Further adventures of some of the characters from the Forevergreen story: the elves Jethel and Chot, and the humans Ahn-Lai, Pei-Lar and Cam Triompe. (Metamorphosis, EQ II 1-17, 19-22)
In the human port town of Passage, on the Eastern coast of the land bridge between Sunholt and Iceholt, a captain named Cam Triompe arrives and takes up lodging with the town's Lord Ahnn-li and his consort the Ahnessah. Unknown to the humans, Jethel the elf lives in Passage's forest along with a Preserver named Willowsnap who calls him "Fire-Eye" for his strong emotions. Jethel had gotten separated from the other elves at the end of their adventures in the Forevergreen forest, and was left behind when they flew away in the restored Palace. Jethel rescues a servant boy of Ahnn-li's named Arro from drowning after he was pushed in by another servant, and teaches him how to live in the woods.
A human explorer named Ge-o'ka, who was a childhood friend of Ahnn-li's, arrives in Passage. Ahnn-li, Ge-o'ka, Cam Triompe, and some other humans have gathered to start work on a canal for easier sailing between towns. Jethel sees them start work, and confronts the workers and scares them away. Ahnn-li is told of his interference, and he and Ge-o'ka guess that the forest elf is Jethel, who had befriended both of them in their childhood when the elves were living in the Forevergreen. Ge-o'ka says he may have a good reason for not wanting the canal, but Ahnn-li declares that Jethel, whom he believes to be jealous of his success, must stand aside or die. The townsfolk are scared by the news of a forest spirit dwelling nearby; they call him Fire-Eye also, having overheard this name used by the Preserver. Arro's sister Sylvie enters the woods looking for her brother, and as they have no parents, they both become Jethel's "wards."
The Ahnessah wants to discover and harness Jethel's "secret" of eternal life. She forces the dog-keeper boy Koni to enter the woods to find and befriend Fire-Eye and then tell her where he can be found, threatening to kill the dogs if he doesn't. She has two guards find and beat Koni to lure Fire-Eye into the open. But he rescues Koni from the guards, and Koni joins the growing group of wards. Since Koni's dogs will be killed if he doesn't return, Jethel pretends to have been caught. When Koni brings him to Ahnn-li, Jethel warns Ahnn-li to stay out of the Forevergreen forest. Ahnn-li's guards attack him, but he fends them off and escapes with Koni and all of Ahnn-li's dogs back into the forest.
A mysterious figure has been watching all of Jethel's activities from the shadows. The children are tired of living in the forest, and they and Jethel build a home in a huge tree similar to the Father Tree. One of the dogs catches rabies, and the elf Chot, who was the hidden watcher, sends to Jethel to warn him, and then sadly leads the dog away to kill it.
Meanwhile, another servant boy named Bren has been kicked out of Ahnn-li's service. A one-eyed woman named Pei-Lar (a character in Forevergreen) takes Bren to her home where other children are also living. Pei-Lar calls them her "army," telling them that the humans and elves are plotting together to make the poor people their slaves. She also wants to rid the woods of elves, because of her hatred of them for burning her in the Forevergreen.
Ahnn-li discovers through reading Cam Triompe's private journals that he lived with the elves for a time, and threatens to harm Cam's servant boy Kibo if he doesn't tell him what he knows about them. However, Kibo overhears this, and the Ahnessah tells Kibo that she can stop any harm from coming to him and his master if he will help her find Fire-Eye. Kibo tells Cam all this and they try to figure out how to get out of their fix. They go into the woods, as the Ahnessah secretly hoped, but Cam knows that they're probably being followed, and manages to lose the spy. On the way out of town Cam is pick-pocketed by one of Pei-Lar's boys, but doesn't realize it until they are in the woods. Cam tells Kibo the pouch contained a seed from the tree of Dart's tribe, that Dart gave to him long ago.
Pei-Lar doesn't know what the seed is but saves it as possible leverage. She has her gang go scout the town for information on Ahnn-Li and Cam, but tells Bren she has a special task for him. Bren encounters the kids living with Jethel when they go into the village to visit their mother's grave. Koni and Bren were close friends, and Koni almost tells Bren that they're living in the forest, but Sylvie stops him. Bren is hurt by this and is sure that Koni is involved with what Pei-Lar is interested in.
Bren gets back into the fortress by sneaking in and telling another servant he wasn't able to survive outside. The servant takes him to the Ahnessah. That night he dreams that he's in the woods with Jethel and the kids, and that the Ahnessah finds them all and kills Jethel. After waking, he escapes back to Pei-Lar and tells her what he knows of the Ahnessah's plans. Pei-Lar plots to get rid of Ahnn-li's household and Jethel all at once.
Jethel receives a sending from Sunstream, who tells him to decide whether to live in Ahnn-Li's world or his own.
The elf Chot shows himself to Cam Triompe and takes him to meet Jethel, first warning him not to betray Jethel on pain of death. Cam warns Jethel how great the danger is from the humans, and gets him to agree to a meeting with Ahnn-li, to try to work out an agreement that will satisfy both parties. Ahnn-Li quickly agrees to host Jethel at a dinner to work out a compromise; secretly he plans to kill him, though he knows that the Ahnessah wants Jethel alive for some reason.
