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The Dark is Rising


Story weaver
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Is James younger than Will? If he is, that would make Will a seventh son.CES
I don' think James' age has been explicitly stated yet, but the text implies that he's the youngest son. Mr Stanton thinks Dawson didn't do an initial for Will because he'd got tired of doing initials, and Barbara lists all the other children before getting to Will.

As Kelly said, this makes Will the seventh son of a seventh son.


Desperately Seeking Apotheosis
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This was the first time I ever heard of rooks, the kind of bird. It took me a long time to dispel the mental image of Will being watched ominously from the trees by chess pieces.


Full of Stars
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This was the first time I ever heard of rooks, the kind of bird. It took me a long time to dispel the mental image of Will being watched ominously from the trees by chess pieces.
You and me both, you and me both...


Story weaver
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Midwinter's Eve, part 2

Will puts holly over all the doors, not just the front and back doors but also his and James' bedroom doors, and some of the window. Before he can finish Gwen tells him not to put it round the windows, where it might get in the way of the curtains, then suggests using the mantlepiece.

Since he no longer believes in Father Christmas Will hadn't thought about the chimneys

Merriman has said fairy tales used to be true. Father Christmas isn't exactly a fairy tale, but it's close enough that he could be real.​
Once the Christmas lights are switched on Mr Stanton asks who's going carol singing this year.

Will, James and Mary volunteer. Mary also volunteers Barbara, and Will voluneteers Paul, whose flute case is already on the table. Robin initially refused because he thinks carol singing is too feminine. Robin then says he's not sure,

but Paul says they need a baritone, so Robin grudgingly accepts, just as he did the previous two year. When Gwen says she's too busy Mary claims this is because her boyfriend might be coming round.

When Max claims he's even busier than Gwen she claims this is because he's writing another long letter to 'his blonde bird', which get Mr Stanton wondering when that term came into use.

James says girls have been birds forever, and that they have no more brains than birds.

Will says some birds are fairly smart. James, who has forgotten about the rooks, doesn't notice this attempted rebuttal.

Mrs Stanton tells them all to get going and be back by eight-thirty, Robin gives a couple of reasons why they might be delayed: they could give Mrs Bell three carols, and Miss Greythorne might invite them in for punch.

In the last chapter Miss Greythorne was strongly implied to be the Lady, so visiting her seems likely to be significant.​

Mrs Stanton says says nine-thirty is the limit

Outside, the clouds have blotted out the stars.

Robin is carrying a lantern, and the carolling Stantons all have candles in their pockets since they know Miss Greythorne will be expecting them to sing with lit candles in their hands.

Miss Bell taught all of them once, but is now retied. She puts more than she can afford in the collecting tin, but they only sing two carols: one in Latin, the other in French.

Their last stop is at the manor, There, they start with the wassail song, which WIl think is inappropiate since the first line is "Here we come a-wasailing, among the leaves so green.'

The door is opened by the butler: tall, lean, morose, and not very grand. He helps the elderly gardener, and talks about his arthritis with Mrs Pettigrew at the post office .

As the Stantons finish the first song the butler opens the door wide, letting them past.

Will is quite surprised when he realises the butler isn't Bates. It's Merriman.

Acting as a butler is probably another demonstration of how much Merriman respects the Lady. He doesn't work as her butler full time, since Will was expecting to see Bates, but I'm pretty sure Merriman wouldn't do the job for anyone he didn't respect.

Merriman looks enough like Bates that WIl didn't realise who he actually was until he got a close look. Coincidence or deliberately arranged?​

Miss Greythorne invite the carollers in. She'd sitting in a high-backed chair at the other end of the hall, as she does every other Christmans. When she was young she fell off a horse, snd hasn't been able to walk since then but refuses to use a wheelchair in public.

Paul greets her politely, trying not to look round the room. The only Christmas decoration he can see is a large branch of holly over the mantlepiece. There is no sign of any previous visitors.

Miss Greythorne says it's been a busy season,, full of things 'as that odious girl in the poem says', then asks Will if he's been busy too, startling him into a frank answer.

