Symphony of Ages explained

The Symphony of Ages is a series of fantasy–romance books by Elizabeth Haydon. The books tell the story of Rhapsody, a young singer of considerable talent who travels across time to a new land only to learn that it was foretold in a prophecy. Along with her two companions, Rhapsody fights to reunite a kingdom ravaged by war and long-standing prejudice.

The books in the series are:

  1. Requiem for the Sun
  2. Elegy for a Lost Star
  3. The Assassin King

Story

Fourteen-year-old Gwydion is transported into a nearly one and one half millennia distant past to the Isle of Serendair by the mysterious Meridion. There he meets and falls in love with the young farmer's daughter Emily. They want to marry, yet when Gwydion goes to propose, he is taken back to his own time by Meridion. The devastated Emily runs away from home in search of him.

Seven years later Emily, now called Rhapsody, lives in the town of Easton. A former prostitute, she studies to become a Namer and Singer, a profession which gives her semi-magical abilities. When she is pursued by the underlings of her former client Michael, who is obsessed with her, Rhapsody tries to enlist help of two Firbolg, accidentally renaming one of them, a ruthless assassin then called The Brother to Achmed the Snake. Against her will, she is forced by Achmed and his friend Grunthor to accompany them on a journey through the center of the Earth, along the root of Sagia, the Holy Tree.

After a long time the three emerge on the opposite side of the Earth and learn that fourteen hundred years have passed. The lands in which they find themselves were settled by refugees from Serendair, which had been destroyed a very long time ago. Moreover, the original colonists, who sailed there with their king Gwylliam, crossed on their way from Serendair the meridian and thus became immortal (no longer aging, but still able to be killed or die of illness). Their descendants born already in the new lands are only extremely long-lived, though.

The people from Serendair, called "Cymrians" by the natives, created a large, prosperous empire under the reign of King Gwylliam and his half-dragon wife, Anwyn, who held the titles of Lord and Lady Cymrian. Then the royal couple started to fight each other – the result was a great war between each of their followers, which lasted for many centuries. Now, several centuries after the war's end, the lands are divided in many independent domains.

Rhapsody, Achmed and Grunthor, who had formed a strong friendship during their journey through the Earth, travel through the unknown territory, which should become their new home. They meet and befriend several natives – Llauron the Invoker, the manipulative High Priest of the Filidic order; Stephen Navarne, the kind widowed Duke of Navarne; and Ashe, a mysterious traveller with a magical sword and a dangerous secret.

Achmed, accompanied by Grunthor and Rhapsody, travels to Canrif, the devastated former capital of the Cymrian Empire, now inhabited by the monster-like Firbolg. With force, wit and courage he seizes control of the place, uniting all Firbolg tribes and becoming a king of their realm, Ylorc.

Soon it becomes apparent that something very strange is happening in the neighbouring countries – such as pointless bloody raids and kidnapping of children. This is the doing of a F'dor, a bloodthirsty fire demon from the Old World, bent on creating havoc and destruction. Rhapsody, Achmed and Grunthor team up to defeat the F'dor. Rhapsody finds again her childhood love - Ashe, who is in fact Gwydion of Manosse, grandson of Gwylliam and Anwyn. Together they are able to unite the Cymrians again - as the newly elected Lord and Lady Cymrian.

The books following the original Rhapsody Trilogy (which consisted of Rhapsody, Prophecy and Destiny) describe the lives of our heroes after a 3-year gap. Ashe and Rhapsody, now Lord and Lady Cymrian, are planning to start a family. Achmed and Grunthor continue to rebuild Ylorc to its former glory. Achmed's most important project is the restoration of an ancient machine called the Light Catcher, a device that could be very beneficial but also very dangerous. In the Sorbold Empire, which neighbours the Cymrian Alliance, the rich power-hungry merchant Talquist plots to became the new Emperor after murdering the Empress Dowager and her son, leaving the empire without an heir. Also, a new F'dor emerges. After a twist of events Rhapsody gives birth to a son, Meridion. Talquist becomes obsessed with capturing the baby, convinced that the "Child of Time" could bring him immortality. His actions ultimately lead to the beginning of a war.

