Stalking Darkness (Lynn Flewelling, 1997) Study Guide: Chapters 45-47
Summary: Chapter 45 "Vegeance"
Ashnazai sends Alec more illusions of the dead as the days of cage-travel wear on. Then, one night, when Ashnazai is nowhere to be found, someone else arrives at the cage--Seregil! Alec clings to him through the bars, feeling him real and solid enough, and cries "tears of relief." Seregil calls Alec talí before leaving him "reluctantly" to go work on the lock. Suddenly, Ashnazai arrives with a bunch of soldiers, surrounding him! Ashnazai mocks Seregil and says "the boy played his part very convincingly, no?" which makes Seregil send Alec a hurt, shocked look. The soldiers pin Seregil. Alec protests that he didn't help, and Seregil growls that it doesn't matter. Ashnazai savagely stabs Seregil and cuts his throat, drenching Alec in blood.
The next day Alec is still covered in dry blood and comes to the grief-stricken conclusion that it wasn't an illusion, and Seregil is really dead. Alec anticipates a chance for escape as he and Thero are moved from the cage to a cave, and figures he may as well go for it as he has nothing left to lose.
At the cave, soldiers chain Alec to the cave-wall by his neck. Alone with the guards outside the cave, Alec uses his nail to pick the locks on the chains, but leaves them in place in case anyone enters. Thero still has seamless magical imprisoning armbands on, but his wrists are thinner than they once were due to malnutrition. Alec gags Thero and dislocates his thumbs in order to slip off the bands. Alec painstakingly resets his thumbs just in time for Thero to hide his hands as Ashnazai enters, ready for what he describes as an evening of "memorable entertainment." Suddenly, there is a burst of light, and Ashnazai is wounded: Thero has a cast a spell, but it's not enough. Yelling about vengeance for Seregil, Alec chokes Ashnazai to death with a length of chain.
They escape and run for half and hour before Thero stops, alerting Alec that the bad guys know they are gone and will find them soon. Alec panics, but Thero tells Alec to relax and clear his mind, and performs that spell to turn him into his inner power animal or whatever. Alec turns into a stag and Thero tells him to run.
Summary: Chapter 46 "Paths Cross"
Beka leads a night raid on the Plenimaran camp to rescue her men. Their mission complete, they hear a "mad, inhuman howl" and decide to beat feet.
Nysander senses Alec in deer form and figures out what happened. He calls to Alec mentally.
The formerly-captured soldiers give Beka some intelligence about the camp, describing Mardus and the sacrifices. Beka sends the injured men home (with the one guy's boyfriend as a protector). Although she knows she would be justified in returning with them, Beka feels that she needs to stay and figure out what's going on.
Summary: Chapter 47 "Just a Stag in the Dark"
Alec has various animal type thoughts as he is compelled to run north.
Micum notes that the soldiers are approaching. Nysander casually lets slip that he sensed Alec yesterday. Seregil goes off to find him, and Nysander tells Micum not to follow.
Seregil travels for an hour, excited and anxious, until he suddenly happens upon Alec. Alec is damaged: naked, battered, and suspicious. He asks "How do I know it's you?" Seregil tries to explain, but when he moves toward Alec, Alec runs. Seregil grabs him, and Alec struggles, but then relaxes, exclaiming his relief that Seregil is really alive. He tells his story, and Seregil comforts him. "I never told you--" he begins. Seregil cuts him off with "I know." Alec kisses him. Then there's kind of an awkward moment. As they stand to leave, Seregil gives Alec the dagger he has been saving for him (not THAT way!!!)
Analysis: Chapters 45-47
Chapter 45 marks a major turning point as Alec and Seregil are seemingly reunited, Seregil is symbolically killed, Alec and Thero team up to kill Ashnazai, and Thero sacrifices himself to save Alec. The transition is made all the more marked by Alec's literal transformation into an animal.
But Ashnazai's torture has lasting effects beyond his death. In the previous section he seemed to make a rookie mistake by presenting Alec first with an images of people he knew to be dead, so that the image of Seregil which followed could not possibly be as believable as it might have been. But by setting up the "rules" of his illusions--that they end, and all traces disappear, by morning--he makes his grandest illusion more believable by violating those rules (the continued presence of blood, which Nysander later points out must have belonged to one of the sacrifices). The overall effect is to set a precedent for untrustworthy senses--in particular, the untrustworthiness of the perception of Seregil's presence, which contributes to the overall campaign of relationship-doubt which Mardus and Ashanzai so delight in furthering. This only exacerbates the lingering frightened-deer qualities which hinder what should be a joyful reunion.
Speaking of joyful reunions and turning points, chapter 47's kiss marks both, providing a satisfying conclusion to the parted-lovers plot and finally (more or less) resolving the "will they or won't they?" factor of the relationship. There's still much danger to be faced before we can relax, but the emotional core of the story has reached a resolution.