Next Merriman asks the Stantons to get their candles out then lights them all, with a match.. He's wearing a tail-coat, cut away at the waist, and a jabot rather than a white tie.

Will is having difficulty imagining Merriman being a butler.

Someone unseen turns off the lights, leaving the room lit only by candlelight.

The Stantons sing a lullaby, which ends with a flute solo from Paul, 'Go rest Ye Merry Gentlemen', 'The Holly and the Ivy' then finish with 'Good King Wenceslas'

Will almost feel sorry for Paul, who once said this kind of music didn't work for the flute, but this doesn't stop Will enjoying singing the page's part, which he sings with James.

He notices that it doesn't sound like James is singing though his mouth is moving. Looking around, he's realises that none of the Stantons' mouths are moving. They've been caught out of time, just as the Walker was.

Will keeps on singing, though he doesn't want to.

If this is literally true Will's free will has been violated, seldom a good sign even if the person doing it means well.​

Merriman joins in the singing, then casually takes Will's hand and walks forwards with him. Together they walk down the entrance hall. Both the cook-housekeeper and Miss Greythorne are suspended 'out of life'.

Will shakes as he sings the page's last words in the song, 'Fails my heart, I know not how. I can go no longer'. These words exactly match Will's feelings.

Merriman sing the final verse, King Wensceslas telling his page to walk in his footsteps.

Will see the doors appear in front of him, the ones leading to where he met the Lady.

Merriman opens the doors with a gesture.

Singing confidently Will walks with Merriman into the light.

Here, on page 244, this chapter ends.

Since Miss Greythorne was frozen, just like her cook-housekeeper, she's almost certainly not the Lady. The reason she's seldom seen is because she can't walk, not because she's usually out on Old One business. My mistake.

It's probably Bates, Miss Graythorne's actual butler who talks about his arthritis and helps with the gardening.

The choice of Good King Wenceslas' as the final carol feels quite significant. Just as the page walked in his king's footsteps so Will is walking in Merriman's, metaphorically or literally.

Do any of the other carols seem relevant?

Overall, this chapter has shown us quite a bit more of Will, his family, and Merriman

Any comments?

The next chapter will be The Book of Gramarye. Hopefully the first section will be done by next weekend.​


Story weaver
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Nearly a week late, here's the next chapter:

The Book of Grammarye

Will is now in a brightly lit room, with roses carved into the walls near the fireplace. It is full of people dancing: the women are wearing bare-shouldered dresses with elaborate skirts, the men much like Merriman.

Looking at him Will realises that Merriman is not dressed as a butler. He's actually dressed in clothes from the same century as the dancer, though he doesn't know which century that is

The jabot would give readers a clue, if they knew what it was and when it was in fashion. However, in the days before Wikipedia, I suspect most of her readers wouldn't recongise the word so it wouldn't work very well as a clue to which century it is. Most likely, it just an indication that the outfit isn't contemporary, not a clue to to the century.​

A lady in a white dress walks towards Will, the crowd respectfully backing away to let her past.

When she invites Will in, he realises that she sounds exactly like Miss Greythorne and looks like a younger prettier version of her too.

Delicious scents waft into the room, prompting most the dancers to leave, which Will assumes is because supper is being served, but about twenty of them stay behind.

This lady pulls Will towards the fireplace, tells Merriman that everyone is ready, and she's sure there will be no hindrances, then kneels down besides Will, putting her at eye-level with him, then starts talking about the third sign.

It's known as the Sign of Learning. Unlike the other signs it has to be remade every hundred years, until now. When Will returns to his own time he will use it for the joining, after which it won't need renewing.

Miss Greythorne stands up and welcomes Will. The remaining dancers present echo her greeting, radiating friendship, setting Will wondering if they're Old Ones. Merriman smiles down at Will, looking openly pleased for the first time Will can remember.

A short man wearing green gives Will a glass, then turns and bows to Merriman, calling him 'My lord.'

Merriman looks vaguely amused at this.

The man laughs then asks Merriman to stop, saying he'd 'had the habit for long years'.

Merriman 'chuckles affectionately' and raises a glass to the man.

Will doesn't understand what's going on. so he takes a drink. It tastes, smell, looks, feels and sounds both fierce and wonderful.

