Lyorn Records
This page is about the book Jhegaala. For the House of the Jhegaala, see Jhegaala. For the animal, see Jhegaala (animal).
See also Meta:Jhegaala (book).
Jhegaala Cover Art

Jhegaala Cover Art

Plot Outline[]

This story takes place in the period between Phoenix and Athyra. It chronicles the visit of Vlad Taltos to his ancestral hometown of Burz, and his investigations of its inhabitants, and his maternal family's mysterious legacy there...

Vlad Taltos has just left Adrilankha to escape the Jhereg. He begins with a visit to his Noish-pa, currently residing in the Szurke region as Vlad's regent. While there Vlad expresses interest in finding out about his mother. Noish-pa remembers that Vlad's mother left him a runic thank you note containing her full name, Marishka Merss Taltos, likely as a way to provide information to her then-unborn son. Noish-pa reveals that Merss translates as "pulper" and is likely associated with a town called Burz known for its smell and its paper factory.

Vlad decides to head toward Burz in search of his mother's kin, believing himself safer there since any attempt by the Jhereg on his life would be more noticeable in the East as an 'elf' would stick out and witches are able to sense Morganti blades.

After arriving in Burz, Vlad takes on the name Merss and discovers he doesn't fit in among other Easterners. He is greeted with suspicion, especially due to his choice in familiar. Good witches apparently have birds, mice, or cats, at least in Burz. Vlad stays at an inn he refers to as the "Pointed Hat" run by a man named Inchay. There he is approached by Barash Orbahn, a liquor importer who answers some basic questions about Burz and agrees to ask about Vlad's kin, though he reveals nothing. Vlad decides to begin his own investigation by questioning the local merchants.

Casual inquiries Vlad makes about the name Merss are taken as a threat. Vlad is accused of being an erdergbassor, or "Witch who studies things nice people don't talk about", and is threatened that all the merchants in town belong to the apparently powerful Merchants' Guild. Such a guild is unusual as guilds typically consist of tradesmen banded together to balance the power of merchants. Vlad returns to the inn without receiving much information.

The next day Orbahn meets Vlad again and informs him that the head of the Guild is a man named Chayoor, and it would be best if Vlad stopped searching for his family, since it risks upsetting the Guild. Digesting this information at the Dock, Vlad is approached by Tereza, a prostitute, who after being bribed tells hims to seek out a coachman named Zollie at the inn Cellar Mouse. Zollie informs Vlad that the Merss belonged to a group of witches the Count believed was trying to kill him, and that most of the family fled west. The remaining members live outside of town.

Vlad goes to visit the Merss family only to find that they have just been murdered and their house burned down with fire that could only have been produced by a witch. He is aided in burying the family by neighbors, and by Father Noij, who is a priest of the Demon Goddess. Vlad is filled with uncharacteristic rage and decides he will seek revenge for the murder of his kin. The next day Vlad decides to use the Art to heal his blisters from the previous day. During the spell his mind is read and Loiosh, though able to detect it, cannot stop it.

Vlad decides to confront the Guild leader Chayoor, who somehow knows Vlad’s true name and rank ("Lord Taltos"), and informs Vlad that the Guild holds the authority in town. Vlad then seeks an audience with the Count, who politely refuses, but Vlad decides to go anyway on pretense of being an emissary of the Dragaeran Empire interested in buying paper produced by the Count. Upon returning to town he learns that Zollie has been murdered and witches are suspected due to the lips being turned red. Vlad realizes this is not necessarily the work of a witch, but is meant to appear to be.

Vlad decides to take a walk at night despite his poor night vision. He is approached by a man named Dahni who claims to work for the Count who is interested in helping Vlad against their common enemy, who Dahni will not name. Dahni does, however, call him "Lord Taltos". Vlad declines to talk to Dahni further, but decides to find out about the Coven of witches in Burz by following one of them home and forcefully questioning them, where he finds out limited information about the good witch, bad witch phenomenon, and the general location of the Coven headquarters in the woods.

Vlad continues his night activities by tracking down Dahni and forcefully questioning him about the Count’s offer and Vlad agrees to meet with the Count. Vlad moves to the Cellar Mouse, a different inn across town, to make it harder to trace him. The next day a message arrives from the Count inviting Vlad to his estate, but first Loiosh and Rocza are sent to do surveillance on Orbahn and Tereza who are acting suspiciously.

At the Count's, Vlad is drugged, captured, and tortured for several days about his connection to the King of Fenario and his plans to steal the secret recipe to make paper, and then turned over to the Guild for several more days of torture before in a moment of lucidity informing Loiosh to notify Dahni to come and rescue him.

To Loish's surprise, Dahni does indeed risk his own neck to rescue Vlad from the Guild. To Loish's and Dahni's surprise, the nearly-dead Vlad then threatens Dahni into turning him immediately over to the Count again. These two surprises show that Vlad has finally understood what is happening, and not a moment too soon to save his own life.

The Count regrets Vlad’s treatment and provides sanctuary and medical treatment to the now crippled and bedridden Vlad.

