The Wolfriders clash with mountain-dwelling elves who are trying to carry on the legacy of the High Ones
Part 3 of The Grand Quest (read Part 1 / Part 2)
On their way to Blue Mountain, Cutter's family and Skywise meet up with three Wolfriders who had escaped the birds’ attack. When they come to the mountain, Cutter convinces Nonna’s human tribe, which lives at the foot of the mountain and worships the “bird spirits,” to let him and the others into the mountain via the entrance used by the humans.
Upon entering the mountain, they are confronted by two tall elves who try to hinder them. One is a pale female with long black hair named Winnowill, who has powers similar to a healers’ but uses them to hurt rather than to heal. The other, Tyldak, has a strangely shaped body, with wings coming out of his arms and talons instead of hands. (Later it is revealed that Winnowill re-shaped his body at his request so he could fly like a bird.) Cutter manages to pin down Winnowill, and the group sends to the captured Wolfriders, who come running to them from various areas within the mountain. But Winnowill frees herself from Cutter’s grip and summons help. The reunited Wolfriders are attacked by tall elves who are able to “glide” through the air—a power never seen among Wolfriders or Sun Villagers.
The skirmish turns in favor of the Wolfriders, and Winnowill dashes up some stairs to a cage, where Strongbow the archer is imprisoned. The Wolfriders all stop fighting, under threat by Winnowill that she will kill Strongbow with her magic. Leetah rushes to the cage and shields Strongbow with her healing magic. Her only advantage gone, Winnowill capitulates, and it is revealed that she has been torturing Strongbow as punishment for his having killed a fledgling bird that was to be the bond-bird of one of the mountain elves, and that the captured Wolfriders were given a choice: to be set free in exchange for Strongbow, or to all become servants of the mountain elves, who call themselves the Gliders.
Cutter demands to speak with the leader of the Gliders, and they are led to the throne room of Lord Voll, an ancient elf who is firstborn of High Ones (the elfin firstcomers to the planet). Cutter asks Voll to release Strongbow, and at first Voll refuses. However, in the course of conversation Voll learns that the elves have children (who are hiding in the forest below the mountain with Redlance). According to Voll, the Gliders are “dying within this mountain though unable to die” and stopped reproducing a long, long time ago, presumably as a result of shutting themselves off from the outside world. They pride themselves on having “recreated” the palace of the High Ones and retaining many of the High Ones’ powers, and they have deliberately stayed isolated from the outside world so as to not be changed by it to become less like the High Ones. Only the Chosen Eight, the community’s hunters and defenders, regularly leave the mountain, flying on massive birds, with whom they share a bond similar to that of the Wolfriders and their wolves. It is the Chosen Eight who had attacked the Wolfriders at Winnowill's bidding.
Voll agrees to release Strongbow in exchange for meeting Cutter’s children so he can “feel hope again.” The children are flown up to the mountain, and after meeting them, Voll releases Strongbow and invites the Wolfriders to stay in the mountain for a visit. The Wolfriders are given a private grotto in which to rest and decide whether or not to stay or return immediately to the forest.
Dewshine joins them in the grotto and it is revealed that she has Recognized Tyldak the bird-elf. While the Wolfriders are resting, Skywise meets Aroree, one of the Chosen Eight. Aroree takes Skywise on an exhilarating flight on her bird mount. The Wolfriders hear the wolves howling outside the mountain, and sadly realize that Cutter’s first wolf-friend and former leader of the pack, Nightrunner, has died because Skywise's wolf-friend Starjumper has rejoined the pack after having stayed with Nightrunner through his last days. The Wolfriders decide to stay in Blue Mountain for a while, except Strongbow who is dead-set against this, and he and his lifemate Moonshade leave the mountain to wait for the other Wolfriders in the forest with the wolves.
Although Voll is the Gliders’ official leader and venerated as such, the manipulative and cruel elf Winnowill holds greater day-to-day sway over the Gliders. Afraid that the Wolfriders’ presence will make Lord Voll desire contact with the outside world again and lessen her influence with him, Winnowill is determined to force the Wolfriders to leave Blue Mountain. She also plots to kill Petalwing, whom she refers to as a “Preserver,” because she doesn’t want Lord Voll to see it, for reasons as yet unrevealed. Dewshine overhears her and frees Petalwing from the cage in which Winnowill had trapped it. Tyldak catches Dewshine and says her soul name aloud, which Winnowill overhears.
