The Oak and the Ram

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The second novel in the Corum series - The Prince with the Silver Hand trilogy

Publishing History (UK)

  • Hardcover, Allison & Busby, 168pp., ISBN: 0-85031-095-4, 18 Oct 1973, Cover by Keith Roberts
  • Mass Market Paperback, Quartet Books, 137pp., ISBN: 0-7043-1128-3, 1974, Cover by Patrick Woodroffe
  • Mass Market Paperback, Quartet, 137pp., ISBN: 0-7043-1128-3, 1976, Cover by Patrick Woodroffe
  • Mass Market Paperback, Granada, 160pp., ISBN: 0-583-12985-4, 14 May 1981, Cover by Melvyn
  • Mass Market Paperback, Grafton, 160pp., ISBN: 0-586-20719-8, 27 April 1989, Cover by Paul Damon
  • ebook, SF Gateway, ISBN: 978-0575105331, 19 Dec 2013

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Omnibus Publication

Publishing History (US)

  • Mass Market Paperback, Berkley Medallion, ISBN: 0-425-02534-9, 1974, Cover by David McCall Johnson
  • Mass Market Paperback, Berkley, ISBN: 0-425-09052-3, 1986, Cover by Robert Gould

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Omnibus Publication

Characters

Synopsis

* * The following section may contain spoilers * *

Following the defeat of the Fhoi Myore at Caer Mahlod by the Black Bull of Crinanass[1], the lands of the Tuha-na-Cremm Croich are fertile once more and King Mannach's subjects have begun rebuilding their ruined homes. Corum resides at Caer Mahlod with the King's daughter, Medhbh yet the wider world of Lwym-an-Esh remains in the grip of the Cold Folk and their servants. Mannach's brother-in-law, King Fiachadh of the Tuha-na-Manannan, arrives at Caer Mahlod with a plan for rescuing the High King Amergin, held captive by the Fhoi Myore at Caer Llud, where he has reverted to a bestial state. Having previously travelled to the kingdoms of Tuha-na-Anu, Tuha-na-Tirnam-Beo and Tuha-na-Gwyddneu Garanhir and been rebuffed by their rulers fearful of attracting the attention of the Fhoi Myore, Fiachadh now seeks Mannach's aid in his plan. Mannach acquiesces and Corum agrees to go to Caer Llud to attempt the rescue. Fiachadh presents him with Arionrod's Cloak, a Sidhi robe that renders the wearer 'invisible' (in reality it shifts them to one of the other 15 planes) although the effect is not always reliable. On route he encounters his old enemy Prince Gaynor who refuses to attack Corum directly (having being previously defeated by him[2]) preferring to use less direct methods, such as the Hounds of Kerenos, which he sets on the Vadhagh prince. Corum is rescued by the unexpected arrival of his old friend Jhary-a-Conel who continues to accompany him. Trailing Gaynor, the two men come across Craig Dôn, nine concentric stone circles - which Jhary says is a symbolic representation of the Multiverse - and Lywm-en-Esh's version of Tanelorn. When last the Fhoi Myore invaded they were tricked into entering Craig Dôn and sent back to Limbo, thus they avoid it now. Gaynor arrives in the mistaken belief that Craig Dôn was Corum's destination all along and, while the Hounds will not enter the circles, Gaynor sets them behind to prevent Corum and Jhary escaping.

