What follows is a chapter-by-chapter condensed version of The Greatwood Portal. Along with the summaries of The Ventifact Colossus and The Crosser’s Maze, it is meant as a resource for would-be readers of The Infinite Tower who want to refresh their memories of the previous books without full re-reads.
It’s 5% as long as the full book. I expect readers can finish it in 20-25 minutes.
If you haven’t read The Greatwood Portal or the preceding books in the series, I strongly advise you against reading this. While I’ve tried to cover the most essential events, this summary lacks characterization, dialogue, foreshadowing, nuance, and a million little details that make a book worth reading. At the same time, it contains mammoth spoilers.
It is meant only as a refresher for those who have already read the book.
LAST CHANCE TO TURN BACK!
Ivellios Forrester, who until recently called himself “Grey Wolf,” finds himself trapped in a Black Circle facility. His last memory is of teleporting home after Horn’s Company acquired the Crosser’s Maze, but it seems the Black Circle kidnapped him in transit.
He is met briefly by a woman named Essik, who claims to be on his side despite working with the Black Circle. She urges him to cooperate while she works on a way to free him. Afterward, Ivellios is taken to the leader of the Black Circle—Mokad, Dranko’s long-time tormentor. Mokad explains that Ivellios is critical to his plans to merge the worlds of Spira and Volpos, and by doing so free Naradawk Skewn from his prison world.
Aravia successfully teleports the rest of Horn’s Company back to the Greenhouse, where they are understandably dismayed at Ivellios’s absence. As they know from their time in the Crosser’s Maze, Ivellios is destined to be critical to the Black Circle’s plans. Dranko recalls that his childhood friend, Praska, had broken into Mokad’s office while he was still masquerading as a priest of Delioch. Maybe she remembers seeing something that would offer a clue as to where Ivellios has been taken.
Kibi has had a dream about the Eyes of Moirel and the Seven Mirrors, which told him to be ready “when time is right and world is wrong.” He still doesn’t know what that means. While Aravia engages in study of the Crosser’s Maze—which she’ll need to master in order to prevent Naradawk Skewn’s escape from his prison—Dranko and Certain Step go to visit Praska at the church of Delioch. En route, Dranko points out the temple to Corilayna, goddess of luck. Step notes that the Kivian pantheon has its own god of luck, Laramon. They briefly discuss the Injunction, which prevents the gods from meddling directly in the affairs of mortals, though Corilayna causes some people to be born Luckbenders, who alter the fortunes of those around them.
Dranko asks Praska if she recalls anything from Mokad’s office about Ivellios. Not only does she not remember, just thinking and talking about the Black Circle gives her a terrible headache and severe nausea. She also claims to have nightmares about Mokad and the Black Circle every night, but can’t remember the details the next day. That gives Dranko an idea; he asks if she’ll come with him to speak to Morningstar.
Morningstar, who still suffers from her oath made to Shreen the Fair in Djaw, returns to the dreamscape to continue training her sisters. Something has corrupted the glade where she holds her training sessions, and, worse, she discovers the severed head of Sister Sable, one of her trainees. Somehow, Aktallian Dreamborn has found her sanctuary, defiled it, and murdered one of her sisters.
She finds the dreams of the others and arranges to meet them, physically, at the Ellish temple in Tal Hae. There she learns that the dream was true, and Sable beheaded in her sleep. It seems that Sable had grown impatient, and sought out Aktallian herself despite Morningstar’s warnings. Morningstar promises the other sisters that she will protect them and continue training them to defeat Aktallian, as her Ellish avatar has commanded.
Aravia enters the Crosser’s Maze, taking her cat Pewter with her. Her goal is to find a former Keeper of the Maze who can teach her how to seal up the growing rift in the fabric of space between Spira and Volpos. Specifically, she hopes to find King Vhadish XXIII, whom Solomea said was the greatest of those who had possessed the maze.
She finds that Vhadish has a residence in the maze, a huge metal pyramid whose interior is decorated like a palace. Though he’s pompous and arrogant (traits which Pewter mentions repeatedly), he agrees to train Aravia.
Horn’s Company has recovered two Eyes of Moirel—the green and purples ones—which Kibi keeps in locked trunks in the Greenhouse basement. With increasing frequency, he finds he can see them when his eyes are closed.
With no other way to be useful while Aravia and Morningstar engage in their training, and while Dranko hopes Praska can locate Ivellios, Kibi decides to visit the Seven Mirrors, hoping they’ll speak to him again with guidance. Ernie agrees to go with him as a bodyguard. Aravia teleports the two of them to save them the week of travel, then returns to the Greenhouse to continue her tutelage under Vhadish.
At first the massive obelisks have nothing to say to Kibi, but they do speak briefly to Ernie, admonishing: CARABEND, NOT YET. “Carabend” is Ernie’s middle name, a family name through many generations. The two make camp just outside the ring of the Mirrors, after a day in which they imparted no other wisdom.
Sometime after sunset, an orange blob of light appears in the center of the Mirrors. It is soon followed by a Sharshun, gripping the orange Eye of Moirel in one hand. The Sharshun and Ernie fight a duel, which Ernie wins by chopping off the Sharshun’s sword arm.
Kibi asks, “What are you doing here?” to which the Sharshun answers “Setting things right.”
“What does that mean?” Kibi asks.
“It means that nothing you do will matter,” the Sharshun answers. The Sharshun then escapes by backing into the center of the Mirrors and instructing the orange Eye: “Return to the fortress.”
One of the Mirrors still glows orange; Kibi puts his hand on it, hoping it will communicate something useful.
KIBILHATHUR. ALL MOMENTS APPROACH. SOON YOU WILL NEED TO TAKE REFUGE. ALL OF YOU. THE WIZARD’S HOUSE WILL SERVE. THE INFINITE TOWER WILL PROTECT OUR CHILD. HE HAS ALREADY GONE INTO IT AND FAILED OF HIS PURPOSE.
“What does that mean?” Kibi asks. “Why will we need refuge?”
WHEN THE TIME IS RIGHT AND THE WORLD IS WRONG, ONLY THOSE IN REFUGE WILL BE SPARED.
“”Why was that Sharshun fellah here?”
A FINAL CALIBRATION. LIKE YOU, THEY NEED ONLY THREE.
“And spared from what?”
THE UNMAKING OF THE WORLD.
“Can’t we stop it before it happens?”
THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS DESTINY, KIBILHATHUR. CIRCLES, PATTERNS, PROBABILITIES, YES. BUT CIRCLES CAN BE BROKEN AND REDRAWN.
The deceased Ysabel Horn, abandoned in the Crosser’s Maze by Solomea Pirenne, is found by another former keeper named Kay. Kay promises to help Ysabel find her way back to heaven, but Ysabel first wants Kay to teach her how to locate her friends down on Spira. Kay warns Ysabel that people in the real world won’t see or hear her, since the Crosser’s Maze is a reflection of reality, not reality itself. But Kay also opines that, as Ysabel is something new in the maze—a dead person floating free—it’s still worth trying.
In Mokad’s Black Circle lair, Ivellios is made to participate in preliminary tests ahead of the massive ritual that will merge Volpos and Spira, thus allowing Naradawk Skewn to escape his imprisonment. At first Ivellios refuses to cooperate, but soon enough he is tortured into compliance. After one of these tests, Mokad invites him to his office for drinks.
Mokad seems to expect that Ivellios will be a willing partner in their endeavor, since it was the Black Circle’s enemies, the Silverswords, who were responsible for his parents’ deaths. As part of their discussion, Mokad shares the Black Circle’s version of history. To hear him tell it, Naradawk Skewn is the rightful ruler of Charagan. His father, King Naloric, was unjustly deposed by his dukes and banished to Volpos.
When Ivellios asks why the dukes rebelled, Mokad replies that Naloric had acquired Enlightenment as a blessing from the Black Circle. He gained perfect knowledge of the dukes, who chose to rebel when they realized King Naloric knew all their darkest secrets, hidden vices, and whispered plots. Unable to abide a ruler who could see into their most private hearts, they chose instead to overthrow him.
Part way through their discussion, Mokad is distracted by a servant delivering a report. Ivellios uses that distraction to pilfer a small fireplace poker and hide it in his pants.
Later in the conversation, Mokad confirms that Ivellios is indeed the last living descendent of Moirel Stoneshaper, King Naloric’s chief arcanist. He goes on to say that the first time Moirel used the Seven Mirrors, they needed an enormous well of additional magical power, and drawing that power from Spira would have shattered the world. Instead, they reached out and bound Volpos to Spira, which is why the two worlds were linked.
Ivellios points out the irony: It was Naloric’s own designs that caused Volpos to exist as an inescapable prison into which he could be banished. Mokad grows weary of the conversation and sends Ivellios back to his cell.
Aravia continues her Crosser’s Maze training with the pompous (but nonetheless helpful) King Vhadish. Today’s area of study is in drawing life-force out of people to power the maze’s function without killing those people. Vhadish creates a simulated testing environment so she can practice this safely. Her initial efforts meet with mixed success.
Afterward the two discuss the temporal nature of the Crosser’s Maze, along with the possibilities of time travel and paradox. Vhadish shares a speculation he’s heard that the maze was actually created in the far future, though he deems that unlikely.