Geography

Serendair (literally 'Star-land') is the lost island depicted the series. It was the place where time began, where the ancient Seren — a race of tall, golden-skinned people born of the stars — first settled.

Early in Serendair's history, a star named Melita fell from the sky and into the sea, wiping out half of the island's land mass. As the race of man began to prosper on the island as well, the star at the bottom of the ocean became known as the Sleeping Child, and people believed that one day it would rise from the waves and take the rest of the Island with it.

The island was destroyed by the star during the reign of King Gwylliam, who had foreseen the terrible destruction. He sent a Seren man, Merithyn the Explorer, to find an uninhabited land on which the culture and the people of Serendair could be preserved after the island's death. Merithyn landed in the realm of dragon Elynsynos, who fell in love with him and as a result allowed his kinsmen to come and settle in her lands.

Almost all of the races from Serendair were represented on the three refugee fleets, but many of the elder races, such as the Lirin, stayed behind, spending the remainder of their days singing to Sagia, the Oak of Deep Roots, known to the Lirin as Yliessan, the holy place.

As well as being used in The Symphony of Ages series, Serendair is the island where a young Nain boat-builder, Ven Polypheme, is taken after being found at sea among the wreckage of his ship. This takes place in The Floating Island, part of Elizabeth Haydon's The Lost Journals of Ven Polypheme series, an individual work set as a kind of pre-history to The Symphony of Ages.

Characters

Rhapsody

Rhapsody is the child of a Human father and a Liringlas (Skysinger) mother. She is a talented Singer, healer and herbalist and has been taught the magical lore of Naming. Besides being independent and strong-willed, she is also extremely compassionate and always goes out of her way to help people. She and Achmed are sometimes described as opposites or two sides of the same coin.

Rhapsody was born as Amelia Rhapsody Turner, nicknamed Emily, in the farming village of Merryfield on the island of Serendair. She was the sixth child and only daughter of a human farmer and his Liringlas wife.

On the eve of her 14th birthday, she met a boy known as Sam. Sam was actually Gwydion of Manosse, a prince from nearly 1,400 years in the future, brought to Serendair by Meridion in order to alter history. Sam and Emily quickly fell in love, but Sam vanished and was brought back to his own time. Shortly afterwards, armed soldiers entered Merryfield, looking for a strange outlander. Emily, fearing for Sam's life, fled Merryfield to warn him, but lost the guards in the city of Easton.

During her time as a prostitute one client in particular, called Michael, became obsessed with Rhapsody. He grew as a power in the area in which she lived. Rhapsody was completing her studies when a minion of said monster tried to fetch her back to him. In eluding Michael's men she met 'The Brother' and Grunthor, adopting them to convince the town guard they were her brothers and in doing so accidentally renamed 'The Brother' as 'Achmed the Snake.' In renaming Achmed, she inadvertently released him from the slavery he had been suffering under the power of the F'dor Tsoltan, a demonic entity bent on destroying the world. In order to ensure that no harm would come of his renaming, Achmed took Rhapsody with him to Sagia and into the tree, leading her along the Axis Mundi away from the destruction of Serendair. Rhapsody remained convinced that he did this to save her from Michael, not seeing his true intentions.

When Rhapsody, Achmed, and Grunthor emerge from the root, they have no idea where they are. Rhapsody, as the only one of the fellowship who could blend in among humanity, approached the Filid Tanist - Khaddyr - who took her to Llauron the Invoker, the leader of the Filid order. Llauron, immediately calculating that Rhapsody's breath-taking beauty (enhanced by her mystical journey through the world's heart), could be used to his advantage, took her in while Rhapsody waited for the moment when she could reconnect with Achmed and Grunthor. Rhapsody then learns that the Island she called home, Serendair, was actually destroyed in a cataclysm some 1500 years before, and was buried beneath the sea. Llauron begins to suspect that Rhapsody is not of his time, but still teaches her much of the lore of this new land. She learns as much as she can, suspecting that Achmed will find it useful. While there, she learns of a land once called Canrif, now called Ylorc, the present home of a race of humanoids called the Firbolg, or simply the Bolg. When Achmed and Grunthor return to her, she tells them of this place and its location; the Three then decide to journey there, and see if Canrif could become habitable.

