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Pen Ohmsford thought himself past the worst of it. In his quest for the darkwand, a magical staff made from the wood of the ancient and mysterious tanequil, the boy had paid dearly. Losing two fingers to the tree in exchange for the staff was necessary. Losing his friend Cinnaminson was harder to accept; and now it seems he will be separated from everyone he cares about.
The Druids have captured his friends Tagwen the dwarf and the Rock Troll Kermadec and his company. But worse, Pen's parents have also been taken and locked away at Paranor.
Pen has not survived the tree and the hideous spider creature that stalked him every step of the way to turn back now. He'd vowed to do whatever was needed to rescue his aunt Grianne, and what he needs now is to get into the Druid's Keep. Trusting to chance, he turns himself over to the Druids, who seize the darkwand for its powerful magic without suspecting its purpose. At the mercy of Shadea a'Ru, the usurper who now heads the High Council, Pen considers his plight. For without the staff, he cannot open the gateway to the Forbidding and free his aunt, the rightful High Druid.
Pen's allies are under siege as well. The Elessidil princess Khyber is in deadly danger within the Druids' stronghold. Trapped in a ruined tower, the Trolls are besieged by savage Urdas. Pen's parents, Rue and Bek, narrowly escape the Druids, only to find they must return. For an evil greater than Shadea lurks within the Druid's Keep—and if it succeeds in its goal, the Four Lands are lost. Can the scattered band of friends join forces in time to defeat its evil plot? Jacket art by Steve Stone. (335 pp.) 2005.
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