Read a full summary of Heart of Mist by Helen Scheuerer. This page is full of spoilers, so beware! If you are wondering what happened in Heart of Mist, the first book in this series, then you are in the right place!
The Oremere Chronicles
#1 Heart of Mist
***** Everything below is a SPOILER *****
What happened in Heart of Mist?
A girl runs across the tops of the trees and eventually walks into the mist, leaving her family and her life behind.
Bleak is a young woman on her own in the world, with no family and few friends, her best one being Bren. She has Ashai magical powers, which she keeps hidden. The power manifests itself as mind reading—hearing other people’s thoughts—in Bleak. She doesn’t like this ability and drowns out people’s thoughts as well as her sorrows with alcohol.
The building containing Bleak’s loft is burned to the ground. She’s captured by Commander Swinton. He and his men are to bring her straight to the king, unharmed in any way.
The journey is rough on Bleak, from her meager food and drink to her raw, bound wrists to her sore back and legs. She’s unused to so much time on horseback. Some men ogle her, but Swinton and Fiore make sure she’s safe.
They come across Valian warriors (magical people) who demand Swinton to turn Bleak over to them. He refuses. Bleak can’t read Swinton’s thoughts or the Valian’s. Their leader Henri appears and fights Swinton. The men and women around them fight, too. The Valian warriors are more skilled. Henri rescues Bleak from an attempted rape. Bleak leaves with the Valians.
They travel atop the canopy of trees to get home. Bleak tries to find out about these people and even reveals her power as they travel.
Dash is the young son of the king’s head stable keeper. Dash is also good friends with the king’s daughter Olena.
Swinton reports to the king. He’s not happy but asks about the side mission. Swinton was able to release the contents of all three jars. He’s relieved when the king dismisses him until the morning with no punishment. The next day, the king says Swinton and his best man must journey to Valia to summon Henri and the orphan girl to him. He will hold Swinton personally responsible if they don’t accompany him back to the palace.
Henri is worried about interfering with the king’s plans. Bleak has a second seizure-like fit. The Valians don’t know what caused it. Swinton assumed it was alcohol withdrawals when he witnessed the first one.
They make it home to the keep, a city formed in the treetops. Only those who don’t pass their warrior training live on the ground below. There are only women present as far as Bleak can see. Henri asks everyone else to leave as she and Bleak enter Allehra’s home using a secret enchantment. Bleak didn’t think there was enough magical foundation left to support enchantments like these.
Allehra calls Bleak a mist dweller. Allehra is confused about why the king would send his top commander for such an errand. Bleak thinks about the marked map she saw and how she was suspicious there was more to Commander Swinton’s task. She keeps this to herself.
Allehra tells her how unique mind-reading Ashai like Bleak are. Bleak says her abilities aren’t working consistently anymore. Allehra explains they have wards, enchantments, and talismans that prevent their minds from being read. She can sense Bleak has vast power. She wants to train her. Henri isn’t sure it’s a good idea. Bleak wants to know what’s in it for Allehra. She knows her daughter Henri will eventually be summoned to the king with Bleak. She wants Bleak trained when they go. Bleak reluctantly agrees.
An older squire boy named Valter makes fun of Olena. Dash fences him with wooden swords and wins. Valter’s older brother challenges Dash next. Dash does a decent job against him until the boy challenges him to find his way through the maze instead. He makes it to the center, with the famous red flowers helping him find his way at the end. A fountain with the statute of a beautiful woman is in there. Dash picks a flower and leaves.
Bleak stays with Tilly. She’s intrigued by their communal way of living and is happy to have a drink back in her hands: Valian wine. She drinks several bottles that night and wakes up with a hangover.
Athene’s daughter Luka shows Bleak around. She’s shocked to see young children training with weapons.
Allehra sends for Bleak. She removes her herb necklace and asks Bleak to search through her mind to find who used to love this pool they’re at. Bleak sifts through her thoughts and finally realizes it was Sahara. When she speaks this name, Henri drops from above and says their lesson is over. Bleak hears Henri yelling about how Sahara died long before she walked into the mist.
Bleak indulges in much wine at dinner. She’s shocked when Athene and Tilly emerge from the woods with a trespasser: Bren. Bleak objects when they’re leading him away. Both end up in underground cells.
Henri goes to train to clear her head, all the while thinking of the mist dwellers. They fought the king’s men long ago. Swinton’s father became a hero when he rescued the king. People claimed the mist dwellers were creatures instead of people. Henri doubted this. She wondered how they survived the deadly mist. She wished her mother would share more of her secrets about these mysterious people.
Henri goes to the pits to question Bren. She’s confused by his explanation on how he found them since they’re so well hidden. He says he could hear Bleak’s voice in snippets of conversation along the way even though he never saw them. He rode hard with little sleep until he found them.
Petra and Tilly come for Bleak in the morning while Bren is still asleep. It’s time for her training. Luka is there. Allehra wants Bleak to read her thoughts, first searching for shapes and later for phrases. Bleak does well, honing her skill a little each time.
Bren is out of his cell and eating with Tilly when they return to camp. Bleak feels a twinge of something at this sight. She begins arguing with Bren, so Tilly leaves. Bleak wants to know why he followed them. He says Bleaker Senior would have his hide if he didn’t protect her. They’re part familial and part attracted to each other.
Bleak wakes up with another hangover and no knowledge of what happened the night before. Tilly sees the scars on her thighs before she pulls clothes on. She asks what happened. Bleak won’t share.
Bren stops her as she races off to her lessons, which she’s late for. He’s disappointed she doesn’t remember what happened the night before. When he asks why she’s beholden to the Valians, she mentions how Henri saved her from being raped and possibly murdered. He’s stunned.
Allehra is furious Bleak’s late. She wants Bleak to focus on reading a recent memory from Luka’s mind. It’s more complex than her previous tasks. She sees lots of memories she probably shouldn’t, including Athene telling Luka she’ll be the likely choice for queen since Henri will never have a child after what she’s been through.
Bleak feels weird and hears a voice calling from afar. It’s Allehra. The two of them are alone. It’s late at night. Allehra tells her she fell into a trance for eight hours. A healer came and said not to wake her. Bleak’s scared what would’ve happened if she got stuck in Luka’s mind. Allehra asks what she saw. She says she didn’t find the recent memory she was looking for but saw other memories. Allehra decides she needs physical training to accompany her magical training.
Luka comes over with wine when she makes it back to camp. Bleak agrees to join Luka and her friends when she sees Bren and Tilly together. She’s relieved to see him asleep in a hammock by himself not long after. She drowns out the strain of the days with more wine.
Henri calls a day of battles. The winners earn glory and a chance at a training session with the elite warriors. The losers leave the canopy to live in the Sticks. The first fight is fair and even. The second fight is Luka against a mousy girl, clearly one-sided. Bleak calls out Luka’s thoughts to the girl so she can block her moves. Luka loses, but her opponent is the one banished to the Sticks. Henri is furious with Bleak for her interference.
Bleak goes for a walk and has her first encounter with Groundlings. She meets the kind, popular Lyse first and then the Groundling elder Lindis. Bleak tries to figure out their way of life. It’s much slower and more relaxed. But not everyone is happy, especially Clara.
Bleak leaves camp to bathe one night. Bren tracks her down. He was worried about her and asks why she doesn’t feel indebted to him like she does to the Valians. He asks her to come home. They argue. He flees. Bleak sees a burned patch of the forest. Henri appears and says they suspect the royals did it.
Swinton and Fiore are in a bar one evening. Fiore finds a lady friend. One approaches Swinton, but he politely declines and goes to the stables to get his horse for a ride. He goes to a nearby village filled with memories. While he was doing his required squire training at the stables, he fell in love with the stable master’s daughter Eliza. They were together a year before she died. Swinton visits her grave.
