Witchlands Series Recaps
As diplomats and royalty converge from across the Witchlands for a Truce Summit in Veñaza City, Safiya fon Hasstrel and her Threadsister Iseult det Midenzi hold up the wrong thrice-damned carriage north of town. Instead of the guy who’d stolen their savings, they find themselves facing a Bloodwitch who sniffs out Safi’s rare magic: the ability to tell truth from lie.
While trying to flee the Bloodwitch by catching the first ship out of Veñaza City, they run into the hot-tempered Prince Merik Nihar, who has just left a failed negotiation at the Truce Summit. He’d hoped to reestablish trade for his starving homeland, Nubrevna. Instead, he finds himself facing a Cleaved Tidewitch—the man’s magic having boiled over and turned him into a bloodthirsty monster—alongside two girls who insist on fighting alongside him.
The commotion from the fight draws local authorities, forcing Safi and Iseult to split. That failed carriage heist attracted all sorts of bad attention. While Safi goes with the girls’ mentor Mathew to her lush lodgings at the Silk Guildmaster’s, Iseult goes with their mentor Habim to an inn. Or…she’s supposed to. Instead, she ends up running into the Bloodwitch and having to completely leave town.
To hide, she goes to her childhood home: the Midenzi settlement. As a Threadwitch who could never fit into her tribe’s weave, she discovers her mother Gretchya and her mother’s apprentice Alma are even worse off then when she’d left six years before. Now a Purist priest named Corlant controls the tribe—and for some reason, he wants Iseult dead.
After he tries to rally the tribe against her, he shoots her with a cursed arrow. Iseult manages to flee, though, with her mother’s and Alma’s help. Before they separate, though, Gretchya gives Iseult two ruby Threadstones that she claims will allow Iseult and Safi to always find each other.
Meanwhile, in Veñaza City, Safi is forced to attend the Truce Summit ball as the noblewoman she’s supposed to be. After a night of misery and dancing, however, she learns she is betrothed to her homeland’s Emperor. Yet right as this announcement is made, the lights douse and a wild escape unfolds.
Safi’s uncle had been waiting for this moment; he has everything read so Safi can flee. All she must do is hide in a carriage until it reaches a lighthouse north of town, where a sailor will pick her up and take her to safety.
That sailor, unknown to her, is Prince Merik. Safi’s uncle made a deal with him: get my niece to safety, and my farmers will trade with you.
Also unknown to Safi: the Bloodwitch (named Aeduan) was at the ball and has been tracking her ever since she fled.
Thus, Iseult, Safi, Merik, and Aeduan all converge at a lighthouse. Safi in white with a pitchfork, Iseult in black with a cutlass. For a brief moment, as they spin together, Aeduan thinks they look like the Cahr Awen. As a Carawen monk, his first duty is to protect that mythical pair from legend that can heal magic in the Witchlands.
The girls manage to escape to Merik’s ship—though not before Iseult breaks Aeduan’s spine and leaves him to float, his magic healing him, across the waves. On Merik’s ship, the Jana, Iseult finally loses consciousness from her cursed arrow wound. Merik’s aunt, another Carawen monk named Evrane, tends her belowdecks.
Safi, meanwhile, butts heads with Merik. All he wants is to help his homeland; all she wants is to heal Iseult so they can go on their merry way. Merik won’t let her do that though, not before they’ve reached a town called Lejna and his contract is fulfilled.
Unfortunately for Merik, his sister—Princess Vivia—has recently taken up piracy in an attempt to feed and arm Nubrevna. Merik gets caught in her scheme right as she attacks a Marstoki ship filled with cannons. Fearing the Twenty Year Truce that has kept the Witchlands from war will be disrupted by this attack, Merik tries to stop Vivia.
However, Safi has seen a healer in the Marstoki crew she hopes can heal Iseult. She and Iseult sneak Evrane onto the Marstoki shipt…right as sea foxes arrive along with more Marstoki ships. Merik loses precious time trying to find Safi, and the Jana barely escapes with the crew intact.
