylinestra, a visiting wizard, who is hot and mean, and whom Wethis informs Alec is Nysander's lover.

When he returns, spiffily-dressed, from his bath, Alec has sit in a chalk circle and hold Seregil while Nysander and Thero perform a lengthy and exhausting purification ritual. Alec is alarmed to learn that Seregil could have died from the ritual, but he didn't. Valerius, a grumpy drysian, heals Seregil's physical wounds, and orders Alec to make sure he gets at least five days' bedrest. Nysander and Valerius note that Seregil has a mysterious resistance to magic which makes him unable to perform it and which undoubtedly just saved his life.

Summary: Chapter 16 "Dinner With Nysander"

Alec sleeps in Seregil's room; Seregil wakes up briefly in the night and Alec begins to fill him in a little on what happened. The next day, Nysander serves Alec a good meal and gives him a history lesson about Rhìminee. In Seregil's room, they drink wine and Nysander tells Alec that the wooden disk was a telesm (magical object) coated in poison and that they have safely contained it. He also tells stories about Seregil's comical failure at attempting wizardship, such that Nysander was forced to un-apprentice him even though he liked him, and take on Thero whom he doesn't really like (he has no sense of humor) but who will surely be a great wizard. Nysander also tells Alec that Seregil and Micum are "Watchers" (basically spies) and that he is their boss. Finally, Alec asks why Nysander didn't use magic to transport Seregil there as soon as he knew something was wrong, and Nysander explains he didn't have the power to transport both of them, and he didn't want to separate them (leaving Alec alone and going "Huh?") and he didn't want to rob Alec of the experience of saving his friend's life.

Summary: Chapter 17 "Watcher Business"

Nysander's old and dear friend Magyana comes to coo over Seregil, who wakes up. Alone with Magyana, Nysander hints in the vaguest way about the wooden disk, and Magyana is immediately horrified. Seregil recuperates; after four days, he tries to get up, but falls into Alec's arms. He's unhappy to find that Nysander has insisted that the scar in the shape of the disk be left unhealed. Alec sends for Nysander, who, after a short conference alone with Seregil, calls Alec in. After confirming that this is what Seregil wants, Nysander asks Alec to become a Watcher. Alec readily agrees. Seregil gives Nysander and Alec a complete report of his information-gathering mission; the upshot is the Plenimarans are stealthily gathering a large army of bandits and mercenaries. Nysander is alarmed when Seregil finally remembers, and mentions, his dreams about the black creature, but when he tries to remember specifics, his mind becomes muddled. Nysander still refuses to remove the scar but covers it up with magic.

Summary: Chapter 18 "Around the Ring"

The next day Alec helps Seregil to the baths, and they have a bit of a tiff. They go to the magic museum, where they see the severed hand of a dangerous old necromancer. Afterward, they take a walk, where they run into Princess Klia and another military woman, Captain Myrhini. Klia is friendly with Alec, and Myrhini whispers to Alec the gossip that Klia has a crush on Seregil. They meet a couple of centaurs called Hwerlu and Feeya, and Seregil speaks to them in centaur language.

Seregil decides to stay in the park and insists that Alec explore "around the ring," a circuit around the city. He sees various fantasy city sights, including a head on a spike. A scruffy street guy, Tym, tells him the executed man is Lord Vardarus, whom he calls a "Leran," and who apparently made an attempt on the life of Lord Barien, the regent. When Alec returns to Orëska House, Seregil gives him his empty purse, having asked Tym to steal it to teach Alec a lesson in city living. Seregil is surprised to learn about Lord Vardarus's betrayal and explains that Lerans were a faction who opposed the rule of a queen whose father was Aurenfaie. He exposits that Aurenfaie not only live longer than humans but mature at a slower rate.

Summary: Chapter 19 "Uneasy Secrets"

Nysander mentions he may have some work for Seregil regarding the new Leran upsurge. Seregil thinks the executed Lord Vardarus was framed, and Thero doesn't.

For fun, Nysander performs spells on Seregil and Alec to release their "instrinsic nature": Seregil is an otter (Alec calls him "beautiful"), Alec a stag (Seregil calls him "handsome").

Micum Cavish arrives! The Watchers gather, and he reports that he went to the Fens, the area marked on Mardus's map, and found a creepy empty village; upon further inspection, he discovered the corpses of the residents gathered in a cave. Nysander clearly knows something, but won't say. Seregil gets angry and storms off. Micum departs, surprising Alec by mentioning that he has a wife, Kari, and three daughters. Seregil tells Alec the next place they will be going is "home."

Before leaving, Seregil meets with Nysander once more. Nysander asks why Seregil hasn't been completely honest with Alec; for example, Seregil hasn't "told him of his true--" Seregil cuts him off, promising to tell him as soon as he finds "the right moment."

Analysis: Chapters 15-19

At Rhìminee we get introduced to a whole new cast of characters and learn, for the first time, how hitherto lone-wolf Seregil fits into a larger community. Overall, Seregil is much loved in Rhìminee, particularly by Nysander and Magyana; Thero dislikes him, envying Nysander's affection.

