Last week, I bunched up the happy chapters. Van and Tylendel talked more in those three chapters than Talia and Dirk did in three books. They’ve been so happy and sweet.
Their relationship has been especially good for Vanyel, who was able to relax and feel loved, which, in addition to being nice for him and Tylendel, dramatically improved his relationship with his aunt. I’m unwilling to objectify teenage characters, but the half-naked man-wrestling was pretty cute.
Yeah, that’s over now.
Now we need to look at that fourth letter from the beginning of chapter seven. Not right away, of course. First, we should look at the touching scene where Tylendel persuades Vanyel to play for him, and tells Vanyel that his gift for music isn’t wasted because he lacks the Bardic Gift of manipulating an audience’s emotions. In a lot of YA literature, protagonists handle their issues by acting like they’re thirty. Van and Tylendel are not generally so mature. I love that, on the only occasion that Tylendel transcends his adolescence, he does it to bring Vanyel this moment of healing, to counter Vanyel’s sense of inadequacy and show him that he’s worthy of love. Tragically, Tylendel’s case of adolescence will be terminal.
Re-reading Vanyel is hard on the soul. I’ve spent the last week preparing for this blog post through acts of self-care. I’m all about chocolate and comfortable socks. Still, I feel like I’m running an obstacle course. Last week, we warmed up over a broken arm, some crushed dreams, a scary forest, ice nightmares, and an alarming prostitute. This week we’re doing the live-fire exercise with some murders, the only Renunciation in Valdemaran history, two suicides, and one attempted suicide. I don’t remember feeling relentlessly slammed the first time I read this, probably because I didn’t know what was coming. People, Vanyel doesn’t die until the end of book three. We’re looking at a trilogy that contains easily 2.5 solid books’ worth of the Traumapocalypse.
Vanyel’s fourth letter is from Evan Leshara, a representative of the family that is embroiled in a feud with Tylendel’s family. Leshara was misled by the previous chapter’s fake fight, and thinks that Vanyel may be a partisan to the Leshara’s cause. Tylendel explains the underlying issues in detail—these families have been tormenting each other in creative ways for a long time. You’ll hardly notice, because Tylendel’s brother Staven is killed almost immediately after Lendel’s family history lesson. Like many fictional twins, Tylendel and his brother are psychically linked. And if there’s one thing you can count on Mercedes Lackey to do, it’s demonstrate the downside of a psychic link. Tylendel’s reaction to his brother’s death is essentially a Mage-powered grand mal seizure followed by magical backlash that leaves Tylendel comatose.
Rather than calling in a Healer to assess Tylendel’s physical and emotional state, Savil decides that the best treatment for this is the tender loving care of his teenage boyfriend. Consequently, Tylendel’s significant psychological problems go undetected until shortly after he’s used Vanyel to power a magical Gate to the Leshara estate and unleashed some creepy demonic dogs in revenge for his brother’s death. Gala repudiates him and then sacrifices herself to protect the Leshara. Then, Savil and some other Heralds ride through the Gate (still powered by Vanyel) to clean up the mess and bring the boys home. But when Savil tries to take the Gate down, its energy surges back in to Vanyel. In the chaos, Tylendel throws himself off the temple in the Companions’ Grove. While the Death Bell tolls, Vanyel disappears.
Vanyel is found, and Chosen, by the Companion Yfandes, who puts Shields around him while they are in physical contact. This is vitally necessary because the energy from Tylendel’s Gate blasted open the channels of Vanyel’s potential, and he now has All The Gifts. There isn’t a channel full of potential emotional stability, though, so Vanyel’s powers pose a serious risk to himself and others. An overheard thought drives Vanyel to attempt suicide. His nightmares are dangerous to people who try to wake him up. His uncontrolled Empathy makes half the students at the Collegium depressed. Vanyel does manage to reach a resolution with his father, by emerging from a drugged stupor just enough to punch him. Withen’s visit to Haven was triggered by news about Van and Tylendel, but he seems genuinely alarmed by Vanyel’s condition.
Through a combination of shielding Vanyel, strengthening his bond with Yfandes, and drugging him, Savil and Andrel the Healer get Vanyel well enough to travel to k’Treva Vale, to be trained by the Hawkbrothers. Next week’s blog post on chapters 11-14 will have more hot springs and fewer deaths.
Ellen Cheeseman-Meyer teaches history and reads a lot.