Dash’s father spanks him with a belt for his fight with the squire boys and journey into the maze. His mother says Dash can’t defy the boys of the men his father serves. He hoped to go train with the squires the following morning because of his accomplishments, but his father makes him work with him in the stables instead. He finally lets Dash take a break when Olena summons him.
Olena wants Dash to accompany her to the feast honoring Sir Caleb, Commander Swinton’s father. Dash’s father is furious but can’t let him decline a royal invitation. Olena and Dash take an etiquette lesson. The royal seamstresses make him a suit.
Dash is overwhelmed and delighted with the gaiety and wealth the night of the feast. He’s nervous and excited when Olena introduces him to Sir Caleb. When he shakes Caleb’s hand, his mind shifts to a scene on a boat. A blond girl is at the helm, and they sail straight into the mist. When his hand breaks away, Sir Caleb looks at him curiously, as if he’s committing Dash’s features to memory.
Swinton and Fiore arrive at Valia. They ferry across a river and are met by the Valians. They take their horses and blindfold them. They’re separated, with Swinton immediately taken to Henri. She reads the note from the king and asks Swinton if he remembers their first meeting. They drank together after her sister’s funeral. He doesn’t remember. Henri found out about his power (he can see the future) and tells him the talisman on his necklace is wearing out. She can’t believe he hunts his own kind. Henri agrees to go with him to the king.
Bleak spots Swinton and attacks him. Fiore pulls her off. Henri says the men are there to take the two of them to the king. Henri says they’ll leave in five days. Swinton says that’s way too long to wait. But the letter doesn’t stipulate an arrival date. Swinton acquiesces.
Allehra wants Bleak to make up with Luka and resume their training. She finds her outside camp throwing knives at a target with her friends. Bleak challenges Luka to throw three knives at her. She can choose whether to hit flesh or not. If Bleak stands there through all three, Luka has to forgive her. Luka agrees. She comes close to hitting Bleak’s fingers on the first two and hits the bullseye on the third. They’re good again.
Bleak goes back into Luka’s mind and sees childhood memories. At thirteen, she tells her mother she’s sad to fight her best friend, with the loser to be sent to the Sticks. At six, she spies on her mother comforting a distraught Henri after losing her sister and becoming queen. The memory flashes back to Luka’s fight with her friend. Bleak sees it’s Clara and watches them perform more than fight at first, with Luka eventually winning. Bleak is out two hours. She doesn’t think her ability is useful since she blacks out like this.
Fiore finds her when she makes it back to camp. They go on a walk to the Sticks and find out a little more about each other’s past. Bleak thanks him for his kindness when she was their prisoner. They hear a twig snap but never see anyone. When they make it back to camp, Bleak goes to Tilly’s house and steps into her room to say good night. She sees Bren in bed with Tilly.
Swinton sits alone by the fire fingering the coin he’s had for years. It was treated with Valian herbs and keeps his Ashai powers at bay as long as he wears it on a necklace. Since the herbs are wearing off, he’s afraid the prophetic visions will begin again. Bleak walks nearby, scavenging for wine. He tries to make small talk. She’s not interested. He argues with Fiore when he asks what will happen to Bleak and Henri when they deliver them to the king. Swinton accuses Fiore of liking Bleak. Fiore accuses Swinton of hiding things and always trying to live up to his father’s reputation.
Fiore invites Swinton to join him helping construct a new training circuit. Swinton refuses at first but then goes to help as boredom sets in. Fiore does mediocre work but is more concerned with bonding with Bren. It annoys Swinton. He and Fiore speak less and less as they work near each other in the coming days. Fiore begins to teach Bren how to fight in their down time.
