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Authors: Stephen R. Donaldson

One Tree

BOOK: One Tree
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The One Tree (The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever, Book 2)
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

A Del Rey eBook Edition

Copyright © 1983 by Stephen R. Donaldson

All Rights Reserved.

Published in the United States by Del Rey, an imprint of The Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Originally published in Hardcover in 1983 by Del Rey, an imprint of the Random House Publishing Group, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Del Rey and the Del Rey colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.

eISBN: 978-0-307-81921-5

www.delreybooks.com

v3.1

Contents
What Has Gone Before

The Wounded Land, Book One of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, describes the return of Thomas Covenant to the Land—a realm of magic and peril where, in the past, he fought a bitter battle against sin and madness, and prevailed. Using the power of wild magic, he overcame Lord Foul the Despiser, the Land’s ancient enemy, thus winning peace for the Land and integrity for himself.

Ten years have passed for Covenant, years that represent many centuries in the life of the Land; Lord Foul has regained his strength. Confident that he will succeed in his efforts to gain possession of Covenant’s white gold ring—the wild magic—Lord Foul summons Covenant to the Land. Covenant finds himself on Kevin’s Watch, where once before Foul prophesied that Covenant would destroy the world. Now that prophecy is reaffirmed, but in a new and terrible way.

Accompanied by Linden Avery, a doctor who was unwittingly drawn to the Land with him, Covenant descends to the old village of Mithil Stonedown, where he first encounters the heinous force that the Despiser has unleashed: the Sunbane. The Sunbane is a corruption of the Law of Nature; it afflicts the Land with rain, drought, fertility, and pestilence in mad succession. It has already slain the old forests; as it intensifies it threatens to destroy every form of life. The people of the Land are driven to bloody sacrificial rites to appease the Sunbane for their own survival.

Seeing the extremity of their plight, Covenant begins a quest for an understanding of the Sunbane, and for a way to heal the Land. Guided by Sunder, a man from Mithil Stonedown, he and Linden fare northward toward Revelstone, where lives the Clave, the lore-masters who most clearly comprehend and use the Sunbane. But the travelers are pursued by Ravers, Lord Foul’s ancient servants, whose purpose is to afflict Covenant with a strange venom that will eventually drive him mad with power.

Surviving the perils of the Sunbane and the attacks of venom, Covenant, Linden, and Sunder continue northward. As they near Andelain, a once-beautiful region in the center of the Land, they encounter another village, Crystal Stonedown, in which a woman named Hollian is being threatened by the Clave because of her power to foresee the Sunbane. The travelers rescue her, and she joins them on their quest.

She informs Covenant that Andelain, while still beautiful, has become a place of horror. Dismayed by this desecration, Covenant enters Andelain alone to confront the evil therein. He learns that Andelain is not a place of evil: rather, it has become a place of power where the Dead gather around a Forestal who defends the trees. Covenant soon meets this Forestal, who was once a man named Hile Troy, and several of his former friends—the Lords Mhoram and Elena, the Bloodguard Bannor, and the Giant Saltheart Foamfollower. The Forestal and the Dead give Covenant gifts of obscure knowledge and advice; and Foamfollower offers Covenant the companionship of a strange ebony creature named Vain, who was created by the ur-viles of the Demondim, and whose purpose is hidden.

With Vain behind him, Covenant seeks to rejoin his companions, who, in his absence, have been captured by the Clave. His search for them nearly costs him his life, first in the desperate village of
Stonemight Woodhelven, then among the Sunbane victims of During Stonedown. However, with the aid of the Waynhim, he at last wins his way to Revelstone. There he meets Gibbon, the leader of the Clave, and learns that his friends have been imprisoned so that their blood can be used to manipulate the Sunbane.

Desperate to free his friends and to gain knowledge of Lord Foul’s atrocity, Covenant submits to a soothtell, a ritual of blood in which much of the truth is revealed. His visions show him two crucial facts: that the source of the Sunbane lies in the destruction of the Staff of Law, a powerful tool that formerly supported the natural order; and that the Clave actually serves Lord Foul through the actions of the Raver that controls Gibbon.

Unleashing the wild magic, Covenant frees his friends from Revelstone; he then resolves to find the One Tree, from which the original Staff of Law was made, so that he can fashion a new one to use against the Sunbane.

In this purpose he is joined by Brinn, Cail, Ceer, and Hergrom:
Haruchai
, members of the race that spawned the Bloodguard. With Linden, Sunder, Hollian, and Vain, Covenant turns eastward toward the sea, hoping there to find the Giants who name themselves the Search. One of them, Cable Seadreamer, has had an Earth-Sight vision of the Sunbane, and they have come to the Land to combat the peril. Guiding the Search to Seareach and
Coercri
, the former home of the Giants in the Land, Covenant uses his knowledge of their ancestors to persuade them to commit their Giantship to the service of his quest for the One Tree.

Before his departure from the Land, Covenant performs a great act of absolution for the Dead of
Coercri
, the former Giants who were damned by the manner of their death at the hands of a Raver. He then sends Sunder and Hollian back to the Land, hoping they will be able to inspire the villages to resist the Clave, and prepares himself to begin the next stage of his quest.

Here begins THE ONE TREE, Book Two of The Second Chronicles of Thomas Covenant.

“You are mine”

PART I: Risk
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 denned 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.

BOOK: One Tree
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