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Summary of Hawkmistress!

by Robert Varga

This novel takes place during the Chaos ages, in the time of the exiled king. The main character is Romilly, daughter of the MacAran of Falconsward. She is nearing her fifteenth birthday. When we meet her, she is just trying to tame a haggard verrin hawk to eat from her hands. Her father, Dom Mikhail, the MacAran acknowledges this with mixed feelings. First hand, he has commanded his daughter to go back in the house for the night, but the other hand, she has made the hawk feed (an unusual event with captured hawks), which was too valuable to have been lost, and this was indeed a good mark of the girls abilities of handling animals, due to the MacAran Gift, the laran which conferres her mastery over horse and hawk and dogs. After this episode, we meet with Romilly's little brother, Rael, and sister Mallina. They are both from the second wife of the McAran, since his first wife died years ago. Romilly has two elder brothers also, Darren who is returning home from the monastery at Nevarsin at Midsummer, and Ruyven who went to Tramontana Tower to have a training of his laran, against the will of their Father, who had disowned him for this, and forbidden that his name be spoken at Falconsward. The MacAran's second wife is Lady Luciella, the mother of Mallina and Rael.

After the events of the previous night (having the hawk fed and spending the whole nigt in the mews - what an unladylike behaviour), the lady Luciella forbids Romilly to ride still in breeches, as she is used to because lady's saddle is an insult to any horse. Her not too hidden goal is to make a proper lady of Romilly. However, the notions about being a lady in that time is granting no freedom at all to the women, and Romilly sees this clearly. She continues with the taming of the hawk she names Preciosa.

A couple of days before Midsummer, Darrens arrives home, with his friend, Dom Alderic of Castamir, whom he met at Nevarsin. The young Castamir seems to be supporting the exiled King, but says nothing about the subject. The MacAran has the same opinion as all folks in the Kilghard Hills, that he doesn't care which rogue puts his back on the throne of the Hasturs.

Dom Mikhail brings up again the old quarrel between them, that the Heir to Falconsward should be at home, and should be able to do the same things, as Romilly can with the animals, since as being his son he also should be capable of it. We learn it here that Darren doesn't have the MacAran Gift, moreover, he is almost head-blind. Romilly flies Preciosa free, and she returns to her, the sign that the hawk acknowledged her as her master.

At the Midsummer Festival, Dom Garris of Scathfell (an elderly man) molests Romilly, and afterwards tells her he was just testing her. Next morning Dom Mikhail tells the family, that Dom Garris has asked for Romilly as a wife, and that he said yes. Romilly tries to change his Father's opinion about this, but he says that he cannot honorably draw back, since he has pledged his word. Some days later, a cage with two small falcons arrive, with a letter that it is unseemly for the wife of a Scathfell, to fly a verrin hawk. Instead she should fly these. After this Dom Mikhail tries to give Preciosa to the head- blind Darren, and Romilly sets her free instead of having her live in confinement since Darren is not able to care for her. When she tells this to their Father since he blames Darren for losing the bird, he beats her for this.

In that night Romilly escapes from home disguised as a boy, and wants to reach Nevarsin and from there to Tramontana Tower. After a few days on road, she gets in a storm and finds shelter at a small hut, in which an old woman, called Mhari lives, who cannot get up from her bed, and almost dies since his grandson went to the town for some food, and made the fire for three days in advance, and the storm prevents him also from reaching back, and the fire was almost extuingished meanwhile. In the night, her grandson, Rory gets back. He sees her horse and her fur-wrapped cloak and tries to kill her for it. Romilly tries to flee, but Rory catches her and discovers that under the boy's disguise she is a girl. After this he tries to hold her with him, and to make her his wife; to have this, according to the customs, they only need to share the fireside, a meal, and the bed. He tries to have this by force, but when he tries to bed her, she discapacitates him by kicking to the place where men are most vulnerable... and escapes.