Dash didn’t see Olena again until several days after the feast. She shocks him by saying she’s betrothed to Prince Nazuri of Battalon, who’s 10 years her senior at 25. It’s her parent’s choice, not hers, and she leaves soon to get acquainted with him. Dash is stunned and devastated. He notices a red flower—like one in the maze—has bloomed beneath his feet after Olena leaves.
He takes a shortcut behind the castle to run home and ask his mother’s advice. A castle cook yells at him. He dashes into the castle to get away. He hides in a cupboard in the library. The king and queen come in and discuss Olena’s betrothal. Her mother’s concerned. Her father says it has to be done and seems to mock her disability.
After the queen leaves, another female talks to the king. She asks if he has the girl yet. He says he sent two men after her. They should return with her and Henri soon. She asks about his mist tracker reports. It’s advanced another few inches. She asks about the jars he sent with Swinton and their charges at Morden tower.
Henri’s mad Allehra brought Bleak with her to the secret matriarch’s grotto. Allehra brought a note from Queen Eydis of Havennesse, an Ashai seer. She says ten Ashai have disappeared and indicates King Arden is involved. She says the mist is coming, will bring a magic-hungry power, and is a threat to the whole realm. Allehra wonders what the king wants with each of them. They’ll need to be cautious. Henri is to train Bleak during their journey.
Bleak goes to the creek to have some quiet time with her thoughts. Bren approaches. They argue and she answers a thought of his. He demands to know what’s going on. Bleak confesses. He’s angry she never shared her abilities with him.
Henri and Bleak leave early the next morning. Athene meets them to give a few items to Bleak from Allehra: a bracelet with protective herbs and two sheathed daggers. They meet up with Swinton and Fiore at the old man’s ferry. They ride off on horses as soon as they disembark.
Bleak worries about how she’s left Bren behind yet again. She also thinks about the rock she saw in the stream in Valia with the word Oremere on it. She wonders what it means. The next day, a group of Battalonions blow by them on horseback.
Swinton sneaks out of the tavern where the others are eating dinner. He has to complete his side mission. He rides to a riverfront and launches five jars of mist to the other side. They break, and the mist mingles together. He wonders what will happen to the family who lives near the water when the mist advances on them. Swinton feels bad about what he’s doing for the king but knows it’s necessary to protect his secrets.
Bleak is looking over the map she swiped from Swinton while she drinks, trying to make sense of what the red dots mean. Then she notices Henri slumped over at their table and Fiore passed out on the floor. They’ve been poisoned. A bar brawl ensues. Henri telepathically tells Bleak to use her powers. She pushes something into the minds of everyone in the bar and kills them all.
Swinton returns to town and sees the bloodbath at the bar. He’s the one who poisoned his friends so they wouldn’t follow him.
Henri wants to kill Swinton because he drugged her. Fiore says King Arden will see it as a direct attack on their country and will attack burn Valia down. Henri vows she will kill him someday for this. Swinton says they have to burn the bar the ground. Bleak pulls Henri aside to show her the map she stole from Swinton. They also discuss why the leather bracelet Allehra gave Bleak didn’t work. Bleak feels sick as they ride away with the building and bodies burning behind them.
Bleak has another “fit” and flashes back to being led through the mist by her parents when she was young. When she comes to, they’ve paused by the burning building. Swinton murmurs to her about the first time he killed someone and how to not let it define her.
Dash hasn’t got to visit with Olena since her engagement. She sends for him one day. He asks her to take him with her to Battalon. She can’t. He decides to tell her about what he saw when he shook the commander’s hand at the feast. Olena says it’s a vision. She’s worried about him because she thinks this means he’s an Ashai. She tells him of the Braille-like books she’s been reading that tell about a fifth continent called Oremere. It was a place that welcomed Ashai but was swallowed by the mist.
