Old Kingdom series
The Old Kingdom series (also known as the Abhorsen series in North America) is a trilogy of books by Garth Nix
Garth Nix
Garth Nix is an Australian author of young adult fantasy novels, most notably the Old Kingdom series, The Seventh Tower series, and The Keys to the Kingdom series. He has frequently been asked if his name is a pseudonym, to which he has responded, "I guess people ask me because it sounds like the...

. It begins with Sabriel
Sabriel is a fantasy novel by Garth Nix, first published in 1995. It is the first in his Old Kingdom trilogy, and is followed by Lirael and Abhorsen.-Plot introduction:...

, followed by Lirael
Lirael is a fantasy novel by Garth Nix, first published in 2001. Named for its central female character, Lirael is the second in his Old Kingdom trilogy, preceded by Sabriel and continued in Abhorsen.-Plot introduction:The book is split into three parts, the first of which is set 14 years after...

and Abhorsen
Abhorsen is a fantasy novel by Australian writer Garth Nix, first published in 2003. It is the final novel in his Abhorsen trilogy and his third book in the currently five book long planned Old Kingdom series .Abhorsen features Lirael, who is the recently revealed Abhorsen-in-Waiting; Prince...

. In addition, a novella set after the trilogy entitled Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case was released, first separately for World Book Day and later as the lead story of the short story collection Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories
Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories
Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Garth Nix, which return to the setting of his popular Old Kingdom series. A hardback edition was released in the UK on November 6, 2006...

. A second short story, An Extract of the Journal of Idrach the Lesser Necromancer, was written with exclusive distribution through the official Abhorsen Trilogy web site. A second novella "To Hold the Bridge" will be released at some point in 2010 as part of a compilation likely titled "Australia’s Legends of Fantasy" edited by Jack Dann and Jonathan Strahan. Garth Nix has announced two additions to the series: a prequel and a "sequel of sorts to Abhorsen". While the sequel is unnamed, the prequel has the working title Clariel: The Lost Abhorsen. The books were initially slated to appear in 2010 and 2011 by Harper Collins. However, according to Garth Nix's website, Clariel is scheduled for release in 2013. The Abhorsen sequel does not have a new release date at this time.


Sabriel is in her final few days at her school in Ancelstierre. She is visited by a spirit summoned by her father (the Abhorsen) who is trapped in Death, and then sets off to the Old Kingdom to rescue him. After meeting Mogget at the Abhorsen's house, she sets off in a Paperwing which she then crashes, saved only by releasing Mogget from his bound form.

Inside a crypt, she finds Touchstone as a figurehead of a boat. She frees him and the three of them travel to Belisaere (the capital city of the Old Kingdom). Below the city is a lake with the six Great Charter Stones, with two broken by the antagonist
An antagonist is a character, group of characters, or institution, that represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend...

 Kerrigor (one of the Greater Dead). The Abhorsen is trapped nearby them; Sabriel, Mogget and Touchstone free him for a short time. Kerrigor tries to attack, but the Abhorsen holds him back enough for the Sabriel and Touchstone to flee.

Sabriel and Touchstone then travel to Ancelstierre where it is realised that Kerrigor's body is hidden. They uncover it and take it to Wyverly College to open it and perform the final rites on the body. Kerrigor and the Dead Hands siege the College, killing many students and guardsmen. Mogget, in his unbound form, fights Kerrigor over who will kill Sabriel. Kerrigor overpowers and consumes Mogget and throws Sabriel onto her sword; however, she managed to throw Mogget's binding ring over Kerrigor. This creates two cats: a black Kerrigor and white Mogget, which are then bound with Ranna
The Bells (Old Kingdom Series)
The Necromancer's Bells are a set of seven bells which play a pivotal role in the Old Kingdom series of books by Garth Nix. They are used both by the Abhorsen and the Necromancers, and can either bind or raise the dead. The Book of the Dead stresses with most of the bells there are unintended and...

. Sabriel then dies, but is brought back to life by her ancestors, because she was the only living person who could be the Abhorsen


Lirael sees herself (and is seen) as an outcast within the world of the Clayr. With coal-black hair, a pale complexion and brown eyes, she differs physically from the generally chestnut-skinned, white-blonde, blue or green-eyed peers around her. Most hurtful, though, is her lack of the Clayr's birthright, the Sight (the ability to see into the future or possible futures). The fact that this bloodline trait has not shown itself at the usual age of around eleven, as well as her unknown paternal parentage, leaves Lirael emotionally distressed and very unhappy until her appointment to the Clayr's Library on her fourteenth birthday.

Through her solitary work in forgotten corners of the mystical library in the Clayr's Glacier, Lirael begins to unlock the keys to embarking upon an apparently predestined adventure of utmost importance. While trying to make a dog sending she accidentally summons the Disreputable Dog, whom she befriends and who helps her in her explorations.

Meanwhile, across the Wall in Ancelestierre, Prince Sameth has an encounter with the necromancer Hedge and his summoned Dead Hands, which leaves him injured both spiritually and emotionally. His father, Touchstone, arrives to take him back to the Old Kingdom and the safety of the palace in Belisaere. Here he is expected to continue his studies to follow his mother as the Abhorsen, a future he is mortally afraid of, especially since his encounter with Hedge.

Their paths cross as Nicholas Sayre, an Ancelestierran friend of Sameth, crosses the border into the Old Kingdom and then heads apparently randomly to the Red Lake, a region in the south west of the Kingdom where the royal rule does not extend and the Clayr cannot See. Sameth flees the palace and his annoying sister to go and look for Nick. He gets into trouble on the way and Mogget turns up, to his surprise and suspicion. Meanwhile, Lirael finds, on her nineteenth birthday, a non-Clayr magical inheritance of the artifacts of a Remembrancer (one who looks into the past) and is quite swiftly dispatched to fulfill a very recent vision the Clayr had of her in a boat on the Red Lake with Nick.

She sails down the River Ratterlin and, by coincidence, meets up with Sam, who had to use a bathtub to escape the Dead who had been following him. They continue on to the Red Lake, but are nearly intercepted by Chlorr of the Mask and the Dead Hands assigned to her. They decide to proceed to Abhorsen's House to rest and generally regroup.

The novel ends with Lirael and Sameth preparing to leave the Abhorsen's house to find Nick and Hedge at the Red Lake.


The novel begins at Abhorsen's House, which is besieged by Dead Hands led by Chlorr of the Mask, one of the Greater Dead. She is under the control of the necromancer Hedge, who serves Orannis the Destroyer. The Destroyer is the Ninth Bright Shiner, and the most evil magical force or being. In the beginning, It was defeated by the Seven Bright Shiners, the free magic entities that formed the Charter. The Seven also bound Yrael, the Eighth Bright Shiner, who was a free magic entity who would not join the charter.

Lirael and Sameth must escape the Abhorsen's House to stop the Destroyer and to save Sameth's friend Nicholas Sayre, who is being used by Orannis as an Avatar
In Hinduism, an avatar is a deliberate descent of a deity to earth, or a descent of the Supreme Being and is mostly translated into English as "incarnation," but more accurately as "appearance" or "manifestation"....

. To escape the house, they go through the old well outside the house to bypass Chlorr and the Dead. At one point down in the dark tunnel, a remnant of the Seventh Bright Shiner, Astarael, appears. Lirael, Sameth, and the Disreputable Dog get through unscathed, but Mogget is taken by her. Mogget eventually rejoins Lirael's party.

Meanwhile, Prince Sameth's parents, the Abhorsen Sabriel and King Touchstone, are in Ancelstierre trying to stop the probable death of thousands of Southerling refugee
A refugee is a person who outside her country of origin or habitual residence because she has suffered persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or because she is a member of a persecuted 'social group'. Such a person may be referred to as an 'asylum seeker' until...

s if they are allowed to enter the Old Kingdom without the protection of the Charter. While they are in Ancelstierre attempting to reason with a corrupt government, they become victims of an assassination attempt and barely escape with their lives. They flee to the Old Kingdom to attempt to save the lives of the Southerling Refugees from the other side of the Wall.

While Sabriel and Touchstone try to get back to the Old Kingdom, Lirael, Sameth and the Disreputable Dog try to save Nick, and stop The Destroyer from completing its plans for eternal freedom and the destruction of the Old Kingdom. Orannis is successful in joining the hemispheres that imprisoned him, and Nick appears to die in this process. Lirael uses her Rembrancing powers to enter Death and figure out how the original Seven bound Orannis, and during her journey is confronted by Hedge.

Lirael emerges from death having learned how the original Seven Great Shiners bound Orannis, and together with others in the party formulate a plan to defeat The Destroyer. This plan involves re-enacting the original binding of the Seven with each member the party holding a bell and adding a bell’s voice. Lirael takes Astarael and prepares to strike at the hemisphere with a newly forged sword. The first attempt at rebinding shows that the Destroyer is strong enough to resist. However the company receives help from an unlikely companion. Now that the party is strengthened, Lirael prepares to make the final blow, knowing that the act will kill her. Unexpectedly, the Disreputable Dog takes the blow for Lirael and disappears into Death, wherein she encounters Nick before he passes the First Gate. The Disreputable Dog gives Nick a Charter Mark to balance out the residual Free Magic in his body, and commands him to walk back into Life.

Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case

Nicholas Sayre is sent by his Uncle Edward to a party at Dorrance Hall to observe the workings of a clandestine government organisation responsible for gathering information about the Old Kingdom. The organisation's head, Alastor Dorrance has covertly obtained a Hrule that has been telepathically contacting him since his childhood, and intends to free it across the Wall. Dorrance intends to feed the creature Nick's blood; however his blood is too strong for it and it runs amok. After the creature rages out of control and runs north, Nicholas gives chase. He catches up with it at the Perimeter and attempts to poison it with his blood. He passes out. When he awakens, Lirael is present, and defeats the creature with a thistle.

The Charter and Free Magic

In the Old Kingdom, magic takes two forms: Charter magic or Free Magic. Free Magic existed in the Beginning, but when Orannis was bound, the vast majority of Free Magic was channeled (voluntarily or otherwise) within the Charter, the creation of which was motivated primarily by the Seven "Good" Charters (or the Seven Bright Shiners) after whom Necromantic Bells are named. Some Free Magic escaped the creation of the Charter and remains in the world, mainly in the form of various breeds of Free Magic elementals such as Stilken, Hish, or Mogget in his unbound form. The Charter is described as an "endless flow" of marks that describe the universe in its entirety in space and time. There is a mark for everything in the universe, including marks representing other marks. Marks are drawn and cast as magic, such as binding, burning, lifting, light etc. The composition of spells ranges from single Charter marks (e.g. the Charter mark for light)to huge strings of marks, sometimes requiring a master Charter mark to focus their purpose, many of which are so powerful that they can outright kill weaker Charter Mages when cast, unless a focus (typically a sword
A sword is a bladed weapon used primarily for cutting or thrusting. The precise definition of the term varies with the historical epoch or the geographical region under consideration...

 or wand
A wand is a thin, straight, hand-held stick of wood, stone, ivory, or metal. Generally, in modern language, wands are ceremonial and/or have associations with magic but there have been other uses, all stemming from the original meaning as a synonym of rod and virge, both of which had a similar...

) is used to take the strain off the caster. Though Free Magic is corrosive to both living things and Charter Magic (by its mere presence, Lirael's Stilken was able to gradually erode the marks of binding Lirael placed on the doorway that acted as a temporary barricade), it is intimately bound with the practice of necromancy, and even the Abhorsen must use it: Free Magic spells are required to pass the Gates of Death, and the calls of the necromantic bells are technically Free Magic spells that serve the Charter. But where the Abhorsen may use Free Magic in this way without suffering any obvious long-term ill effects (due to an uncorrupted Charter Mark), typical Free Magic sorcerers (including necromancers) are ultimately "devoured by the Free Magic they profess to master." Practitioners of Charter Magic have a Charter Mark drawn on their forehead at birth. Marks unsullied by Free Magic are used to identify true Charter Mages (as opposed to Free Magic sorcerers or constructs in disguise).

The Five Great Charters:

In Sabriel, the Five Great Charters are identified by a song:

Five Great Charters knit the land.

Together linked, hand in hand.

One in the people who wear the Crown.

Two in the folk who keep the Dead down.

Three and Five became stone and mortar.