With her dream glade no longer safe or easily accessible, Morningstar creates a new hidden practice yard in the Tapestry (modeled on the sparring yard of the temple where she grew up) so she can continue to train her dream warriors. But first, Dranko has convinced her to help with another matter.
She drops into the Tapestry to wait for Praska to start dreaming. She is unable to find her serenity due to the lingering promise she made to Shreen the Fair, to return both the Crosser’s Maze and the head of Lapis to his shrine in Djaw.
Morningstar intrudes into Praska’s dreams (once they begin) and reminds her they had discussed this meeting ahead of time. Convinced Morningstar is real (and not part of her dream), Praska tries to think about the Black Circle and Mokad, but shadows and circles appear in the dream, causing her try cry out in pain.
Undeterred, Morningstar asks Praska to instead try to remember the dreams she has each night. Being in a dream already, Praska is able to do this, and Morningstar sees a disturbing scene play out. Praska is paralyzed and lying on a stone slab, surrounded by Black Circle initiates. Mokad appears, and talks about how whatever he’s about to do is actually for Dranko’s benefit.
“I want him to suffer,” Mokad says. “All those years posing as a Scarbearer, cutting my own flesh to establish my legitimacy, were unpleasant enough. That I had to endure Dranko’s constant childish idiocy, his stupid pranks and willful disobedience, made it near a living hell. No matter how much I cut him, his antics never ceased. You were there, Praska. You know what I’m talking about. You encouraged him. So. Someday, when he understands exactly what I’ve done here, it will crush his spirit. I want to imagine how betrayed he will feel. I want him to know it was all his fault, in the end.”
But what he’s actually doing, he doesn’t reveal. He puts a hand on Praska’s head, and her screams cause the vision to fade, returning her to the previous dream with Morningstar. The experience, terrible as it was, allows Morningstar to convince Praska to try one more time to recall the night she broke into Mokad’s office and read his papers. Praska does so, fights through Mokad’s mental block, and relives the memory of discovering that Mokad and some others were secretly working for the Black Circle.
Since this has all been done inside a dream, Mokad’s office (as seen by Praska) is now a permanent part of the tapestry, one that Morningstar can search at leisure. She finds some notes that Praska saw but didn’t focus upon: ledgers regarding deliveries of tools, ink and paint, and great quantities of black stone. All of these sundries, which indicate a massive project, were to be shipped to a single warehouse in the city of Minok. Satisfied she now has a useful lead on Ivellios, Morningstar leaves the dream.
The Spire convenes an emergency meeting at the Greenhouse. The attendees include the archmages Abernathy and Ozella, several of the high priests and priestesses of the kingdom’s major religions, a pair of high-ranking military leaders, most of Charagan’s powerful dukes and duchesses, and even—to Ernie’s utter astonishment—King Crunard himself.
The main topic of discussion, at first, is the impending invasion by Naradawk Skewn and his armies. The enemy has accelerated his timetable, and is now expected to escape from Volpos in about a week, and not the three weeks previously thought. Hundreds of Chargish troops are being sent to Verdshane, and the area around the portal to Volpos is being made into a killing zone.
Ozella gives Morningstar a green pendant, along with instructions: “Wear this. If it doesn’t sound an alarm, wait no longer than one week from today before attacking Aktallian. If it does, then you’ll have about two hours.” Aktallian has been harassing the dreams of the archmages, making it more difficult to maintain the spells that hedge Naradawk out.
A man named Rosset Finch arrives, and the company recognizes him. Albeit much older, Rosset is the Silversword whose order killed Ivellios’s parents, and would have killed Ivellios as well had he not been rescued by the Sharshun. The Silverswords are an old order devoted to opposing the Black Circle, and he is unapologetic about trying to end Ivellios’s line, given Ivellios has long been fated to be an integral part of Naradawk’s escape plan.
Rosset is, of course, shocked to learn his memories were altered by the Sharshun, and that Ivellios is alive and now in the Black Circle’s clutches. But that doesn’t stop him from a hostile interrogation of the company, full of suspicion that they are unwitting Black Circle dupes.
Rosset also possesses a chip of what he calls The Watcher’s Kiss, the golden sword with which the goddess Uthol Inga stabbed the Adversary, thus allowing the Traveling Gods to escape to Spira. The sword fragment has some limited divinatory and protective powers against the Black Circle.
In the end, Rosset is convinced that Horn’s Company is on the level. He agrees to travel with Dranko, Ernie and Step to Minok to search for Ivellios. In the meantime, Morningstar will continue to train her dream sisters, since defeating Aktallian will buy Aravia precious days to seal the rift through which Naradawk intends to escape.
