Synopsis, Staff

Book 1:The Staff Of Sorrows

Hadrim has killed the last of those who nailed his wife to a tree and now returns, after absence of twenty years, to his homeland, Surdar. Memory haunts him; the slaying of his mother by a beast from the sea, and the subsequent departure of his father. He is attacked by a birdshape; one of the creatures present when his mother was killed, but returns unharmed to his home, to Edgehouse. Even here he cannot find peace when he discovers he has been displaced as First Guardian by his brother Cuthred, and that his Rimhound guard dogs have been replaced by Cuthred’s Rimael; creatures bred from the demonic Abael.
After finding his Rimhounds unharmed and, surprisingly, that his favourite, Aldreas, is still alive, he goes to Edmund, his uncle and First Lord. Edmund is with the Mirror, an artefact of power that had been placed in Edgehouse by its founder, Kensic Arrinias, two thousand years ago. Through the Mirror Edmund shows Hadrim the birdshapes and cites them, and Hadrim’s long absence, as the reason for his replacement as First Guardian. He also says that the Mirror is all that keeps them from the house. From the Mirror one of the birdshapes calls Hadrim “Strangler.”

Outside the Mirror room Cuthred meets him and accuses him of being “crippled with grief” and therefore incompetent. Narrowly avoiding violence Hadrim goes on to a reunion with his cousin Oswulf and brother Ceola. He tells them of the death of his wife and of his vengeance, how he strangled her killers.

Back in his rooms Hadrim is woken by Aldreas’s growling. Two Rimael break in and attack. He and the hound kill them. He goes in search of Cuthred and during this search he rescues Sherol, his sister, from Rimael, and finds Ceola badly wounded by them. At this point Hadrim instructs the Castellan, Sark, to release the Rimhounds into the corridors. The hounds were bred to attack and kill Abael and would do the same with their bastardised kin the Rimael.

Hadrim and Sherol track Cuthred down to the Mirror room. Outside the room Oswulf, Edmund, and his other brother Jerrod, are trying to break in. Using his power Edmund destroys the door and enters. The others follow when they are able. Within they find Cuthred on the floor, a burnt-out but still living husk, and the Mirror smashed. In shard of the Mirror Hadrim sees a vision of a yellow Tower before Edmund, apparently in shock, sends them all away.

Back in the corridors they see a birdshape take possession of a small boy. The boy says, “You soon, Strangler.” When it leaves the boy, dead, Hadrim tries to kill it with his sword, but cannot. The shape goes. Back at the Mirror room Edmund will not hear what they have to say about the shape. He tells them instead that Rimael have stolen shards of the Mirror and that these shards must be recovered.
Hadrim, Oswulf, and a troop of house soldiers track the Rimael through Surdar. There they come across Abael who are friendly and want trade for steel. They learn that these Abael have ambushed a party of Rimael and killed some of them. They go to search the corpses.

There are no shards on the dead Rimael so they track the remainder of the party to the Crossroads of Worlds. There they are in turn ambushed. During the fight Hadrim is wounded by a poisonous black-silver arrow. He escapes through a Portal, but in another place is descended on by a birdshape.

Hadrim comes to semi-consciousness on a pathway through limbo. He is possessed and his possessor is using his grief to subjugate him. Before him he sees a man dressed as a friar. This man makes him aware of his possession and why it is possible; poisoning and lifelong grief. Through the gift of a powerful artefact, a lachrymal, he helps Hadrim be free of his possessor. He then urges Hadrim to flee and, when he gets the opportunity, to drink the contents of the lachrymal. Hadrim flees but is pursued by something the friar feared his possessor had come to wake.

Hadrim flees from limbo into a Twilight forest, and there escapes his unseen pursuer by travelling through a Portal in a well. Coming out of this Portal his wound is reopened and he is again possessed by the birdshape. He manages to drink the contents of the lachrymal.

The potion, simply by causing him to cry, releases the hold his possessor has on him. Caught in the backlash of this it is driven from him fully. Now given time to think about all that had happened he realises that Edmund must have been possessed when the Mirror was broken. This would account for his behaviour. He heads back to Edgehouse.

During his journey Hadrim is again pursued by the creature from limbo. He also meets the friar again, who claims to be a friend, and confirms his suspicions about Edmund. He says Edmund is possessed by a birdshape, which he names Agorth; a Weregril. The beast from limbo he names the Jaugre. He also gives Hadrim another gift; a staff to the end of which the lachrymal fits. Shortly after this he is attacked by the Jaugre and face to face sees it is the beast that slew his mother. Using the power of the staff he wounds it and manages to escape.

On his return to Surdar Hadrim discovers Oswulf, Jerrod, and Sherol have been driven from the house by Edmund, and are sheltering with the friendly Abael. The Abael tribe is called the Sa, and they are near to Edgehouse because only there can they find the tin ore to make their bronze weapons. While Hadrim is with them they are attacked by Limoon, another tribe. All but the leader of the Limoon are killed. This one has molten tin poured into his eyes and survives to be driven from the encampment.