Meanwhile, back in Veñaza City, Aeduan has offered his services as a tracker to the Emperor of Cartorra, Safi’s betrothed. The man agrees and assigns his heir, Prince Leopold, to join Aeduan as they cross the sea to pursue Safi.
To evade the ships and sea foxes, Merik’s Threadbrother Kullen must use his powerful Airwitchery to help the Jana escape. He almost dies from a resulting breathing attack, and Merik punishes Safi and Evrane by placing them in the irons. Eventually, the Jana reaches safety in a secret cove on the Nubrevnan coast.
The world of Nubrevna is a wasteland, and Safi soon realizes how desperately Merik truly needs the trading contract with her uncle. She also realizes that in her attempt to heal Iseult—something Merik would have done anyway—she almost lost that contract. Repentant, she joins Merik, Evrane, and Iseult as they head inland. Here, they discover a town called Noden’s Gift amidst new greenery and life. Thanks to the nearby Origin Well of Water, this piece of Nubrevna is finally healing.
Evrane realizes that Well can also heal Iseult, so she takes Iseult and Safi to swim in its waters. Iseult does heal, but additionally, the Well reacts to the girls’ presence by causing a small quake through the land. Evrane takes this is as a sign that the girls are in fact the mythical Cahr Awen.
To reach Lejna and fulfill the contract with Safi’s Uncle Eron, Merik, Safi, Iseult, and Evrane head west on horseback. When they pause for the night to sleep, Merik and Safi share a heated kiss—that is interrupted by a booming wind-drum, which heralds the Jana’s approach. Merik realizes Safi is being hunted by the Marstoki Empress (who somehow knows she is a Truthwitch) as well as a Bloodwitch monk (working for the Cartorran Emperor), so he takes flight, trusting Safi to reach Lejna on her own.
Evrane sends Safi and Iseult onward because she knows the Bloodwitch and thinks she can stop him. The girls race ahead on horseback, but outside the city, they swap clothes. Iseult will lure the Marstokis away while Safi reaches Lejna and fulfills Merik’s contract. Unfortunately, Evrane is unable to stop Aeduan and he also arrives. Even worse, as Iseult and Safi are sprinting through the city going different ways, a huge unnatural storm arrives.
The storm causes the Marstoki navy to begin cleaving—as well as Merik’s Threadbrother Kullen, which only worsens the storm. Aeduan helps Iseult escape the cleaving sailors because he believes he owes her a life-debt for not killing him at the lighthouse. Outside, however, he discovers Evrane has been mauled by the Cleaved. He rescues her near-dead body and flees Lejna to heal her in the Origin Well.
Safi, meanwhile, faces off one on one against the Empress of Marstok, a vicious Ironwitch. She is hurt, but she manages to reach the designated spot in Merik’s contract with her uncle. Then she turns herself into the Empress of Marstok, who wants to use her magic to root out corruption in the Marstoki court.
Throughout this, Merik has tried and failed to rescue Kullen from his cleaving. In the end, Merik is flung to the docks of Lejna, badly hurt, and a cleaving Kullen flees, carrying his storm with him. Iseult leaves her hiding spot to find him, broken and grief stricken. She summons the Jana to get him, and she sets off to try to find her Threadsister.
Safi, now a willing captive of Empress Vaness of Marstok, realizes she has made a huge mess of everything her uncle had planned, but she has faith Iseult will find her—and that she did the right thing by fulfilling that contract for Merik and Nubrevna.
When an assassin sneaks onto Merik’s ship and attempts to blow it apart with seafire, Merik manages to halt the explosion just long enough to save his crew…But not himself. Badly hurt, he heals nearby with the help of young Cam Leeri. Then he heads to the capital of Nubrevna, Lovats, determined to prove his sister was behind the failed assassination attempt.
Meanwhile in Lovats, Vivia Nihar is faced with a bunch of fools for a Council and a dying father who keeps urging her to take steps she isn’t sure are for the good of Nubrevna.