Vlad deduces that Dahni had been working for the Jhereg assassin who is after Vlad. After questioning Dahni reveals the location of the assassin, who is hunted down and killed. Vlad moves back into the Cellar Mouse where despite his injuries he uses Loiosh and Rocza to gather information while he questions those that come to see him. He speaks to Father Noij, some very distant kin, and Meehayi, his caretaker.

Vlad figures out who was behind the attack on his kin and sets in motion a plan to destroy the Guild and Coven by pretending he has been killed by witches. This simple ruse causes a mob to hunt down the Coven, while simultaneously prompting the Count to arrest the Guild. The Coven kills Chayoor believing he has been trying to set them up.

During the uproar, the feeble Vlad escapes Burz by boat with the help of Father Noij and Meehayi, to the capital city 'Fenario'. After several weeks, the now mostly-recovered Vlad completes his revenge by returning to Burz, stealing the Count's recipe for high-quality paper, and sending it anonymously to Empress Zerika the Fourth.

Role of the House[]

There are no Dragaerans present in the book, and therefore still nobody from House Jhegaala in the storyline, unless you count the one mentioned (once) in Six Parts Water, the play quoted in the chapter heads. Instead, the complicated evolutions of the plot and Vlad's transformation as a character are reflected by the changing form and personality of the Jhegaala.

The Part headings and descriptions of the Jhegaala's life cycle are[1] meant as a parallel to the plot and Vlad's own internal shifts.

Part One: (Egg) is the stage where the mother must leave the vulnerable egg alone with a father or father-substitute. The parallel to Vlad's inquiries about his early days with his absent mother, and clues from his own father-substitute, is obvious.

Part Two: (Apoptera) is the stage of curious inquisition with all senses, while sight (and insight, by frequent metaphor in the book) is the last to develop. During this stage Vlad is inquisitive but ignorant, constantly assaulted by smells, and tastes, but sights are always obscured by darkness or shadow. His understanding is similarly bewildered.

Part Three: (Steminastra) is the Jhegaala's vulnerable yet reckless stage. The plot shows Vlad undertaking self-healing spells in a way that shows (in retrospect) "reckless disregard for the size and characteristics of his predators".

Part Four: (Notonide) is the Jhegaala's fast adolescence, a period of high vulnerability, intense and rapid physical transformation, development of wings and venom glands, and yet the Jhegaala is "never so much itself as when under intense pressure". Vlad is during this time helpless and tortured, being crippled and intensely damaged, and yet learning fast and finding the information levers and threats (the venom glands) that will allow him to be effective when he is himself again.

Part Five: (Levidopt) is both a state of maturity and a recapitulation of the previous developments. The parallel to Vlad's reassessment of the rest of the story in light of his new outlook is evident. An interesting side note -- in this stage, Vlad spends most (all?) of his time bedridden, gathering information and manipulating events from his immobile position. It's too bad the Levidopt stage isn't mentioned as an immobile stage, because it would present an attractive parallel.

Major Characters[]

Great Scenes[]

  • Getting the Coachman liquored up
  • Graves for a funeral
  • Threatening the recruiter
  • Breaking and entering
  • "Pig Eatin's"
  • A painful, incoherent week

Favorite Quotes[]

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


"Dammit, Boss, I'm a jhereg, not a bloodhound."


"You're sounding like me."

"Easterners are short. Jhereg are reptiles. Water is wet. I sound like you."


"Boss, remind me again why you won't kill an Easterner."

"I never said I wouldn't kill an Easterner. I said I won't accept money to kill an Easterner."

"In that case-"

"I am not killing him, and no, you may not eat him even if I do. Besides, that much fat would be bad for you."


"Damn good thing I'm so skilled at investigation, Loiosh. Someone else might never have uncovered that vital scrap of information."

"You're just saying that because if you don't you know I will, aren't you, Boss?"

"See there? You have the makings of a skilled investigator yourself."


Most people seem to take pleasure in feeling superior to someone. I'm not like that, which pleases me because it makes me feel superior.


Noish-pa had told me he used to be able to look at the position of the Furnace and judge the time to within five minutes. I glanced up at it, and looked at the shadows. Yeah, it was definitely daytime.


"Loiosh, I hurt."
"We can stop for cheese."
"Oh, shut up."


"You're pretty smart for a mammal."


"Looking for a little fun?"

"No thanks," I said, "I hate fun. Never wanted any. Even as a child, I'd run and hide if it looked someone wanted me to have fun. I was pleased to grow up, because now I can go through the rest of my life without ever having fun."


"What now, Boss?"

"Hey, I'm up for anything as long as it doesn't require moving or thinking."

"So, no moving then, but other than that, just as usual."

"After I've worked that out, I'll probably swat you for it."


"Okay, Boss. Now what?"

Nothing builds confidence in subordinates like a quick decision in the face of unexpected circumstances.

"Um," I told him.


"If you're trying to scare me, it's working."


"There is nothing worse than a smartass who pretends not to understand hyperbole."



Vlad Taltos
Followed by: