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Rowan of Rin #1: Rowan of Rinby Emily Rodda
Synopses & Reviews
Chapter One The Meeting
One morning the people of Rin woke to find that the stream that flowed down the Mountain and through their village had slowed to a trickle. By nightfall even that small flow had stopped. The mill wheel lay idle. There was no water to turn its heavy blades. The bukshah drinking pool on the other side of the village was still. No bubbling stream was stirring it into life and keeping it topped up to the brim.
There was no change on the second day, or the third. By the fourth day the water in the pool was thick and brown. The bukshah shook their heavy heads and pawed the ground when they went to drink in the morning and the evening.
After five days the pool was so shallow that even little Annad, who was only five years old, could touch the bottom with her hand without getting her sleeve wet. And still the stream failed to flow.
On the evening of the sixth day the worried people met in the market square to talk. "The bukshah could not drink at all today," said Lann, the oldest person in the village and once the greatest fighter. "If we do not act soon, they will die."
"Not Star," whispered Annad to her brother, who was the keeper of the bukshah. "Star will not die, though, will she, Rowan? Because you will give Star water from our well."
"Bukshah cannot drink from our well, Annad," said Rowan. "It is not sweet enough for them. It makes them ill. They can only drink the water that flows down from the Mountain. It has always been so. If the stream stays dry, Star will die like all the rest."
Annad began to sob quietly. The children of Rin were not supposed to cry, but Annad was very young, and she loved Star. Rowan stared straight ahead. Hiseyes were tearless, but his chest and throat ached with sadness and fear. The sadness was for Star, his friend and the strongest and gentlest of all the bukshah. And for all the other great, humped woolly beasts, each of which he knew by name. But the fear was for himself. For himself and Annad and their mother and indeed for the whole village.
Rowan knew, as Annad did not, that without the bukshah there would be no rich, creamy milk to drink, no cheese, curd, and butter to eat. There would be no thick gray wool for cloth. There would be no help to plow the fields or carry in the harvest. There would be no broad backs to bear the burdens on the long journeys down to the coast to trade with the clever, silent Maris folk. The life of Rin depended on the bukshah. Without them, the village, too, would die.
Annad could not imagine the valley without the village. But Rowan could. Reading the old stories in the house of books, listening half asleep to Timon under the teaching tree, and, most of all, sitting on the grass by the stream while the bukshah grazed around him in the silence of the morning, he had often imagined this place as the first settlers must have seen it.
Hundreds of years ago they had climbed through the hills, carrying the few things they owned on their backs, looking for somewhere in this strange land that they could claim as their own. They had come from far away, across the sea. They had fought a terrible enemy. On the coast they had heard, from the wandering native people they called the Travelers, of a place at the bottom of a forbidden mountain in the high country far inland. They had been tramping for many, many days in search of it. They were very tired.Some had almost given up hope. Then, one afternoon, they had topped a rise and looked down. There below them, nestled between a towering mountain ahead and the hill on which they stood, was a green, secret valley.
The people stared, speechless. They saw trees loaded with small blue fruits and fields of flowers they did not recognize. They saw a stream, and a pool, and a herd of strange gray beasts lifting their heads to stare, horns shining in the sun. They saw silence, stillness, and rich earth, and peace. The people knew then that this was the place. This would be their home. So they came down and mingled with the big, gentle animals, who were tame and unafraid. They called them the bukshah.
"The stream flows down from the Mountain," said Bronden the furniture maker, her loud voice breaking into Rowan's thoughts. He watched her stab the air with her stubby finger, pointing. "So the problem must be up there. Up there, something is amiss. Something is stopping the flow."
All eyes turned to the Mountain rising high above the village, its tip shrouded as always in cloud.
"We must climb the Mountain and find out what it is," Bronden went on. "This is our only chance."
"No!" Neel the potter shook his head. "We cannot climb the Mountain. Even the Travelers do not venture there. Terrible dangers await anyone who dares. And at the top — the Dragon."
Bronden sneered at him. "You are talking like a crazy Traveler yourself, Neel! There is no Dragon. The Dragon is a story told to children to make them behave. If there was a Dragon, we would have seen it. It would prey on the bukshah — and on us."
"Perhaps it takes its prey elsewhere. We do not know, Bronden." Allunthe baker's light, pleasant voice rose above the muttering of the crowd. "But if you will excuse me for talking like a crazy Traveler — remembering that my father was one, and it is only to be expected — let me remind you of what we do know." His usually smiling face was grim as he stared Bronden down. "We do know that we hear it roar almost every morning and every night. And that we see its fire in the cloud."
Bravest heart will carry on when sleep is death, and hope is gone.
Rowan doesn't believe he has a brave heart. But when the river that supports his village of Rin runs dry, he must join a dangerous journey to its source in the forbidden Mountain. To save Rin, Rowan and his companions must conquer not only the Mountain's many tricks, but also the fierce dragon that lives at its peak.