After wandering in the mountain without food, Preciosa finds her, and brings her some animal she just hunted down. After this reunion she cuts the jesses from the hawk's leg, letting her to fly away anytime she wants, but she stays with her. Soon afterwards a few riders tumble near the fireplace, and turn out to be outlaws exiled due to supporting the exiled King, Carolin. Their leader is Dom Carlo of the Blue Lake, a noble of the Hastur-kindred and Orain of Castamir, who was Carolin's paxman and foster-brother. They bring three sentrybirds to the camp of the King's massing army, but they are in bad health since the outlaws knew nothing about sentry-birds. After finding out Romilly is able to handle them, they ask her to come with them to Nevarsin and after it to Tramontana, where a laranzu awaits for these birds. She accepts their suggestion, and they go together to Nevarsin. During the journey to Nevarsin she finds that the followers of Dom Carlo and particulary one man called Alaric doesn't really like him, but Orain and Dom Carlo protect him from them, and during the journey she and the two nobles become friends. Fortunately they don't discover Rumal's (the name he uses in boy's disguise) true identity, nor does the monks in Nevarsin, since no woman can enter the cristoforo monastery of the Bearer of the Burdens. In Nevarsin she happens to meet with a young boy, called Caryl who sees through his disguise since he also has laran as he is the son of Lyondri Hastur, the usurper Dom Rakhal's (the current King) first advisor. He promises not to reveal her true identity to anyone, and tells her that he doesn't think on Carolin as a bad man. Anyway he means a danger to the outlaws, since he may know Dom Carlo by sight, and Orain confirms this. Later Orain himself meets the boy also, and we found that they know each other from long ago. The boy promises not to reveal to anyone that he is here. But a few days after Lyondri hsatur is going to come to the monastery to see his son, so they must escape from Nevarsin, and they don't know, where is Dom Carlo. During the escape, young Caryl leads them out of the monastery, and in the forest they find Dom Carlo. It turns out that Dom Carlo is a close kinsman to Caryl, and must be someone very high in state since Caryl calls him 'vai dom'. When Caryl wants to go back to the monastery, Alaric knocks him out, and says that they should take them as hostage, so that he cannot reveal which way they took. Since they cannot leave the boy out in the winter in the Hellers, and cannot go back to the monastery Dom Carlo grudgingly agrees to bring the boy with them, but promises Alaric that they will have an account for this.

On the path of their escape they found two banshee-birds blocking the way and thinking they are for breakfast, but Romilly and the young Caryl hold the birds in bay with their laran, and so they can escape. After learning this new ability of her laran Romilly finds herself disturbed by ethical problems whether it is right to use her power over animals. They reach Caer Donn uneventfully and from there they need not afraid of the people, since the people in these lands are firm in backing the rightful king Carolin. Orain has a nightmare one night, and Romilly tries to comfort him, and he learns that she is a woman. After learning this, he at once becomes cold to Romilly, and brings her to the hostel of the Sisterhood of the Sword and asks his cousin, one of the Guildsisters, called Jandria to take care of her. The sisterhood accepts her to become one with them, for a year first. Next day Orain comes and pays the Sisterhood to escort Caryl to his home at Hali under a flag of truce. Romilly also becomes one of the few Sisters who under the lead of Jandria bring Caryl back to his Father. On their way to Hali, Preciosa, who was separated from her when they entered the higher hills of the Hellers, since shou could not find food there, finds Romilly again and stays with her again. During the journey they encounter some horrible scenes, the results of the laran warfare of the last decades, but they reach Hali safely. At Hali, Jandria asks Romilly, that she should escort Caryl to the Castle, since Lyondri Hastur would take her as hostage, because he knows her as they have loved each other when they were young, and the old king lived. Romilly agrees, and gets back safely.