Ivellios uses his wits and his stolen fireplace poker to knock out his guard and escape his cell. He makes his stealthy way through the Black Circle complex, looking for way out, but since there are no windows, it’s impossible to tell if he’s above or below ground.
He emerges into a large circular chamber filled with slateboards, desks, and a huge abacus. He’s about to try one of the doors out, when he turns to find Essik in the room. She convinces him not to escape, in part by demonstrating the door he was about to try is trapped, and would have killed him. More guards, traps, and locks would have awaited him; an successful escape will require a lot of planning. Essik reassures Ivellios she’s working on it, and that for now the best thing he can do is lull the Black Circle into complacency by cooperating.
The king instructs his court wizard to teleport Dranko, Step, Ernie, and Rosset to Minok.
As they walk into town, Rosset tells the little-known story of the goddess Uthol Inga, and why she and her worshippers are shunned and reclusive. Before the Traveling Gods fled to Spira, Uthol Inga pretended to betray her fellow gods and join with the Adversary, becoming his consort. She used this position to steal a drop of his blood, which she used in the forging of the Watcher’s Kiss. At the peak of the battle between the Traveling Gods and the Adversary, Uthol Inga wounded him with the blade, which allowed the other gods to imprison him and then escape. Unfortunately, the Stormknights have maintained since then that Uthol Inga had betrayed the other gods in earnest and only stabbed the Adversary because he turned on her in the end. When the Travelers and their mortals arrived on Spira, the Stormknights hunted and killed most of Uthol Inga’s worshippers.
While the others wait in a tavern, Dranko does some scouting and sleuthing around the city. He knows the number of the warehouse mentioned in Mokad’s ledgers, as seen in Praska’s dream. He discovers that it’s locked but unguarded, likely has roof access, and hasn’t been rented out in months. He returns to the others and sketches out a plan: he’ll break into the warehouse, while the others wait nearby in case something goes wrong and he needs a rescue.
Dranko successfully gets in through the roof and snoops around. He finds a false bottom in a desk drawer, but inside is a trap set specifically for him. A creature like a bladed whirlwind springs up and chases Dranko around the warehouse. Ernie, Step and Rosset hear him screaming and hurry to break the locks on the door. The creature grievously wounds Dranko as his friends get the door open. Dranko sees a golden light just before going unconscious.
Ysabel Horn, having received instruction from Kay on how to move about in the Crosser’s Maze, manages to float into the meeting of the Spire. She can hear and see others, but as Kay warned, they cannot hear or see her. She learns that Dranko and Co. are headed to Minok, so she goes there too.
As such, she’s floating nearby and watching as Dranko is attacked in the warehouse. After Certain Step and Ernie break the door chains, Rosset Finch uses his piece of the Watcher’s Kiss to banish the monster, though he is wounded as he does so. As Certain Step and Ernie desperately apply first aid to Dranko’s wounds, Ysabel can’t help but try to hold Dranko’s hand. She’s startled to feel a connection, and she imagines that Dranko looks at her in his semi-conscious state.
Rosset and Step convince a crowd of onlookers to help convey Dranko to the closest shrine to Delioch, where he is tended to by the healers there. On the bed next to Dranko is an old, dying man named Alic, who wakes from sleep long enough to look straight at Ysabel and ask if she’s an angel.
Tor, worried that Aravia is going to burn out while learning to use the Crosser’s Maze, drags her out of the Greenhouse for a romantic lunch date. She still can’t stop talking about it, though, and explains to Tor (in layman’s terms) how it works and what she’s planning.
In order to close the portal, she’ll need to draw upon the arcane potential of willing persons. Since most people have very little arcane potential, she’ll need to draw upon hundreds of volunteers, and she’s worried that if she tries that without enough finesse, she could kill them.
Also, soon she’ll need to go to Verdshane personally, since in order to use the maze to close the portal, she’ll need to be physically close to it. Tor points out that somehow the archmagi have been casting spells on the portal from a distance—something that shouldn’t be possible. Aravia has overlooked this incongruity and doesn’t have a good explanation for how they manage it.
Kibi ponders the words of the Seven Mirrors.
On a hunch, he attempts to talk with the walls of the Greenhouse basement, and is rewarded when they speak. They confirm that the place is indeed the “place of refuge” mentioned by the Mirrors. They don’t know what it will mean for the Sharshun to unmake the world:
Abernathy and Caranch built this place to protect you from change, but we do not understand the nature of that change.
Kibi is shocked to learn that his mysterious grandfather Caranch had been involved. The walls add:
Caranch and Spira have been becoming more like each other for a long time. He returns to the source, fading into past and future. We are his last great work. And then: You are where the ends of the circle meet. Abernathy will need you to tell him how things turned out. You have been right all along, Kibilhathur. You make your own destiny.