Henri worries about Bleak’s reaction to the deaths and thinks how she reminds her of her late sister. Henri remembers how Allehra asked her to train Bleak during their journey. She pulls her aside to train and asks to see her cuff. Bleak feels like it’s doing the opposite of containing her powers. It seems to be making them stronger. Henri realizes this is indeed what it’s for but doesn’t tell Bleak.
While they’re stopped at a river, Henri takes off her herb necklace so Bleak can read her thoughts. Bleak sees Sahara. She was Henri’s twin, was not an Ashai, and never totally fit in with the Valia. Bleak doesn’t hear this thought, but Henri knows Sahara was longing for someone or something called Oremere. The women know they’ll be separated at the capital and agree they don’t want the king to have both of them. They’ll run away alone if given the chance.
The foursome makes it to the castle. Swinton wonders why a Battalonian contingent is there and discovers Princess Olena is betrothed to the prince of Battalon. Swinton gets cleaned up and searches for the map to present to the king tonight. It’s nowhere in his satchel.
Swinton goes into the center of the maze to restore the herb protections on the coin around his neck. He puts a hand on the statue and is allowed into the prison below. It is filled with the Ashai who will be sent to Moredon soon. They are believed to be the last 103 Ashai in the whole kingdom.
When Swinton gets back to the castle, Bren has just entered the courtyard. He’s claiming to be an Ashai. He sees Swinton and says they know each other. He wants to see Bleak. Swinton says to cart him off to the maze prison. He’ll be sent to Moredon soon, too, even though he’s not Ashai.
Fiore knocks on Bleak’s door to tell her the news on Bren. Swinton walks up and puts a hand on Fiore’s shoulder. He says Bren arrived safely back to his family in Angove. Bleak can’t read any contradictions in his mind. Swinton releases Fiore and says they have an urgent meeting to get to. Bleak is relieved about the news of her friend.
Bleak is summoned to the king early the next morning. The guards take the leather from Allehra off her wrist and cast it into the fire. He then asks them to leave. She tries to read his mind, but he knows and something fires back to block her. He said he’d recognize her anywhere: she’s a Thornton. He’s right. He condemns her to a life sentence at Moredon Tower for trying to use magic on the king and calls her by her real name: Alarise. As the guards he called for are escorting her out, he says maybe she’ll find what she’s been looking for at Moredon.
As the guards drag her through the halls, a young boy carrying a strange book runs right into them. He apologizes. She reads his mind and finds he’s thinking the names of the four continents, plus a fifth: Oremere. He looks at her with terrified eyes for a second and then runs off. The guards take her to a cold dungeon below the castle and lock her in a cell. Bleak is there for days, freezing, half starved, and sleep deprived. Swinton appears at her cell. He seems to feel guilty and apologizes but says he won’t see her again. She wants to tell him her real name before he leaves but doesn’t.
Dash races home upset. His mother assumes it’s because Olena is leaving. He doesn’t tell her otherwise. When his mother leaves the room, he uses the alphabet translator Olena gave him to start learning the dotted code and reading the book she gave him. Then a servant arrives saying Olena has summoned him.
Olena orders the guards to stand ten paces away from them. She leaves tomorrow. They won’t see each other again. Dash tells her he’s studying the books even though it’s quite difficult and hopes they can communicate privately in letters using the dotted code soon. Swinton arrives and says the king and queen have requested Olena’s presence. He’s firm and won’t allow a proper goodbye and won’t allow her to turn back to Dash when he calls to her one last time before they enter the castle.
Henri goes out into the capital city of Heathton. She encounters a spy, a man who calls himself The Tailor. She asks him to tell her about the signs around town trying to round up the Ashai. He says Ashai who come forward are rounded up and loaded on board. He doesn’t know their destination but based on their supplies loaded, they could go no further than Moredon Tower. Before he leaves, he tells her to remember the names Valter and Adalrik Wendley.