Later, Leetah confronts Winnowill about her plans to kill Petalwing. Winnowill tells Leetah that if the Wolfriders don’t leave, she will reveal to them something that only she and Leetah know: that because of their wolf blood, the Wolfriders are mortal. Cutter overhears their discussion, however, and Winnowill, realizing that this threat is now useless, threatens to harm Cutter’s children if the Wolfriders do not leave. Cutter attacks Winnowill and almost kills her, but Leetah convinces him to spare her life.
Winnowill wastes no time in making her threat real. Tyldak and some of the Chosen Eight attack the Wolfriders while Winnowill magically puts Lord Voll to sleep and captures Suntop. Strongbow and Moonshade return to the mountain when they are sent for telepathically, to aid the Wolfriders in rescuing Suntop from Winnowill.
Winnowill also has help from the half-elf half-troll Two-Edge, who is living in Blue Mountain. He has created secret passages for her in the underbelly of the mountain, and he opens them and closes them at her request. However, Two-Edge has plans of his own, and he also opens a passage for the Wolfriders down to Winnowill's chambers, much to her dismay. Winnowill reveals to Suntop that it is she who has kept Savah's spirit from returning to its body. Before she can stop him, Suntop performs an astral projection through Winnowill, and Suntop's spirit leaves its body to look for Savah's spirit within Winnowill.
Winnowill enlists the aid of the humans who live in her quarters and tells them to attack the Wolfriders. The humans only half-heartedly obey, not wanting to harm 'good spirits.' During the altercation, Strongbow shoots Winnowill in the shoulder. He avoids killing her out of fear that Suntop's spirit will be permanently lost if Winnowill dies. However, the wound weakens Winnowill enough so that both Suntop's and Savah's spirits go free and return to their bodies.
Winnowill flees and the Wolfriders chase after her. The newly awakened Suntop tells Leetah that Savah believes Winnowill needs healing “in both body and mind.” Leetah manages to corner Winnowill on a tall staircase, and begins to try to heal her spiritually as well as physically. Winnowill, however, chooses to step off the edge of the staircase rather than allow Leetah to attempt the healing. It is a long fall and Winnowill is badly injured. She calls for Two-Edge to help her, and refers to him as her son. Winnowill drags herself into a private chamber and disappears from the Wolfrider's view.
The Wolfriders return to the dining table where Lord Voll sits asleep, and Leetah revives him. They tell Voll of all Winnowill's actions, and he is horrified. They also introduce him to Petalwing, the Preserver. Voll is amazed and excitedly tells the Wolfriders that the Preserver can lead them all to the Palace of the High Ones. Preservers are the winged creatures who had served the High Ones in their palace-spaceship. They had lived with Voll's tribe until Winnowill banished all of them to the forest. He realizes that his plan to re-create the High Ones and the Palace has failed, and he zealously proclaims his new intention to leave Blue Mountain immediately to seek out the actual Palace of the High Ones with the Preserver's help. Cutter, however, declines Voll's invitation to join him on his quest for the Palace, deciding that the Wolfriders need a break from questing, and that they must find a new forest home before winter sets in.
Voll and Cutter convince Dewshine and Tyldak to yield to the demands of Recognition, and they do so, with the understanding that they cannot live together or become lifemates. Dewshine's lovemate Scouter pledges to help Dewshine raise the child she will bear.
Voll presents the Wolfriders with a parting gift of winter fur clothing for all of them, and invites Cutter's family to leave the mountain by flying down with him on his bond-bird. Cutter accepts the offer, but instead of dropping Cutter's family off on the ground below, Voll continues flying and tells them that he will not put them down because he is determined for them all to accompany him to the Palace of the High Ones. Despite Cutter's command to the contrary, the Wolfriders follow Voll's bird, and Voll leads them toward the frozen mountains where the Palace is presumably located. Cutter and the Wolfriders are extremely angry with Voll, but on the way, Voll gives them a telepathic image of the palace which makes them all eager to find it despite their misgivings.
After a few days, they come to the frozen mountains and can feel the magical 'aura' of the Palace which is just beyond the mountains. But tragedy strikes: Voll and his bird get shot down and killed by a huge spear coming from seemingly nowhere. The bird plummets to the ground. Cutter, his family, the Wolfriders, and the Chosen Eight who had accompanied them find themselves surrounded by huge, ferocious warrior trolls. The Gliders pick up Voll's body and fly away, leaving the Wolfriders to their fate at the hands of the trolls.
The Wolfriders fight valiantly, but during the attack, Cutter is badly wounded, and One-Eye is killed. The Wolfriders are outnumbered and are losing the battle. But they are suddenly rescued by elves who ride on the backs of reindeer-like creatures.
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