The Searcher and the Sword
Shuna and Treestump each search for a very different kind of steel.
(“The Searcher and the Sword” graphic novel)
This story is told by the human Shuna, who was adopted by Cutter and Leetah after the Shards war and who lived with them for presumably the rest of her life in the Wolfrider's Holt, “Goodtree's Rest.”
The Wolfriders teach Shuna many things about their way of life and how to survive and thrive in the forest. She becomes close friends with the elf Kimo, who develops a shapeshifting ability under the tutelage of the High One Timmain, and often takes on the shape of a wolf who stays close by Shuna's side.
Two problems present themselves shortly after the Wolfriders settle into the Holt: one is that there are no trolls living nearby to forge replacements for their worn out metal weapons and tools. The other is that Shuna can't live outdoors with the elves during the winter, and she can't mentally/emotionally handle living in the Palace; the strong magic there is too much for her human sensibilities. Treestump, who has decided that he wants to figure out how to forge metal weapons, suggests that they search for the underground troll caverns which as far as the elves know were abandoned thousands of years ago. The troll caverns would enable Treestump to try to discover the secrets of shaping metal and would also give Shuna a place to live during the winter. They manage to find the caverns, and Shuna, Treestump and his lifemate Clearbrook settle in.
Strongbow and Moonshade hear the spirit of their long-dead daughter Crescent calling them, and they manage to commune with her in the Palace. She tells them there will be “joy above” and that there is “danger below.” The “joy above” turns out to be that Moonshade is pregnant. The “danger below” seems to refer to the troll tunnels, and in fact Shuna hears some strange noises which cause everyone to go on the alert.
Two years pass without incident, however, and Moonshade bears a daughter. Treestump continues to work on finding a way to forge metal. During this time, Shuna spies a small hunting party of humans near the edge of the Holt. A mother bear begins to attack her, and Kimo (in wolf form) and Dart come to her rescue and lightly wound the bear, who runs off. However, the humans have spied them, and they think that Kimo is attacking Shuna and start shooting their arrows at him. Shuna tells him to transform into his elf shape, and the humans bow down to Shuna and her two elfin companions, thinking all three are wood spirits. The lead hunter gives Shuna his bow as an honor-gift, and the two humans find themselves attracted to each other. But the humans leave and Shuna and the two elves return to the Holt.
Inspired by this meeting, Shuna decides that she wants to leave the Holt to search out human tribes and help educate them about elves so that humans and elves can live together in peace. She thinks that the elves have a good chance of getting along with the tribe of humans whose hunters she had met. She is also lonely for human companionship and would like especially to see the lead hunter again. Kimo and Dart decide to accompany her on her journey. They find the tribe of the humans they had recently met, and are welcomed and honored as 'wood spirits.' Shuna marries the lead hunter, but unfortunately he turns out to be chauvinistic, unfaithful and abusive. The two elves help Shuna escape, but her husband and four other humans chase them into the woods and wound Kimo.
At this same time, Treestump and Clearbrook are making their way out of the troll tunnels because Treestump has finally managed to forge a sword. But they hear a noise behind them, and turn to see a group of crazed, slobbering trolls behind them who attack them and steal the sword from Treestump; they are not in their right minds and are obsessed with “treasure.” The trolls throw Treestump and Clearbrook into a large pit, where they discover a Preserver cocoon; they learn that it contains the Sun Village's rockshaper Ahdri. A Preserver had wrapped her up after she was mortally wounded in the Sun Village (see the “Forevergreen” section), and later, trolls from the Frozen Mountains discovered her cocoon and took her with them because she could help find precious gems for them (she had revealed her powers to them so they wouldn't kill her). She and the trolls ended up in the Holt's troll caverns, where over time the trolls for some reason degenerated mentally. Ahdri helps Clearbrook and Treestump escape the pit by shaping stairs for them, and they carry her wrapped body up with them. Cutter and a group of Wolfriders have fortunately just arrived at the caverns to deliver some meat to the two elves, and they all successfully fend off the trolls, wounding but not killing them.
Shuna, Dart and Kimo are nearing the Holt, still pursued by Shuna's husband, and Dart sends to his father Strongbow that they need help. The elves emerge from the troll tunnels and confront the humans. Treestump gives Shuna the sword he forged, and with it she defends herself against her husband and breaks his stone axe. He slinks away in disgrace.
Kimo and Ahdri are healed by Leetah. Ahdri accompanies Treestump and Clearbrook back into the troll caverns to protect them from the crazed trolls with her rockshaping powers while Treestump works at the forge.
Shuna eventually sets out again looking for more human tribes, again accompanied by Kimo and Dart, as well as by a kind human man she had befriended in the first tribe (and who had fallen in love with her) and who trades with all the tribes in the area and can lead her to them.
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