The next morning, Cam and the elves come into town. The elves sense a trap but don't see another option, and begin their meal with Ahnn-Li on a balcony. The Ahnessah sees guards outside the door and realizes that Ahnn-Li plans to kill the elves. She gives a child servant named Jooka a drugged drink to deliver to Ahnn-Li. Jooka, knowing it's drugged, doesn't want Ahnn-Li to be mad at him, and gives it to Kibo to deliver, but Kibo trips and drops it. Ahnn-Li angrily attacks Kibo, and Cam jumps on Ahnn-Li to stop him. When Ahnn-Li turns on Cam and begins to strangle him, Ahnn-Li trips over the dropped cup, and falls over the parapet to his death. The Ahnessah calls the guards to restrain Cam, saying that he killed Ahnn-Li. The elves jump from the parapet to a nearby tree, and Kibo jumps over and they catch him.
The Ahnessah throws Cam in a cell, and is excited that the elves will be coming back to try to rescue him, which will help her plans. Jooka, fearing the Ahnessah's wrath, escapes the fortress and joins Pei-Lar. Pei-Lar tells her foster children of her plans to take over the town now that Ahnn-Li is gone, enabling the children live in peace and with an elf-free forest. She tells them that in order to foil the Ahnessa's plans to lure in the elves, she and the children need to be the ones to free Cam Triompe. The children, who know the fortress well, easily free him through loose stones in the wall. Pei-Lar tells Cam of her plans, and Cam, wanting to protect the elves, agrees to work with her to dethrone the Ahnessah. Jooka decides to return to the Ahnessah to warn her and win her favor.
In the woods, Chot and Jethel argue; Chot says he wants to leave the area, but Jethel wants to stay and help fix things in the town, for the childrens' sake. Chot attacks him angrily, but Jethel fends him off, and calls Chot's bluff that he's trying to act like he doesn't care about him or the humans. Jethel plans to turn himself over to the Ahnessah in exchange for Cam's freedom, so Cam won't be made to reveal the location of their holt. They send Koni to town to deliver that proposal to the Ahnessah, but Bren sees Koni in the street, and tells him Cam has already been freed. Jooka overhears them and tells the Ahnessah everything. She sends guards down into Pei-Lar's underground dwelling, but Cam causes a cave-in and they escape the guards. This was the Ahnessah's plan; she wants to make them flee to Jethel so she can follow them.
Koni tells Jethel about Cam's rescue, and the plots of the Ahnessah and Pei-Lar. Cam leads Pei-Lar's band to Jethel's holt, and Pei-Lar and Jethel, though they dislike each other, know they must work together to stop the Ahnessah. Jethel agrees to leave that part of the woods in return for Pei-Lar's help in bringing the Ahnessah down. The Ahnessah, Jooka, and soldiers enter the woods and the elves quickly scare off the soldiers. The Ahnessah and Jethel talk of her wish for immortality, and Jethel, to give her that wish, has Willowsnap take her by surprise and wrap her up in wrapstuff at the base of the holt's Father Tree.
Port Passage is left to the motherly leadership of Pei-Lar. After fond farewells, Cam Triompe and Kibo sail away, and Jethel and Chot return to the Forevergreen forest based on a strong magic feeling that Jethel is getting, like a call of some kind. As they are nearing the call, they come across human remains impaled on stone spears. Some humans ambush them, but the humans are fended off by spears thrown by the elf Dodia. She tells Jethel and Chot that it was the rockshaper Door who impaled the humans as a warning. She tells them that her and Door's son is "somewhere Door can't reach him," and they take this to mean that she killed her son. They fear that she is slowly going mad from that and from her lingering connection to Door's soul through their unwelcome Recognition.
After he recovers from Dodia's spear wound, the chief of the local human tribe takes some men into the woods to find out how many elves have arrived. Unlike most human leaders, he and his family are good people, just determined not to let elves harm their tribe any further, as Door had done (in the Forevergreen story).
Jethel and Chot sense the sending again, coming strongly from a cave. There they discover Dodia and Door's son, chained up and hungry; he was the one sending all along. Dodia appears and tells them she has kept him chained so Door can't find him. She agrees to turn him over to the protection of Jethel and Chot, but she won't leave the area where she can sense Door, in order to keep him "at bay."
From the trees, the elves spot a boat on shore which drops a rowboat that heads upriver into the woods. Unknown to the elves, the rowboat is carrying Ge-o'ka, a human who had befriended Jethel in his childhood. He is leading the humans to a purported way to recoup their losses from their investments in the failed canal project in Port Passage. The elves track the humans to see what they are up to, and Jethel recognizes that part of the forest; it had burned down in the great fire which had previously driven them out of the Forevergreen. They come upon the home of the human called Wanderer, and he and Jethel remember each other; Wanderer has been working on a drawing of Jethel and Suntop.
Here the story stops, with a note from Richard Pini explaining that this is for continuity purposes for The Final Quest.
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