At the encampment Jerrod tells Hadrim that there are three of these Weregril; Carsus, Agorth, and Nacromis. By the description of their aspects he realises he was possessed by Nacromis. With this knowledge and with the staff they head back to Edgehouse. There, possessed by Carsus, Ceola guards the only entrance. Behind him the house is being shaken and brought down by Edmund’s power, used by the Weregril Agorth.

Using his staff Hadrim drives Carsus from Ceola and destroys it. He and Oswulf then enter Edgehouse in search of Edmund. In the Mirror room they are attacked by Edmund and Cuthred, and captured. While this is happening Hadrim sees that there is nothing left of Edmund: Agorth possesses a corpse.
They are chained and put in a cell, Hadrim in chains of black-silver, which he now finds inimical to him. Sark manages to get to see Hadrim there, though not to release him. Hadrim explains what is going on and instructs him to release the Rimhounds, which had again been locked away. Sark goes to do his bidding. The next visitor to the cell is Nacromis.

Nacromis tries to possess Hadrim and, when it finds it cannot, it takes possession of Oswulf, who, weakened by the attack on him by what had once been his father, is easy prey. Angered to the edge of sanity and fed with power from the staff in the Mirror room Hadrim manages to escape. Back at the Mirror room he fights Cuthred and strangles him with the black-silver chains. He finds the act of strangulation is vampirish for him. He subsumes Cuthred’s strength.
After leaving the Mirror room Hadrim finds Edmund has fled, and all the Rimael have been either killed or driven from the house by the Rimhounds. With Sark he returns to his cell. There he drives Nacromis from his cousin but fails to kill it. Leaving Oswulf in Sark’s care he returns to the gate house.

At the gate house he finds the friar tending to Ceola. The friar reveals himself as Hadrim’s half-brother, Drannen, one who had been gone from Edgehouse long before Hadrim. Drannen tells how he and their father had gone in pursuit of the Jaugre after it had killed Elena, Hadrim’s mother. They trailed it to a yellow Tower on the further edge of darkness, across the sunlit worlds of men. There their father was killed and Drannen terribly injured, but taken to safety by Karon, a creature called a Rell, one-time friend of Kensic Arrinias. When Drannen recovered he and Karon went in pursuit of the Jaugre, captured it and put it to sleep, but found they had not the power to destroy it. There, while holding the Jaugre under the spell of slumber, they learnt of Cuthred’s treachery, and that Weregril were heading to Surdar from the Yellow Tower. Where they were in Limbo the Weregril could not reach without a mount, and knowing that the mount was likely to be an Arrinias, the only humans capable of travelling the interstices, they prepared the staff. The Weregril they knew would come to wake the Jaugre. This they could do nothing about. They were weak from trying to hold or destroy it. All they could do was help the one who came; give him a weapon potent against Weregril and Jaugre alike. They were sure it would be Hadrim, so they made the staff so it would link to what was most powerful in him; his hate, his anger, and his berserker rage. After telling all this, Drannen sends Hadrim in search of Edmund-Agorth.

Using Aldreas, Hadrim tracks Agorth to the Mad Quarter of Edgehouse; a place where reality was damaged during Kensic’s reign. In Kensic’s Tower he survives an attack on him by the Weregril and eventually kills it. Before dying it tells him that the Jaugre will come for him.

While awaiting the Jaugre’s arrival Hadrim sees Drannen begin to repair the Mirror. He also discovers what changes the staff has wrought in him. He becomes estranged from his family. Even his hounds distrust him. While walking on the battlements away from all the people he comes upon the corpse of a house soldier, he is then attacked by a Limoon, which he kills. Suspecting Nacromis’s hand in this he goes to the Mirror room. In the corridor outside the Mirror room are many Limoon, led by the one with tin in its eyes, now possessed by Nacromis. With Ceola’s help Hadrim manages to get into the Mirror room just behind Nacromis. Nacromis attempts to break the partially repaired Mirror, but is prevented by Drannen. Abandoning his staff Hadrim attacks Nacromis and strangles him. As it dies the Weregril tries to possess him, and through it, the Jaugre tries to get to him as well. Using the Mirror, and the power of his own staff, Drannen prevents this also.

Almost insane from the surfeit of power he has taken from Nacromis Hadrim uses his power to get from the Mirror the location of the Jaugre. It is on the beach.

Hadrim goes to the beach and at length comes to battle with his childhood nightmare. He is being beaten until he loses any vestige of control and goes into a berserker rage. He brings the Jaugre down, then kills it by ramming the staff down its throat. The staff is warped, reduced in size, and has the glass of the lachrymal fused into its surface. It has no power. Apparently it has served its purpose. Spitting blood Hadrim returns to Edgehouse.