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The One Tree

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The One Tree

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Author: Stephen R. Donaldson
Publisher: Del Rey / Ballantine, 1982
Series: The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant: Book 2

1. The Wounded Land
2. The One Tree
3. White Gold Wielder

Book Type: Novel
Genre: Fantasy
Sub-Genre Tags: High Fantasy
Dark Fantasy
Mythic Fiction (Fantasy)
Avg Member Rating:
(156 reads / 56 ratings)


Thomas Covenant, accompanied by Linden Avery, begins his search for the One Tree aboard the giantship Starfare's Gem. Armed with the knowledge given to him in Andelain by his trusted friend, the Forestal Hile Troy, Covenant was determined to succeed. He was the last hope for the salvation of the Land. Only he had the power to forge a new Staff of Law and return to the Land to stop the encroaching desecration of the Sunbane and the bloody sacrificial rites of the Clave.

But fate decreed that the journey was to be long, arduous, and fraught with danger as Covenant and his companions are assailed by powerful forces whose sole purpose is to ensure the failure of their quest.


ONE: Starfare's Gem

Linden Avery walked beside Covenant down through the ways of Coercri. Below them, the stone Giantship, Starfare's Gem, came gliding toward the sole intact levee at the foot of the ancient city; but she paid no heed to it. Earlier she had witnessed the way the dromond rode the wind like a boon--at once massive and delicate, full-sailed and precise--a vessel of hope for Covenant's quest, and for her own. As she and the Unbeliever, with Brinn, Cail, and then Vain behind them, descended toward the headrock and piers of The Grieve, she could have studied that craft with pleasure. Its vitality offered gladness to her senses.

But Covenant had just sent the two Stonedownors, Sunder and Hollian, back toward the Upper Land in the hope that they would be able to muster resistance among the villages against the depredations of the Clave. And that hope was founded on the fact that he had given them Loric's krill to use against the Sunbane. Covenant needed that blade, both as a weapon to take the place of the wild magic which destroyed peace and as a defense against the mystery of Vain, the Demondim-spawn. Yet this morning he had given the krill away. When Linden had asked him for an explanation, he had replied, I'm already too dangerous.

Dangerous. The word resonated for her. In ways which none but she could perceive, he was sick with power. His native illness, his leprosy, was quiescent, even though he had lost or surrendered most of the self-protective disciplines which kept it slumberous. But in its place grew the venom that a Raver and the Sunbane had afflicted upon him. That moral poison was latent at present, but it crouched in him like a predator, awaiting its time to spring. To her sight, it underlay the hue of his skin as if it had blackened the marrow of his bones. With his venom and his white ring, he was the most dangerous man she had ever known.

She desired that danger in him. It defined for her the quality of strength which had originally attracted her to him on Haven Farm. He had smiled for Joan when he had sold his life for hers; and that smile had revealed more of his strange potency, his capacity to outwrestle fate itself, than any threat or violence could have. The caamora of release he had given to the Dead of The Grieve had shown the lengths to which he was able to go in the name of his complex guilts and passions. He was a paradox, and Linden ached to emulate him.

For all his leprosy and venom, his self-judgment and rage, he was an affirmation--an assertion of life and a commitment to the Land, a statement of himself in opposition to anything the Despiser could do. And what was she? What had she done with her whole life except flee from her past? All her severity, all her drive toward medical effectiveness against death, had been negative from the start--a rejection of her own mortal heritage rather than an approval of the beliefs she nominally served. She was like the Land under the tyranny of the Clave and the Sunbane--a place ruled by fear and bloodshed rather than love.

Covenant's example had taught her this about herself. Even when she had not understood why he was so attractive to her, she had followed him instinctively. And now she knew that she wanted to be like him. She wanted to be a danger to the forces which impelled people to their deaths.

She studied him as they walked, trying to imprint the gaunt, prophetic lines of his visage, the strictness of his mouth and the wild tangle of his beard, upon her own resolve. He emanated a strait anticipation that she shared.

Like him, she looked forward to the prospect of a voyage of hope in the company of Giants. Although she had spent only a few days with Grimmand Honninscrave, Cable Seadreamer, Pitchwife, and the First of the Search, she already comprehended the pang of love which entered Covenant's voice whenever he spoke of the Giants he had known. But she also possessed a private eagerness, an anticipation of her own.

