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Stalking Darkness (Lynn Flewelling, 1997) Study Guide: Chapters 33-38

Summary: Chapter 33 "Aftermath"

Summoned by a magical message from Magyana, Micum arrives at the ruins of Orëska in time to hold Seregil through his emotional breakdown. Seregil shows Micum some maps of Nysander's he's been reading. He's figured out the place part of "one place, one time": a temple well within Plenimar territory. Valerius does a spell on Alec's dagger and figures out that he's still alive. He also reports that Ylinestra is dead and Thero missing. Seregil calls Thero "traitorous bastard." Seregil and Micum go to the underground chamber; everything's been stolen. Seregil touches the place where the stuff was and has a confusing vision, after which he somehow just knows what was taken (the disk, the crown, and a bowl).

Summary: Chapter 34 "Lightning from a Clear Sky"

The Queen's Horse is suddenly attacked. The battle is gruelling, and eventually the remaining Plenimarans run away. Beka sustains a leg injury, but is basically OK. In the aftermath, she permits a dying man's brother to put him out of his misery. About a third of Beka's turma is dead or too injured to continue; she is ordered to take her remaining crew to scout some possible enemy hiding places.

Summary: Chapter 35 "Preparations"

Seregil and Micum find Juggler (spy) marks on some of the enemy corpses at Orëska. Nysander wakes up briefly to murmur cryptically; Magyana, Seregil and Micum decipher the name of an astrologer friend of Nysander's. Seregil and Micum go visit him, and find out that a co-ocurrence of two synodical events is happening in two weeks; that must be the time of "one place, one time." They all have to be at that temple in Plenimar in two weeks. Seregil tells Micum he can decide not to go, but Micum won't hear of it. Micum suggests they find another likely archer in case Alec is dead, but Seregil won't hear of it. They both go back to fetch Nysander, but Valerius won't hear of it. They decide to go on ahead on Rhal's ship while Nysander heals up and translocates to join them in two weeks; Seregil gives some of his blood to use a beacon to find him. Valerius reports that Alec is still not dead.

Summary: Chapter 36 "Dark Days for Alec"

Alec is on a boat with Mardus and Ashnazai. Mardus tries to convince Alec that Seregil has abandoned him. Ashnazai uses necromancer magic to give him unpleasant sensations and emotions, and he blacks out. He awakes in a cabin; Thero is there, bound by magical metal braces and partially gagged. Alec manages to get from him that Orëska was attacked, Nysander killed, and that Thero believes it was all his fault. Alec correctly guesses the extent of Thero's involvement: spilling information to Ylinestra. He tells Thero there's a lot he doesn't know, but Nysander would want him to help; he tries to get Thero to try a spell, but the braces prevent him from using magic. Thero, increasingly agitated, asks what Alec knows that he doesn't, and Alec refuses to tell. Suddenly, Thero slumps into unconsciousness, and Irtuk Beshar AKA Horribly Creepy Evil Necromancer Lady steps out, smiling, "I think that you will tell me."

Summary: Chapter 37 "Behind the Lines"

Beka's team eventually finds an abandoned enemy encampment and, although food is running out, Beka decides to keep them going for a little while longer to see if they can't find another link in the supply chain. They continue for two days with no luck but, just as she's about to order their return, they find a live camp. Inspired by the thought of Seregil, Beka successfully schemes to ride up in Plenimaran formation so they're not recognized as enemies until it's too late, and they quickly take the camp with no casualties on their side. As they're questioning the prisoners and surveying the spoils (food and horses), the scout reports enemy riders approaching. They escape just as the Plenimaran cavalry arrives.

Summary: Chapter 38 "The Green Lady"

Seregil is having the premonition-nightmare, and scaring the sailors by screaming in his sleep. The Green Lady fights a Plenimar ship; in the battle, Seregil gives Micum Alec's bow. The Green Lady privateers board the enemy ship, and Seregil and Micum sword-fight "shoulder to shoulder, back to back" (362) just like in the old days. The protagonists win and take the enemy ship's sails for camoflage.

Analysis: Chapters 33-38

Mardus describes Alec's feelings for Seregil as "blind loyalty to a man who abandoned you" (ch. 36, p. 345), bringing to mind the story of Seregil's exile crimes, which he explains by saying he was "blinded by [his] first passion" (ch. 23, p. 226). The shipboard setting also recalls Seregil's lover's suicide. It's not clear whether Mardus realizes these additional cues to a story Alec has heard recently of ill-use by a lover, but they contribute to the ideal circumstances for Alec to lose faith in Seregil. Under the influence of one of Ashnazai's torture spells, Alec suddenly remembers the time in chapter 1 of book 1 when Seregil said "Fall behind and I'll leave you", suggesting two things: (1) the bad feelings caused by the spell can only work by magnifying feelings that are already there; otherwise, why bring up a real incident rather than making up a new one? (2) That throwaway line from mere moments after Alec and Seregil met is the only material available to work with--overall, the relationship is marked by a great deal of trust and faith in mutual non-abandonment. This perhaps explains why Alec's crisis of faith is overall mild and short-lived; after everything that his relationship with Seregil has survived, he can hardly be swayed as easily as Lord Mardus hopes.

Thero, though he has difficulty speaking through his complicated imprisoning headgear, repeatedly expresses feelings of guilt, stemming from his belief that the attack on Orëska was his fault. Alec, more charitable/reasonable about Thero than Seregil, immediately understands that Thero was an unwitting victim of Ylinestra's treachery. Like Seregil many years ago, Thero was blinded by his emotions and manipulated by the object of his passionate love. In turn, Ylinestra was apparently betrayed by Pelion, the lover who connected her to Mardus's set. Although almost every character in the story has put blind faith into a lover, it can hardly be considering a cautionary tale; blind following often leads to guilt, despair, undoing, and/or death (Thero/Ylinestra, Ylinestra/Pelion, Seregil/that guy), but it can also lead to trust, friendship, hope in dark times, mutual life-saving and/or life-creating (Alec/Seregil, Micum/Kari). Those who achieved good relationships, through luck or keen character judgement, have placed their faith in reliable hands. Overall, unswerving loyalty is a good thing, but it must be earned. Thero's relationship with Ylinestra was almost certainly based on physical attraction and possibly a self-esteem boost. Alec and Seregil, though their friendship seemed to begin abruptly and progress quickly, have proved their worth to each other many times in the few eventful months, and their feelings developed gradually; so that, despite what Mardus suggests, Alec's faith in Seregil isn't really blind at all.


- Laura