The Cloak of Night and Daggers: Proposal
The Cloak of Night and Daggers will resolve a number of the loose ends left at the conclusion of The Cup of Morning Shadows and bring new allies to Chandrakar from the World of Iron, while bringing the Ironworld's mysterious elf-hunting Agency ever- closer to a collision course with the Morning Lords.
We first meet Holly Kendal, EMT and psychiatric nurse (seen briefly in Book One), as she bids farewell to her two roommates at the Southern California SF Con: Carol Goodchild, a librarian from Twisted River Idaho; and Margot Reasoner, a fantasy writer from Shelbyville Indiana, and goes looking for the registration desk. Holly lives in Southern California, and is an SF fan and fighter in the SCA (Lady Fiametta of the Danelaw). On her way there, Holly sees a man whom she later christens MacGyver (for his escape artist abilities) wandering dazed through the halls.
MacGyver is downright skinny, about an inch shorter than she, with a spiky mop of hair the color of new butter. He has one green eye and one hazel; harlequin eyes.
But he must be crazy. Nobody sane would have plastic surgery on his ears to make them pointed, would they?
Apparently MacGyver is an escaped psychiatric patient -- dazed, drugged, in a hospital gown and robe, and on the run. Suffering as he is from beatings, drug abuse and electroshock- induced amnesia, there is little he can tell Holly, including his name. Holly realizes that there is something very wrong going on here, extending even beyond "normal" patient abuse. She determines to get him to a safe haven.
Because Holly's seen ears like that before. And, as she quickly discovers, there are people after MacGyver -- who don't seem to be the kind of people she ought to hand him back to. So where better to hide an elf than in a convention full of fans pretending to be elves?
By the time the drugs wear off, MacGyver is able to convince Holly he's reasonably sane and tell her, Carol, and Margot something about himself.
MacGyver is an elf librarian from a place called Chandrakar, but with all the electroshock, he's lost most of his memory. And he's lost his glasses.
Holly picked up the rectangular glasses. The frames seemed to be made of lead; some soft silvery metal she'd never seen. The lenses were of antique glass, not even optical glass; green and bubbled and ripply with an oil-slick iridescence on the surface. She stared into them.
"They are not for looking in," MacGyver said. "They are for looking Out."
MacGyver's glasses allow him to see "what there is to see" and to read any book -- specifically the spellbound books in the Chandrakar Royal Library. Mac was once Chief Librarian to Raiounart the Beautiful, last king of Chandrakar. Known to us, though not to Mac and Holly, Mac's recent captors are the secret agency also introduced in Book One. They believe that Mac knows the World of Iron location of The Book of Airts, the Regalia Catalogue describing each of the Twelve Treasures, its powers, and the protocol for the Coronation.
Holly takes Mac to hide with another old friend: Rook, a black stick-jock (SCA fighter) and member of her SCA household, but soon realizes that she and Mac must take the offensive. Holly and Mac go back to the institution (Camarillo State Mental Hospital) where Mac was being held and get his glasses back, and Mac and Holly go after The Book of Airts -- Holly in full plate SCA armor and carrying Lady Fantasy III -- the last sword Stephen Mallison ever forged.
"Why am I going there in full armor? Because the cops won't stop me, and a sword isn't illegal to carry. But Mac, honey, my armor's 90-gauge sheet steel lined in Kevlar, and Lady Fantasy III is almost thirty pounds of carbon steel and every inch of her is sharp. I can cut them to pieces before they realize they have to put me down."
Mac is still very frail from his torture and imprisonment -- in fact, Holly is definitely the muscles of the outfit. They retrieve the Book, but lose it to the agents who followed them.
Now things are really serious, but while he had the book, MacGyver read part of it, and realizes he has to get home at once.
He also realizes that the Cloak Of Night And Daggers is here in the World of Iron: he can tell by the pictures in the Catalogue. If MacGyver can get his hands on The Cloak of Night And Daggers he can get The Book of Airts back, because the Cloak gives its wearer both invisibility and clairvoyance, providing it is used at night.
With the aid of Holly and her friends, Mac gets his hands on the Cloak, and manages to steal back the Book. But much of Mac's memory is gone forever, and so, rather than bring the Book back to Chandrakar and possible danger, he hides it again in the World of Iron.
Now all he has to do is get home.
Carol suggests that they go see her good friend Ruth Marlowe, who recently got a job at the Ryerson Memorial Library in Poughkeepsie, both for a place to hide and for help -- Carol thinks Ruth knows more about elves than she's telling.
But when they reach the Ryerson on Christmas Eve, all they find is Penny Canaday and Katy Battledore, who are searching wildly for their friend Ruth and their library director Nic Brightlaw, who have just vanished into thin air.
With the aid of his glasses, Mac quickly discovers the gate to Elphame in the basement, and he and Holly pass through. Mac heads for the place where the largest number of Treasures are gathered together, thinking he will reach the Court.
What he reaches instead is the Western Marches, where Ruth Marlowe (who, unbeknownst to herself, is carrying The Cup Of Morning Shadows), Philip LeStrange, Floire Jausserande of the House of the Silver Silences, and Nic Brightlaw are preparing to attack Castle Mourning, believing (correctly) that Melior and The Sword of Maiden's Tears are inside.
With Mac's help, they rescue Melior in time to get him to the Twilight Court, where he must be confirmed as The Rohannan, head of Line Rohannan, and publicize Baligant's treachery by unbinding Ruth Marlowe's soul from The Sword of Maiden's Tears.
At the Twilight Court he summons the wizard Ophidias, who reminds him of the promises he has made (in the previous book) to gain Ophidias' aid and works the sorcery that returns Ruth's soul to her.
But the Seven Houses, exhausted by centuries of war, are more inclined to make excuses for Baligant than condemn him. They decide to prove Melior wrong by appearing here at the Twilight Court with the Treasures one month before the Kingmaking. It is the best Melior can hope for, and he has no choice but to agree, while privately attempting to forge coalitions among the various Houses. He does not yet know that the High Magic has chosen him to be the next High King.
Once that much is settled, other loose ends must be disposed of.
Nic Brightlaw, who sold his life to Ophidias (in Cup of Morning Shadows) in order to rescue Ruth, is sent back to the World of Iron as Ophidias' agent.
Philip LeStrange, aka the outlaw Fox, is to be executed by the elves for his outlawry. But, unknown to him, his lieutenant Raven has raised the countryside, and a human peasant's revolt is surging toward Citadel, where the Twilight Court meets. They demand a pardon and freedom for Fox. Fox demands a Free City for humans, where no elflord may go. At Melior's urging (and through his willingness to site the city on Rohannan land) this is granted, and Fox charges Holly and Ruth to make sure the elves treat the humans right, since he, with the magic he has gained at Castle Mourning, intends to seek his lost love Naomi in the Lands of Death.
But the threat of Baligant Baneful remains -- and, feeling himself attacked, Baligant will soon retaliate.
And the Book of Airts?
Well, it's still in the World of Iron, somewhere.
But that's another story.