Stalking Darkness (Lynn Flewelling, 1997) Study Guide: Chapters 22-27
Summary: Chapter 22 "Old Sorrows"
Nysander brings Seregil and Alec to observe a meeting between the queen and a group of Aurenfaie; Seregil is emotionally affected. He privately meets with his sister, Adzriel, who brings him news from home and confirms that he will probably never be able to return home, but that his current life is better for someone as adventurous as him. Seregil's not convinced. Adrzriel meets Alec, telling him he's a person of honor for his valued companionship of Seregil; before she leaves, she says something to Seregil in Aurenfaie to which Nysander says "It is the boy's right to know; he should hear it from you." Alec's all, wha? and Seregil promises to "explain everything, but not here."
Summary: Chapter 23 "Revelations"
The right place to explain everything is, apparently, the "wooded park behind the Street of Lights," where they sit on a fountain and drink. Seregil speaks of his loneliness, the sole Aurenfaie among the human types, explaining that he was exiled when younger than Alec, after helping his first love commit a treason and murder. He's sketchy about the details, but he notes that he and his lover were the only ones to avoid execution, and his lover jumped off his escape ship to his death. Seregil also nearly committed suicide, as most exiles do, unable to deal with being away from their homeland and people. Having gotten that secret out of the way, Seregil tells Alec another: "Alec, you're 'faie."
Seregil explains that Alec's mother must have been Hâzadriëlfaie, a group of 'faie who left Aurënen a long time ago and went north (near where Alec used to live). Their custom is to kill half-breeds, but Alec's mother must have got him out, probably dying in the process. He is probably about as old as he thought he was, as Hâzadriëlfaie and half-humans mature faster than Aurenfaie, but since the blood comes from the mother's side (which makes it stronger), he will live for several hundred years.
Most of this info is admittedly conjecture, but whatever the circumstances of his birth, Seregil is sure Alec is 'faie. He didn't tell him at first because he wasn't sure, then he was afraid of creating a bond between them or something, and then the more time that passed, the harder it got. Alec briefly cycles through shock and anger and ends up feeling strange but overall cool with it, glad that, while the knowledge changes a lot, it has no effect on the day-to-day life he so enjoys. Seregil is relieved.
Summary: Chapter 24 "Beka"
Beka and her turma march overland to Keston. Most of the soldiers seem to respect Beka's leadership, but she's in an awkward position as one of few non-noble officers. She takes a group of ten to a marketplace for supplies, and on the way back, they are attacked by bandits. They fight well under Beka's leadership and there are no casualties (on their side). Everyone who made their first kill (including Beka) observes the blood-tasting ritual.
Summary: Chapter 25 "Loose Ends"
Seregil and Alec find Skut, the street kid, and give him food in exchange for information about Tym's death. At Rythel's house, they find Tym's knife. Nysander and Thero are only able to sense a faint trace of magic on it. Seregil decides it's time to reel in Rythel and has Nysander prepare a translocation spell on an object which will send Rythel to prison.
Summary: Chapter 26 "Eyes of the Necromancer"
Ashnazai reflects on the boredom of his time in Skala and looks forward to the culmination of the plans, which will involve a lot of deaths, including the poor dupes, Pelion and Ylinestra. A new, scary, female dra'gorgos, Irtuk Beshar, arrives to meet him.
Summary: Chapter 27 "Rythel's End"
Lord Seregil meets Rythel in a gambling house again while Alec returns to his rooms. Rythel is suddenly called away, but makes arrangements to discuss Seregil's fictitious business venture later that night. In the meantime, Seregil slips out to follow Rythel, just in time to see him run over by a cart. Seregil uses the translocating scroll to bring Rythel's body to the prison, where Nyander, Thero and Alec are. Nysander senses no magic, and maintains that the death might indeed have been an accident, but Seregil is sure he was murdered. Alec reports that his rooms were completely empty. Seregil is angry and frustrated.
Analysis: Chapters 22-27
The secret origin of Alec is finally revealed, rendering moot all my conjectures in the previous book, making me question why I ever laid bare my limited intellect by hazarding semi-erroneous guesses about what was going to happen in a 1997 novel, in 2007. The revelation explains a number of things: the meaning of the prophecy's description "child of earth and light" (as Seregil explains, "earth" refers to the human god Dalna, "light" to the 'faie god Illior); Alec's lack of facial hair despite being developmentally adult in body and mind; the way he's good at everything Seregil is good at, including, but not limited to, moving silently, singing, thieving, tracking, climbing, acting, and finding men attractive. (Although, without any other major Aurenfaie characters for comparison, it's unclear how of much of that is due to their shared ethnic heritage and how much of that is due to their one-soul-in-bodies-twain status.) The similarity in lifespan also provides the possibility of a happily-ever-after ending, although in their line of work it seems unlikely to matter.
Alec is understandably upset at first; the fact that something so fundamental about his identity was concealed from him while it has been known all along to Seregil, Nysander, Micum, some centaurs he barely knows, and anybody else with a functional 'faie-dar must certainly be disconcerting. Alec points out Seregil's history of secret-keeping, and while Seregil defends himself, he seems to know his argument is weak.
We see Seregil is at his most vulnerable to date in this scene. In a perhaps purposefully pathetic preface, he begins by speaking of his exile, expressing the feelings of isolation and regret stirred up by his sister's visit. He is candid about his emotional dependence on Alec, telling him that since they met "the greatest fear I've had is losing you" (ch. 23, p. 229). By the end of the interview, Seregil is the more emotionally distraught of the two, and Alec ends up comforting him:
"Damn it, I'm sorry I didn't say anything sooner. The longer I waited, the harder it got."
This is the first time Alec calls Seregil talí, and the first time he appears to feel responsible for Seregil's emotional well-being, a role he will take more frequently as Seregil continues to show his frailty.
The following three chapters lift the focus from Seregil and Alec almost completely; Beka's interlude mentions Alec once in passing, and Ashnazai isn't thinking about them at all. Even chapter 25 opens with a lengthy sequence from Skut's point of view in which Alec and Seregil feature, but are not named, as their identities are unknown to him. All three chapters, particularly the foreboding 26, serve as a transition to let us know the peaceful, relationship-focused fun time of the first 250 pages is drawing to a close. Chapter 27, dealing with the death of Rythel, also brings the intrigue plot which has dominated the first half of the book to an abrupt end.