The short man tells Will this drink used to be called Metheglyn

Metheglyn is a variety of mead, flavoured with spices and herbs, but I'd be somewhat surprised to learn it normally seems both wonderful and fierce to all five sense. More likely the drink Will has incautiously taken has either been spiked with an hallucinogen or is magical.

Also, I suspect not many teenagers or familiar with mead, so we shouldn't attach too much significance to it. It was probably meant to sound vaguely exotic.​

At the short man's prompting Will looks into this drink, and sees men in brown robes making it.

Miss Greythorne presses a small rose carving by the fireplace and a hole appears in the wall from which she pulls out another suncross. This one is old and fragile. One of its arms breaks as Will watches.

When Merriman says it's a century old so needs renewing Will points out he's seen pieces of wood several thousand years old.

Merriman explains that this sign is made of rowan, not oak, because the Dark does not love rowan, which has unique quality they need. Oak will play an important role in Will's life, but not today.

So, if oak doesn't play a role in this book it will probably turn up in one of the sequels.​

Merriman breaks the sign and tosses it in the fire.

Miss Greythorne pours metheglyn on the fire, then pulls a wooden disk out of the fire which she tells Will must be given to him in his own century, then puts it back in the wall, where the old sign was. The hole she put it in immediately vanishes, leaving no trace behind

Will looks at the wall, trying to memorise just where the third sign is, but there are now three roses carving on that spot, not one. The rest of wall is now covered in identical roses.

Alarmed by this Will turns to ask Merriman for an explanation, but he is no longer next to Will.

Light has returned to the room and with it all those who left. Merriman is now talking to Miss Greythorne.

The short man taps Will on the elbow, then grabs him and starts pulling him towards a side door. Merriman telepathically tell Will to go along with this, and that he'll be following soon.

Once they're through the door the short man tells Will that he shouldn't trust anyone. That way he'll survive what he's in the house for.

Will says he can now tell who's trustworthy but the short man doesn't fit

The small man just laughs and holds up a lamp, just bright enough to tell there's a bookcase on each wall, a grandfather clock in one corner, and a table in the middle.

Next the man turns on a gas light and tells Will it has a mantle, 'very new in private houses', and that his name is Hawkins.

If the mantle isn't a random detail, this makes the date somewhere around 1880-1900.​

Will asks Hawkins what happens if he changes the past.

Hawkins doesn't think this is a problem. The historical records already say he's at the party but they almost certainly won't contain his real name since Old Ones don't let their names be written down. However they can affect history in ways most people will never know.

At first glance this might seem to restrict possible time travel plots, but a closer look show there's still plenty of wriggle room.​

Will admits to being a little confused by this explanation, which Hawkins says is to be expected: "The Old Ones can travel in Time as they choose: you are not bound by the laws of physics as we know them."

Rather than respond to this directly, Will points out Hawkins is talking as if he wasn't an Old One, contrary to Will's assumptions.

Hawkins say he's not an Old One, just a normal man who Merriman brought to the current century by Merriman to perform a single task. Once that's done he'll be sent back to his own time.

Merriman confirms this, saying that Hawkins is enjoying the pleasures of this period don't have in the thirteenth century, when he was born, about 700 years before Will was born.

In England this century stretches from King John Lackland to King Edward I, hammer of the Scots. To him, late Victorian England probably seemed close to paradise. Gving him a taste of future pleasures then sending him back to the middle ages doesn't seem like a particularly nice way to treat him. Merriman's motive for doing this will probably affect how readers see him.​

When Will asks when Merriman is from Merriman says he's the first of the Old Ones, that he been born in every age, and that he raised Hawkins as if he were his own son, then calls him 'my friend who serves me'. This is why he picked Hawkins to perform a single task.

{indent]So Merriman and Will are the first and last Old Ones, their alpha and omega. As noted earlier in myth and folklore the first and last of anything are often regarded as special. Quite what it means to have them working together could be a fruitful source of future plot devices.[/indent]

Merriman then says it's currently 1785, and lists some of the events happening that year, including Mary Greythorne hosting a party in a publicly known to hold the world's most valuable collection of necromancy book, which he dismisses as worthless to the Old Ones.

