Warning: a bunch of spoilers ahead!
Synopsis by Kikki Boersma
The Raven Throne finds Kila and her friends standing on the bell tower of the Baths of Ori, saying goodbye to Wen, who died in Mind of Mercusine. His ashes are poured over Gristenside. The Voluptuary tells Kila that even if she is Dem-Kisk, it may not be a bad thing. Dem-Kisk, although interpreted by some as the destroyer of the world, can also be seen as simply the bringer of a set of events.
Kila is instructed to go to a distant island called “the Garden” for mercus training. The Garden is a safe haven in the southern ocean where the three Ways of the Triumvirate (Til, Ori, and Pol) operate outside of any control. As Kila grieves for her brother, there is another hole in her heart: her missing Beloved One, Nax. When last seen, Nax was being forced to return to the Hargothe, who had severed and stole the bond between Kila and the cat. Kila resolves to get Nax back and to be done with the Hargothe once and for all.
Returning to the Derslin Wheel, the mystical portal in an unending tunnel, Kila finds the disgraced ex- Donse Master, Marlow, hiding, staying out of his brother (the Hargothe) Tenn’s reach. She demands the help of his semi-controlled beast, the demayne Flaumishtak, to get Nax back. The demayne agrees, but only if she procures one thousand dragon scales in return. She accepts the deal, and they dymense to the Hargothe’s crypt. Flaumishtak rescues Nax, but will hold her until payment is received. The Hargothe awakens, alerted by Nax’s disappearance, and immediately attacks Kila.
Kila escapes the room and manages to climb out through a chimney. Once on the outside roof, though, her only choice is to go back inside at another area. She accidentally enters Highest Binel’s room, where she finds he and a girl, both very naked. Binel orders her to hide in the bed with them; no one will look that closely for her. He’s right, and although the Hargothe angrily stops in the room in search of Kila, he is none the wiser. Before leaving, Kila asks Binel if he has any dragon scales. He the ones he collected as a boy, and scoffs in amusement at her thousand-scale agreement. He also urges her to flee to the Garden. Kila then threatens him to get her family blade, Cayne, back, and is shown a way out by the Highest as well.
After losing Kila’s trail, the newly strengthened Hargothe searches the stacks in the Library of Dunne LiMillar for books on demaynic summoning. He finds the book he is searching for, and has Reader Oloft read aloud the part he needs: which stones to use, the invocation to say, the spell itself to summon and control a demayne. The rest he is familiar with. Once the necessary things are learned, the Hargothe violently wipes the Reader’s memory of the information. He then arranges to be taken to meet with his sister—Quinn Peline’s mother, Radiant Juni Peline.
Kila sadly returns to the Warren to check on the unbonded cat named Startle, Nax’s littermate. Now that Wen is dead and Nax is missing, returning to her old den a very hard thing for Kila to do. Through the new and uncomfortable bond with Oly, Kila has her brother’s cat inform Startle that he is welcome where they’re currently staying, in an old atlen barn. Oly tells Kila that Wen asked him to watch out for her after her brother’s death; since she and Nax were forcibly unbound, Oly chanced bonding with her to honor Wen’s request, although neither of them are pleased with the situation.
Upon leaving the Warren, Kila finds herself followed by a very strange man in black. He tells her, rather cryptically, that she has oaths to take that will result in coin. Entirely suspicious that he is the Hargothe’s man, she ignores him, and he vanishes.
Kila makes her way to Marlow’s secret cellar in the bottom of an abandoned jewelry shop. She questions him about the man in black. Marlow tells Kila that he suspects her mysterious family blade is a newly discovered Shadline weapon. The man in black is likely one of the mysterious order of the Shadline, who assure that anyone with such a weapon take oaths to the order. Marlow also reveals that like her cat, the blade will bond with her.
After being informed that she will have to ascend to the Eerie (high above the Citadel) to collect dragon scales, Kila becomes angry and feels tricked. How can one carry a thousand scales back down that way? Marlow tells her that each scale is incredibly light and thin, thus there will be no issue. He goes to get supplies and leaves her alone at the Derslin Wheel. Out of curiosity, Kila experiments with one of the mysterious columns of the Wheel, accidentally opening a portal to a beach. Marlow returns as Kila lets the door close and is suitably impressed that she’s accomplished in a short time what he’s spent years trying to do.
In return for her queller ring, Marlow begins to teach Kila how to mask her mercus power. The trick is to use the mercus to create “bolts” of negating senses and maintain them. Marlow reveals that he can only handle masking light, and only for a few seconds. When Kila quickly and easily masters the trick, he begins to realize the full potential of Kila’s power.
At the Baths, Kila’s friend Henley Mast is feeling better after his desolate time in the cell beneath the Cathedral of Til. We learn that his family, now all deceased, and the family of Raginalt Keel (Ragin) didn’t get along. In fact, the Keels had burned down Henley’s home. (For the full story, read the short story “Sons of Terriside”) Yet Ragin had saved Henley from the massacre that followed. The Voluptuary wants Henley to stay at the Baths and train. When Henley unknowingly encountered his mercus power, he saved Kila from being beaten to death by the mad Dunne Yples. Time became a green liquid in which Henley moved faster than anything around him. The last person to use this power, known as time-rein, was the first Enlightened.
At the greathouse of Radiant Peline, the Hargothe demands a favor of his sister. He needs her help to summon the demayne that took Nax. Juni agrees to do the summoning after working her own bargain to benefit herself and her daughter. On the way back to the Abbey, the Hargothe senses Henley in the Baths of Ori and sends men to catch him when he comes out. We find out that the ultimate goal of Seer Hargothe is to be Emperor of Starside.
Quinn Peline is summoned by the Shadline trainer known only as “Cloak”. (He took Quinn’s own oath in the short story “The Name of the Blade”.) They discuss Kila and Cayne, and Quinn is ordered to explain the order to her and convince Kila to join them. On the way to the atlen barn to find Kila, Quinn sees the Watch and a Donse Master going there too, ones sent at the Hargothe’s behest. Kila isn’t there, but Quinn warns Fallo and Henley to leave and goes with them. She relates the conversation between the Hargothe and her mother to her friends. The Watch and a Donse Master catch up with them in an alley, and a fight ensues. The Donse Master uses the stunning rod on Henley, as he did the last time he was captured. However, the Cloak shows up and helps kill the Watchmen. Suddenly he takes an interest in Fallo and his rusty old blade …
Kila and Marlow make their way to the Citadel, where the Eerie is located. Posing as Marlow’s attendant, Kila is allowed into the kitchens and then outside, finding the path to the Eerie. As Kila climbs to the top of the Eerie, she recalls that her father saw the last dragon to fly over Starside, before Kila was born. In the Eerie she finds more than she’s looking for: not merely scales, but a dragon.
Meanwhile, the Cloak questions Fallo about his blade. The boy got it as a gift from the merculyn hermit, Jikki (for the entire story, read the short story “Caverns of Misen-Tine”). When Fallo’s caravan was beset by raiders and everyone was killed, Jikki saved him. With this knowledge, the Cloak studies the blade, communing with it, and finally announces in amazement that the blade’s name is Telt. Everyone knows the story of this mythical blade: it was one of three blades forged from a shard of tooth from the dragon who killed Til’s daughter, Mayla.
After learning through Oly that Kila has gone to the Citadel for some unknown reason, Quinn asks her to mother take her time doing what the Hargothe requests, so she will have time to get Kila in place. That way Kila can get Nax before the Hargothe does. Quinn gathers Fallo from the Baths and heads to the Citadel to find Kila. Henley is left behind—his mercus powers now leave him open to danger from all sides. Henley makes plans to leave Starside for the Garden, where he will be safe. The Voluptuary encourages this idea and orders Ragin to go with him. She also orders them to take the mad Dunny Yples, now chained, collared and drugged for safety.
In the Eerie, Kila examines the dragon. Convinced it is dead, she sets about trying to pry off its scales, but with no luck. She becomes frustrated and sad, thinking about Nax all the while. Suddenly a voice speaks in her mind, bidding her to come to a great opening in the mountain-top cavern that overlooks the Citadel. She realizes that the voice is Her Enlightened Majesty speaking to her. The Enlightened asks the dragon to allow Kila to gather the scales she needs. The beast Kila thought was dead gets up and moves aside, revealing a huge pile of shed scales. Kila packs up more than a thousand, as they weigh next to nothing.
Meanwhile, after entering Her Enlightened’s audience chamber, Marlow finds out that Her Majesty is the person he used to purchase dragon scales from. She allows Marlow to claim his spot on her small council (a deal negotiated by the Hargothe in Mind of Mercusine) but makes sure he knows he is there only by her graces. If he betrays her, he will die.
Fallo, Quinn and the cats arrive at the Citadel just as Kila descends from the Eerie. They, along with Marlow, race across Starside to the Peline greathouse to attempt to summon Flaumishtak and claim Nax before Radiant Peline does it for the Hargothe. At the same time, across the city, Juni and the Hargothe begin the same summoning.
Henley and Ragin board a ship ready to take them to the Garden. At the last moment, the Donse Master with the stunning rod shows up outside the ship and demands that Henley be put ashore. The captain refuses, telling him that Henley Mast is dead. The ship sets sail. When they are safely away, the captain comes to Henley, telling him that he knew his father. He knowingly kept Henley from the Donse Master to save him.
Meanwhile, following the mercus power of the summoning, the Donse Master and his Watchmen make their way to the Peline barn. Mid-ritual, they burst in and try to capture the group. Marlow is distracted by the intrusion, and the summoning takes a turn: Flaumishtak is freed from the protecting circle of stones. Yet he only defends the group, killing the intruding Donse Master and Watchmen, returning to the circle as he hears the Hargothe’s summoning.
Kila reminds him of their deal and dumps the scales onto the floor. Flaumishtak offers a new deal – he wants to take Oly. Surprisingly, Oly desires to go with him. Yet the demayne does not concede to any deal yet, claiming he doesn’t know any beloved one called Nax. He deymenses away. Marlow reveals that he gave the demayne the Watchmen and Donse Master in return for not killing them all. Fallo, Quinn, and Kila prepare to go into the Abbey to engage him again.
Flausmishtak appears before Juni and the Hargothe. He stalls for time, bickering and demanding a good enough sacrifice from the Hargothe, waiting for Kila’s arrival. As soon as Kila and her friends arrive, the Hargothe and the demayne reach an agreement, including the demand that the beast teach the Hargothe how to dymense. Nax’s bond is returned to the evil man, but the cat refuses to go to him. The demayne, who seems to harbor a love for cats, is annoyed with the Hargothe for making Nax scared of him.
Kila again offers Oly for a trade, but Flaumishtak requires her to speak Nax’s true name to regain her. Oly tells her that Nax’s name is Nax. Oly intentionally severs the bond with Kila by crossing into the demayne’s stone circle. Due to the shock of losing the bond, Kila loses her mercus mask. The Hargothe attacks her, delving into her mind and attempting to force-bond her as he did to Nax. As he tries to drain her power, she desperately sends Cayne flying at him using the mercusine. Quinn attacks, too, as does her mother. Kila is finally released, flush with more power than ever before.
She finally says Nax’s name to the demayne, but with a mysterious mercusine power behind her shout that engulfs the cat in a glow of power. Nax crosses the circle to her and the bond returns, stronger in their new attachment. Nax tells her to kill the Hargothe. As soon as Kila rounds on him, the Hargothe demands Flaumishtak honor their agreement. Laughing, Flaumishtak instantly passes knowledge of how to dymense to the terrible man, who instantly vanishes in green mist. As the controller of the summoning, Radiant Peline allows the demayne to leave, taking Oly with him.
On the ship bound for the Garden, Flaumishtak appears before Ragin and Henley. They are horrified, but the beast simply asks Henley to watch over Oly for a time, as the cat cannot go where the demayne is going next. Oly is very angry with this new arrangement.
The ordeal with the Hargothe and the demayne over, Kila, Fallo (injured), and Quinn return to the Peline greathouse. The Cloak appears and orders Quinn to do as her mother commands and go to the Garden, but to also bring Kila. The Cloak himself will take Fallo on a mysterious mission away from Starside. But first, the group go to see a group of Shadline masters in a familiar place, Critt Sanglo’s tavern. One man in the Shadline group turns out to be Critt himself, a man who had watched over Kila and Wen since they were children.
The masters now refer to the mysterious man as Cloak Einlin. Critt suggests they train Kila without her having to take the oath, as the vow would mean nothing being forced out of her. Fallo and Kila say their goodbyes, a tough parting. But not before Quinn kisses Fallo, surprising pretty much everybody.
After the meeting, Kila returns to the Citadel in response to Her Enlightened Majesty’s request via Fallo. Marlow is there, too. The Enlightened keeps asking about Kila’s mother. But every time Kila begins to think of mother, a distraction in her mind prevents it. An image of her mother is accompanied by searing pain. The Enlightened One knows that Kila’s mind had been “occluded” to keep memories of her mother away, though the reason is unknown. The sovereign buys all of Kila’s dragon scales and gives her a magic mirror, telling her it will help her when she needs it.
A brief epilogue shows Fallo leaving Starside with the Cloak. The Hargothe has appeared in a cave far from Starside, shivering and cold. He calls out upon the mercusine for a distant spark to come aid him.
The story continues in The Force of Destiny.
The Raven Throne is Copyright 2017 by Eric Kent Edstrom