Upstairs, Kibi gets Eddings to tell about his life before working for Abernathy. He’d been a listless son of successful farmers, and he’d always longed for city life. After his parents died, the farm failed, but by the time he fulfilled his dream and came to Tal Hae, he was too old and unskilled to find work. He was homeless and sleeping on a park bench when a child came with a message from Abernathy to come to the Greenhouse. The old wizard had hired him to be a butler, despite that he had no experience in it. He’s done the best he can to play the part.
Kibi goes with Eddings to the upstairs bedroom where the comatose Lapis has rested since the company’s return from Kivia. Eddings washes her face and dusts her room, but after he leaves, Kibi thinks he hears a sound. He turns to see that while Lapis hasn’t moved, her mouth has become upturned into a cruel smile.
Essik comes to warn Ivellios that a new stage of tests is coming. She has him drink a potion that will screw up the Black Circle’s measurements (and thus delay the day of their completion), as well as dull the pain he’s likely to endure. In the meantime she continues to work out how they’re going to escape.
The Black Circle disciple Naul takes Ivellios to a large test chamber. A number of the cultists are on hand, drawing equations and shapes on the walls and floor. Ivellios is made to stand where two large circles meet, as the Black Circle folk go through their magic rituals. Part way through, something clearly goes wrong; Naul and Mokad are obliged to shut it down. Essik’s potion seems to have worked.
Aravia continues her tutelage under King Vhadish XXIII, making steady progress. Vhadish opines that the Black Circle has been performing some rituals to accelerate the process of merging the two worlds, and that now Naradawk’s escape may only be two or three days away.
Aravia mentions Tor’s observation that the archmagi have been keeping the portal sealed while at great and varying distances from it. Vhadish and Aravia travel in the maze to observe Verdshane directly, hoping to discover the archmages’ secret. They see the area buzzing with activity as kingdom soldiers prepare for invasion.
High above the forest, not far from the portal itself, Aravia discovers the entrance to a hidden pocket dimension. It is here that the archmagi have sequestered themselves, working tirelessly to keep the portal closed as long as possible. So, the answer to the question “How are the wizards affecting the portal from far away?” is “They’re not. They’re actually quite close.”
Morningstar continues to train her sisters in the tapestry, to ready them for combat against Aktallian. Though they could in theory go after Aktallian any time, Morningstar wants to train them until the very last moment, to increase their odds of success when the confrontation comes. In light of Sable’s death, she forbids the other sisters from searching for Aktallian. When the times comes, she’ll find him herself.
Toward evening, Morningstar receives a letter from the Ellish church in Tal Hae, summoning her to an audience an hour after sunset. To her great surprise, the High Priestess Rhiavonne is there to personally interview Morningstar about the death of Sable. Rhiavonne can sense the stink of Morningstar’s reluctant oath to the evil goddess Dralla, and mistakes it for personal corruption. Combined with the mystery around Sable’s death, as well as the rumors about Morningstar’s dream-related activities and her reputation as “The White Anathema,” Rhiavonne accuses Morningstar of corruption, heresy, and complicity in murder. She then excises Morningstar from the church of Ell. More dismaying to Morningstar, the high priestess also excises Previa and Amber, who have been stonewalling her investigation.
Tor and Aravia teleport to Verdshane., where the army is busily preparing for an invasion. Everyone is on edge, since the invading army is going to simply pop out of nowhere, and no one knows how large it will be. The woods around the portal building have been cleared out, the ground has been scored with staked trenches, and archer platforms have been built all around the clearing’s perimeter. If enemy soldiers start pouring out of the portal, they’ll have a rough go of it.
Aravia does some initial maze-scouting from a distance, but soon realizes she needs to stand right next to the portal to continue her work. The soldiers have walled off the entrance to the portal building, so it’s possible that the place is full of gopher bugs or other nasty surprises slipped through by Naradawk. At Aravia’s request, some soldiers reopen the building, and Tor goes in first to scout.
Good news: no gopher bugs. Bad news: the enemy sneaked in a betentacled blob monster that’s affixed itself to the ceiling. It takes Tor by surprise and nearly kills him, but he defeats it in the end.
A mysterious Black Circle agent investigates the warehouse where Dranko made his ill-fated break-in. After a careful search of the wreckage caused by the battle, he slips out, and by a circuitous route makes his way back to the secret Black Circle base.
Ysabel Horn watches the whole thing. “Caught you, you sneaky Black Circle roach. I caught you.”