He then says some of them are useful. Some were written by ordinary humans who'd dealt with the Dark. Also, there is one special book in the room. It holds an explanation of Will's purpose in life, and a massive amount of information about magic. Since there's too much in it to be described. Since no ordinary English word is good enough to describe it, they use a largely forgotten word instead: grammarye.

Merriman gently summons Hawkins to him, then puts his left hand on Hawkins' shoulder and his right hand on the clock, then reaches inside and pulls a book out. Hawkins collapses, gasping with relief.

It seems the task Merriman needed Hawkins for was to serve as a human key, and that doing so wasn't particularly pleasant for him.​

Merriman calls this book the oldest in the world. It's written in the Old Speech which only Old Ones can understand. While it exists there's a risk the Dark could steal it, adding to its strength. Once Will has read the book it will no longer be needed, so will be destroyed.

Will opens the book. To his surprise, it's written in English.

When he tells Merriman this, Merriman laughs then explains that this because the Old Speech sounds like English. Ever since his birthday he's been speaking in it to the other Old Ones. The Lords of the Dark can speak it too, with a slight accent, as can some ordinary men, like Hawkins.

Merriman finishes by saying he's going to leave Will alone with the book. Since he's an Old One, Will won't ever forget a word of it.

Will asks about Hawkins, prompting Merriman to look down at his friend, looks pained, and says 'too much to ask', words Will finds incomprehensible.

Merriman then helps Hawkins out of the room, givings one final instruction as he leaves: read the book.

Here, on page 254, this chapter ends.

It's been heavy on the exposition, light on the action.

In the UK this book was first published in 1965, when the First Doctor was on the air. I doubt Cooper deliberately copied it but that doesn't stop her from being influenced by it, especially the time travel aspects. She could easily have unconsciously borrowed some of the bits she liked and inverted some of the bits she didn't. Now we've seen a little time travel, how plausible does this kind of influence feel?

It's looking increasingly likely that Miss Greythorne is the Lady

Hawkins is a new character. How do you feel about him?

What does the way Hawkins and Merriman interact say about each of them?​

The next chapter will be 'Betrayal'. Hopefully I'll be able to get out something on it by next weekend, but no guarantees.


Story weaver
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Another late chapter, but don't worry. I may slow down a little, but I won't stop, if I have any choice in the matter.


Will soon finds that the Book of Gamarye is not like other books. Every sentence he reads brings him a flood of new knowledge. Lead by the the book Will learns what is to be an eagle, journeys among the constellations, hears the Pleiades sing and rides on a comet's tail then plummets down into the ocean where he learns to cmmand the waters of the earth which, alone among the elements, can defy magic, washing it away as tide sweeps clean the beach.

The book tells Will the nature of all trees then the history of the Old Ones, of how Great Briain has long been the chosen battlefield of the Dark and the Light, of how in each age a new Sign of Power was shaped, and of how each Lord of the Dark save one chose to take on that mantle.

The Black Rider is different. He has been present since the beginning.

Next the book tells will about 'the first great testing of the Light', which ended after three centuries when their greatest leader finally helped. He sleeps now, though he might someday wake again.

This leader is clearly meant to be King Arthur, not Merriman or the Lady, which makes sense. Merlin is usually an advisor not a leader, and the only woman who leads much seem to be Morgan le Fay, seldom depicted as good.​
Incidentally, while looking for a Arthurian figure who could be the Lady I came across Bedwin who might be the same as the one mentioned in the first book.​

The shows Will many more things, such as how to find the Old Ways, eventually ending with a short poem.

I have plundered the fern
Through all secrets I spie
Old Math ap Mathonwy
Knew no more than I.

After this, there is only a single illustration: the six signs linked together.

I have no idea which fern was plundered but Mathonwy's story includes some vaguely familiar references.​

Will now has immense power and knowledge but he has also learned of what will be, which is enough to leave him glum.

Merriman tells him that Old Ones have a heavy responsibility since they were born into the Circle, leads Will back to the room the clock is in, then destroys the clock, since it's no longer needed.

