This synopsis is nothing but spoilers. You have been warned!
Synopsis by Kikki Boersma
Soon after the ending of A Raven’s Dream, Kila has returned to the Baths of Ori. In the night, she is awakened by the feeling that someone is coming for her. A strange light appears in the hallway outside her room, which she platonically shares with Ragin. Waking the boy, the two hide and Kila takes off her new mercus-quelling ring so she can fight whatever is coming. She gains the mercus vision once again, and the being in the light begins to speak into her mind. They see that it’s a huge monster of some sort, with hooves and animalistic features. The creature injures Ragin and demands that Kila and Nax come with him, but Kila will not leave until Ragin is healed. The beast tells Kila to heal him herself, but she has yet to learn how. The beast heals Ragin with a swirl of mercus so complex Kila can’t follow it. But she finds herself fascinated by it. When Kila still refuses to go, the beat attempts to force Kila to come with him via a power called “willshift”. Nax bites and claws Kila to help break the creature’s spell over her. This buys just enough time for the Voluptuary to storm into the room and force the creature to flee using a spherical mercusine artifact called a Bane-Eye.
The Voluptuary reveals that the creature was a powerful demayne, a wicked spirit from another realm. When Kila took off the queller, it was able to find her. The beast knows her and wants her, for himself and for his master, and will not stop until he captures her.
Meanwhile, Dunne Marlow, a Donse Master with dark secrets, one of which being that he is the brother of Seer Hargothe, is in his cellar where a mercus-hidden wall guards a portal to an endless chamber containing a Derslin Wheel. This is where he has summoned the demayne called Flaumishtak, who attacked Kila and Ragin: the beast appears and reports his failure to Marlow.
Upon thinking about it, Kila has no idea how she accomplished the mass-murder of the thinnies (Book 2). The power came from her desperation of the moment. Kila attempts to release Ragin from his vow to follow and protect her, but is informed that only the goddess Ori can break the vow. Leaving Ragin behind, Nax and Kila find Wen and Fallo, who are tending to Henley’s bonded cat Huff. The cat has been in a coma-like state since Henley was captured and tortured by the Hargothe. Fallo reveals that he has a dark reason for living in Cheapsgate (for the fascinating backstory, read the short story “Caverns of Misen-Tine”), but he also has family connection that may help them all—Highest Binel is his uncle. Huff volunteers to be “turned in” to the Donse Masters in order for the humans to gain access to the Abbey of Til and search for Henley. Wen takes Huff and as planned the animal “gets loose” to make chaos. (Cats are considered evil spirits by the Way of Til and they pay a two-skillet bounty for every cat turned in.) Wen is attacked by acolytes, one of whom Kila kills as she sneaks in. Once back outside with an injured Wen, Fallo leads the rest of the Donse Masters away, pretending to be the other boy.
Kila carries Wen halfway to the Baths. Suddenly, Lady Quinn Peline (read the short story “The Name of the Blade” for her background) emerges from a stopped carriage and offers them a ride to the Baths, upon request of the Voluptuary. Arriving at the Baths, the Voluptuary makes it clear that Wen and Oly are welcome, but Kila is not, since she refused to stay and train in the mercus. The two leave with Quinn to stay at her home. It turns out that Quinn’s mother is the Radiant Peline, and they live in one of the vast Gristenside greathouses.
Meanwhile, the Hargothe obsesses over Kila. He makes plans to steal a cat and bond it to him. He also meets with Her Enlightened Majesty to convince her to add Dunne Marlow to her small council. During the conversation he learns that she already knows about Kila.
Henley, locked in a dark, cramped cell beneath the Cathedral of Til, is slowly losing his mind. His cell is next to Dunne Yples’. The Donse Master was in the sewers when Kila unleashed her fury on the thinnies, and was driven mad by it. Huff is now close enough to Henley to make mental contact. He tells him what’s going on. Using the catsight, which allows Henley to see through Huff’s eyes, Henley shows the cat how to free him. The cat inadvertently releases Dunne Yples, too.
At Quinn’s house, Kila wakes up with Nax’s fear flooding her mind. This feeling is transferred from Oly. Wen is in trouble at the Baths. Upon searching the Baths, Kila finds a girl and Sens Goolsoy murdered in the hallway. The demayne has come after Wen to force Kila and Nax to come to him.
Kila has no choice and joins the demayne, who dymenses them to the Derslin Wheel where Dunne Marlow is waiting. Kila attempts to kill Marlow with her dagger, Cayne. But the blade barely penetrates his skin for he has placed protective mercusine wards on himself. Her attack only results in a superficial wound.
After Marlow partially explains the situation, Nax and Kila are left alone in the Wheel chamber. While inspecting the magical columns which make up the so-called wheel, Kila’s mercusine powers accidentally start to open a portal through them to another realm, but the feat backfires and she’s thrown back.
After finding their way out of the chamber, Nax and Kila try to make a run for it. They’re captured by Marlow’s goons. The disgraced Donse Master holds her captive until they can speak with Highest Binel. They discuss the fact that Kila might be the prophesied “Dem-Kisk”, a bringer of destruction. They fear what the Hargothe might become if he lays claim to all her magnificent power. Knowing that Henley is still locked up beneath the Cathedral, Kila volunteers to be taken to the Hargothe where she will kill him! Binel refuses to allow her to have Cayne, but promises that a weapon will be available when she needs it.
Kila is taken to the Hargothe, but isn’t able to act. There is no weapon there. The Seer tortures her mind as he did to Henley, but is able to do much more because of her immense power. All the cats and connected humans feel Kila’s torture the way they did Henley’s. As Fallo considers options at the Baths to save Kila and Nax, we learn that Fallo’s father tried to kill him. Obviously, he can’t go to his father for help. Wen reveals that he’s dying, and says he has a secret to tell Kila, one that their father never wanted her to know. He has Fallo take his lockpicking kit; there is a note inside for Kila. Fallo brings Ragin with him to rescue Kila. They go to Quinn’s to obtain disguises, as they are both well-known sons of merchants and it’s risky showing their faces near the Cathedral. Quinn instantly volunteers help to rescue Kila. She tells the boys that like her, Kila is a Shadline, a member of a legendary cult of blademasters. They laugh at the ridiculous notion.
Upon coming to after the mind torture, Kila spies a dagger beneath the Hargothe’s bed. It was left for her by Highest Binel. She strikes…and finds the Hargothe warded, just like his brother, Marlow. The Hargothe severs the bond between Kila and Nax, attaching the cat’s bond into his own mind instead. The Hargothe willshifts Kila to give her power to him. As he violates her mind and steals her mercus power, Dunne Yples bursts in to kill Kila who he believes is Dem-Kisk. To stop Yples from stabbing Kila, Henley smashes his face with a wooden plank. But something happens to Henley. Time slows, everything takes on a green tint. It seems Henley’s mercus power has finally made itself known. With time flowing in syrupy slowness, Henley is able to knock Dunne Yples out.
Nax discovers her bond with Kila has been desecrated. She grows loud and agitated, attempting to kill the Hargothe via their new link. She sends pain and terror through their bond into his mind, forcing him into convulsions. However, Kila knows that if the Hargothe dies, Nax will also die. Huff forces Nax to release the Hargothe from her mental attacks. Then, to save Nax, Kila heals the Hargothe using the techniques as the demayne used on Ragin. Once again, desperation allows her to accomplish mercusine feats she doesn’t even understand. Kila takes Nax with them as they leave, but still the bond is severed. On the way out Highest Binel tries to stop her; she drops him to the floor with her powers.
The Hargothe awakens. He is now healthier than he’s been in ages, due to Kila’s wondrous mercusine healing. After observing how powerful his brother now is, Marlow flees to the cellar with the Derslin Wheel.
Returning to the Baths, Kila gets news of her brother. Minutes before their arrival, Wen died of his sickness. Added to that pain, Nax is forced by the Hargothe’s evil bond to come to him. Kila blames herself for healing the Hargothe to keep Nax alive.
Oly is still living although Wen is dead. However, the other cats tell Kila that the Hargothe’s stolen bond is not attached properly. In this case, both will die together. Kila resolves to save Nax and then leave Starside forever. Oly forces a bond on Kila. They form an uncomfortable alliance, vowing to work together to save Nax.
The story continues in The Raven Throne.
Mind of Mercusine is Copyright 2017 by Eric Kent Edstrom