Aravia makes great progress in her study of the portal, now that she can observe it while both her physical body and maze-bound mind are next to it. She takes a break from the maze to check on Tor, who’d been poisoned by the blob monster but subsequently healed by a Deliochan channeler. She also explains to General Anapark, leader of the defense, that when it comes time for her to seal the portal, she’ll need to draw on the life energy of all Anapark’s soldiers. When they feel a tug on their life essence, they must assent to it willingly. Anapark is dubious but agrees to spread the word among the troops.
She returns to the Crosser’s Maze to visit King Vhadish and ask more questions, but discovers he’s been brutally murdered by Lapis. Aravia and Lapis battle, and Lapis cuts Aravia off from the maze energy she needs to fight back. The only way Aravia can escape is by drawing on Pewter’s meager arcane potential, which she knows may kill her beloved cat.
They continue to battle until Lapis, faced with defeat, tells Aravia, “But he’s still getting out, Aravia. I’ll simply have to go the long way.” And then Lapis somehow escapes the Crosser’s Maze, which should be impossible.
Previa and Amber, excised from the church and with nowhere better to go, come to the Greenhouse. As they talk, Kibi comes down from upstairs; Lapis is gone! She must have come out of her catatonia and escaped out the window.
That night, Morningstar has a seer dream about a domed necropolis with an infinite number of roadways leading to its infinite number of gates. Dranko, Aravia, and Kibi are unable to get in, but Pewter has a key in his mouth.
Morningstar awakens to her green-pendant alarm going off. It’s time to confront Aktallian! (The alarm indicates that if they wait any longer, Aktallian might overwhelm the archmages and the invasion would begin immediately.)
Morningstar and her team of Ellish sisters fight a terrible and complex battle against Aktallian, the many details of which are beyond the scope of this summary. Gyre, Scola, Belle, Starbrook, and Obsidia are killed in the fight, before Morningstar, Previa, Jet, and Amber are able to defeat Aktallian once and for all.
Ernie, Step, and Rosset sit by Dranko’s bed as he convalesces the day after the attack. The dying patient, Alic, overhears them talking and offers suggestions about where in the city they might look for Ivellios.
Ernie and Rosset leave Step with Dranko and go to visit Baroness Tilidia of Minok. They secure a promise that she’ll devote some of her personal guard and household staff to the search for Ivellios, though most of the city garrison has marched to Verdshane to join the defense there. Afterward they go to a dockside tavern called the Happy Haddock, where they offer a huge monetary reward for anyone who can find a clue as to Ivellios’s whereabouts.
Back at the Deliochan hospital, Dranko has woken up. He relates the bad news that the warehouse had been a trap set specifically for him. As they ponder their next steps, Alic sits up with a sudden and startling vigor, after which he gives detailed instructions on how to find the hidden Black Circle lair. Having done so, Alic gives them a wink, says “Stay positive, Ernest,” and falls unconscious.
Ysabel Horn, exhausted from possessing the body of the dying man, has done all she can. Kay, impressed, tells her its time they figure out how to get Ysabel back to heaven.
A few hours after the Black Circle’s most recent test-run, Essik visits Ivellios in his cell. She has their escape plan worked out: the next day, an hour before the main ritual is due to start, while all the cultists will be setting up the master chamber, Essik will break Ivellios out. She’s disabled all the traps along one particular route.
Ivellios asks why Essik is betraying the Black Circle. She reveals that she’s actually a member of the Silverswords, working under cover for almost a decade. She recalls a fellow Silversword named Rosset Finch reporting that Ivellios, along with his family, had been successfully killed to prevent the Black Circle world-merging ritual from happening. Turns out he was wrong, obviously!
Several hours later, Essik wakes him. Ivellios assumes it’s time to escape, but it’s not to be…not yet. Mokad’s final preparations have gone mysteriously awry. It seems that one of his agents had been targeting the archmages to help accelerate the timetable, but that agent has been unexpectedly removed. This could delay the final ritual by a day.
Mokad and Naul come for Ivellios and drag him to the testing chamber, in order to figure out how to retool their ritual.
Aravia returns to the real world to find that Pewter, while still alive, has lost his human intelligence and ability to communicate telepathically. She needs to go back into the maze to figure out the perfect spot to occupy when she tries to close the portal. Tor promises to protect her to the last.
Mokad’s last-minute emergency test goes very well (from his point of view). It is not gentle on Ivellios, who feels like he’s been dropped from a tall building. Everything hurts. He’s returned to his cell to wait. Eventually Essik comes for him. It’s time to escape, for real this time! She helps him stumble along, turning this way and that through the mazey complex. She stops before a large double-door; loud vibrations come from the far side. Essik opens the doors.
