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This page is about the book Athyra. For the House of the Athyra, see Athyra. For the animal, see Athyra (animal).
Athyra Cover

Athyra Cover

This book recounts Vlad Taltos's second encounter with Loraan.

See also Meta:Athyra (book).

Plot Outline[]

Savn is a Teckla villager in a rural flax-growing community called Smallcliff, in northwest Dragaera. He lives with his Paener and Maener, and his sister Polinice (Polyi), where he is apprenticed to Master Wag, the local physicker. His life is very normal.

Enter a strange Easterner named Vlad, wearing a sword, a strange rock around his neck, and a cocky smile. His arrival in Smallcliff presages the death of a former local named Reins; found murdered, but with no obvious cause of death.

The entire village suspects Vlad had something to do with the murder-- and so, apparently, does Vlad. He begins asking questions of the villagers, and seems to quickly come to the conclusion that he knows both who committed the murder, and why. Savn is strangely intrigued by the Easterner, who apparently knows a great deal about both witchcraft and sorcery. Savn begins hanging around the Easterner, to the chagrin of his so-called friends.

Vlad offers to teach Savn something of witchcraft, which both excites and frightens Savn, but he readily agrees. The two explore a series of caves near the keep of Lord Smallcliff, and much to Savn's surprise, Vlad teleports them home afterward.

When a traveling minstrel named Sara comes to town, Savn sits with Vlad, which draws the further ire of his acquaintances in Smallcliff to the point that four of them attempt to rough up Savn on his way home. Savn is saved when a strange pair of jhereg chase off the attackers. Fleeing home, Savn notices that his parents are acting oddly, and don't seem at all concerned about his recent strange behavior. Savn suspects the Easterner's influence, but can't understand why or how Vlad would do such a thing.

The next day when Savn goes to visit the Easterner, he sees a group of seven of Lord Smallcliff's guards approaching. Without a word, they attack Vlad. Vlad kills three of them, but is seriously wounded himself, before teleporting away.

Aghast at what he has witnessed, Savn quickly determines to find Vlad to see if he can help him. Remembering what Vlad has said about sorcery, Savn figures out where Vlad must have gone, and quickly tracks him down.

The Easterner is in bad shape. Using his limited skills as a physicker, however, Savn is able to save Vlad's life--much to his own amazement. Returning to the scene with Master Wag, the two of them manage to get Vlad to the marginal safety of the caves before the townspeople--outraged by Vlad's murder of the three guards--can find him.

Vlad slowly recovers from his wounds, and the infections that follow, but is still extremely weak. Savn's sister Polyi, has now also become involved, helping her brother watch over Vlad.

In his delirium, Vlad says he's going to kill Loraan, the Baron of Smallcliff. This shocks Savn, who now must decide where his loyalties lie--with his Lord, or with the strange Easterner who has become a friend. The issue is further complicated when Savn's suspicions about his parents are confirmed. Vlad has placed a spell on them for his own reasons. He admits that he has been lying to Savn, and using him for his own ends.

Despite these admissions, Savn decides that Vlad has really done nothing so terrible, and determines not to betray him. He is disturbed, however, at the Easterner's allegations that Loraan is really a ruthless undead necromancer, who is working in conjunction with the Jhereg to murder Vlad.

Determined to find out the truth of this, Savn goes to Loraan's manor house. There, Savn finds not only are Vlad's allegations correct, but also that Loraan has already discovered Vlad's location by torturing and almost killing his Master Wag. When Savn is thrown in the same cell with his mentor, he treats Master Wag's injuries, but is incensed at the brutality of his Lordship.

Driven to desperation, Savn seizes a knife, and stabs a guard in the back, killing him, and allowing Savn to escape his cell. Still trapped in the manor house, Savn remembers Vlad's comments that the manor connects to the caves he was hiding in. Heading to the basement, Savn finds the entrance to the caves. He manages to contact Rocza psionically, and a weak but living Vlad enters the basement of the manor.

Alerted by his sorcery, however, Loraan appears, and at his side is the Jhereg assassin Ishtvan. The two attempt to kill Vlad, but Savn puts out the light, and uses Dark Water to weaken Loraan. Loiosh and Rocza attack Ishtvan, and Vlad manages to kill the distracted Jhereg. Ishtvan spasms while dying, flinging away a Morganti dagger, which Rozca then guides into Savn's hand, and Savn kills Loraan with it. During this process, however, Savn receives a blow to the head, which, along with the mental anguish involved with killing his lord with a Morganti weapon, drives him over the edge of sanity into a semi-catatonic state.

Now safe, with Loraan destroyed, Vlad finds that he is in a debt that must be repayed. He determines to find a healer for Savn, despite the fact that this makes him an easier target for the Jhereg. Vlad and Savn leave Smallcliff behind, unsure of what the future will bring.

Role of the House[]

Vlad waxes philosophical at one point, describing explorer-philosophers and mystic-philosophers. He also discusses hating both Athyra and athyra for the way they use their victims, but is forced to examine the way he manipulated Savn and others. At the end, instead of treating Savn as an object as Loraan had, Vlad accepts his responsibility.

Major Characters[]

Great Scenes[]

Favorite Quotes[]

(all copyrights Steven Brust, quotes for review and enjoyment only)


"Killing is all he knows how to do."


Her name was Rocza, and sometimes she even answered to it.


"Then forward, Undauntra, lest fear snag at our heels."


"When you make the seedblocks, and leave them in the coolhouse in barrels, the true, true salad flax will melt..."

(Cf. Hamlet's first soliloquy)


Vlad explains to Savn what he does

"And I have a few pieces of gold which I show around when I have to."

"You just show them around?"

"That's right."

"What does that do?"

"Makes people want to try and take them away from me."


Vlad explains dark water

"When stagnant and contained, it can be used to weaken and repel the undead, but when flowing free it can be used to prolong their life. It's a bittersweet tapestry of life itself."


Vlad Taltos
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