Four sees all in frozen water.

This rhyme dictates that at some point in history the Five Great Charters poured their power into physical objects, or human bloodlines. The bloodlines are those of the royals, the Abhorsen, and the Clayr. The objects are the Great Charter Stones and the Wall that separates the Old Kingdom from Ancelstierre. The Great Charter Stones are located in an underground reservoir in the Old Kingdom capital, Belisaere, and are the sources of Charter Magic in the Old Kingdom. Due in part by influence of the Wall, magic, both Free and Charter, exists only in the Old Kingdom. It can be practiced in northern Ancelstierre, and further south if there is a strong wind from the Old Kingdom. Though this applies to Sameth as well, he is a Wallmaker and a gifted Charter Mage, able to reach the Charter easily despite being amidst Free Magic, across the Wall. He felt as if the Charter was also inside him, which corroborates the story that other Wallmakers became Charter Stones themselves: as a Wallmaker, Sam is essentially a living Charter Stone.


Strictly speaking, there are four basic supernatural creatures in the Old Kingdom series:

The Dead:
Broadly speaking, the Dead are once-living spirits with both the inclination and the ability to resist the pull of the River of Death. Though a very rare few are powerful enough to emerge into Life on their own, most must either be summoned by a necromancer (wakened by Mosrael and then bound by Saraneth) or emerge near a broken Charter Stone (where the Charters influence has been severely diminished, creating a "door into Death") or spirit rift (if many deaths occur in a given region, the boundary between Life and Death becomes porous, making it easier for the Dead to cross into Life). All Dead are averse to both sunlight and running water, which destroy the magic keeping them in Life.

There are two classes of Dead: Lesser and Greater. The Greater Dead are usually represented by Dead from beyond the Fifth Gate (spirits from the deeper realms of Death are correspondingly more powerful). These creatures are much more difficult to either bind or destroy. Examples of the Greater Dead include Chlorr of the Mask (a former necromancer-turned-Greater-Dead whom Mogget strongly implies used to be an Abhorsen) and Kerrigor, who was a powerful Free Magic sorcerer before he chose to abandon his body and become an extraordinarily powerful Greater Dead spirit. Greater Dead, such as Fifth-Gate Resters or Dead Adepts, may exist in Life without a physical body (making them much more difficult to destroy).

The Lesser Dead, refers to such creatures as Dead Hands, Ghlims, Mordauts, Hormagants, and Gore Crows. These creatures must find or be given a body in order to return to Life. Shadow Hands are specialized Hands that do not require a physical body. Lesser Dead may be incapacitated by immersing them in running water or by destroying their physical bodies with Charter Magic or explosives (but since their bodies are animated by Free Magic, rather than biological means, this is much more difficult than it might seem). Shadow Hands, by contrast, are impossible to harm by strictly physical means, but they may be unraveled by specialized Charter Magic spells or returned to Death by means of the necromantic bells. All Dead, Lesser or Greater, must continuously reap the living to remain in Life, feeding on Life to restore their own essence, which constantly seeps into Death.

Free Magic constructs are worn by Free Magic elementals or powerful dead spirits (such as Kerrigor) and used as either a disguise or a physical avatar for the elemental or spirit within. Free Magic constructs are usually formed from a mixture of dead animals and inorganic matter. One such construct was used as a disguise for a Free Magic elemental; it was made from "Free Magic and the flesh of swine." Another example is a Ferenk, ancient Free Magic scavengers that wear bodies of stone and mud. Though such constructs may be destroyed under certain circumstances, destroying the Elemental itself is much more difficult and typically the province of Free Magic.

These creatures are a special class of Dead: they are fiery constructs of bog-clay and blood, animated by Free Magic and infused with a Greater Dead spirit that acts as a guiding force for the construct. The Dead spirit that inhabits a Mordicant is not free to shuck its body; rather, its body is of a rare kind capable of shifting freely between Life and Death (though it requires a broken Charter Stone or other portal to do so). They are fierce combatants, and they seem to have enhanced senses, able to track specific targets over hundreds of miles, resisting sun and running water to do so.

