Wolfrider chief Cutter sets out to try to find more elves on the World of Two Moons
Part 2 of The Grand Quest (read Part 1)
About six years after the Wolfriders’ arrival in Sorrow’s End, the oasis sanctuary is breached by a handful of starving humans who approach the oasis. Although they are sent on their way (probably to die of thirst), Cutter realizes that more could follow and decides to take action.
Rather than living entirely by “The Way,” Cutter is a visionary, able to see beyond the immediate needs of the moment, and good at thinking of inventive solutions to problems. Though he is loathe to part from his lifemate Leetah and their two children Ember and Suntop, he sets out on a quest with his soul-brother, Skywise, and their wolves Nightrunner and Starjumper, to try to find other elf tribes to unite with to defend themselves against humanity.
Cutter and Skywise decide to first re-cross the desert and return to the Holt, the ancient Wolfrider forest home which had been burned down six years previously by humans. They get there by going back through the troll caverns, which are mysteriously deserted. They emerge from the empty caverns and are shocked to see the flat grassland where the forest used to be.
While exploring the area, they are tricked and taken captive by three trolls, one of whom is Picknose, whom Cutter had known from before the burning of the Holt. While held captive in the trolls’ hut (and drinking large quantities of fermented dreamberry 'juice') Cutter and Skywise learn that after the Holt burned down, strange warlike trolls from a faraway land invaded the trolls’ caverns underneath the Holt, attacked and enslaved the Holt trolls, and took them back to their home in the Frozen Mountains far north of the Holt. Picknose, his female companion Oddbit, and her grandmother Old Maggoty were the only ones not captured by these trolls because they managed to escape to the surface, where most trolls hate to go.
Picknose also reveals a secret to Cutter: that Cutter’s sword, “New Moon,” which his father Bearclaw had won in a gambling game with the trolls, contains a hidden key within the pommel. This key can supposedly unlock a vast treasure. Picknose claims that he learned all of this from a voice speaking to him within the cavern walls: the voice of an ancient metal smith named Two-Edge. Two-Edge is a legendary figure among trolls and is rumored to be half-troll and half-elf, and apparently was the forger of New Moon. After picking up as much information as they can from the three trolls, the Cutter and Skywise manage to escape and flee with their wolves and with the sword New Moon, much to Picknose’s dismay.
Back in the Sun Village, Savah the “Mother of Memory,” who is the Sun Folk’s elder and spiritual leader, has been performing frequent “spectral projections” (in which she sends her spirit outside of her body and can go anywhere freely) in order to help Cutter in his search. During one of these projections, her spirit gets entrapped somehow and is unable to return to her body. Cutter’s highly magically gifted son, Suntop, who is very close to Savah, performs a spectral projection to try to find her. He finds her but is unable to free her, and she tells him that an evil being has trapped her spirit, and that Cutter must be warned to avoid this evil at all costs. Alarmed, the Wolfriders and Cutter’s family set out to find the explorers to warn them of this evil.
Meanwhile, deciding to search for other elves in the same forests where the humans Cutter spared had said they came from, Cutter and Skywise head west from Picknose’s hut and come to a strange primeval forest in which they can feel remnants of old elven magic. While traveling through this forest, Cutter gets bitten by a squirrel. The bite gets badly infected and Cutter becomes feverish and delirious. As Skywise departs to search for a plant he knows cures fevers, Cutter starts to hallucinate and begins running through the woods. He stumbles upon a campfire, tended by two humans, and then loses consciousness. These humans have no negative view of elves, and when Cutter regains consciousness, he is surprised to find that the woman is tending his wound and trying to help lower his fever.
Skywise finds Cutter with the humans and begins to attack them, but Cutter stops Skywise from harming them. The human woman, named Nonna, tells them that she is from a tribe of humans who worship “bird spirits,” which the woman describes as looking very similar to Cutter and Skywise except taller. She believes Cutter and Skywise to also be bird spirits. She shows them her paintings of silhouette pictures of the bird spirits on the walls of her cave dwelling, flying on the backs of birds in front of a tall mountain, which she says is the spirits’ home. Her mate, Adar, is from a different human tribe which did not accept Nonna because of her strange beliefs, and had cast both of them out five years previously. The elves agree to help Nonna and Adar rejoin his tribe in exchange for guidance to the mountain home of the “bird spirits” which they hope are other elves.
Cutter, Skywise and the two humans arrive at Adar’s village and are welcomed by the awestruck villagers, who have never seen elves before and who believe them to be ‘good spirits’ as Nonna claims. A feast is held in their honor and the tribe re-accepts Nonna and Adar. The village’s chief, Olbar, asks a favor of the elves: to find his daughter who escaped with an outcast youth into a ‘haunted’ forest between the village and Blue Mountain which the humans call “The Forbidden Grove,” in which apparently dwell “little winged spirits.”
Just after leaving the village, Cutter’s wolf, Nightrunner, refuses to travel farther. He is very old and worn out from the journey, and he takes leave of Cutter and disappears into the woods along with Skywise’s wolf Starjumper. The elves are saddened but begin their journey to the mountain of the bird spirits (called “Blue Mountain”), which can be seen from the village, and in a few days come to the place Olbar described as the Forbidden Grove, which is a forest full of cocoons. They soon discover that the cocoons are spun by the ‘little winged spirits,’ who speak the elves’ language and look like humanoid butterflies. Cutter opens a large cocoon which contains a wolf cub that oddly smells like Cutter’s daughter Ember. Cutter asks the winged creatures about the cub, and finds a huge cocoon which he opens to reveal his lifemate Leetah and their children Suntop and Ember, to his great surprise.
Leetah and the children explain that they had traveled from the Sun Village with the Wolfriders to bring Cutter the warning from Savah. Using Savah’s directions, Suntop had led the Wolfriders toward the Forbidden Grove. But on the way, the Wolfriders were attacked by huge birds which carried them away toward a large mountain, after Strongbow shot down a large bird for food despite Suntop's warning not to. Leetah and the twins escaped on a zwoot (a camel-like creature used by the Sun Folk for traveling) who bolted into the Forbidden Grove, and the winged creatures spun a cocoon over them as they slept. Despite Savah’s warning not to go near Blue Mountain, Cutter now has to go there to rescue the Wolfriders. One of the winged beings, Petalwing, insists on accompanying them. On their way out of the forest, they come across a huge cocoon, and Cutter opens it to reveal Olbar's daughter and her outcast lover, who quickly flee and presumably return to Olbar's tribe.
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