This part is hella significant. It’s here that we meet the next major antagonist of this series (two books before her appearance in the original edition!), and finally discover why the Sorceress was magically nuking Aldenmor.
The Dark Sorceress pulls out her scrying pool and contacts someone in the Otherworlds, which appears to be an even worse shithole than the magical nuclear wasteland the Sorceress lives in. This someone is the Spider Witch, a monstrous arachnid-like creature that seems to have known the Sorceress for a long time. Hell, she even calls the Sorceress by name: Miranda.
The Sorceress then describes her evil plan: she will open the Gates of Avalon, then free the Spider Witch from her prison in the Otherworlds so that she (it?) can reweave the Magic Web into a new pattern that they will jointly control. There’s just a few problems with this: the Sorceress can’t activate the Fairy Map, and even if the Sorceress did reach the Gates, there’s no way she can open them because she doesn’t have a Key. But not to worry, the new blazing star (Kara) activated the map, and the giant crystals the Sorceress made will act as the new Key. And the party, who has comparatively craptacular control of magic, won’t be able to stop her. Satisfied with the Sorceress’ contingency plans, the Spider Witch agrees to help out. The Witch gets control of half of the new Magic Web, and the Sorceress gets enough magic to become immortal.
This section raises some interesting questions:
- It’s suggested that the Dark Sorceress and the Spider Witch were members of an older party that attempted the same quest the current party is on. The Spider Witch was a healer (why else would she perk up when the Sorceress mentions that the party has a healbot?), someone else (who is apparently dead) was the blazing star, and the Sorceress was a warrior (yay, process of elimination). Since this group failed once (the Spider Witch alludes to an earlier attempt to open the Gates), is it possible that the current party could end up like them?
- What was the Spider Witch originally? The Sorceress’ inner monologue suggests that the Spider Witch wasn’t always the abomination she is now.
- Also, it’s hinted that whatever transformed the Spider Witch could affect the Sorceress, too. What triggered the change?
- If the Sorceress was a mage, where is her Sparkly Rock and bonded animal? Or do sorceresses not require them? (Half of that is answered in the supplemental materials: sorceresses don’t bond with magic animals.)
- Did the Sorceress have to magically nuke Aldenmor to create her new Key? Isn’t there a less harmful way of creating crystals?
- The Sorceress remembers creating another Key back when the original party was together. How did they make it? And did the original party magically nuke other worlds to do so?
- The Sorceress and the Spider Witch both know Henry Gardener, and they know that he was supposed to train the current party. Did Gardener train the original party, too? And is the Sorceress responsible for Gardener’s absence?
- The Spider Witch has the power to weave magic, and she asks if the new healer (Emily) can do the same. Will Emily gain this power? (It seems like it, since the last book mentioned that Emily can see patterns in magic.)
- After using the scrying pool, the Sorceress succumbs to some sort of sickness. Is she also affected by the magical radiation poisoning?
Most of the questions will be answered by the end of the series. But let’s pretend that we haven’t read the other books and do some Wild Mass Guessing in the comments. I have a soft spot for batshit crazy theories.
Another interesting point: the Magic Web is shown to be in a state of serious decay, on the verge of collapse. If the Sorceress and Spider Witch weave a new Web … wouldn’t they be saving it? Isn’t that a good thing? (Granted, they’d have control of it, but still … continued existence is better than not existing, right?)
Also, this chapter has some major Entomology Fail: the Spider Witch is described as having antennae, mandibles, and wings. Um, spiders don’t have antennae and wings, and they have chelicerae instead of mandibles.
Anyway, here’s hoping the new party does a better job of opening Avalon than the original one….
Next time: first impressions on the next book, Trial by Fire.