Aravia finds the perfect spot to drop into the Crosser’s Maze and perform her task. Twenty-two Stormknights of Werthis have arrived to help Tor protect Aravia while she’s in the maze. Ideally, the enemy soldiers won’t escape the killing zone, but if they make it farther out into the woods, it’s vital that nothing happens to Aravia. Tor and Aravia kiss, and then she sits at the base of the tree and enters the Crosser’s Maze.
Ivellios finds himself staring at what is obviously the final ritual chamber. He turns to Essik, who casts a spell that paralyzes him. As Mokad’s goons drag him into place, Mokad mockingly tells Ivellios that Essik really is a Silversword, one who was caught trying to infiltrate the Black Circle. They’ve partly brainwashed her, so that while at times she truly believes she’s a spy, she will also do Mokad’s bidding. They’ve been playing Ivellios this whole time.
The ritual chamber itself is huge; some two hundred feet across and four stories high. At the back are two huge translucent spheres, representing Spira and Volpos, slowly moving toward one another. Ivellios is positioned where the two spheres will eventually overlap.
In the Crosser’s Maze, Aravia overcomes internal distractions and attempts to draw energy from surrounding soldiers. Will they assent? Yes! Aravia continues with increased confidence.
In the woods around the portal, the invasion begins. Tor and his team of Stormknights can hear the first sounds of fighting.
Ivellios rages at his own gullibility as Mokad’s ritual proceeds. He’s suspended, helpless, between the two converging spheres.
In the Crosser’s Maze, to Aravia’s horror, she sees the portal itself expand and widen, allowing enemy soldiers to pass through more freely and arrive in a wider area. Closing it has just become more difficult.
The Stormknights with Tor grow restless, hearing nearby combat. Their commander, Mara, refuses to let them leave. Tor exhorts them to stay close to Aravia.
Aravia despairs as the portal grows ever wider thanks to Mokad’s ongoing ritual. She tries an improvised technique to accelerate her reknitting of the fabric of space-time, but it fails, and she inadvertently kills a dozen of the soldiers whose energy she’s borrowing.
Enemy soldiers are now appearing throughout the forest, as the portal connecting the two worlds expands past the confines of the killing zone. A unit of seven such soldiers moves into Aravia’s clearing. Tor and the Stormknights make quick work of them with no casualties and only two wounded. All of the Stormknights then feel the pull of Aravia’s need for energy. Tor and Mara convince the soldiers to assent…and one of them dies. Facing mutiny, Mara allows eight of the most rebellious Stormknights to move off and guard a wider perimeter, thus becoming more active participants in the melees now breaking out all through the woods.
A second mob of enemy soldiers approaches, chanting the name of “Meledien.” From that mob, an armored woman emerges. She wields an enchanted black sword and wears the same blood-red plate armor as Aktallian Dreamborn once did.
“That’s the one,” Meledien says, pointing at Aravia. Then she speaks to Tor. “And you would be Darien Firemount, the protector. Naradawk told me you were formidable. I expected someone older. You’ll just have to die young.”
As Mokad’s world-merging ritual approaches its conclusion, the doors to the ritual chamber burst open. Men and women pour in—some are the patrons of the Happy Haddock that Ernie had recruited, while others are the uniformed soldiers of the Baroness Tilidia. The rescue is led, of course, by Dranko, Ernie, Step, and Rosset.
The brawl that follows thoroughly disrupts the ritual, causing powerful and violent energies to rage out of control. Rosset uses the fragment of the Watcher’s Kiss to manifest a protective golden bubble in which his allies can find protection from the deadly storm, while the cultists bounce off its surface. Dranko, Ernie, and Step fight and dodge their way through to Ivellios, and Ernie carries him toward the safety of Rosset’s bubble. They are stopped by Mokad, who prepares to blast them with some deadly spell, but Step crashes into Mokad and foils his casting. Mokad flings Step to the ground and returns his attention to Dranko, but this time his attack is halted by a strand of his own ritual’s rampant energy slicing him in half. As the storm of unleashed energy engulfs the ritual room, the four of them reach the safety of Rosset’s bubble. Ivellios recognizes Rosset as the man who killed his parents, just before passing out.
Tor and Meledien fight a desperate duel, while around them the Stormknights battle against Meledien’s henchmen. After much back-and-forth, Tor finally drives Meledien off with a deep cut to her neck, but not before Meledien has delivered a deadly stab of her own. Tor dies while looking into Aravia’s star-field eyes.
Aravia finds a glimmer of new optimism when the portal stops expanding, but it’s already too late. The combined life energy of all the Charagan soldiers won’t be enough to close it, even if she killed them all. But then she has a new thought: the archmages! They could provide the energy, and thanks in part to Tor’s insight, she knows where they are.
