To begin at the beginning, click on Prologue in the Table of Contents, then on Chapter One, etc.


Taraval and Terwilliger laid out their bedrolls off to one side of the encampment, in a patch of honey-scented woodruff. The elder settled himself into his bed, shifting this way and that to find a place where the hard ground would feel softer to his stiff old body. Finally reconciling himself to discomfort, he lay quiet for a while.

Taraval Stretched out, his head resting on his hands, and watched the stars come out. As the pinpoints of light winked on, one by one, he told his uncle about the grove of ravenwoods that had so far survived the blight, and about Friar Biophilus’ plan to save it from the woodcutters. “But even if he’s able to start new ravenwood shoots from that grove, Uncle, what will Ilahee do for the twenty years it takes them to reach maturity?”

Terwilliger turned his head and looked at his nephew intently. “Ah, Tarval, ‘tis a pity we haven’t a single living tandaril tree left in Ilahee. If we had even a sterile one, that last ravenwood grove would be enough to save us.”

“What good would one tandaril do, Uncle, if it couldn’t reproduce?”

“Well, it took years, you know, to grow all the tandaril groves from the one tree Orchis enchanted. While they were waiting, those old Ilaheeans discovered that grafting tandaril shoots onto ravenwood trees changed the wood into something almost as good a tandaril, and within only six months. The new qualities weren’t passed on in the seeds and eventually the trees went back to being ordinary ravenwoods. But if our one grove of ravenwoods could be transformed that way, even for a few years, the wood would be valuable enough to support Ilahee while new ravenwood groves matured.”

Taraval sighed. “I guess Friar Biophilus would give anything, then, for some tandaril grafts,” he said. “All the more pity that the secret of the tandarils disappeared with Orchis.”

“Don’t be too sure, Taraval,” Terwilliger murmured, the heaviness of sleep stealing into his voice. “She could have created more of them after she left Ilahee, you know.”

This was the very thought that had occurred to Taraval that afternoon as he scanned the meadows for clumps of starflowers, and he pondered it now in the silence of the alder grove, looking up into the blue vault of heaven. Could there be, growing somewhere in the world under that same dome of blue, another grove of tandaril trees? The possibility excited him, but it would mean that ravenwoods grew somewhere else, too, and he had never heard any mention of them existing outside of Ilahee. And there was another problem: The tandarils had been Orchis’ gift to King Galen, whom she loved with the passion of youth. Taraval could think of no reason why she would have re-created the enchanted tandarils elsewhere.

he put the thought away and closed his eyes. The moment he did, a scene re-played itself on the inside of his eyelids – his green dream in which Orchis, in a dress the color of birch leaves, fastened her emerald eyes upon him and formed his name with her lips. What could it mean?

He opened his eyes again and, with a sigh, turned his attention back to the stars. In the southeastern sky, Orion the hunter was coming into view, pursuing Taurus the bull, forever out of his reach. Shimmering on Taurus’ shoulder was the faint star cluster called the Pleiades – the seven daughters of Atlas. The bright, red-tinted star that formed the right eye of the bull was especially brilliant tonight, he thought. Not ony that, it was pulsing and flashing in a way he had never noticed before.

“Look, Uncle,” he said. “Watch the eye of the bull. It seems to be winking at me. Could that be a token of luck?” But Terwilliger, already half asleep, merely grunted.

Taraval yawned and settled down to sleep. Before he drifted off he whispered, “I hope it is luck you’re winking down at me, Taurus, for if I can’t find a way to save Ilahee soon, I’ll have to marry a girl I loathe and surrender my father’s kingdom.”

That night he dreamt again of Orchis in her flowing green gown, standing beheath her tandaril tree. Once again she spoke his name – “Taraval, Taraval…” and this time she held out her hand, beckoning.


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