Will asks about Hawkin, and is told he wasn't needed.

They then go to the next room, where the dancers were. Will realises that only a few seconds have passed. Looking round the room Will spots Maggie Barnes, from the Dawsons' farm.

Merriman confirms that this is indeed the Maggie Barnes from Will's time, and tells him he doesn't want to watch what's about to happen.

When you first read this were you wondering what could force Merriman to watch something he clearly doesn't want to see, or just impatient for the action? I suspect this it is supposed to be an ominous hint, but may have gone over quite a few heads.​

Merriman says they're both going to be in great danger during the coming quest because he mistakenly trusted a mortal man too much. The protective spell he'd put on the clock could only be bypassed by Merriman and Hawkin acting together.

He used Hawkin for this because the other Old Ones could kill Hawkin, keeping the book safe. Hawkin would also have been killed if Merriman had accidentally triggered the protective spell.

Merriman didn't tell Hawkin this.

This is one of the key moments in this series. If the reader doesn't find Merriman's actions acceptable they might only keep reading in the hope of seeing Merriman punished for abusing Hawkin's trust or abandon the series altogether.​

Merriman then says Hawkin required proof that Merriman loved him, just as he loved Merriman, but he did not receive any. On top of this Hawkin has now realised that Merriman was prepared to let him die. As a direct result, Hawkin is about to betray Merriman.

Next, Merriman points at Hawkin, who is standing alone at the edge of the dance floor, watching the Old Ones.

When the pair start talking Merriman prompts Will to start eavesdropping,

Maggie takes Hawkin onto the dance floor, and congratulates him on still being alive.

Suspicious Hawkin asks who she is, but she dodges the question. Instead she tells him Merriman doesn't love him and calls him stupid for not realising Hawkin would die. She claims the Dark and the Rider would be better masters than Merriman. To start with, they'd give him immortality.

Merriman then tells Will that Hawkin can no longer be harmed by the light, just as he couldn't be harmed by the Dark while he served the Light.

Looking like a judge, Merriman says Hawkin has doomed himself, and will be spending a lot of time wishing he could still die.

Here I will end part I of this chapter. Hopefully the final part will be ready next weekend.​
Thre are two prominent events in this section: Will learning magic and Hawkin betraying Merriman.​
Will learns magic pretty easily. There are others who learn magic by taking poison, spending seven years at Hogwarts, or bonding with an alien crystal which attempts to crush their free will by dredging up memories that plunge them into despair. Will just reads a book.​
Admittedly, it's not quite as easy as reading this book, but it feels fairly easy, at least to me.​
How first time readers view this probably depends on how familiar they are with the genre. People who are accustomed to learning magic being difficult are more likely to be disappointed than those with no expectations.​
The other prominent event is Hawkin betraying the Light. How readers feel about this is going to depend on what they think Hawkin's motives are. Does he have good reason to desert Merriman or does he just an ungrateful wretch who think Maggie looks prettier?​


Story weaver
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We've already met Hawkin before this so we know his punishment
Not under that name, How many people are likely to make that connection?

For those who haven't just saying there is a connection is a bit of a spoiler. Please either try to avoid this in any replies or use .a spoiler bar,

Jeremy Kopczynski

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I was sympathetic to Hawkin when I first read the book and still am. I mean he shouldn't have betrayed Merriman but there is only so much you can ask of a man especially involving his life and putting it as risk without telling him.


Registered User
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Not under that name, How many people are likely to make that connection?

For those who haven't just saying there is a connection is a bit of a spoiler. Please either try to avoid this in any replies or use .a spoiler bar,
You're right about that, sorry.
The thing is Hawkin knew what his key role was. How many other immortals had he already met before Will who came to the house at a particular time to read the book? So he knew he was the guard on the vault door. He knew about the war of light and dark, and the cycles, and Merriman's responsibilities as the first of the old ones. He probably knew with the onset of Will's arrival, that his job was nearly over and he might be returned to the normal world with no means of doing anything.

On the other hand, having someone come up and say we can treat you better than this and make you rich and powerful could have been a good incentive for someone with an uncertain future
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