Safi finds herself in an almost identical explosion as Merik, from which only she and the Empress of Marstok are survivors. They manage to get ashore in the jungle-thick coast near the Pirate Republic of Saldonica, but they are almost immediately captured by Cartorran Hell-Bards who have been tracking Safi across the Witchlands.
Iseult is also tracking Safi, but she is still far to the west—and being hunted by the Bloodwitch, who has been commanded to find her by the Purist Priest Corlant from Iseult’s tribe. Corlant, a Cursewitch, works with Aeduan’s father, who is the Raider King uniting disparate factions across the Witchlands to fight against the empires—and also to destroy the Origin Wells. They also work with the Puppeteer, a mysterious figure able to cleave people on command, and who is fascinated by Iseult and regularly haunts her dreams.
When Aeduan finally catches up to Iseult, she proposes a bargain for him: he will help her get to Safi using his magic, and she will in turn tell him where a lockbox of coins is—one that was stolen from him. They set off together east, wondering who will betray whom first.
When Merik reaches Lovats, he searches for evidence of his sister’s treachery with Cam’s help. Instead, he finds a monstrous creature made of shadows slinking through the Lovats night and killing. Something about the monster is familiar, though, and it seems to be hunting Merik.
Vivia is also searching for answers to this monster, and she and Merik almost cross paths several times.
In the Pirate Republic, the Hell-Bards locate an inn to house themselves, Safi, and Vaness until they can rescue their imprisoned crew. Their ship was taken by raiders, and now the crew has been sold into the Slaughter Ring, a massive arena that features a massive annual fight. When Baedyed raiders realize Vaness is within the inn, they attack—giving Safi and Vaness a chance to flee. But rather than leave the Hell-Bards behind, they forge a hasty alliance to all work together to escape Saldonica alive.
While traveling west, raiders also sent by Corlant to find Iseult catch up, forcing Aeduan and Iseult on the run. They end up tumbling into rough river rapids, where Aeduan saves Iseult’s life by dragging her ashore. They spend the night in nearby ruins, and during the night, the Puppeteer visits Iseult. She warns Iseult not to trust Aeduan, and she shows Iseult how to cleave a man.
As the shadow monster in Lovats continues to kill innocents and follow Merik, Merik steps into a vigilante role, providing help for the poor while trying to bring down Vivia. And Vivia is struggling each day to deal with her father, who is temperamental and manipulative—something she is only just now beginning to see.
Safi, meanwhile, manages to escape the Baedyeds and reach the Slaughter Ring’s underground prisons, where they hope they can find the missing Cartorran sailors. Instead, they find a crew of Nubrevnans who work for Princess Vivia. Their ship has been claimed and is now headed to Lovats filled with seafire.
Iseult and Aeduan find their own mess of raiders when the reach the Contested Lands. Though the Baedyeds and Red Sails have an alliance, it’s clear that only a little spark is needed to blow it wide. When Aeduan finds a Nomatsi child who has been kidnapped by the Red Sails, he rescues the child and kills the Red Sails—but they think it was the Baedyeds. A battle erupts with Iseult, Aeduan, and the child (called Owl) in the middle of it.
For Merik, things have only worsened. His only friend and loyal ally Cam is missing, and when he finally finds the boy in a strange underground city beneath Lovats, he also finally comes face to face with the shadow monster: his Threadbrother Kullen.
When Kullen cleaved, past lives awakened inside him, the loudest of which was the original Fury—a Paladin from a thousand years ago who seeks revenge for a betrayal also from a thousand years ago.
At the same time Merik learns this, Vivia learns that the raider-stolen ship filled with seafire has reached the city. It is headed straight for a dam that, when destroyed, will flood all of Lovats and kill everyone. She sets off to stop it, while Merik sets off to stop Kullen, who has destructive plans of his own, since he too works with the Raider King.