Afterwards, Jandria and Romilly head for Serrais where they hold a lot of horses needed to be trained for the army of Carolin, the rest of the group go back to Caer Donn. On the way, while flying in rapport with Preciosa, her horse steps into the burrow of a rabbit, and breaks its leg, and has to be killed for mercy. Preciosa leaves Romilly after this. Later the army of Carolin reach the place, by that time Romilly and the other handlers are ready with their task, and Romilly presents the horse she trained specially for Carolin to the King who happens to be no one else but Dom Carlo. He also asks that she would help him with the flying of the sentry-birds, which she accepts. She meets the bird-handlers and one of them turns out to be her own brother Ruyven. The other is Lady Maura of Elhalyn, a leronis from Tramontana, who helps him, but has pledged that she won't raise hand or laran against Rakhal who is his cousin. One day, after they have flown the sentry-birds, an attack of threshold sickness takes over Romilly, and she almost dies. The Lady Mara asks her to allow to monitor her, whether she is subject to further attacks, but she rejects it, saying that the Towers weren't there when she needed them, and now she has learned to control her laran. One day the lord Ranald Ridenow joins them as a bird-handler, and a telepath to link the view of the birds' sight to Carolin, this is the way sentry-birds are used in warfare. Romilly still has some attacks but smaller ones than the one in which she almost died, and experiences the developing of her telepathic senses, becoming a wild telepath (a telepath, who cannot control her telepathy). But one night, a night with four moons her telepathic senses almost trap her, since she cannot shut out the feelings of Sunstar, the horse she trained for Carolin, and is continously in rapport with him, and her mind almost gets caught up in the rut of the coupling of the horses. Lord Ranald wakes her from this state, and she gives her over to him, to shut out the overwhelming empathy with the horses.

The next day when they fly the sentry-birds to spy out the enemy, two of the three birds get killed by the enemy, and she also almost dies because was in rapport with the birds. This shakes Romilly, since she loved these birds, and only Carolin can convince him that she still needs to fly them that they can gather information that could save people. They have learned that the enemy has clingfire in its camp, which must be destroyed, since this terrible weapon made by laran could bring destruction to the whole army of Carolin.

Dom Alderic arrives in the camp to join his Father, who turns out to be Orain, and bring news from Falconsward. Dom Mikhail thinks that his daughter had died, and grew old in his grief, and Mallina was wedded to Dom Garris.

The next day the armies make battle and Romilly, Ranald and a few soldiers lure the enemy in a trap. Romilly, who is still in rapport with Sunstar feels when he is killed, when Carolin's men attack the enemy, and faints. When she wakes up she only finds dead around her. She wanders away ridden by guilt for she trained Sunstar and that resulted in its death. Some days later, days in the peace of and in harmony with the nature she doesn't even remembers who she is, and doesn't even know from where she knows this hawk sitting on her shoulder. One day she gets near to the burrow of some mountain cats, and in the night her mind picks up again the mating of the cats. She passes out, whispering a name Ranald, not knowin why... When she wakes up, she goes on wandering, and blunders into the clearing where the another cat hides her cubs. She silences it with laran, but after she remembers that the use of her laran has caused Sunstar's death her concentration falters, and the cat claws at her face. In that moment Preciosa swoops down and attacks the cat, and Romilly's memory comes back. That night she hears some voices in her head, and finds out that they are her friends looking for her with laran, and answers it. She borrows a horse from a farmer, and takes her way to Hali. After some days riding, she reaches Hali, where Carolin's army encircles the city. She learns, that Ranald was killed, and Orain taken hostage, and hold prisoner by Rakhal and Lyondri against Carolin demanding that Carolin should surrender himself for Orain. Furthermore, they cut down a piece of him every day, to send it to Carolin. They cannot even find Orain in the city, since it is ensorcelled to block out laran usage of the outsiders. That night Romilly sneaks into the town since her laran is so unusual that it is not blocked by the sorcery of Rakhal's leronyn. She saves Orain and with the help of Caryl who said he wants to join them, since he cannot bear to stand with his Father after he learned of his cruelty, they escape the city.

Nothing can stand now between Carolin and the throne. Alderic asks for her hand in marriage, but she answers that she is still pledged as Swordswoman until the end of the year, after it she is to go back to Falconsward to be reconciled with her parents just as Ruyven, and last she is to go to a Tower because now she sees, that her laran still needs training, not to betray her as it has more than once. After it she will probably know what is in her heart, and see whether she wants to marry him, or anyone else. 'But her mind, ranging ahead, was already seeking the walls of Tramontana Tower...'


copyright 96-99 Robert Varga
HTML version by Fabrice Rossi (rossi@fr.darkover.org)

source file (Last modification: Wed Apr 21 17:21:45 1999)