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Other titles in the Rowan of Rin series:
Rowan of Rin #04: Rowan of Rin #4: Rowan and the Zebak
Synopses & Reviews
Chapter One The Warning
The grach flew west, following the scent. It had flown for a long time and it was tired and hungry, but it did not think of feeding or stopping to rest. There was no thought at all behind its flat yellow eyes. Just one fixed idea. To follow the scent, reach the place it had been told to reach, and take back to its masters what it had been told to take.
The grach was called Bara, and it was a hundred and twenty years old. It had been trained well. Not kindly, perhaps, but cleverly, and for many, many years. The idea never entered its mind that now, far away from the whips and shouts of its masters, it could choose what it did.
The sea had been left behind long ago, and dimly the grach was aware that below it now were rolling green hills and a winding stream glinting bright in the sunlight. It was aware that a mountain, its peak hidden in cloud, rose in the blue distance ahead.
But its eyes were not important now. Its ears, closed against the rushing of the wind and the beating of its own wings, were not important, either. All that was important was its forked tongue, flickering in and out, tasting the air, tasting the scent.
It knew it was close to its goal. The scent was stronger — the warm animal scent that made its jaws drip with hunger. Bukshah. It even knew the name.
"Bukshah," its masters had said, so many times, flourishing the gray woolly hide in front of its face, feeding it bloody pieces of meat so that the delicious taste mingled with the hide smell. When they had sent it away on this quest they had said it again. "Bukshah. Seek." And then they had loosed its chain.
The bukshah scent was strong, but there were other scents,too. Some the grach had tasted before, one it had not. The one it had not tasted was full of danger. It was fire, snow, and ice. It was hot breath, dripping fangs, and ancient, jealous power.
The leathery spines on the grach's back prickled with warning. But its yellow lizard eyes did not flicker, and the beating of its scaly mottled wings did not falter as it flew on, to Rin.
Rowan scanned the blue, blue sky above the village. It was still clear, except for the cloud that always shrouded the tip of the forbidden Mountain. And yet — surely a summer storm was brewing. How else could he explain his strange, nagging feeling that something unexpected and fearful was about to happen? The sense of dread had begun at midmorning, and had grown stronger every moment since.
It is nothing, he told himself firmly. He fought away the fear and did not speak of it to Jiller, his mother. Why worry her needlessly, today of all days?
Today Jiller should be as lighthearted as his little sister, Annad, who was already dancing around the cottage garden, thinking herself very fine in a new pink dress. She should be as plainly joyful as Strong Jonn, even now coming through the gate, swinging Annad into his arms and striding toward the house, splendid in his wedding finery.
Rowan made himself wave to Jonn, shout a greeting. And when the dark, fearful feeling stabbed at him yet again, he forced it down.
The hardworking people of Rin did not often lay aside their everyday cares for festivals and holidays. But even in Rin a wedding was a cause for celebration, and this wedding — the marriage of Strong Jonn of the Orchard to Jiller of the Field — was a greater occasion than most.
Jonn and Jiller were well loved, and Jiller's son, Rowan of the Bukshah, was Rin's greatest hero, if its most unlikely one. Shy, dreamy, and timid though he was, he had conquered the forbidden Mountain and faced the Dragon that reigned at its peak. He had allied himself with the wandering Travelers to save Rin from a terrible fate. And it was whispered that he was joined to the fishlike Maris people on the coast by his strange bond with their mysterious leader, the Keeper of the Crystal.
Once the most disappointing child in the village, Rowan was now respected. No one teased or criticized him these days. No one told him he was too old to be the keeper of the gentle bukshah.
He was even feared by some, who thought he had unnatural powers. Such people stopped speaking when Rowan came into the storehouse or passed by a meeting place, and they warned their children not to annoy him. When a black bukshah calf was born in spring — black, instead of the usual soft gray — such people whispered that it was an omen, a sign of Rowan's power.
If anyone had told them that Rowan wanted nothing more than to be accepted as one of them, that this was all he had ever wanted, they would have laughed.
It was largely because of Rowan that this marriage was more than a simple village celebration. Yesterday the three great Traveler kites, their riders dangling beneath them, had appeared in the sky above the valley. Since then, the tribe that always followed them had made camp on the hills, ready to join the party and make music. Perlain of Pandellis had come from Maris to represent his people and bring gifts. He had left the sea and the salt spray of his home gladly, though Maris skin driedand cracked quickly inland, and the journey had not been comfortable for him.
This day was important enough to tempt the stolid millers, Val and Ellis, from their mill. It had even caused gruff, solitary Bronden the furniture maker to shut her work shed for the day. No one wanted to miss the celebration or fail to pay their respects.
When a flying monster kidnaps Rowan's little sister, Annad, Rowan fears the warlike Zebak people have attacked his village of Rin. And Annad's capture is only the beginning.
Now Rowan and his companions must make the treacherous journey into Zebak territory, fighting the monsters that guard its city and the enemy people within it. If they fail, Annad will be lost — and so will all hope for the survival of Rin.
About the Author
Emily Rodda has written many books for children, including Finders Keepers, which School Library journal dubbed "a lively adventure," and several novels about the likable hero Rowan. The first of these novels, Rowan of Rin, won the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year for Younger Readers Award when it was first published. In fact, Emily Rodda has won the Children's Book Council of Australia Book of the Year Award an unprecedented five times. A former editor, Ms. Rodda is also the best-selling author of adult mysteries under the name Jennifer Rowe. She lives in Australia.
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