Safi, the Hell-Bards, and Vaness meanwhile free all of the prisoners of the Slaughter Ring so they can get the Cartorran crew free, but this leads to a wild, free-for-all battle that they must fight through to escape and eventually reach the Cartorran ship in the Saldonican harbor. They discover, however, that the Cartorran ship has been claimed by the leader of the Red Sails, Admiral Kahina Le*on. She agrees to a one-on-one fight with Safi in exchange for the ship, but when Safi loses the fight, she offers Safi a bargain: give me anything I want when I ask for it one day, and in turn, you can win this fight. Safi agrees, Kahina’s jade ring seems to wink, and the ship is returned to the Cartorrans.
In the Contested Lands, another wild free-for-all is unfolding between Red Sails and Baedyeds, and to save Aeduan, she cleaves a Firewitch using the new skills Esme the Puppeteer taught her. With Aeduan alive, they rescue Owl a second time from raiders—and this time, a mountain bat aids the child too. They realize she is a powerful Earthwitch.
While Merik tries to catch Kullen in the skies, Vivia tries to stop the ship filled with seafire from hitting the dam. She fails and is thrown off the towering water-bridge where the ship sailed and into the valley below. Merik sees this, and he decides that rather than chase after his Threadbrother, he will save the sister he now realizes he has misunderstood all along. He catches her just before she hits the valley floor, then together—and with more witches to join them—they repair the dam before it can decimate Lovats.
While Safi and Vaness finally finish traveling to Marstok with the Cartorrans’ and Hell-Bards’ help, Iseult and Aeduan head into the Sirmayan Mountains together to try to find Owl’s missing family and tribe. Merik, with Cam at his side as well as the Sightwitch Ryber—Kullen’s Heart-Thread, set off as well into the Sirmayans to try to find a way to rescue Kullen from the past life that has claimed him. And Vivia, having found this underground city, feels hope that perhaps Nubrevna can still be saved.
Ryber Fortiza is a Sightwitch sister at the Sightwitch Sister Convent in the Sirmayan Mountains. She desperately awaits the day when the Sleeping Goddess, Sirmaya, invites her into her mountain to gift her with the Sight. Ryber doesn’t know what happens when one enters the mountain, but she watches one by one as all the other acolytes are summoned…but not her.
When more than just acolytes are summoned—and not returning—the head Sightwitch, Hilda, realizes something is deeply wrong. But she never finds an answer before she too is summoned, along with every sister but Ryber. Now, all alone with only the mysteriously sentient bird called the Rook as company, Ryber lives alone at the Convent.
Until she has a vision from the sisters begging her to enter the mountain and help her. Ryber has no idea how she’ll do it—entering the mountain isn’t easy if you haven’t been summoned by Sirmaya—but she sets off into the Crypts to try anyway.
The Crypts, a library that extends tens of levels into the earth, is filled with more and more ghosts the deeper Ryber and the Rook go—and worse than ghotsts. Monsters leap from the shadows and chase Ryber all the way to the Crypts’ end, where she finally find a doorway into the mountain and escapes. The journey is only just beginning, though, for now she is trapped in a long labyrinth of cold tunnels that seem to go on forever.
Time is running out; she has no idea how much farther she must go.
When she reaches an enormous cavern of ice, she discovers a young man who has no idea who he is and no memory of how he got here. Recognizing him from a Nubrevnan boat that had passed near the Convent, Ryber calls him “Captain.” As he is asking her to help him, two shadow wyrms attack, and they’re forced to flee together.
While protecting Ryber just before they can reach an exit from the cavern, Captain gets badly hurt. Ryber drags him to safety: a workshop she realizes once belonged to the ancient Sightwitch called Eridysi.
Eridysi lived a thousand years ago, and despite what history remembers, she did not in fact possess the Sight. She instead had a natural connection to the goddess Sirmaya and was able to create magical inventions using Sirmaya’s vast power. In fact, the person who had all the visions Eridysi recorded was a child named Lisbet.