Achmed

Achmed is a sarcastic, cynical and often offensive character, who always follows his own agenda in the first place, but he retains his loyalty to those he cares most for. He is extremely hideous and even adult men are scared by his looks. He wears black, hooded robes and covers his face with cloth, not only to hide his ugliness but mainly because he has exposed nerves and veins on his face that are very sensitive to vibrations of the outside world. He always carries with him his signature weapon, the cwellan – a crossbow-like weapon of his own making. He is very distrustful and dislikes taking risks; he hates acting without a plan and must always be in control of every aspect of a situation. There are only two people Achmed truly cares for - Grunthor and Rhapsody. Achmed has very strong feelings for Rhapsody, but never tries to change their relationship into anything more than friendship. This is substantially because of Ashe, the part dragon Rhapsody loves. Achmed maintains that he will have Rhapsody when Ashe either dies or fully embraces his dragon heritage, as Achmed and Rhapsody are both immortal.

He is half Dhracian (on his mother's side) and half Firbolg. Because he was the first one of his race to be born on Serendair, Achmed had the ability to feel heartbeats of all inhabitants of the island. He lost this ability after he travelled to the opposite side of the Earth. In the new realm this ability is almost entirely gone, and now he can sense only heartbeats of the few hundred surviving original Serendarians (but not of their descendants who were not born on Serendair), including those of Rhapsody and Grunthor. He gained a new ability however, given to him by Rhapsody, who named him "pathfinder" – this gave him the gift of following paths with his mind upon concentration.

Achmed grew up among the Firbolg, who didn't treat him well because of his mixed blood. His original name was Ysk (meaning spit or venom), given to him at birth because of his non-Firbolg looks. Years later his Dhracian menthor, Father Halphasion, renamed him to the Brother , stating he was "brother to all, akin to none." Achmed studied to become a healer yet eventually abandoned his studies and became the world's greatest assassin. Later he was enslaved by Tsoltan, a fire demon of the F'dor race, who took possession of his name and so had him chained to himself. Achmed was forced to serve him, yet when he realized that his latest task could cause the destruction of the world, he attempted to run away, accompanied by his long-time friend, Grunthor. When the two accidentally met the young Namer Rhapsody, she unknowingly changed his name from Brother to Achmed the Snake, a name which he had used ever since. By doing this Rhapsody freed him from F'dor's grasp – he actually ceased to be the Brother, and his tie to the demon was broken.

In the New World, using inventions set in place by the dead Lord Cymrian Gwylliam, Achmed was able to unite clans of the mountain dwelling Firbolg under his ultimate rule as King and started to rebuild their realm Ylorc (formerly Canrif, the capital of Gwylliam's empire) to its former glory.

Grunthor

Grunthor is a man of giant proportions, a very well trained military officer (his rank is Sergeant-Major), a loving friend and a terrible enemy. He is part Firbolg, part Bengard. He is fond of singing war songs but his main hobby is collecting weapons. He wears a massive weapon collection on his back, and has named all of his weapons.

He shares a long-time friendship with Achmed and has strong protective feelings for Rhapsody, whom he calls "Duchess." He speaks with an unsophisticated accent. He is not well educated but is taught to read by Rhapsody.

Grunthor has power over the earth itself, gained after passing through the earth's core with Rhapsody and Achmed. He feels its pain and its shifts, and can also change it to his will (like creating and removing walls and passages).

Ashe

Ashe is a half-blood with Cymrian, Lirin and dragon ancestry. He has bright copper hair and brilliant blue eyes with draconian (slit-shaped) pupils. He is introduced late in the first novel of the series, though readers will soon realize Ashe is not who he seems to be.

His real name is Gwydion of Manosse. He is the son of Llauron the Invoker and grandson of Gwylliam, once king of Cymrians. His Cymrian and dragon ancestry gives Ashe an exceptionally long life, and because of his lineage, he has great magic in his blood. He was sent back in time by Meridion to the Lost Island Serendair, which was destroyed by a falling star over 1,000 years ago. There he meets Emily, his soul mate. Just one day later, however, he is sent back to his own time, and nearly goes insane from grief. He goes to his grandmother, a Seer named Anwyn, and asks her about Emily, but she tells him that she didn't escape with the Cymrians (this is technically true, even though Emily does, in fact, escape). Gwydion loses all hope of Emily's survival after that. Almost a century later, Gwydion goes out to fight the F'dor alone, and nearly dies as a result. His soul is nearly taken from him, and to escape becoming the host for the demon, he severs what's left of it. Though he escapes, he is almost fatally wounded, with his chest torn open. It is only because his best friend, Stephen, finds him that he narrowly escapes death, though everyone was told he died. Ashe is taken into a realm between Life and the Afterlife to be healed, and in the process his inner dragon is awakened. Since then he has taken up the name Ashe, and travels in a mist cloak, in order to hide the fact that he still lives.

