The Dark Elf Naitachal, is still going strong and training new apprenticies. His latest: the King's own son, Alaire.
Alaire is an apt pupil, but before he has had a chance to master the secrets of Bardic power, he and Naitachal are sent by the King on a dangerous diplomatic mission. The kingdom on King Reynard's northern border, Suinomen, has banned magic for years, and now is making preparations for war. Their job; find out why their previously peaceful neighbor is making war noises, discover what's behind it, and stop it.
They cannot use their innate Bardic magic. Unlicensed use of magic in Suinomen earns the wielder a sentence in the Prison of Souls, a punishment which not only takes the magic user off the streets, but which eats away at a magic user's very life force.
Mercedes Ritchie Lackey (born 1950) is an American writer of fantasy novels. Many of her novels and trilogies are interlinked and set in the world of Velgarth, mostly in and around the country of Valdemar. Her Valdemar novels form a complex tapestry of interaction between human and non-human protagonists with many different cultures and social mores.
Her other main world is one much like our own, but it includes clandestine populations of elves, mages, vampires, and other mythical beings. The Bedlam's Bard books describe a young man with the power to work magic through music; the SERRAted Edge books are about racecar driving elves; and the Diana Tregarde thrillers center on a Wiccan who combats evil.
She has also