Almost from the moment when her health-sense had awakened, it had been a source of pain and dismay for her. Her first acute perception had been of the ill of Nassic's murder. And that sight had launched a seemingly endless sequence of Ravers and Sunbane which had driven her to the very edges of survival. The continuous onslaught of palpable evil--moral and physical disease which she would never be able to cure--had filled her with ineffectuality, demonstrating her unworth at every touch and glance. And then she had fallen into the hands of the Clave, into the power of Gibbon-Raver. The prophecy which he had uttered against her, the sabulous atrocity which he had radiated into her, had crammed every corner of her soul with a loathing and rejection indistinguishable from self-abhorrence. She had sworn that she would never again open the doors of her senses to any outward appeal.

But she had not kept that vow. The obverse of her sharp vulnerability was a peculiar and necessary usefulness. The same percipience which so exposed her to dismay had also enabled her to provide for her own recovery from Courser-poison and broken bones. That capacity had touched her medical instincts deeply, giving a validation to her identity which she had thought lost when she had been translated out of the world she understood. In addition, she had been able to serve her companions by helping them against the murderous ill of the lurker of the Sarangrave.

And then the company had escaped Sarangrave Flat into Seareach, where the Sunbane did not reign. Surrounded by natural health, by fall weather and color as pristine as the beginning of life, and accompanied by Giants--especially by Pitchwife, whose irrepressible humor seemed a balm for every darkness--she had felt her ankle heal under the eldritch influence of diamondraught. She had tasted the tangible loveliness of the world, had experienced keenly the gift Covenant had given to the Dead of The Grieve. She had begun to know in the most visceral way that her health-sense was accessible to good as well as to evil--and that perhaps she could exercise some choice over the doom which Gibbon had foretold for her.

That was her hope. Perhaps in that way if in no other she would be able to transform her life.

The old man whose life she had saved on Haven Farm had said, Be true. There is also love in the world. For the first time, those words did not fill her with dread.

She hardly looked away from Covenant as they descended the Giant-wrought stairs. He appeared equal to anything. But she was also aware of other things. The clear morning. The salt-rimed emptiness of Coercri. The intransigent black peril of Vain. And at her back, the Haruchai. The way they paced the stone belied their characteristic dispassion. They seemed almost avid to explore the unknown Earth with Covenant and the Giants. Linden concentrated on these details as if they formed the texture of the new life she desired.

However, as the companions moved out into the direct sunlight on the base of the city, where the First, Seadreamer, and Pitchwife waited with Ceer and Hergrom, Linden's gaze leaped outward as if it were drawn by a lodestone; and she saw Starfare's Gem easing its way into the levee.

The Giantship was a craft to amaze her heart. It rose above her, dominating the sky as her sight rushed to take it in. While its Master, Grimmand Honninscrave, shouted orders from the wheeldeck which stood high over the vessel's heel, and Giants swarmed its rigging to furl the canvas and secure the lines, it coasted into its berth with deft accuracy. The skill of its crew and the cunning of its construction defied the massive tan-and-moire granite of which it was made. Seen from nearby, the sheer weight of the dromond's seamless sides and masts disguised the swiftness of its shape, the long sweep of the decks, the jaunty angle of the prow, the just balance of the spars. But when her perceptions adjusted to the scale of the ship, she could see that it was apt for Giants. Their size attained a proper dimension among the shrouds. And the moire of the stone sides rose from the water like flames of granite eagerness.

That stone surprised Linden. Instinctively she had questioned the nature of the Giantship, believing that granite would be too brittle to withstand the stress of the seas. But as her vision sprang into the ship, she saw her error. This granite had the slight but necessary flexibility of bone. Its vitality went beyond the limitations of stone.

And that vitality shone through the dromond's crew. They were Giants; but on their ship they were more than that. They were the articulation and service of a brave and breathing organism, the hands and laughter of a life which exalted them. Together the stone and the Giants gave Starfare's Gem the look of a vessel which contended against the powerful seas simply because no other test could match its native exultation.

Its three masts, each rising high enough to carry three sails, aspired like cedars over the wheeldeck, where Honninscrave stood. He lolled slightly with the faint unevenness of the Sea as if he had been born with combers underfoot, salt in his beard, mastery in every glance of his cavernous eyes. His shout in answer to Pitchwife's hail echoed off the face of Coercri, making The Grieve resound with welcome for the first time in many centuries. Then the sunlight and the ship blurred before Linden as sudden tears filled her eyes as if she had never seen joy before.

Copyright © 1982 by Stephen R. Donaldson


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