Using his lance, Corum slays three of the Hounds and as the rest devour the carcasses, he and Jhary escape on the other side of the stone circles making their way to Caer Llud, which they enter by pretending to be living corpses. Leaving Jhary in a house close to the tower where Amergin is held, Corum dons the Sidhi cloak and enters undetected. As he ascends, Corum discovers first the Sidhi giant Goffanon and the wizard Calatin, who wears the horn Corum traded with Goffanon for the spear Bryionak, apparently guests of the Fhoi Myore; then later, a misshapen Thing on the stairs, which he slays. Amergin’s quarters are guarded by two enormous Hounds and a Ghoolegh, but Corum manages to slip pass them. Inside, he finds the half-starved Amergin reduced to an ovine state and dressed in sheepskins. Rendering the High King senseless, Corum conceals Amergin beneath his cloak and prepares to escape. His invisibility confuses the Hounds and the Ghoolegh guards in the tower, but Goffanon – alerted along with Calatin by the noises above – is able to see Corum. The wizard orders the Sidhi to kill Corum, but when Corum knocks Calatin out, he realizes that rather than being a traitor Goffanon is also under a glamour. Taking the wizard’s horn, they escape and return to Jhary. Elsewhere in the city, the Fhoi Myore are mobilizing a huge army for some unknown purpose and the party is able to leave the city unmolested, although they soon realize the Hounds of Kerenos follow them. Corum uses the horn to neutralize the Hounds and they finally reach Craig Dôn, where Jhary uses Whiskers, his black-and-white winged cat, to reach Amergin’s inner mind. Amergin tells them only the Golden Oak and the Silver Ram – two Sidhi treasures taken to Tuha-na-Gwyddneu Garanhir – can restore him to his natural state. After a night where Corum is ravaged by dreams which mirror Ieveen's prophecy, the party divides with Jhary taking Amergin to Caer Mahlod while Corum and Goffanon seek the Sidhi treasures at Caer Garanhir. Reaching the warmer climate of the coast, Corum and Goffanon find a boat to carry them to Tuha-na-Gwyddneu Garanhir but nearing their destination see the freezing Fhoi Myore mist ahead of them, which freezes the water around the boat but also conceals them from the Fhoi Myore and their vassals. Carrying Corum on his shoulders, Goffanon is able to outpace the Fhoi Myore army only for Prince Gaynor and his Pine Warriors to ambush them, but salvation comes in the form of the Sidhi giant Ilbrec, Goffanon's full-sized cousin. The trio arrive at Caer Garanhir where they find the court drunk following the marriage of King Daffyn's son, Prince Guwinn. Although Corum convinces Daffyn of the Fhoi Myore threat, Ilbrec doubts the ability of the Mabden to mount an adequate defence in time and leaves. During the Fight at Caer Garanhir, Guwinn is killed and the remaining Mabden retreat to the King's Hall where Corum discovers the Pine Warriors are vulnerable to fire, which turns the battle. However, the expected attack from the Fhoi Myore doesn't come. A strange smoke on the fringes of the mist puzzles Corum until Ilbrec returns, armed with the sword Retaliator, which he used to draw a circle around the Fhoi Myore and temporarily entrap them. Corum asks King Daffyn for the Golden Oak and Silver Ram and Guwinn's widow, who received them as a wedding present, gives them to him. Daffyn says that if Amergin is revived he will follow the High King. Before they leave, Ilbrec draws another circle with Retaliator, this time around Caer Garanhir.

Corum, Goffanon and Ilbrec reach the coast, but before they can cross the Sidhi dwarf comes under the glamour of Calatin again - who reveals himself on the cliff-tops - and attacks Corum. As Ilbrec and Goffanon fight, Corum ascends the cliffs to confront Calatin, only to discover the Fhoi Myore Sreng of the Seven Swords is with him, (Calatin explains that Sreng avoided being trapped by Ilbrec's circle because they followed behind the main force which attacked Caer Garanhir.) Corum fights Sreng but becomes trapped when Sreng falls on top of him. Ilbrec appears and kills Sreng with Retaliator. Calatin flees. Returning to the beach Corum mourns the death of Goffanon, but Ilbrec explains he is only unconscious. Ilbrec's steed, Splendid Mane, is loaded with the three men and proceeds to walk out across the water towards Caer Mahlod. Ilbrec tells Corum that the horse is able to detect the dimensional paths that allow one to travel between the Fifteen Planes. They arrive back at Caer Mahlod where they are greeted by King Mannach, Medhbh and Jhary who informs them that Amergin is only hours from death. Although not knowing how the Golden Oak and Silver Ram will restore Amergin, Goffanon has some little knowledge and suggests taking Amergin to a place of power. Craig Dôn is too far, but Cremmsmound, where Corum - or an incarnation of Corum - is said to be buried and from where Corum was summoned is close by. The Mabden, Sidhi and Corum take Amergin to Cremmsmound, where Ilbrec places the High King on the top while Mannach puts the Golden Oak at his head and the Silver Ram at his feet, although Corum feels a great disquiet come over him and hangs back from the circle of Mabden surrounding the barrow. Goffanon recites a song which tells of nine great battles the Sidhi fought against the Fhoi Myore and calls for the Oak Woman to appear to aid the Mabden before the tenth final battle takes place, but the word to summon her is lost. When the song ends, Amergin utters one word - "Dagdagh" - and as Goffanon repeats the word Corum is terror-stricken though he doesn't recognise the word. At the same time he hears the ethereal harp again, but now it is triumphant rather than plaintive. The Golden Oak grows until it reaches full-size and the Oak Woman emerges out of it. She says that Amergin must die and his soul enter the Silvern Ram, which now also grows to full-size. She then calls for a new soul to enter the body of Amergin, and the High King rises, his youth restored to him again. The Oak Woman speaks to Corum and tells him his "destiny is a noble one" yet he will "know little lasting happiness". Then the Oak Woman, the Golden Oak and Silvern Ram vanish never to be seen again. The people return to Caer Mahlod although Corum is in dark spirits throughout the drinking and merry-making. Mannach determines to call all the Mabden from all kingdoms together behind the restored Amergin and strike one final time at the Fhoi Myore, but Corum flees to the ruins of Castle Erorn where he again hears the music of the mysterious harp and sees the face of the golden youth that haunt his dreams. But Medhbh following him says it is just the wind and the moon he perceives. Together they return to Caer Mahlod although Corum's spirit is still troubled by the sacrifice he is yet to make.

Notes

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