Free Magic Elementals:
These free-willed beings are wholly composed of Free Magic. The most common elementals belong to specific "breeds" (such as Stilken, Magrue, Jerreq, or Hish), while the most powerful are unique, or "of a singular nature" in the words of the Disreputable Dog. Though "many thousands" of Free Magic Elementals escaped the creation of the Charter, most were later bound or made to serve. Of the remainder, "no truly dangerous creature of Free Magic has woken in a thousand years, save to the sound of Mosrael and Saraneth, or by a direct summons using their secret names." Elementals are difficult to deal with, as some cannot be destroyed except by a Free Magic sorcerer more powerful than they, or by immersion in running water (though Free Magic creatures of the Third Kindred, or those infused with the essence of the Nine, are exempt from this rule). Charter Magic is typically ineffectual: the power of the Charter is in binding, not destruction, and each Free Magic being must be bound in a specific way. It takes no fewer than three master Charter Marks to bind a Stilken, and these are so powerful that they are individually lethal to an unsupported Charter Mage.

Charter Sendings:
Charter Sendings are servants or sentries constructed entirely from Charter Marks. They are not completely free-willed: many may only act within the limits of the purpose for which they were made. Certain fixtures excepted (such as a surcoat or insignia), Charter Sendings do not possess a concrete physical shape, as said in Lireal "The Sending's hands were swarming with Charter marks" suggesting they were opaque and the Charter marks on their hands were moving quickly as if constricted and crowded in space. The Charter Sending that protected Sabriel during her first encounter with the Mordicant, for example, was an amalgamation of many "tough, competent visages,". In short, Charter Sendings derive identity primarily from their function, though they are not incapable of developing a personality: one such sending flicked water at Mogget in response to a snide comment, and many others gathered to pay their respects to Lirael when she arrived at Abhorsen's House for the first time. In short, Charter Sendings are capable of emotive
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

 response, but they are not free agents: they are created to be willing servants of the Charter.

The Bells

The bells of necromancy are seven bells that are wielded by a necromancer in a bandolier
A bandolier or a bandoleer is a pocketed belt for holding ammunition. It was usually slung over the chest. In its original form, it was common issue to soldiers from the 16th to 18th centuries. This was very useful for quickly reloading a musket....

 and feature prominently throughout the books. They are used by necromancers and the Abhorsen alike, although Abhorsens seem to be the more proficient users. They are named after the Seven Bright Shiners who invested themselves within the Charter. From smallest to largest they are:

Ranna, the Sleep
Sleep is a naturally recurring state characterized by reduced or absent consciousness, relatively suspended sensory activity, and inactivity of nearly all voluntary muscles. It is distinguished from quiet wakefulness by a decreased ability to react to stimuli, and is more easily reversible than...

er; takes all those who hear it into slumber.

Mosrael, the Waker; throws the ringer further into death but the listener into life.

Kibeth, the Walker; gives the dead freedom of movement or forces them to walk at the ringer's will.

Dyrim, the Speaker; grants speech to dumb, tongueless dead, or gives forgotten words their meaning, it can also still a moving tongue

Belgaer, the Thinker; restores independent thought and memory
In psychology, memory is an organism's ability to store, retain, and recall information and experiences. Traditional studies of memory began in the fields of philosophy, including techniques of artificially enhancing memory....

 to those who hear it, it can also take it away.

Saraneth, the Binder; shackles the dead to the ringer's will. Favoured by all Necromancers and Abhorsens.

Astarael, the Weeper, also named Sorrowful; casts all those who hear it (including the ringer) into deep death.

Each bell has a specific power over the Dead and Free Magic creatures, and if used by a skilled necromancer, also on living people. They must be wielded carefully. An errant or improper ring can affect the caster instead of the target, or other adverse effects. Like the Seven Bright Shiners themselves, the necromantic bells are a "free-willed blend of Charter and Free Magic;" though the spells they cast are "pure Free Magic," the necromantic bells prefer to sound in service of the Charter, and will actively resist necromancers.