Henri notices an intricate carving of open books made of Valian oak in the library. She feels a pulse of magic the first time she touches it but then not again. The king summons her. He leads her to a secret room behind a wall in his wine cellar. It contains many bottles of mist. He tells Henri he and an Ashai experimented for many years about how this substance marks Ashai who can survive it. The marks are unseen except in a full moon. And humans can’t survive more than eight minutes when exposed to the mist. The marked Ashai are sent to Moredon Tower.
He has a friend in high places who wants it done this way. She asks where his friend is. He says Oremere. He can tell she recognizes the name. She thought it was a person. He tells her it’s a place. She admits Sahara knew this word.
The first time he released mist was after Sahara’s funeral. Swinton helped him. Allehra saw what happened and burned the forest down before it could take hold. He says he’s telling her about this because his high place friend wants to meet Henri.
Henri knocks a glass off the shelf so the mist will release. Arden is not Ashai, so she hopes it will kill him. He’s immune somehow and even breathes it in and then blows it back into a jar. She can tell he has changed somehow since their last meeting years ago. He says Ines is the true queen of the entire realm, the old monarchy, and will meet with Henri when she is ready. Henri will stay at the palace until then.
Henri knows the Valian people are threatened by the king’s plan and agonizes over what to do. A note is tucked under the dinner plate sent to her room. It’s from Fiore and says there’s a guard change at the seventh hour. She dresses up in clothes and jewelry from the room, fixing her hair and makeup until she’s unrecognizable. She hears a key in the lock and grabs her bags to leave.
Fiore meets her in the hall, calls her Mrs. Wendley, and sends a servant for a carriage for her. She says she’ll go to Havennesse to gather allies. Fiore says a ship is sailing for Battalon today and to ask for Clarke. Fiore tells her they have Bleak and Bren. Bren is already on a ship to Moredon and didn’t look like he’d survive it when he left. A servant approaches her carriage just before it pulls away and tells her her sons want her to watch their squire training demonstration. She uses the names the man in town gave her—Valter and Adalrik—and says they know she has an appointment in town and their father will be the one attending their show of skill. She feels guilty leaving Bleak behind.
Swinton is heading up the guard escorting Olena to Battalon. He chooses Fiore to join him. Swinton assures King Arden he’ll watch over the princess. The king makes a threat. He says he’d always wondered where Swinton’s money was going, what with his neat but well-worn clothes and boots. He nods over to Dash, who’s standing nearby watching the princess leave, and Swinton realizes the king knows. And he’ll do whatever it takes to keep Dash safe.
How did Heart of Mist end?
Bleak is pulled from the prison, allowed to clean up, and given a hot meal. She notices the place on her arm where Allehra’s leather band used to be is now etched with the same markings that were on the band. And she can feel a little power surging beneath her skin there. She’s taken to a ship with fifteen men guarding her to sail to Moredon. A big man named Charlyn is her close guard. Lennox is among the crew. She plans an escape.
Bleak begins to hear screaming. None of the guards appear to hear it. It seem like it’s coming in waves from below the water’s surface. When she finally gets some sleep, Bleak wakes to Lennox nearby. He threatens her. She lunges for the crossbow. The screams begin anew in her head. Charlyn sees her and rushes toward her. She fires the arrow at Lennox. It buries in his stomach. Charlyn reaches for her. She blacks out.
Power surges out of Bleak in a huge bright wave. When she awakes, everyone on the boat is dead. She can still feel the darkness flickering inside her. She searches the ship, gathering food and other supplies. She finds whiskey but forces herself to not drink it this time.
A storm hits the ship. It’s so violent that many of the men’s bodies are thrown into the sea. In one flash of lightning, she sees Moredon Tower. Then she feels a shift in energy. In the next flash of lightning, she seems to see the boy from the castle. He looks as shocked as she feels. Then he’s gone. She steers away from the tower and notices mist south of the island. She doesn’t want to die at the king’s hand but rather on her own terms. She steers the boat toward the mist.
There you go! That’s what happened in Heart of Mist, the first book in this series.
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