Lisbet and her sister Cora were Eridysi’s wards, and over time, Eridysi and their father, a man known only as the General (he worked for the Rook King, a Paladin from a thousand years ago) fell in love.
Once Captain is healed, Ryber continues on her journey to find her sisters—and Captain joins. They find a lightless room within which waits a pedestal, and on the pedestal are a broken blade and broken glass.
These were items created by Eridysi—with Lisbet’s help—a thousand years ago, for a thousand years ago, the Witchlands wasn’t like it is today. Instead of magic flowing freely through the land, there were only twelve people with magic: the Twelve Paladins. Created by Sirmaya to protect the land and find the true leaders for people of the Witchlands, six of the twelve had turned themselves into tyrannical rulers instead, oppressing the people of the Witchlands.
The other six—Baile, Bastien, Rhian, Midne, Saria, and the Rook King—were working with Eridysi to end these Exalted Ones’ rule. Their method? To build a looking glass that could find Paladin souls, since when they died, their souls were immediately reborn in a new body. And a blade that could end those Paladin souls once and for all, preventing reincarnation.
When Captain looks through the broken glass, he hears hundreds of voices—and when she looks through it, she sees him wearing hundreds of faces. He also briefly cleave before Ryber’s eyes, but then manages to pull himself back before the cleaving can fully consume him.
They travel onward, eventually reaching a massive cavern with no ceiling or floor in sight. Triangular in shape, it has different glowing doors throughout, many of which have no bridges or paths to reach them. Ryber wants one in particular that leads to a tomb, where she believes her sisters are. Captain flies her over, but he doesn’t join her in the tomb. His home is Nubrevna, and one of the doors will take him there. He and Ryber part ways.
In the tomb, Ryber discovers a nautilus-shaped world of ice. This is where the Sightwitch Sisters go upon death, their bodies and magic returning to the Goddess so she may continue to live. However, black lines mark everything, and Ryber realizes that Sirmaya is dying. This is why she summoned all the sisters to her: so she could take their life and try to stay alive. When Ryber finds her sisters—and her dearest Threadsister Tanzi, Tanzi is still not fully frozen. She begs Ryber not to join them in the ice. She begs her to go free and find a way to heal Sirmaya.
Unfortunately, Sirmaya’s ice has sensed Ryber there and tries to claim her. She flees with the Rook still at her side, but on her way out of the tomb, she discovers a room with a diary on the floor and four tombs—two of which have shadowy bodies frozen inside, and two which are empty.
These are the tombs of Eridysi, the General, Lisbet, and Cora. A thousand years ago, when the Six moved to stop the Exalted Ones, they were betrayed by someone in their midst. The Exalted Ones instead attacked the Six, and a battle erupted inside the mountain. Lisbet, however, knew from her connection to the Goddess that they were meant to live on. She led Eridsyi, her father, and her sister to an ice tomb—and Lisbet and her sister remain still in that ice. Eridysi and the General, however, are no longer there.
Ryber takes the diary upon the floor—it is Eridysi’s — as well as a deck of gold-backed taro cards that also belonged to the Sightwitch. After escaping the ice, she decides to find Captain again—he is a Paladin, and she thinks the key to saving Sirmaya might be with him. However, when she goes through the magic door that leads to Nubrevna after him, she discovers him cleaving on a nearby beach.
She manages to save him and bring him back into his body before he can kill anyone or hurt himself, then together, they return to the Sightwitch Sister Convent. Eventually though, Captain can remain no longer, and he returns to Nubrevna. When he leaves, his memory of Ryber and everything that happened is erased.
After a while, however, Ryber decides there is nothing keeping her at the Convent anymore. Her sisters and Sirmaya need her to solve the mystery of why Sirmaya is dying, and she still believes the answer lies with Captain. So she gathers up the few things she will need, and with a new sort of Sight—the Sight she has chosen to claim for herself—she steps through a magic door to find Captain and forge a new path for herself.