As Seregil regains his strength, his relationship with Alec must make another transition. Alec has proved himself sufficiently loyal, brave, and capable to graduate past simple apprentice and move toward ally, which his official Watcher status confirms. But this is still something of a demotion for Alec who has been a caretaker for nearly two weeks. Seregil, who was unconscious for most of this, finds it easy to forget, and his immediate return to cheery, willful, independent spirit annoys Alec:

"I'm supposed to be responsible for you, you know."
      "No one is responsible for me except me." Seregil jabbed a soapy finger in the air for emphasis. "Nysander knows that, Micum knows that. Even Valerius knows it. Now you know."
      To his considerable surprise, Alec stared at him for a moment, then turned on his heel and stalked abruptly away to stare out over the central pool, his back rigid as a blade.
      "What is it?" Seregil called after him, genuined mystified.
      Alec muttered something, punctuating the remark with a wave of his hand.
      "What? I can't hear you over the fountains."
      Alec half-turned, arms locked across his chest. "I said I was responsible enough for you while you were sick!" (ch. 18 p. 218)

While Seregil does acknowledge his debt to Alec, he's just as uncomfortable expressing gratitude as he is accepting it. Alec's later remarks indicate his (established, from chapter 1) insecurity about being left. He's afraid he's outlived his usefulness to Seregil (and it's true that they never planned this far ahead, and there's no specific task for which Seregil currently needs his help. Certainly, he has been made a Watcher; his immediate acceptance of the post contrasts with his earlier hesitance to join Seregil, and probably owes in part to his fear of being cast adrift.) Seregil laughs off this notion, and defuses the situation by asking Alec to accompany him to the museum. Later, he simultaneously re-assumes his mentor role and acknowledges Alec's independence when he orders Alec, despite his protestations, to leave his side and explore the city on his own. (The fact that he plays one of his little tricks on Alec by having his own agent steal Alec's purse is a similarly tough-love gesture.)

In chapter 19, we get another fleeting hint about Seregil's past:

A bittersweet pang shot through Seregil. In the days of his apprenticeship, he'd sat in Thero's place each morning, enjoying the early quiet while Nysander outlined the day's tasks. It had been at such moments that he'd felt, for the first time in his life, that he belonged, that he was welcome and useful.

Seregil, then, is no stranger to outsider insecurity; one of the motives for his insistence on taking Alec under his wing might be a desire to pay forward the kindness Nysander showed him, presumably after he was exiled from his father's house.

However, there are additional motives of which we are not yet aware. In Seregil's final conversation with him, Nysander not only makes some wise observations about Alec and the student-teacher relationship, but also implies that there is some secret information about himself which Alec does not yet know:

"He is very young, Seregil, and obviously has a great fondness and respect for you. I trust you are aware of that?"
      "My intentions toward Alec are purely honorable! You, of all people, ought to--"
      "That's not what I was alluding to," Nysander replied calmly. "What I am saying is that you must consider more than his mere education. You should be a friend to him as well as a teacher. The time must come when the master must accept his pupil as an equal."
      "That's the whole point, isn't it?"
      "I am glad to hear you say so. But you must be honest with him, too." Nysander regarded him with sudden seriousness. "I know of at least one thing he is not aware of. Why have you not told him of his true--?"
      "I will!" Seregil whispered quickly, hearing Alec's step on the stairs. "I wasn't certain at first, and then things went to pieces. I just haven't found the right moment yet." (ch. 19, p. 253)

Assuming Seregil's early thoughts about Alec now take on a new dimension. Interestingly, just as we learn that Seregil was originally thinking of Alec in some other (or additional) terms than as a potential relationship/sexual partner, now, that's exactly where his mind jumps first.

Additional literary influences (besides Tolkein, the wellspring from which all fantasy flows) are faintly noticeable in this section. The power of magical resistance puts one in mind of Bink from Piers Anthony's A Spell for Chameleon. Like Bink, Seregil's anti-magic magic seems like a defect at first, but ends up saving his life. Likewise, the plot device of "hero and his lower class love interest named Alec have a fight and then go to a museum" is tried and true, having been used to good effect in Maurice by E. M. Forster.

Important Quotations Explained

"Always trust him, always." (Seregil to Alec about Nysander, ch. 16 p. 192)

Alec shows slight hesitance in telling Nysander his real name after Seregil told him, as a general rule, not to use it; but Alec instinctively begins to trust Nysander. Seregil's murmured words during his first brief moments of consciousness affirm that Nysander deserves this trust. Seregil's trust seems to be an all-or-nothing proposition.

"Luck in the shadows, Alec; you don't question it, you just give thanks and pray it doesn't run out!" (Seregil, ch. 17 p. 216)

The watchers and their associates frequently wish each other "luck in the shadows" as a blessing on their underground activities. Seregil attributes Alec's opportune removal of his evil necklace to this luck, which he seems to trust as a kind of fate.


- Laura