The Nine Bright Shiners

The most advanced and powerful Free Magic elementals that existed in the Beginning are known as the Nine Bright Shiners. Of the original Nine, Seven chose to weave the Charter and became the Seven Bright Shiners; the seven necromantic bells are named after them. Of the remaining two, Yrael chose to be "neither for nor against" the making of the Charter; Yrael was later forcibly bound to serve the Charter. Orannis, "last and mightiest of the Nine," whose nature is to destroy, opposed the formation of the Charter and fought the Seven. After Orannis was bound, five of the Seven put themselves completely into the Charter. It is worth noting, that according to "An Extract of the Journal of Idrach the Lesser Necromancer", a text posted on the official Old Kingdom website, the correlation of the Seven and the necromantic bells stretches to the Precints of Death. Idrach describes forging new bells, with each bell needing a specific Precinct. This would suggest that the additional precincts are parallel to the 8th and 9th "Bright Shiners", with the Third precint presumably Yrael's and the Ninth belonging to Orranis.

Ranna, Mosrael, Dyrim, Belgaer, and Saraneth became the Five Great Charters, losing themselves completely when the Charter was made. Though the exact distribution of these five is never made explicit within the canon, it is arguable that Saraneth and Ranna invested themselves in the Abhorsen and Clayr bloodlines: on awakening in the presence of Lirael, Orannis notes, "I almost sorrow to think that Saraneth and Ranna live on only in you and your trinkets," referring to Lirael's status as Abhorsen-in-Waiting and a Clayr and to her necromantic bells. On the other hand, the Abhorsens are referred to as "Astarael's get" (see below), implying that it was she who invested herself in the Abhorsen bloodline. It also seems appropriate that those who walk in Astarael's domain would be of her bloodline; the same logic might suggest that Saraneth empowered the royal bloodline. Neither the song about the Great Charters nor the bells chosen by the various representatives of the Charter in the second binding of Orannis should be considered an indicator of the disposition of the Seven within the Charter, since these choices were motivated primarily by each person's history and personal preferences. For example, Touchstone expressed a preference for Ranna, noting that the bell "feels appropriate," given his history: he spent some two hundred years asleep as a wooden figurehead in Holehallow.

The remaining two Bright Shiners, Kibeth and one other who is not identified explicitly, remained independent of the Charter and continued to exist in a diminished form. Kibeth became the Disreputable Dog. The other may be Astarael, who, at least when Orannis was moving about, resided in the tunnels under Abhorsen's House, although it is strongly implied that she resides in Death: the River of Death follows after her, the tunnel walls are strangely carved as though by water, and the River of Death is visible through peripheral vision as she approaches. This is supported by the fact that, according to the Disreputable Dog, Astarael's existence in the tunnel is dependent on whether or not anyone enters the tunnel; after their encounter with her, the Dog says 'If we had not passed this way, she would not have been, and now we have passed, she will not be', which suggests that Astarael is not actually in the tunnel but somewhere else, or may possibly be somehow non-existent except under certain circumstances. Furthermore, Astarael's conscious presence dampens and diminishes the Charter: "It is her fate, that her knowing self will be forever outside what she chose to make, the Charter that her unknowing self is part of." Sam, referring to the strangely carved tunnels under Abhorsen's House notes, "Wherever that was, the Charter wasn't," referring to the fact that all Charter Magic failed in the presence of Astarael. This suggests that Astarael's part of the Charter is restricted to her unconscious: she cannot consciously interact with her creation. For this sacrifice she is known as the Weeper, and it is in keeping with the theme of sacrifice that Lirael wields Astarael during the second binding of Orannis. It is implied that her entity was present during the binding, as, during the ceremony, the book says 'bells rang, Yrael sang, Kibeth barked and Astarael mourned', although the bell Astarael was included in the phrase 'bells rang', which indicates that Astarael herself was there as well, although no one remarked on her, possibly because they could not see her or because of the heat of the moment.
Alternatively, Astarael may have become the Abhorsen bloodline, as noted above and below. In such case, the most likely candidate for the other is Belgaer, whose bell, like Kibeth's, is contrary and tends to ring of its own accord.