Since Gwydion's 'death' and Ashe's 'birth', Ashe travels the world, doing what he can to protect innocents from the chaos caused by the demon F'dor. While journeying, he feels Rhapsody's strong magic from miles away, and is unable to resist investigating. They get off to a bad start, because he catches Rhapsody's adopted sister, Jo, trying to pickpocket him, and Rhapsody catches Gwydion hurting Jo. They patch it up somewhat by Ashe offering to pay for her lunch.

Ashe then shows up to help Rhapsody create Achmed's kingdom, though his true motive is to keep an eye on the trio for his father. When Rhapsody finds a dagger made of a dragon's claw, she grows fearful of incurring the dragon's wrath (dragons are very possessive). Ashe offers to guide her to the dragon's lair, which she accepts. They waver between bickering and bantering on this journey. The tension builds between them, mostly because Ashe tries to get information from her, but reveals very little about himself. However, upon their arrival at the dragon's lair, Ashe tells her to be careful, and lowers his hood for her, making her the first person in 20 years to see his face. When she leaves the lair to go to Tyrian, Ashe offers to guide her there once again. Rhapsody finds out that the other half of Ashe's soul is being used to power a vicious creature called a Rakshas, which has his very appearance due to his soul being inside of it. She calls him to her home, which screens vibrational signatures, and tells him that she intends to heal him. It is there that Ashe tells her that he loves her. At first she is skeptical, and dismisses it as just desire, but he convinces her that he truly does love her. Eventually they find out that he is actually Sam, and she is Emily.

Jo

Jo is a troubled, rude and angry 16-years old girl, an orphaned child of the street, who is rescued by Rhapsody, Achmed and Grunthor from being killed by minions of F'dor, along with several other children. To Achmed's chagrin, Rhapsody adopts Jo as her sister and the two become very close, although Jo is at the beginning distrustful and distances herself from everyone.

Eventually, Jo becomes less unstable, more trustworthy and even a trained fighter, with the help of Grunthor. When Achmed becomes the King of Ylorc, Jo stays with them, in a startlingly almost luxurious life she has never known. After meeting Ashe, Jo becomes infatuated with him, although her feelings are one-sided. Later she is possessed by F'dor and Rhapsody is forced to kill her in combat.

F'dor

F’dor are demonic spirits born of dark fire in the Before-Time, hunted by the Dhracians, with an ultimate goal of destroying the world. They are one of the First Born Races. As background to the story, few remain in the world, and most were sealed in the Vault of the Underworld. They have no corporeal form, and thus must take a host body. The potential host must be weaker than, or equal in strength to the spirit in order for the F'dor to subdue it (the exception to this is in cases of voluntary possession, where a strong host allows a weaker spirit in). A host cannot become a father or mother, as it would require the F'dor to share of its life force to create a new life, and by nature they are far too greedy to do that. They are inherently evil and desire above all else to release their fellow F'dor from the Vault of the Underworld and burn the entire world to ashes.

There are two "generations" or pantheons of F'dor; the older and the younger. The older were the first ones born, from the primeval fires off the earth. These are considered to be more evil, as they actively chose the dark, evil fire instead of the pure, bright, elemental fire. The younger pantheon were born after this choice and thus know nothing other than the black fire.

In the first age, some of the F'dor stole one of the six eggs laid by the primeval wyrm, modified it and hid it inside the Earth. As the wyrm grew, it fed on the earth, and is now almost 1/6 of the mass of the world. All F'dor know the sleeping wyrm's name, and will try to become powerful enough to call to it, awakening the "Sleeping Child". If that happens, the earth will be destroyed, and the F'dor will have succeeded.