At first, naturally, the archmages resist Aravia’s pull, not knowing what it is. She signals them by pulsing her name in code until they figure it out, at which point the arcane energy rushes out of their pocket dimension in a raging torrent. It’s enough for her to close the portal moments before Naradawk himself can make the passage. Success! But Aravia is so spent, and the energy drawn from the archmages so overwhelmingly immense, she loses control of the Crosser’s Maze. She nearly destroys it, and almost certainly has killed the archmages, before Kay finds her in the maelstrom and convinces Aravia to return to the real world.
There she discovers Tor’s body, and she despairs.
The world has been saved. Naradawk’s attempts to escape from Volpos have been thwarted.
In addition to Tor and a half-dozen of Morningstar’s sisters, the casualties include Rosset Finch, who died maintaining the protective shield in Mokad’s ritual chamber. They may also include Abernathy and the other archmagi, whom no one has heard from since the day the portal was sealed.
A week has passed since the battle at Verdshane. Tomorrow there will be a parade through the streets of Tal Hae in honor of Horn’s Company, but today is the memorial service for Tor. After heartfelt speeches from Tor’s father and from Ernie, Aravia, in an act that causes profound discomfort, speaks up about her intent to use the Crosser’s Maze to bring Tor back to life.
That night in the Greenhouse, Horn’s Company raises a toast to fallen friends. Aravia and Morningstar have a tense moment: Morningstar needs to return the Crosser’s Maze to Shreen the Fair to fulfill her oath, but Aravia insists on keeping it so she can find Tor and bring him out of heaven.
Kibi is once more seeing the two Eyes of Moirel in the Greenhouse basement, even when his eyes are closed. That night, Kibi dreams:
The world cries out in pain. Kibi has been shot with an arrow of death, a sharp shadow plunging down from the heavens. Most of the missile has shattered on the impenetrable stone of his being, bits of it landing on his face, his continents, but a fragment worms its way through his strata of flesh, piercing crust and mantle, and lodges in his heart. It burns there like a slick black flame, hot and oily.
MY CHILD. The world’s voice, Kibi’s voice. THIS SPLINTER CANNOT STAY WITHIN ME. BLESS IT WITH ITS LOVER’S KISS, THE WATCHER’S HOUR COME.
Kibi is the world and the world is Kibi, and a golden light blinds him.
He wakes to the Eye of Moirel telling him they must take refuge. He wakes his friends, including Eddings, and has them gather in the basement. Soon after they have collected there, the Greenhouse begins to shake. Kibi holds the two Eyes, and their crystal rushes out from his hands to cover his entire body in emerald and amethyst. They speak through him.
YOUR ENEMIES UNMAKE THE WORLD, BUT IN REFUGE YOU SHALL NOT BE UNMADE.
OUTSIDE, THE WORLD IS AS IT HAS ALWAYS BEEN—SLAVES, TOIL, FEAR, AND THE ENDLESS DIGGING. THE EMPEROR DRIVES THEM, EVIL BEYOND EVIL, AND YET HIMSELF ONLY A MEANS TO AN END. FEAR HIM, BUT FEAR MORE HIS SUCCESS.
INSIDE, THE WORLD IS AS IT NEVER WAS—HOPE, STRENGTH, MEMORY, AND THE SAFETY OF FORESIGHT. THE GEOMANCER IMBUED IT, WISE BEYOND WISDOM, AND YET HIMSELF ONLY A MEANS TO AN END. TRUST HIM, BUT TRUST MORE IN YOURSELVES.
HE IS FOLLOWING BACK THE PATH OF MOIREL. WE CANNOT PURSUE HIM WITHOUT OUR BROTHER. IF YOU WISH TO TRAVEL NOWHERE, TO UNMAKE THE WORLD, BRING US TO THE HOME OF SEVEN WORDS AND MAKE US THREE.
It sounds as though the Greenhouse above them has shaken itself apart. When Ivellios goes to investigate, he finds that the stairwell up from the basement ends at a dirt wall and ceiling, as though they’ve been buried underground.
Most of the company are confused, but Aravia has understood the cryptic message of the Eyes. The Sharshun have used the Seven Mirrors to send one of their number back in time, changing the course of history so that Emperor Naloric and his Sharshun won the war against the Spire. In order to fix this, Horn’s Company must acquire a third Eye of Moirel from Het Branoi. Then they must use the three Eyes to travel back in time themselves, and prevent the change in history.
“How do we use the Eyes to go back in time?” asks Ivellios.
“I don’t know,” Aravia answers. “Not yet. But one thing at a time. First, we must escape this basement. Then we must pay a visit to the infinite tower.”