Yrael, also known as Mogget, refused to take a side during the first binding of Orannis. For this, the Seven bound him in service of the Abhorsen; his power has degraded somewhat since then. He is resentful of this binding, and whenever he is unbound, tries to kill the current Abhorsen. However, during the second binding, he chooses to stand against Orannis, the Ninth, providing enough power to seal it once again. To Sabriel, Lirael, and Sameth, Mogget appears as a small white cat; to Terciel, Sabriel's father and predecessor as Abhorsen, Mogget adopted a different (unknown) name and appeared as a small, albino dwarf. Mogget cannot use his dwarf-form without the permission of the current Abhorsen or Abhorsen-in-Waiting: Jerizael, the forty-eighth Abhorsen, forbade him from doing so for reasons unknown.

In Lirael, when Orannis possesses Nicholas Sayre and speaks to the necromancer Hedge, the story of the Binding is told in song:

I'll sing you a song of the long ago.

Seven shine the Shiners, oh!

What did the Seven do way back when?

Why, they wove the Charter then!

Five for the warp, from beginning to end.

Two for the woof, to make and mend.

That's the Seven, but what of the Nine--

What of the two that chose not to shine?

The Eighth did hide, hide all away,

But the Seven caught him and made him pay.

The Ninth was strong and fought with might,

But lone Orannis was put out of the light,

Broken in two and buried under hill,

Forever to lie there wishing us ill.


Death is described as an infinitely wide river, spanning the horizons. Almost everything in Death is a bleak grey, and a subtle grey fogginess limits visibility. The river may also contain and conceal hostile dead beings, who desire to suck the life out of all living travelers. Only Abhorsens or Free Magic Necromancers can cross the boundary at will. Remembrancers can cross as well, due to the need to use Dark Mirrors in Death, though most are also Abhorsens. Remembrancers are taught just as the Abhorsens are to cross into Death, though instead of learning from the Book of the Dead, they learn from the Book of Remembrance and Forgetting. Dead spirits can cross only when aided by a Necromancer, or when the border is weak. A weakness in the border exists where a recent death or a large number of deaths have occurred; the more deaths, the larger the door.

Death consists of Nine Precincts divided by Nine Gates, through which a grey river flows. The river's current threatens to pull any traveler under- dexterity and great willpower are required to resist the pull, which is psychological as well as physical. There exists a Free Magic spell by which Abhorsens and Necromancers can easily pass back through Gates; Dead cannot do so unless they are very powerful. Each Precinct contains a different peril.

The First Precinct is mostly knee deep water, but has eddies and pools that will trip the unwary and carry them through the gate. It can be thought of as the entrance to Death. Its Gate is a huge waterfall
A waterfall is a place where flowing water rapidly drops in elevation as it flows over a steep region or a cliff.-Formation:Waterfalls are commonly formed when a river is young. At these times the channel is often narrow and deep. When the river courses over resistant bedrock, erosion happens...


The Second Precinct has pitfalls throughout its domain and low visibility; its Gate is a whirlpool
A whirlpool is a swirling body of water usually produced by ocean tides. The vast majority of whirlpools are not very powerful. More powerful ones are more properly termed maelstroms. Vortex is the proper term for any whirlpool that has a downdraft...


The Third Precinct has slightly warmer ankle deep water and visibility is slightly improved. However, it has huge, periodic waves, which will pick up and carry creatures through the gate, a wall of mist. Creatures caught by the waves this way are often too stunned to resist the water's current and are carried beyond the Ninth Gate.

The Fourth Precinct has a low concentration of Dead, as most of those who reach it have been stunned by the Third Precinct's waves, and are carried easily through the current to the dangerous and deceptively short waterfall that is its Gate.

The Fifth Precinct is too deep to wade through, and would change a necromancer's body and spirit for the worse. It must be crossed by a thin black bridge that frequently attracts dead creatures. The Gate is a waterfall that goes up instead of down.

The Sixth Precinct has no current, and the water is present as a shallow pool. There are many Dead creatures that dwell in this Precinct, some of whom are Greater Dead. The Gate has no substance and can appear anywhere –it appears as a lift bordered by a cylinder of water.

The Seventh Precinct is not described, though presumably it is similar to the first and fourth precincts. Its Gate is a line of fire that stretches across the river.

The Eighth Precinct has patches of floating fire that rear up at random. The Eighth Gate is a wall of darkness, which needs a spell to send a necromancer into the Ninth Precinct.

The Ninth Precinct is a starry sky; when the Dead look up towards it, most are overcome by its call, and they rise up to the Gate and pass through it forever.

