Stalking Darkness (Lynn Flewelling, 1997) Study Guide: Chapters 5-9
Summary: Chapter 5 "Arrivals"
To the horror of the Wheel Street butler, Alec is insisting on helping the servants with the preparations for Lord Seregil's Sakor Festival party when Seregil comes riding home. The boys are excited to see each other, and dance around the room as Seregil gently scolds Alec for not playing the Sir Alec role "to the bone". The Cavish family (sans Beka) arrives for the party, and both daughters are kind of in love with Alec (fifteen-year-old Elsbet blushes when he talks, six-year-old Illia announces that she's going to marry him when she grows up.)
Summary: Chapter 6 "Mourning Night"
Seregil and Alec attend Mourning Night, part of the Sakor Festival, with Kylith, the saucy fifty-year-old ex-courtesan. The upper-class gathering discusses the rumored upcoming war with Plenimar. The ceremony involves a prediction from the Oracle, but instead of the usual bland blessings of status quo, something weird happens: a bunch of ravens appear, and the Oracle says "Prepare you in the light, and in the shadow. From [the East] comes the Eater of Death!" Seregil's startled, but when Alec asks him what he thinks it means, he says he doesn't know.
Summary: Chapter 7 "An Informative Evening"
At the party, Seregil and Alec play hosts. Seregil chats with the envoy to Aurënen, who mentions "Adzriel ä Illia" as one of the chief proponents of ending the country's isolation. When Alec asks about her, Seregil mentions casually that she is his sister. Alec is surprised to hear anything about Seregil's past.
More guests are featured, including an up-and-coming poet, the actor Pelion, Valerius, Nysander, Thero, Ylinestra, Captain Myrhini, Beka, the rest of the Cavish family. Alec dances with Beka and teases her in friendly fashion.
After Beka leaves, Ylinestra's voice lures Alec into the garden, where she magically seduces him and transports him to her bedchamber. When Seregil misses him, Nysander magically checks Ylinestra's room, and finds her casting non-sexy spells on the sleeping boy. Nysander yells at her, and she pouts and translocates Alec back to his room. Seregil wistfully laments the end of his ability to mock Alec's virginity.
Summary: Chapter 8 "Sakor's Day"
Alec wakes up, unsettled about his night of magically-induced passion and a strange dream about an arrow he had afterward. Seregil gently mocks him.
Seregil, Alec and the Cavishes go to see Beka sworn in or whatever with her army troop.
Nysander goes alone to the Oracle, who has nothing to add to the age-old prophecy:
"First shall be the Guardian, a vessel of light in the darkness. Then the Shaft and the Vanguard, who shall fail and yet not fail if the Guide, the Unseen One, goes forth. And at last shall be again the Guardian, whose portion is bitter, as bitter as gall." (ch. 8 p. 94)
Summary: Chapter 9 "An Unexpected Ally"
Seregil and Alec stick around Wheel Street for a few weeks as Lord Seregil takes care of his "daylight business" and they both spend their evenings at the nobles' salons. Training also continues. One day Alec goes riding with Beka, and they discuss their lives (although Alec feels constrained by his inability to tell her about the secret nighttime missions).
That night, they actually get a mission. Just outside of Wheel Street, they realize they're being followed; the pursuer turns out to be Captain Rhal from the Darter, the ship where Seregil was Lady Gwethelyn. After fighting some thugs side-by-side, they talk at a tavern. Rhal is mad because some men looking for Seregil and Alec (clearly Mardus and his group) burned his ship after he refused to give them information. For some combination of revenge and asking for money, he's tracked them down--due in part to Alec's inquiries about directions just before he and Seregil left the ship. Seregil, who always liked Rhal, offers to back a privateering gig. Alec feels guilty about leading possible enemies to them, but Seregil points out he didn't know as much then, and everything turned out okay. He figures if Mardus knew where they were they'd have heard from him by now.
Analysis: Chapters 5-9
Signs and portents keep the mood dark and tense despite a relative lack of adventure as Seregil and Alec spend weeks at Wheel Street in their noble semi-disguises. Nysander is particularly pensive, realizing that something's coming, and it's not going to be pretty. His lack of specific knowledge and insistence on secrecy leave the reader free to imagine anything.
Meanwhile, Alec reaches a coming of age milestone with the loss of his virginity. He doesn't seem to consider himself a victim of rape, even though his sexual encounter with Ylinestra is clearly the result of magical coercion. She does give him a chance to say no, but the wording and circumstances of his consent are highly suspect:
"You only have to ask, Alec. I'll release you if you ask. Shall I free you?"
Although he knows he was under the influence of magic, Alec still feels responsible for his actions. Further complicating his feelings, he did end up experiencing physical pleasure, which in his mind seems to constitute a sort of retroactive consent. When he speaks to Seregil about it the next morning, he's free of magical mind-muddling, but clearly still confused about what happened.
The beginnings of a dangerous grin played at the corners of his mouth. "Ylinestra, eh? And after all Valerius' warnings. Enjoy yourself?"
Seregil may come off as flip, but this conversation occurs after Seregil spends the entire night in a chair by the bed, so it's clear that his concern for Alec's well-being is genuine.
Prophecy watch: Little Illia is the first Cavish to arrive at Wheel Street for the festival, proudly announcing that her father let her go ahead and that she's the vanguard.