Apart from the Gate and the Dead, there are no perils in the Ninth Precinct, and the current ends. The water is ankle deep warm and the fog lifts, allowing a necromancer to see across a wide and immense expanse of water. Only an extremely strong will can overcome the call of the Ninth Gate if it is their time to die, most who resist are not yet at their time. No dead soul may return from beyond this Gate.


The Abhorsens are those of the hereditary bloodline whose charge is maintaining the border between life and death, though inheritance is not always direct –the next Abhorsen could be a niece or cousin or sibling, rather than the current Abhorsen's child. The Abhorsen combines Charter Magic and Free Magic in his/her bells to compel and control the dead, righting the wrongs created by Necromancers or others who pervert the nature of Life and Death. The Abhorsen stronghold, called Abhorsen's House, is located on an island in the Ratterlin near the Long Cliffs. The House lies in close proximity to a great waterfall; the associated rapids complement the magical wards of the House in keeping the Dead and other dangerous things from accessing it. In Nicholas Sayre and the Creature in the Case, the Hrule implies that they are the bloodline created when Astarael bound herself in the Charter, calling them "Astarael's get".
The origin of the name "Abhorsen" in the book's world is unknown, but Nix may have chosen the name referencing "Abhorson," the executioner in Shakespeare's
William Shakespeare
William Shakespeare was an English poet and playwright, widely regarded as the greatest writer in the English language and the world's pre-eminent dramatist. He is often called England's national poet and the "Bard of Avon"...

 Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure
Measure for Measure is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1603 or 1604. It was classified as comedy, but its mood defies those expectations. As a result and for a variety of reasons, some critics have labelled it as one of Shakespeare's problem plays...


The Clayr

The Clayr are a group made up nearly entirely of women, who live in a snowy mountain called the Clayr's Glacier, located in the northern part of the Old Kingdom. The Clayr share a common appearance —nearly all are beautiful, and all possess nut brown skin, very pale blond hair, and eyes of blue or green (with the exception of Lirael and few others). They are all Charter mages in possession of the Sight, the ability to see glimpses of possible futures. They combine their powers occasionally in order to have a better view of the future; this gathering is called the Nine Day Watch. The Glacier
A glacier is a large persistent body of ice that forms where the accumulation of snow exceeds its ablation over many years, often centuries. At least 0.1 km² in area and 50 m thick, but often much larger, a glacier slowly deforms and flows due to stresses induced by its weight...

 is also home to the Great Library of the Clayr, which is a library filled with many lost treasures and horrors, such as the Stilken and the Disreputable Dog, both found by Lirael, as well as the Book of Remembrance and Forgetting.

The Old Kingdom

The Old Kingdom is the setting for most of the series. The Old Kingdom is the focus of the Charter's magic — Charter Magic exists only there, the Great Charter of the Royal Bloodline only governs the Old Kingdom, the Wall is only in the Old Kingdom. It is implied that the Old Kingdom exists in a separate dimension or universe than the rest of the planet, in particular the nation on its southern border, Ancelstierre. Ancelstierre and the Old Kingdom travel differently through time, with the hour of the day and the season of the year rarely in sync. The stars and moon are also different, and time measures differently on either side of the wall; it is possible for to spend more time in the Old Kingdom than had been absent from Ancelstierre.

Two hundred years before Sabriel, the reigning Queen and her two daughters were murdered by Kerrigor and their blood used to break two of the six Great Charter Stones. This event was followed by two hundred years of interregnum
An interregnum is a period of discontinuity or "gap" in a government, organization, or social order...

, 180 years of regency first and 20 years of anarchy following the death of the last Regent.


It has been suggested, in a question/answer section of Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories
Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories
Across the Wall: A Tale of the Abhorsen and Other Stories is a collection of short stories by Garth Nix, which return to the setting of his popular Old Kingdom series. A hardback edition was released in the UK on November 6, 2006...

, the Disreputable Dog, and some online sources, that The Old Kingdom and Ancelstierre are two different universes/worlds, that overlap slightly at the area known as the Wall. The Old Kingdom also has a northern border, much farther north than The Clayr's Glacier, where it impinges on another world.
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